Patriots > Freedom Struggle under Mahatma Gandhi > Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890- ? )
Abdul Ghaffar Khan was a scion of a leading family belonging to the Mohamadzai Pathan tribe of Village Uttamanzai in the Charsadda Tehsil of Peshawar district in the erstwhile North-West Frontier Province of British India, now forming a part of West Pakistan. His father, Khan Sahib Baharam Khan, was the headman of the village and was highly respected or his noble character and honesty.

Both the Khan Sahib and his wife, thought unlettered, had abundance of common sense and were deeply religious-minded. They lived more in the world of the spirit than of the flesh. Khan Sahib Baharam Khan was granted big jagirs by the British for his valuable services during the so-called Sepoy Mutiny 1857. But in the later part of his life, he developed hatred for the British and was even arrested during the agitation against the Rowlatt Bills. He died in 1926, at the ripe old age of 95.

Abdul Ghaffar Khan was born in his village Uttamanzai in 1890. His only brother, Dr. Khan Sahib, was senior to him by about seven years. Abdul Ghaffar Khan married for the second time when his first wife died. He has three sons and one daughter. He was a man of great courage and simple habits. He was a devoted Muslim, believed in his own religion and had equal regard for all other religions.

"I do not measure the strength of a religion by counting heads," he had repeatedly said, "for what is faith until it is reflected in one's life? It is my innermost conviction that Islam is amal, yakeen and mohabbat (right conduct, faith and love), and without these one calling himself a Mussalman is like sounding brass and thinking cymbal. The Koran-e-Shareef makes it absolutely clear That faith in one God without a second and good deeds are enough to secure a man's salvation." Abdul Ghaffar Khan had made his religious views known to his large audiences at public meetings.

He had often declared, "The Holy Koran says in so many words that God sends messengers for all nations and for all peoples and they are their respeetive Prophets. All of them are 'Ahle Kitab' (men of the Book) and the Hindus are no less 'Ahle Kitab' than the Jews and the Christians." Again, "The fundamental principles of all religions are the same, though details differ because each faith takes the colour and flavour of the soil from which it springs." "I cannot contemplate a time when there will be one religion for the whole of the world."

About Hindus, he remarked: "If they are idol-worshippers, what are we? What is the worship of tombs? How

are they any less devotees of God when I know that they believe in one God." "He is a devout Muslim," wrote Mahatma Gandhi, "During his stay with me for over a year, I never saw him miss his Namaz or his Ramzan fast except when he was ill. But his devotion to Islam does not mean disrepect for other religions." Some of his critics and adversaries had often called him a 'Hindu' for his liberal attitude towards religion.

Abdul Ghaffar Khan had his early education at home and also in a Maktab (Muslim school) of a Moulvi where he was given religious instruction. He joined the Mission High School at Peshawar for his regular schooling and studied up to the Matriculation. He could not pass the Matriculation examination and was sent to Aligarh where he studied Urdu papers. He read the daily Zamindar edited by Maulana Zaffar Ali Khan and the Al Hilal, an Urdu weekly of Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad. These readings created in him an interest in politics and turned him into a patriot.

Later, it was planned to send him to England for higher education but it could not materialise. As a student, he was greatly influnced by the missionery spirit of the Principal of his School, Rev. Wigram, and resolved to serve his community as his Principal had served his faith in a missionary spirit. The Haji of Turangzau, a pioneer of national education in the province, was another man who created in him love for national education.

Abdul Ghaffar Khan studied Gandhiji's life critically and always showed a readiness to take a leaf out of his book. His close association with Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad and other top-ranking Indian nationalists greatly influnced him in his political outlook.On return from Aligarh, Abdul Ghaffar Khan associated himself with the Haji of Turangzai as early as 1911 and took an active part in establishing several national schools in the province. However, his regular nationalist career started from 1919 when he plunged into the agitation against the Rowlatt Bills.

He made his first political speech during this agitation in his village in condemning the Rowlatt Bills. He was arrested but later released. He attended the Nagpur session of the Congress in 1920 and took a leading part in the Khilafat agitation which was organized by him in his province. In 1921 he established a National School at Uttamanzai and was arrested under the Frontier Crimes Regulations for inculcating into the minds of the Pathans ideas of nationalism. On his release from jail in 1924, he settled down to the quiet work of social reform.

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