Today, little more than a century later, it is impossible to imagine the wild enthusiasm and warm sentiments with which members of the Indian medical team returning from their mission to Ottoman Turkey were greeted on July 10, 1913, at Delhi railway station. It is said that even the oldest inhabitants of Delhi could not recall outpouring of joy greater than witnessed at that time. The team of Muslim doctors and other professionals had left India six months before to treat wounded Turkish soldiers from the First Balkan War. For Muslims of undivided India, the Ottoman Empire even in its waning days was a great source of pride and succour, and its defence considered a religious duty.The Ottoman empire reached the peak of its glory in the sixteenth century in the days of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566) and his successor Salim II (1566-1574), when it captured most of Eastern Europe. But, soon the slow decline set in. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a weakened empire became the target of avaricious European powers, Russia, Britain, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The once-feared Ottoman Empire was now derisively referred to by the Europeans as “The sick man of Europe.” Turkey adopted a new direction under Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1876-1909), a reformist, autocratic ruler. Under the treaty of Berlin in 1878, the Empire had lost a number of its possessions in the Balkans, with large Christian populations. Abdul Hamid moved away from the emphasis on secularism and annulled the devolution of his powers to an elected parliament. Instead, he embraced the doctrine of pan Islamism, asserting that all Muslims, regardless of the country they lived in, owed allegiance to the Ottoman Caliph. At least in India, it had the effect of solidifying loyalty to the Sultan. In many mosques, following the old tradition, the Friday Khutba was recited in the name of Sultan Abdul Hamid. However, internal opposition to his policies grew, and led in 1909 to his deposition and exile. He was followed by Sultan Mehmed V Resad (1909-1918), who was largely a figure head with no real powers. The decline continued, and the Ottoman Empire lost its possessions in North Africa, mostly what is now Libya, in a disastrous war with Italy that lasted from September 1911 to October 1912.Soon, a greater tragedy befell the Ottoman Empire as several Balkan countries, Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Greece, banded together to fight against the weak and ill-equipped Ottoman forces in what is known as the First Balkan War (October 1912-May 1913). Predictably, the Turks lost the war as well as all their remaining possessions in the Balkans. The news of the desperate situation of the Turkish army, and the grievous reverses it was suffering in the battle fields reached India, and it touched a raw nerve among the Muslims. Fiery editorials in newspapers, such as Maulana Mohammad Ali’s Comrade, Maulana Abul Kalam’sAl Hillal, and Maulana Zafar Ali Khan’s Zamindar, highlighted the plight of the Turks in emotional and charged language. Dr Ansari lamented, “Those hills and old forts now crumbling down had seen the advent of the mighty Turks, the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the rise and glory of the Osmanali”A wave of sympathy swept Islamic India and a campaign to collect funds to help the Turkish army was launched. The campaign globally raised 350,000 Turkish liras; the contribution of Indian Muslims, 200,000 liras, exceeded the combined contributions of all other countries, including Turkey. Many Hindus, including Mahatma Gandhi, expressed solidarity with the Muslims.Maulanas Shaukat Ali and Mohammad Ali, nick-named the Ali brothers, besides collecting funds, promoted the idea of sending a medical mission to Turkey to treat the wounded soldiers. Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, a renowned physician and surgeon and the grand uncle of the recently retired vice president of India, Mr. Hamid Ansari, was chosen to lead it. Dr. Ansari, who was trained in Britain, earning the highest medical degrees (1910), had the rare distinction of being the first Indian to be appointed to London’s prestigious Charing Cross Hospital as resident medical officer. He had returned to India after a decade practicing medicine in England. A number of doctors and lay volunteers signed up to join the medical mission. It comprised eight fully trained doctors and nine male nurses, besides eight other volunteers. Dr. Ansari was to comment later in one of his missives that: “It is gratifying that the men who have joined the mission are from the cultured middle and higher classes, representing the flower of Mohammad an youth.”As the medical team departed from Luck now on December 15, 1912, a huge crowd of enthusiastic well-wishers gathered at the railway station, bedecked and festooned with flowers and garlands, to say goodbye and offer prayers and best wishes. This overt display of affection from ordinary people continued all the way to Bombay, the port of embarkation. From Bombay, the party boarded the Italian ship Sardegna, on December 15, 1912, enroute to Istanbul.Passing through Suez and Alexandria in Egypt, they finally arrived at Istanbul on December 31, 2012. At first sight, the once majestic Ottoman capital presented a depressing look and evoked some nostalgia. Dr. Ansari lamented, “Those hills and old forts now crumbling down had seen the advent of mighty Turks, the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the rise and glory of the Osmanali. Now the time had come when they were watching the gradual dismemberment of their empire and the decadence of the Moslem rule.” Under the patronage of the Turkish Crescent Society, the mission soon established field hospitals to help both the soldiers and the refugees driven out from the Balkans in the wake of Turkish retreat.During their brief stay in the country, the Indian Medical Mission saved hundreds of soldiers’ lives, many of whom were badly wounded, in a wretched state and most likely would have died of infection in an era when antibiotics had not yet been discovered.The highlight of the tour was a much-prized audience with the Sultan-Caliph, Mehmed Resad V, described by Dr. Ansari as “the greatest event of their stay in Turkey.” The Sultan blessed each member of the mission, who kissed his robes. The Sultanate was abolished by Mustafa Kamal Ataturk during the reign of the next Sultan, Mehmed VI, in November 1922.The dispatch of the Medical Mission to the Ottoman Empire was a landmark event of twentieth century Indian Muslim history. In letters sent from Turkey for publication in the Comrade, the weekly newspaper (1911-1914), Dr. Ansari documented in meticulous details the journey, the accomplishment of his team and the difficulties they encountered while in Turkey. After passage of over a century, most of this material had been lost and forgotten, but recently Burak Akcapar, a historian, author and former Turkish ambassador to India (2011-2017), has painstakingly retrieved it from the original sources and has incorporated it into a highly interesting book, entitled, “People’s Missions to the Ottoman Empire,” Oxford University Press. Dr. Ansari’s original letters are also reproduced in the book and showcase his exquisite literary style, besides providing a rare window into Turkish society of a century ago during the twilight of the Ottoman Empire.The writer is a former assistant professor, Harvard Medical School and health scientist administrator, US Institutes of Health, with a Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham, EnglandPublished in Daily Times, August 27th 2018.