In August 1914, Germany formed an alliance with the Ottomans (Turkish Muslim state/caliphate) as a mutual agreement. A fatwa for Jihad was announced November 1914.
The benefits for the Germans; the Muslims would wage Jihad to defeat the enemy in British and French colonial lands, increasing the chances of defeating the enemy.
For the Ottomans; support and resources from Germans in order to consolidate Islamic rule and enforce borders, also military support in lands the west have designs on, one notable being, Palestine.
There were millions of Muslims living in British and French colonial lands and the expectation was they would support the Jihad effort.
Although, early in the war, it became obvious to the Ottoman Turks and Germany they each had designs on Palestine and in fact other parts of the Middle East.
This was later complicated with the agreement Britain had made with the Ottoman Sharif of Mecca, Hussein ibn Ali, to lead an Arab revolt with the assistance of his son Faisal and a British officer, T.E. Lawrence.
The British would give land laid down in an agreement for an independent Arab state.
It emerged later the British had no intention honouring the agreement and enacted the Sykes/Picot agreement (“line in the sand”) of the British and French for the division of middle eastern lands obtained by the war;this emerged before the war ended.
This is still a bone of contemption to Muslims to this day.
When the Islamic state (ISIS) announced the caliphate, a display was made of bulldozing the line in the sand between Syria and Iraq to announce the determined effort of a no borders world, with Allah’s word being the highest authority in all lands. This destruction of the border was detailed in the first Islamic state magazine, called Dabiq.
In addition to this there was also the complication of the Balfour Declaration, which was the agreement for a separate land for the Jews. It took another World War for the full implementation of this state, Israel, and again, the consequences are still being seen in Israel and around the world to this day.
Previous to the war, the Ottomans relaxed the Islamic laws of Allah’s decree and led reforms which gave Jews and Christians equal rights.
Discarding the laws of Allah is a major sin, this was the catalyst which led to the horrific Armenian genocide of non-Muslims, plus many conflicts which led to hundreds of thousands being raped, enslaved, killed, or at the very best deported, in former Ottoman lands.
The previous wars (Balkans and Libya) which the Ottomans lost, plus reforms and slack governance led to the Ottomans being very weak, economically and many Muslims were exhausted.
When the Ottomans formed the alliance with Germany they never realistically anticipated joining the war, but within three months they called for Muslims to rise for Jihad and declared their entry into World War One as a Holy War.
The Call for Jihad didn’t have the response they expected, there was a general respect to the Ottoman Caliph by most Muslims, this is a requirement in Islamic law. It’s also a requirement to respond to the call of Jihad by the Caliph, but the reforms obviously had an impact on some of the Muslim’s allegiance to the Ottomans.
German leaders believed the Ottoman support was the key to winning the war, but there needed to be a further drive to encourage Muslims to join the Jihad against the enemies of the Ottomans and Germany.
A prisoner of war camp was created specifically for Muslims who were captured on the western front.
It was named Halbmondlager (Crescent Moon Camp) in WünsdorfZossen, it was near Berlin.
It was in this camp the first ever mosque in Germany was built in the year of 1915, it was less than one year after the entry of the Ottomans into the world war.
Within the camp there were Arabic speaking German commanders.
Muslims were treated very well, food was slaughtered and prepared in a halal manner to comply with Islamic law.
Sermons were given at the mosque and Friday prayer was held.
The camp was there specifically to train Muslims to fight for the Ottoman army, the allies of Germany.
To encourage more Muslim recruits, the camp was used as a show camp for German propaganda.
The camp was detailed in a magazine released by Germany – in Arabic language – called Al-Jihad.
Al-Jihad described the benefits of the camp, news on advances in the middle east, sermons from the camp and encouragement to uphold the Islamic duty of Jihad.The Ottoman Fatwas for Jihad were also published on posters in Arabic and distributed for recruitment purposes.
There are no exact records for the numbers of Muslims recruited within the camps, but the American consular officials report there were at least 3,000 North African former prisoners posted to Baghdad with Ottoman forces to serve on the Persian and Mesopotamian fronts.
This is discounting the response to the Fatwa for Jihad called by the Ottomans in November 1914.
In total, the Ottomans mobilised 2.8 million Muslim fighters during the whole war and 800k at its peak.
Muslims fighting for entendre forces, which were the enemies of Allah, were numbered at approximately 3-400K.
Previous to the 19th century, the Ottomans had one the most powerful and largest empires of the world, western powers gradually took lands the Ottomans had originally invaded and by the time of World War One the Ottomans needed assistance of Western powers. The British refused and Russia and France weren’t an option either.
The Ottoman Muslims aligned with Germany and they were defeated, but it appears the call of Jihad for a Holy War and the allegiance of the Caliphate was more of a draw to Muslims than fighting for enemies of Allah, which is forbidden in Islamic law.
Title picture, Cresent Moon POW Camp