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06 October 2013

Allama Mashriqi: Educationist and Founder of Islamia College Peshawar

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In commemoration of 100 years of Islamia College

By Nasim Yousaf

Allama Mashriqi was one of the founding fathers of Islamia College (Peshawar). His long association with the said college, first as its Vice-Principal and later as Principal, brought about a revolution in education and gave new dimensions to one of the most educationally backward provinces of British India, the North West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). Mashriqi’s tenure (1913-1930) with the Government of British India’s education department, in different capacities, including as Under Secretary of Education (British India), is yet to be brought to light.

One hundred years ago (1913), Islamia College, established at the gate of the famous Khyber Pass, opened its doors to the students of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Peshawar, a Muslim dominated province. Allama Mashriqi joined the said college when the project was in its infancy and when the doors of this institution had yet to be opened for enrollment by students.

In 1912, Allama Mashriqi completed his education at the world-famous University of Cambridge (U.K). At the said institution, Mashriqi had created history through his unprecedented academic achievements (which were a great honor for Asia). Mashriqi’s achievements were praised by many daily newspapers in the United Kingdom.

For example, The Star, London, 1912 stated: “It was hitherto considered not possible at Cambridge that a man could take honours in four Triposes in a short period of five years but it is credit to India that Inayatullah Khan of the Christ’s College has accomplished the feat.” The Yorkshire Post, June 13, 1912 wrote: “Inayatullah Khan, of Christ’s, has proved himself the best all-round Indian student ever at Cambridge…He is believed to be the first man of any nationality to obtain honours in four different subjects.”

News of his academic successes was not only publicized in the United Kingdom, but spread all across India.

Mashriqi was showered with job offers (including the Premiership of Alver State in British India) with lucrative salary and benefits. Based on his performance, Sir George Roos-Keppel, the Chief Commissioner (equivalent to Governor) of the North West Frontier Province appointed Mashriqi as the first Vice-Principal of Islamia College. Mashriqi accepted the position to bring about a revolution in the field of education. With his appointment, Mashriqi became part of the planning process and later officially joined the College in April, 1913 and worked rigorously with the other founders (Nawab Sir Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum, Sir George Roos-Keppel, and L. Tipping) to launch the college. Finally, the college opened its doors on October 01, 1913 and began flourishing (at the time, most people throughout the region were illiterate). In 1916, Mashriqi was appointed as the officiating Principal and in 1917 he became the permanent Principal. It is important to note that at the time, providing education, particularly to females in the said region, was considered a sin by orthodox Muslims, but Mashriqi changed their outlook and opened the doors for women! The spread of education (including among females) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa can be seen from official reports. This would not have been possible without Mashriqi and the Islamia College team’s hard work.

In the same year (1917), Mashriqi was again promoted to Under Secretary of Education and sent to Delhi, where he worked at the Secretariat of the Viceroy of India (Lord Chelmsford). In 1919, he became a member of the prestigious Indian Education Service (I.E.S.) and was sent back to Peshawar (where he held various positions in the education department). He remained in Peshawar for a long time, until he resigned from Government service (in 1930) and went on to form the Khaksar Tehrik (also known as Khaksar Movement).

Though Mashriqi was directly associated with Islamia College for the first five years (i.e. from 1913-1917), he remained closely connected with the college thereafter and the management continued to seek Mashriqi’s guidance on various issues and development projects.

Islamia College continued to grow in its influence and prominence. For example, the University of Peshawar was founded as an extension of the College in 1950. Today, Islamia College is rated as one of the best in Pakistan. Its magnificent buildings (which are also printed on Pakistani currency notes of different denominations as well as on postage stamps) are considered among the marvelous monuments of Pakistan.

In order to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Islamia College (to be celebrated in November 2013 by the college administration) and to enlighten the public about the contributions made by reformer and revolutionary Allama Mashriqi to build the college and promote education in the province, I have also published a booklet entitled “Allama Mashriqi: A Founder of Islamia College (Peshawar, Pakistan).” The work is about the contributions of one of the founders of Islamia College to this historic institution in Pakistan.

[Nasim Yousaf has thus far written 12 books and many articles (including in peer-reviewed academic journals: “Harvard Asia Quarterly” and “Pakistaniaat) and presented papers at scholarly conferences in the USA. His most recent book is entitled “Mahatma Gandhi & My Grandfather, Allama Mashriqi” – a groundbreaking narrative of India’s partition. He is working on additional books and articles. He can be contacted at infomashriqi@yahoo.com]

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