Editor's Choice

The Lost Pearl

Published On: 05-Oct-2021

The likes of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (aka Bacha Khan) (80-1988) are born once in centuries. He was a great political leader, thinker, educationist, philosopher, social reformer and a pragmatic Muslim evolutionary leader, the 20th century ever produced.

He faced the challenge of uniting a disgruntled Pakhtun society that had a history of disunity, disharmony and animosity between them. Bacha Khan was making efforts for bringing reforms and getting his people educated, having a checkered record of intolerance, enmity, revenge, discord, and disharmony.

Bacha Khan went to Aligarh after his brief stay at Qadian, where he was not satisfied. Having spent some time at Aligarh, Bacha Khan received his father’s letter wanting him to come home. His father wished that Bacha Khan went to England for higher studies, as his elder brother Khan Sahib was already there for higher medical education since February 1909. Although arrangements had been in place, Bacha Khan’s mother was unwilling to let her son go to England. Since her elder son was already abroad, she thought that she would lose another son, as those who go abroad never come back. Bacha Khan then decided to serve his people of the Frontier Province. The Pakhtun were not only backward educationally, remained engaged in factional fights and other evils prevailing in the society. Bacha Khan was of the view that the Pakhtun society must be reformed through education and developed by mobilizing organizationally.

Bacha Khan in his autobiography, explained the turn of his life, that how a missionary teacher in mission high school changed his whole life. “I had taken my education in a mission school and many of my companions had studied in the Islamic school at Peshawar. My education had created in me the spirit of dedication to serve my community and country, but my companions had no such indication. The credit for this goes to my teacher who influenced me and had created in me the spirit of service to the creatures of God. He was not a Muslim but a British [Christian], the Rev. Mr. E.F.E. Wigram. I said to myself: “We Pukhtoon have no sympathy for our poor brother who needs our help and they who came from foreign land and belong to an alien nation and faith, how much sympathy they have for humanity.”

Bacha Khan had a multi-dimensional personality and vision. His contributions can be divided amongst these categories.

1. Educational services
2. Literary services
3. Political struggle for freedom of the subcontinent
4. Struggle for bringing social reforms in the Pashtun society
5. Intellectual approach (Philosophy)

 This article would focus on the educational services of Bacha Khan.

Bacha Khan’s First Educational Movement, 1910

Bacha Khan laid the foundation of two Darul Ulumi Islamia, one in Utmanzai (Charsadda) and the other in Gaddar (Mardan) with the help and contribution of Haji Fazli Wahid (Haji Sahib Turangzai), Maulvi Fazli Rahi, Maulana Abdul Aziz, Maulvi Taj Mohammad, Fazli Mehmood Makhfi and renowned spiritual and religious figure of Dewband Maulana Mehmoodul Hasan in 1910. Bacha Khan and Haji Sahib Turangzai established small Madrassas in other villages by visiting and convincing masses towards the importance of education for their children. The Utmanzai based Madrassa was established in front of a small hill located in the entrance of the village from adjacent village Turangzai, which is about two km far away from Utmanzai, the native town of Haji Fazli Wahid. There is a Girls High Secondary school, established in that property now.

These pioneers were very respectable figures in the masses, children were admitted in the Madrassas in an adequate proportion. This was the beginning of a new era of inclination towards education. While these Madrassas were getting enough recognition, the British Government felt a threat to their authority. They deprived the Pakhtun nation intentionally to get educated, and if they were, it will multiply their force. Therefore, the British Government ordered the arrest Haji Sahib Turangzai. The intention of the government was conveyed to Haji Sahib by one of his followers, and Haji Sahib migrated to Lakaro Mohmand Agency. Afterwards the British Government abolished the educational system and arrested all the teachers of Madrassas. In 1910, Ghaffar Khan, only twenty years old, and Maulvi Abdul Aziz established a madrasa (school) in Utmanzai and began visiting other areas with a view to establishing more madrassas.

Bacha Khan’s Second Educational Movement, 1919

Bacha Khan got married in 1913. Abdul Ghani khan, his elder son was born in 1914 and Abdul Wali Khan in 1917. After the departure of Haji Sahib Turangzai to Mohamed Agency, the British regime made a surveillance of all his followers. Bacha Khan, too, was no exception in this regard and he was followed everywhere. The government already targeted the Mosque, considering it a threat. And now if the Pashtun Hujra, too, comes in front, then Pashtuns will become out of control for them. Bacha Khan was arrested in 1919 under Rowlet Act.

When he was released, he tried another systematic attempt to eradicate illiteracy, unislamic norms and customs and traditional feudalism with disharmony. This time Fazli Mehmood Makhfi accompanied him. A Madrassa was formed in Khalomu (Dir). It received enormous recognition amongst the masses. But unfortunately, the Nawab of Dir, with the help of the Political Agent of the Government banned both Bacha Khan and Fazli Mehmood Makhfi in Dir. The Madrassa was abolished. The students and teachers were given serious life threats. This attempt was also unsuccessful as far as the continuity of the education system is concerned.

Bacha Khan’s Final and Successful Educational Movement

The third attempt was made after conclusive analysis of the previous two movements. In fact, the findings were that all three attempts were individual efforts without involving the masses and other stakeholders. For this purpose, Bacha Khan visited as many as 500 villages and made the masses educate their children. After getting enough support, he realized that it was the best time to launch a systematic, well organized, traditionally strong and modern approach to the formal, technical, and vocational education movement. Bacha Khan was accompanied this time by great colleagues like Abdul Akbar Khan Akbar of Umarzai, Khadim Mohammad Akbar of Prang Charsadda, Barrister Ahmed Shah of Prang Charsadda, Mian Abdullah Shah of Qazi Khel Charsadda, Maulana Mohammad Israel of Utmanzai, Mohammad Abbas khan Utmanzai, Akbar Khan Utmanzai, Mian Abdul Rauf Shah of Rajjar, Haji Abdul Ghaffar of Utmanzai, Mian Fazli Akram of Utmanzai, Mian Jaffer Shah KakaKhel ,Haji Shah Nawaz of Utmanzai, Ghulam Mohiuuddin of Tangi, Taj Mohammad Khan of Charsadda, and Khan Abad Khan of Utmanzai.

A grand jarga of influential persons was held in the presence of the above named celebrities. After nine consecutive of the contemporary discussions, a society was formed called ‘Anjumane Eslahe Afaghena’ – the society for the reformation of Afghans – in March, 1921. The meeting was held in the Hujra of Mohammad Abbas Khan of Utmanzai. A three-member committee composed of Abdul Akbar Khan, Khadim Mohammad Akbar, and Barrister Mian Ahmed Shah, was made to prepare the Constitution for the purpose. The Constitution was prepared in twelve days. The stated objectives were agreed upon, which included, the promotion of unity amongst Pashtuns, the eradication of social evils, prevention of lavish spending on social customs, encouragement of Pashto language and literature, and the creation of ‘real love’ for Islam among Pashtuns. The only agent through which these targets were to be achieved, was recognized as, the education. As stated, one of the top-most priorities of the society was to educate Pashtuns.

Bacha Khan’s educational perception was to educate Pashtuns using a three-pronged approach. Firstly he wanted Pakhtuns to be given modern education, so that they can compete with other nations of the world. Secondly, Bacha Khan envisioned that education must be given underpinning the Islamic Philosophy of life. He strived for inculcating peace and tolerance amongst the masses, so that they may combat detrimental customs and traditions inherited from their forefathers. Education may create a sense in them to give up revenge like customs. Women were debarred from inheritance and had little access to education; Bacha Khan strongly favored women education. Thirdly, he believed technical and vocational education is the need of the hour, so that the Pakhtuns may be able to find jobs and serve the society. He used to say ‘Select right man for the right job’ as an administrative term, which was recognized as famous proverb in Pashtu language:

Kar la khalak ogoray khalku la kar ma gor

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