How an Ottoman Princess brought the abolished Turkish Caliphate to the Nizam of Hyderabad

Story of how the world's wealthiest monarch succeeded Turkey's last Caliph

Mukarram Jah as a toddler with his mother, the Princess of Berar Princess Imperiale of the Ottoman Empire Princess Dürrüşehvar Sultan

HYDERABAD (RAHNUMA) The name of Her Imperial Highness Princess Durru Shehvar, the elder daughter-in-law of His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan, is remembered for the social and philanthropic work she so zealously engaged in Hyderabad.

Born in Turkey, brought up in France but married to the son of the world’s richest man, the Nizam of Hyderabad, Princess Durru Shehvar chose to spend her last years in London.

She brought modernity to the Nizam’s household and worked for the upliftment of women in Hyderabad.

The marriage of the last Ottoman Caliph with prince Azam Jah Bahadur, the elder son of the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, resulted in the union of two illustrious Muslim families, the Turkish Caliphate and the Asaf Jahis of Hyderabad.

TIME Magazine covered the historic wedding with a befitting headline, Caliph’s Beauteous Daughter.

Durru Shehvar, the only daughter of Abdul Majjid II, the Caliph of Turkey was born in 1914 and brought up with modern education, and training in martial arts as his successor.

The negotiations for her marriage to the Nizam’s son and heir included the first born son of this union be declared the heir to the throne of the Nizam instead of his father and that the last caliph name him in his Will as his successor to the title to the Caliph.

Caliph Abdul Majid II holding his heir to the title of the abolished Turkish caliphate Mukarram Jah

It was believed at that time that the matrimonial alliance between the Nizam, the richest ruler in the world of his time, and the deposed Caliph would lead to the emergence of a Muslim ruler who could be acceptable to the world powers in place of the Ottoman sultans.

Princess Durru Shahvar, who was raised to succeed her father with modern education and martial arts training, became the most popular face after her arrival in Hyderabad.

Ottoman Caliph Abdul Majid II Tomb In Khuldabad, Aurangabad. The Caliph’s remains never made it to Hyderabad.

In 1940, preparations for the final resting place for the Caliphate to become Hyderabad were commenced. A majestic Ottoman style mouleum was constructed for the Caliph in Khuldabad, then part of Hyderabad, by his daughter with the financing of the Nizam, where it was said the Caliphs body would be brought.

However, in 1944 the Caliph suddenly died allegedly of a heart attack at the age of 76. His heir born from the wedlock of his daughter to the Nizam’s son was still too young, to officially accept the office from his grandfather.

The Caliph’s death coincided with the Liberation of Paris from the German occupation during World War II.

The plan was to circumvent the Treaty of Lausanne by transferring the Caliphate to Hyderabad.

In London the Turkish Embassy revealed that the Turkish Government asked the British Government not to permit restoration of the Caliphate anywhere in the Empire.

Some of the letters found in The Rahbar-e-Deccan archives addressing the last Nizam from the people of Mecca

The plan was for the Nizam of Hyderabad to formally accept the Caliphate letters also known as the Caliphs Will as interim Caliph on behalf of his grandson, who was named by Caliph’s as his successor.

TIME Magazine reported, “…Hyderabad’s ruling Nizam tried to get himself proclaimed Caliph. To pious Moslems his ambition was shocking. They squelched it. But the “secret engagement” of Caliph’s daughter and Nizam’s heir…struck many Moslems as a happy thought. Should these young people wed and have a man child, temporal and spiritual strains would richly blend in him. He could be proclaimed “The True Caliph.””

It was said the Nizam would keep the Caliphate in trust until Mukarram Jah was of age to ascend to the Nizam’s throne as his heir, and would also transfer to him the Caliphate from his maternal grandfather.

However, the combination of World War II, the Caliph’s unexpected demise, the pressure of Turkey on the British Raj to prevent the transfer of the Caliphate, and the political turmoil in India and Hyderabad made it impossible for His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad to fly out to Paris, accept the office of Caliphate as interim Caliph and bring back the Ottoman Caliphs body for burial in Khuldabad.

The political chaos in India eventually led to the British Raj’s overthrow by India’s freedom fighters, so many Muslims from whom among the leaders of Deoband fought to oust the British to gain independence for Indian Muslims, and thereby enable the Nizam to declare the Caliphate had arrived in the Deccan.

These Muslims dreamed of having a Caliph in Hyderabad.

Faced with such turmoil, immediate succession to the Caliph seemed impossible at best, as according to Muslim law, a Caliph could only be buried after his successor ascends to his position by accepting the papers to the office and or making his official proclamation of succession to the Caliphate.

Hence it was decided to postpone the burial of the Caliph, keeping his body in a cyrogenic like state in the Grand Mosque of Paris.

Then, in 1947 India finally gained its Independence from the British Raj, but in 1948 Hyderabad was annexed into India and the Nizam lost his kingdom, all.while the Caliph remained in a cyrogenic-like frozen state in Paris.

No one in the Muslim world was able to legally challenge the Nizam’s grandson for the office, as he was named in the Will of the Caliph, nor could the Nizam officially go to Paris to accept the interim Caliphate and the Caliphate Letters and thereby conduct the Caliphs funeral, and pronounce his grandson the successor to the deceased holder of the abolished office.

Unbelievably, the Caliph’s body remained in a frozen cyrogenic-like state at the Grand Mosque of Paris for another 10 years, unburied, until a breakthrough negotiation took place in 1954.

In 1954 Princess Durru Shehvar, the Caliph’s daugther and the now deposed Nizam of Hyderabad’s daughter-in-law, brokered a deal through her cousin Princess Nilofeur.

In this deal, the Caliphate Letters for young Mukarram Jah’s succession to the abolished caliphate – which were to be held in trust by the Interim Caliph His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad until Jah was ready to succeed him as well – would now make their way back to Hyderabad afterall, but the frozen remains of the Caliph would not, in recognition of the Muslim world’s collective will through silence to keep the political caliphate link to Turkey abolished since 1924.

Instead, the Caliph’s remains would be laid to rest in an unmarked grave, to break the link between Turkey and his successor in India.

This deal was made with none other than Saudi Arabia’s gracious King Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who conditioned permission to bury the last Caliph in Madinah at Al Baqi Cemetery upon the Nizam and the Caliph’s daughter respecting the collective wishes of the Arab and Islamic world to keep the Turkish link to the Caliphate abolished.

The Caliphs frozen remains finally arrived from Paris to Medina by 1954, a decade after his demise, with the Caliphate Letters.

It is said, the King formally accepted the Letters on behalf of the Nizam, who was to have accepted them as interim authority on behalf of his grandson Mukarram Jah, and the title of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques used by the Ottomans, including both AbdulMejid II and his father AbdulAziz was transferred to the House of Saud.

Lt. Colonel Syed Mohammed Amiruddin Khan with H.E.H. the Nizam of Hyderabad Mir Osman Ali Khan Siddiqui Asaf Jah VII and H.M. King Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud the King of Saudi Arabia in Shahamanzil Palace, at Hyderabad on December 5, 1955. In the picture Lt. Colonel Syed Mohammed Amiruddin Khan is standing immediately behind H.M. King Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

The Caliphate Letters were then held in trust for His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad by King Saud, and the Nizam was proclaimed the Caliph’s successor, interim albeit, before his burial, thereby satisfying the requirements of the religious law – that the earth not be void of a Caliph.

Following the Caliphs burial in an unmarked grave in Al Baqi, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Saud then traveled to Hyderabad to meet the deposed Nizam.

On December 5th, 1955 the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud transferred to the deposed Nizam of Hyderabad the Caliphate Letters, in a secret meeting, in presence of the Nizam’s Military Secretary.

The Nizam’s and the Caliph’s arrangement was finally realized, except one minor detail, the Nizam lost his throne in the meanwhile, leaving Mukarram Jah without a throne to succeed.

Letter from The Rahbar-e-Deccan archives addressed to the last Nizam from the Grand Qadi of Hashemite Kingdom of Arabia

Neither the Nizam nor his grandson could ever be king again, let alone legally proclaim the restoration of the Caliphate in a democratic republic.

The Nizam’s every move was scrutinized and under watch, both by Hyderabad’s new administrators and by the British and Turkish governments.

Hence, after receiving the abolished Caliphate Letters from King Saud, the Nizam accepted defeat, even if temporal, and entrusted the papers to his Military Secretary Lt. Colonel Amiruddin, who witnessed their transfer.

The Nizam instructed his trusted Military Secretary Lt. Colonel Amiruddin should anything happen to him and his grandson Mukarram Jah, the Caliphate Letters were “to be delivered by hand only to the Awaited Mahdi.”

Unpublished poems handwritten by the last Ottoman Caliph’s son-in-law Nawab Mir Azam Jah Bahadur, father of Mukarram Jah, eldest son of the last Nizam. In these poems, Azam Jah is praising the Twelve Imams of Ahl al-Bayt dynasty found in The Rahbar-e-Deccan archives

Subsequently the Nizam’s Military Secretary kept the documents as instructed since 1955 onwards until the Nizam became old and frail, awaiting the opportune moment his leige would finally be granted a miraculous opening to proclaim himself or his grandson Caliph Al Islam, as promised to the Last Ottoman Caliph.

The Nizam, now frail and suffering from old age had now realized he lived his life fully, and yet was unable to proclaim Jah nor himself Caliph.

Fearing for the safety of the Abolished Caliphate Letters, and knowing his time was near, His Exalted Highness the Nizam dispatched four of his ladies, one a wife, and three concubines, with his Military Secretary to Mecca in 1967.

The Nizam had given his Military Secretary one final task, go to search and find the Awaited Imam Muhammad Al Mahdi and deliver the Caliphate papers to him.

A letter from the Headquarters of H.E.H. the Nizam’s R.F., from Major-General Syed Ahmed El Edroos the Commander-In-Chief of the Hyderabad State army to then Lieut. Syed Amiruddin Khan

The Nizam died in 1967 while his Military Secretary was in Medinah.

Lt. Colonel Amiruddin was unable to find the Hidden Imam Muhammad Al Mahdi for his liege the Nizam.

Dismayed, he returned with heavy heart to an even more empty Hyderabad wherein his Nizam was no more.

A list of the qualifications of Nawab Lt. Colonel Amiruddin including his Honors and Awards. Nawab Lt. Colonel Amiruddin was trained in Small Arms School, Artillery Troop Commanders Course, Chemical Warfare School, Artillery Regimental Survey, Air Transport Support, and was a Senior Officer of Tactical School. He was awarded a War Medal in 1946, Indian Service Medal, Hyderabad War Commemoration Medal. Nawab Lt.Colonel Amiruddin held the post of the Military Secretary of His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad from 1951 until he was absorbed as the commanding officers of the Golconda regiment. On the whole, he served in H.E.H. the Nizam’s private estate for a continuous period of sixteen years.

Lt. Colonel Amiruddin observed the plight of a confused young Mukarram Jah, who refused to reach out to him due to either ignorance or arrogance.

Following the Nizam’s demise in 1967, Jah proclaimed himself Nizam VIII despite the monarchy of Hyderabad having been abolished since 1948.

However, without the Caliphate Letters, Jah was unable to proclaim himself heir to the Turkey abolished title of Caliph he was to inherit from his maternal grandfather through His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad, his paternal grandfather.

Upon observing Jah’s ascension as Nizam VII, Lt. Colonel suspected if he was even informed by the late Nizam about the Caliphate Letters.

Letter addressed to the last Nizam from The Rahbar-e-Deccan archives wherein he is identified as Caliph of Muslims, Sultan of Islam

Lt. Colonel Amiruddin felt a calling to travel the Muslim world and work to reform communities, to prevent the social and political disintegration he witnessed in his lifetime from becoming the plight of others as well.

As such, he needed to leave India yet Jah had not approached him as of yet for the Caliphate Letters.

Hence, in preparation of his upcoming hieadus from Hyderabad, the late Nizam’s Military Secretary consulted a notable descendant of the Prophet Muhammad who lived in Hyderabad, and was also very keen on the plight of the Muslim world and the caliphate.

This noble also searched for the Hidden Mahdi during his travels to Najaf, Karbala, Samarra, and Baghdad.

Postcard from The Rahnuma-e-Decccan archives from Syed Lateefuddin Quadri during his visit to the shrines of the 10th, and 11th Imams of Ahl al-Bayt and the Sardab of the Twelft Imam from where it is believed he escaped from his enemies toward the Grand Mosque of Samarra

Furthermore, this noble also shared four individuals as common ancestors with the kings of Morocco, the Hashemites, Grand Sharifs and Emirs of Mecca, Kings of Hejaz, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq, the Idrisids of Fez, Hamudites of Spain, Leaders of the Senussi Order, and the King’s of Libya Idris I.

The two deliberated on what to do for Jah, and it was decided the Nizam’s Military Secretary would marry his eldest son to the nobleman’s youngest sister, and deposit the Caliphate Letters with him in trust as a part of the negotiations.

The two decided the Abolished Caliphate Letters would remain guarded in the Military Secretary’s descendants from this alliance as a trust until they were delivered to either Jah, or the Awaited Mahdi.

Dignitaries who subsequently came to the notable’s residence to view in secret the Caliphate Letters included the Grand Imam of Al Azahar Dr. Abdul Halim Mahmood, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine Sheikh Ekrima Sa’id Sabri, Imam Grand Mosque in Makkah Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Subail, the incumbent Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, and Palestinian President Yassar Arafat who visited the residence twice.

Visit to The Rahnuma-E-Deccan residence in Hyderabad, India by the 46th Grand Imam of Al Azhar His Eminence Dr. Abdel-Halim Mahmoud pictured here at the house with late Syed Lateefuddin (far left) and late Syed Vicaruddin (second from left). His Eminence Dr. Mahmoud remained the chief religious authority in Egypt (Grand Imam of Al-Azhar) until his death in 1978.

In 2012 the Nizam’s Military Secretary finally passed away on the same day as the conclusion of Hyderabad’s annexation into the Indian Union.

It is said, each odd year, Lt. Colonel Amiruddin traveled to Mecca in search for the Hidden Mahdi, whom he hoped to find and deliver the trust to.

In 2021, the last guardian of the deposited letters in Hyderabad died issueless.

In Picture: His Excellency Mr. Syed Vicaruddin, former Editor In Chief & Publisher of The Rahnuma-E-Deccan Daily, India’s oldest Urdu newspaper received by Palestinian President H.E. Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, Palestine. (RAHNUMA)

After his death, while searching through his belongings his sister discovered a file that contained old letters and a document in Arabic which was signed by various Grand Muftis of Mecca. Not knowing its contents, she handed it over to her children, who it so happened were also the paternal grandchildren of the late Nizam’s deceased Military Secretary.

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