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
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.