The Childhood Of Bacha Khan

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (Bacha Khan) was born in the house of Khan Bahram Khan in the village of Utmanzai, in Hastnagar, now famous as Charsadda.

In those days it was not the custom in our families to keep a record of the date and year of the birth of one’s children. Beside, very few people knew how to read and write. Therefore, there is no record of the date and year of my birth. But according to Bacha Khan He said that “I have good reason to believe that I was born in 1890 because my mother used to tell me that my brother, Dr. Khan Saheb, was married when I was eleven years old. He was married in 1901, so I think it is correct to say that I was born in 1890.”

According to Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s book “My life & Struggle” He wrote briefly on his childhood He writes that:

My father was one of the great Khans chieftains or rulers of his village, but he had none of the arrogance and vanity of chieftainship. He was extremely even tempered, God-fearing, sober, Generous, compassionate and of noble character, in any feud he would always protect the oppressed. If anybody wronged him, he never tried to take revenge. On the contrary, he would forgive the wrong-doer and overlook what he had done.

My mother, too, was most generous and liberal by nature. She used to prepare food for the poor people of the neighborhood, and distribute it herself.

Sometimes travelers came to stay in the Hujra[1] and we did not always know who they were. But whether they were casual travelers or our own guests, my father always casual their meals to their rooms himself. Though we had servants, my father, carrying the basket of bread on his head and the plate of curry in his hand, would go to the traveler’s or the guest’s room and server food with his own hands.

“For,” my father always side, “the unknown traveler is also a guest, sent to us by God, and therefore I must serve him myself.”

Unlike the other Khans, my father was no admirer of the Government. He never established any relations with the ruling powers and the thought of offering them service or flattery never occurred to him.

My grandfather, saif-Ullah Khan, lived by the same principles. At the time when fighting had broken out in surkawe, and the British wanted to take possession of Bonair, some of the Khans of our country were giving them help support. But my grandfather, Saifullah Khan, chose the side of his oppressed countrymen and cast his lot with her heroic fighters who were opposing the foreign rulers. Whenever and wherever the British were fighting, attacking our people, or trying to make them their slaves, my grandfather always stood firmly on the side of his countrymen and fought shoulder to shoulder with those who were suffering under the oppression of the foreign power.

My great- grandfather, Abaidullah Khan, was famous, powerful, and well-loved as a guide and adviser to his people. Because of his enlightened mind, and his fervent patriotism, he was put to death at the hands of Durrani, who was the ruler of country at that time.

When, after the Duranis, British rule was established, our country was annexed to Punjab.

The British had opened many schools in Punjab, but in our country no steps had been taken to educate our children.

There was no love lost between the Pathans and the British; neither did the Punjabis have any sympathy for us. The Government officials in our country were all Punjabis. There were a few primary Schools in the Punjabis. There were primary Schools in the large villages, but hardly any Pathan teacher.

In the schools which the British had opened in all parts of India, children received education in their respective mother tongues. But ours was the only unfortunate country where no arrangements for education were made, and in the few schools that existed the children were taught in a language which was not their own.

It was a matter of great regret that thought the British had established a few schools for our children they had also left amidst us very orthodox mullahs[2], who were held in reverence by the people, and who pronounced anyone studying in these schools an unbeliever! They made propaganda against the schools, saying:

“Parents, who send their children to these schools, do so only for the sake of money. There will be no place in Heaven for any pupil of these schools: they will be thrown in to Hell!”

The real purpose of this propaganda was to keep the Pathans illiterate and uneducated, and this was the reason that, with regard to education, the Pathans were most backward in India.

There was no other way for the Pathan children to receive education. In the mosques pupils were taught to some extent, in the name of religion. Bur the instruction was given by the mullahs, and those who took advantage of it mostly did so in order to become imams[3]. But the common people were not interested in this kind of education. Because before the coming of Islam our people had been Hindus, and the misconception that “education is only for the Brahmins” still prevailed in our society. The result of this was that we created divisions amongst ourselves, very much like the Hindu caste system.

Thought my father had not received any formal education himself, he loved knowledge and learning, and took a great interest in it. I was only five years old when I was send to the mosque to be instructed by the mullah. The Poor mullah, however, was devoid of learning and practically illiterate, so how could he be expected to teach me the art of reading and writing? He knew some surahs of the Holy Koran by heart. He was even able to read the Holy Koran. But I very much doubt whether he understood one word of it!

The mullah began to teach me the thirty chapters of the holy Koran, on the day when I started reciting the Koran my father and mother distributed sweets. They were very happy that my education had begun.

The funny thing was that he mullah was not really competent to teach me as the A B C even. Yet he started teaching me the Koran. How could he, expected to teach me the Koran? Yet, the poor mullah was no t be biamed, for he only followed the method of teaching that was prevalent in our country at that time.

Our teacher was very cruel and he used to beat us mercilessly. After some time I had learned the whole happy and rejoiced at my completing this holy task.

The Pathans were very keen on education and most of them did send their children to the mosques for instruction, because no other schools were available, and also because they were not familiar with any other kind of learning. And supposing there had been schools in parents to send their children there, for they insisted that all this worldly learning was kufar against religion! They reminded their pupils and other illiterate folk of the verse that was fast becoming a hit and could be heard in all the streets and market places:

“ sabaq de madrase wai para de paise wai

Jannat ke bai zai navi dozakh ke bai ghase wahi”

“Those who learn in schools,

They are none but moneys tools

In Heaven they will never dwell,

They will surely go to hell.”

Fortunately for me God had blessed me with a brave and broad-minded father and a saintly and loving mother, both of whom ignored the mullah’s condemnation and took no notice of what the neighbors said. They send my brother, Dr. Khan Saheb to School and as far as I know he was the first boy in Hashtanghar to be educated in a school. When I’ had finished studying the Holy Koran my parents sent me to school too. I was eight year old then. The mullahs secretly tried to spread slander against my parents, but they did not have the courage to forbid me going to school, nor did nor they dare to call my parents respected Khan and therefore the mullahs scould not openly speak against him.

[1] Common guest house for travelers either in the village or in the mosque. Most Khans have their have their own Hujras.

[2] One Learned in Muslim theology and law.

[3] Muslim priest.

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