Arbab Bahram Khan Shaheed, Muhammad Shafee Sabir
Published in Khyber.ORG on Friday, September 16 2005 (http://www.khyber.org)
Publishing Date: Friday, September 16 2005
The Arbab family of Peshawar's Tahkal Bala Locality have always contributed a lot to the politics of the region. In almost every generation, this family has produced very important and prominent personalities of the region. One of these personalities was Arbab Bahram Khan.
Munshi Gopal Daas writes in 'Tareekh e Peshawar' (History of Peshawar) that during the time when Peshawar was ruled by the Sikhs, Sadozai and Barakzai emperors, the duty of collecting the taxes from local 'tapas' (localities) was in the hands of the prominent families of the area. Thus the Arbab family was given the responsibility to accumulate taxes from Tapa Khalil. Munshi Gopal further writes that:
"After the death of Sarfaraz Khan, Bahram Khan was appointed the Malik (Tribal Elder/Chief). It was not long that differences developed between Bahram Khan and the Barakzai rulers of Peshawar; Sardar Sultan Muhammad Khan and Pir Muhammad Khan. As a result, he migrated to Jamrud and Juma Khan took over his position. But even Juma Khan was also not able to keep the Barakzai Sardars of Peshawar happy, hence they replaced him with Gojar Khan. Later on, Zahid Khan was appointed as Malik after the death of Abid Khan. When the Sikhs took over the area, the Arbab family migrated to Khyber; from where they approached Amir Dost Muhammad Khan. The Sikhs handed charge of control of Peshawar and its surrounding areas to Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa. After taking charge, Hari Singh somehow managed to call back Muhammad Khan from exile in Jamrud. Muhammad Khan was Ma'az Khan's son; who had also exiled himself in Jamrud along with Arbab Bahram Khan. Upon return, Muhammad Khan was appointed Arbab of Tapa Khalil and given the honorary title of 'Nawab' by Hari Singh Nalwa. After a period of around one year, there was a clash between Amir Dost Muhammad Khan and the Sikhs at Sago Sarband near Bara Fort. The Nawab of Tehkal; Nawab Muhammad Khan preferred to side with Dost Muhammad Khan in this battle and hence the Sikhs relieved him of his duties.
After the insulting death of Hari Singh Nalwa, Sardar Teja Singh was given charge of Peshawar. He then summoned for Gojar Khan, Abdul Hameed Khan (Zahid Khan's brother), and Muhammad Ameer Khan (to represent Hasan Khan). The reason for this summoning was to appoint all three of them as Arbabs and assign to them separate localities for the purpose of collecting taxes. Hence Nasrullah Khan was replaced by Muhammad Ameer Khan; Zahid Khan by Abdul Hameed Khan; and Bahram Khan by Gojar Khan."
It was this Arbab Bahram Khan who later on provided strong backing to Ameer ul Mujahideen Syed Ahmad Shaheed. Maulana Ghulam Rasool Mahr writes that "Apart from Syed Akbar Shah of Sathana, there was no other person amongst the learnt elders of the frontier who was as sincere, full of piety, truthful, and well mannered as Arbab Bahram Khan Shaheed."
Syed Ahmad Barelvi had chosen the Frontier as his center for waging Jehad because of the warrior nature of the Pashtoons and their extreme love and devotion for Islam; qualities unmatched anywhere in the sub continent. Furthermore, the Pashtoons were fed up with the constant incursions made by the Sikhs. If the people had openly supported the Mujahideen of Syed Ahmad Barelvi, there would have been no doubt that the Sikhs would be defeated. However there were a few issues that were creating hurdles in the way of the Mujahideen:
Peshawar was being governed by the Barakzai Sardars who time and again played a double game with the Mujahideen.
The Sikh army was well organised and had been given quality training by the British and the French.
The local Khans and Maliks who never were able to unite on a single platform against the enemy.
It was Syed Ahmad Barelvi's aim to raise awareness of Jehad amongst the people and to establish Shariah. Immediately after setting camp on the Frontier, he wrote letters to the local Khans and Maliks explaining to them that when Non-Muslims take over the honour and land of Muslims, it is important upon the people; especially the elders and rulers to engage in battle with them till both are restored. If this is not done, then we would have sinned and thus will not have the blessings of Allah in anything that we do.
Arbab Bahram Khan was a pious and well mannered person from the very beginning. He was well respected by others because of these very qualities. When he received this letter from Syed Ahmad Barelvi, he immediately decided to pledge full support to his cause. For this purpose, he took with him horsemen numbering twenty or twenty-five and appeared before Syed Ahmad Barelvi. In those days, Syed Sahib was staying in Panjtar; present day District Mardan. Arbab Bahram Khan presented an elegant horse named 'Azhdar' as a gift to Syed Ahmad Barelvi in this first meeting after pledging his allegiance. From this day onwards, Arbab Bahram Khan presented his services to the cause of the Mujahideen no matter what the circumstances may be. Even on the occasion of his martyrdom, he was fighting side by side with his Ameer.
Arbab Bahram Khan was a man who possessed great insight; which was a reason why Syed Ahmad Barelvi gave a lot of importance to consultations with him. It was their first meeting in Panjtaar where Bahram Khan advised him that the people of the area were heavily engaged in confrontations with each other on a number of issues and that touring the surrounding villages and brokering peace amongst the tribes and calling them towards Islam will increase his popularity. This was done with some very positive outcomes.
Syed Ahmad Barelvi was still living in Panjtar in the spring of 1827 that large convoys of Mujahideen from India started arriving in Peshawar. Yar Muhammad Khan and Sultan Muhammad Khan prevented this convoys from proceeding to meet their Ameer. For the passage of these Mujahideen, a Jirga was prepared to be sent to the Barakzai rulers of Peshawar by Syed Ahmad Barelvi. This jirga was to comprise of Mullah Qutbudin Ningrahari, Ahmad Gul Beg, and Arbab Bahram Khan. Due to health reasons, Arbab Bahram Khan was not able to accompany this Jirga so he appointed some of his trusted men to be sent instead.
The Barakzai rulers created many problems for those Khans of Peshawar who supported the Mujahideen. Their lands and properties were confiscated and even their relatives were not left alone. Some of the Khans who were victims of this campaign were Arbab Bahram Khan, his brother Arbab Juma Khan, Alam Khan of Utmanzai, and Mahmood Khan of Tangi.
For the Mujahideen it was more serious task to confront the Muslim hakims of Peshawar rather than the Sikhs. These rulers of Peshawar were four brothers from the Barakzai tribe named Sultan Muhammad Khan, Pir Muhammad Khan, Syed Muhammad Khan and Yar Muhammad Khan. These brothers had pledged allegiance to Syed Ahmad Barelvi but behind his back, they would conspire against him with the Sikhs. It was not long that a military confrontation took place. When the Mujahideen found out that the Barakzai rulers were being equipped by the Amir of Kabul, they immediately decided to send a delegation to Khyber to win over the tribes and thus stop the only supply route of the Peshawar Sardars. Arbab Bahram Khan had a lot of influence in the area. Hence the delegation naturally comprised of him, his brother Arbab Juma Khan and sixty other elders. These elders included Syed Ahmad Barelvi's nephew Syed Ahmad Ali, Maulvi Mazhar Ali, Sheikh Wali Muhammad, Sheikh Ali Muhammad, Maulvi Muhammad Hassan, and Nasir ud Din Mangalori. A letter on behalf of Syed Ahmad Barelvi was also sent which stated:
"Siding with the Mujahideen would depict your piety and your state of Iman while sidelining them will depict your hypocrisy just like that of the rulers of Peshawar. We find ourself in a state that unless and until we do something about this hypocrisy, we can't wage Jehad against outsiders. Therefore prepare to confront the hypocrites and consider this to be an utmost duty in waging Jehad."
Due to their efforts, the delegation succeeded in winning trust of the Khalil and Mohmand tribes who agreed to take part in Syed Ahmad's call for Jehad. Even an independent ruler amongst the Mohmands, Sa'adat Khan Lalpuri announced his support for the Mujahideen. Without doubt this was a big success for Syed Ahmad Barelvi.
One day Arbab Bahram Khan's men came with this news that the Durranis (Rulers of Peshawar) have crossed the River Landa (Present day River Kabul) and reached Utman Zai under the intention of fighting against Syed Sahib. Many advised Syed Sahib that instead of waiting for the Durranis to come and knock at our doorsteps we should ourselves march towards Peshawar to face the enemy. But Said sahib was worried about leaving the bickering local sardars while he himself would be engaged with the Durranis. Before he made a decision, consultations were made with various local Khan's, Ulema, and other influentials; which also included Arbab Bahram Khan, Arbab Juma Khan, Inayatullah Khan of Allah Dand, Zaidullah Khan of Khar Bajaur, Mahmood Khan of Garhiali, Manzoor Khan of Char Gulai, Qazi Syed Muhammad Hubaan of Ghorband, Maulvi Abdul Rahman of Toru, and Mullah Kaleem Ullah Akhunzada of Khar Bajaur.
The Jirga came up with this conclusion that the Durranis have chosen the path of rebellion themselves and thus there was no way to stop their bloodshed. It was also agreed upon that this hypocrisy and trouble making cannot be stopped unless Peshawar is taken away from them by force.
To regularize the Mujahideen activities and to keep internal affairs secret, Said Sahib again had to rely upon Arbab Bahram Khan. Said Sahib chose 500 of the best seasoned fighters from amongst his men to take over the fort at Hund. Shah Ismail Shahid was assigned their Ameer and Arbab Bahram Khan as their Naib Ameer. Only these two people knew about the exact time the attack would be made and the attack strategy to be adopted. The attack was made and the Mujahideen came out victoriious. Since Arbab Bahram Khan was much more accustomed to the area than Shah Ismail, therefore credit for their victory goes to him. This victory was a very great boost to the Mujahideen's popularity in the area.
After this defeat, Peshawar's Durrani sardar; Yar Muhammad Khan arranged for another army to take revenge from the Mujahideen. His troops set ground in Zaida (in present day District Mardan). In these sensitive times, Arbab Bahram Khan stuck with the Ameer al Mujahideen like a shadow. However even in this crucial phase, the Mujahideen struck back galliantly and Yar Muhammad Khan was killed after battle. 300 of Yar Muhammad's men also died; 60 of which were important figures.
By this time, the Mujahideen ranks had swelled and there was a need for one more commander. Said Ahmad Ali suggested Hamza Ali Khan Loharo for this post but Shah Ismail and Arbab Bahram suggested Abdul Hamid Khan as fit for this job. Syed Ahmad Shaheed listened to the advice of Shah Ismail and Arbab Bahram and their suggested man was appointed on this post.
As was his nature, Arbab Bahram Khan always remained in the company of Syed Ahmad Shaheed. On one instance, after victory at the battle of Mahyar, Arbab Bahram Khan happened to look at Syed Sahab's face and found it covered with dust. He took out his handkerchief and tried to wipe out the dust at which Syed Ahmad Shaheed replied, "Hold on Arbab Sahib, this dust is full of blessing because the Holy Prophet PBUH has praised it."
In 1830, the Mujahideen marched on Peshawar. They were proceeding on the northern banks of River Kabul. After crossing the river, they entered the village of Regi in Khalil locality. This place has a dry riverbed which is venue to the shrine of Hazrat Sheikh Imam ud Din Rahimallah Alaihe. This was the place where Sultan Mahmood Ghaznawi fought against Jaypal of India. Some of Arbab Bahram Khan's relatives lived in Regi Palosai and because of this reason they showed tremendous hospitality; thus the Mujahideen were well treated and served during their short stay here.
After suffering two harsh blows, the Sardars of Peshawar did not dare show resistance against the marching army. Hence the Mujahideen entered the city with great pride and honor. The victorious army did not harm any property or resident of Peshawar. They entered the city gates through Kabuli Gate and after passing through Qissa Khwani, Chok Yadgar, and Bazar Qallaan, finally camped at Gol Katri where arrangements had already been made. Syed Sahib himself stayed in the small rooms on top of the main entrance of Gol Katri. Arbab Bahram Khan had to perform his duties at Deorhi. No one was allowed to meet Syed Ahmad Shaheed without consenting with him first. On the behest of Syed Ahmad Shahed, Arbab Bahram Khan also announced to the locals of the city not to feel worried and that they may continue with their livelihood as normal because no harm would come to them.
The Durrani rulers of Peshawar were very clever. When they found that they could not resist the Mujahideen therefore they took the way of reconciliation. For this purpose, Arbab Faizullah Khan of Hazar Khwani was assigned to approach the Ameer ul Mujahideen and ask for forgiveness of their previous wrong-doings. It was the wish of Arbab Bahram Khan and majority of other Mujahideen leaders that hold of Peshawar should not be given back to them because they had experienced that these sardars easily switch sides. Even the delegations of Hindu influentials and Peshawar traders approached Syed Sahib and asked that the former sardars of Peshawar should not be trusted.
Arbab Bahram Khan approached Syed Ahmad Shaheed through somebody and showed the desire that if control of Peshawar is to be handed to somebody than his name should be considered for it. In return he would make sure that:
He will protect the city at all costs. Even if the Kabul Sardars return to take over the city, he will be able to fight them off without the need of asking help from Syed Ahmad Shaheed; reason being that his tribe is big enough to ward off outsiders.
4000 new soldiers from his tribe would be conscripted in Syed Ahmad's army. The expenditure and wages of these soldiers would be bore by him himself.
He would use his honorary position for the welfare of Islam rather than for worldly pleasures.
He is aware of politics of the area and therefore would be in a better position to deal with local affairs
In response, Syed Ahmad Shaheed replied to Bahram Khan that this Jehad is not being made to seek worldly pleasures and desires; and neither do we desire to sit on the thrones. There is no difference between me and Bahram Khan. If control of Peshawar is given to Arbab Bahram Khan, the people would be under the impression that Syed Ahmad Shaheed is using his right-hand by the name of Bahram Khan to rule over Peshawar. Therefore Syed Ahmad Shaheed did not consider it appropriate to agree to Bahram Khan's offer and despite popular opinion, the former Sardars of Peshawar were given power again. In return the sardars pleaded their allegiance to Syed Ahmad Shaheed and vowed not to create troubles for them again..
It should be noted that despite the political chaos of Peshawar, the annual income/taxes this city generated was not less than 10 lac rupees. This was the main reason that Arbab Bahram Khan considered that he would be able to pay the wages of the 4000 soldiers from this income.
Later on, some issues cropped up which showed that Syed Ahmad Shaheed made a very big mistake in handing back reigns of Peshawar city to the Barakzai sardars. According to historians, Syed Ahmad Shaheed was very well accustomed to issues of warfare but he was not familiar with politics. This could have been the reason that he fell for the false pledges made by the former rulers of Peshawar who were playing a political game with him.
The sardars of Peshawar started a series of successful conspiracies against the Mujahideen that it was not long that their influence from the whole of Peshawar district was completely washed away. They succeeded in obtaining a Fatwa from Ulema who labelled the Mujahideen and Ameer ul Mujahideen as Kafirs (Infidels). They even brutally murdered Qazi Mazhar Ali and Arbab Faizullah Khan Mohmand under the pretext of taking revenge for the death of Yar Muhammad Khan. After their murder, a timeframe was set in which it was ordered that all Mujahideen found anyplace in Peshawar or its vicinities be killed.
Such a time came on the Mujahideen when they found this world too small for them to hide. Arbab Bahram Khan stood by Syed Ahmad Shaheed even in these troubled times. He remained in his company at Panjtar. Ameer ul Mujahideen Syed Ahmad Shaheed could not bear the persecution that his men were facing. He passed on this message to his followers whom he had asked to gather at Panjtar:
"I have myself devoted my entire life to be washed away in the Path of Allah's Deen. We are facing through times of trouble. If there is any brother amongst us who is not able to bear the mental and physical agony then we have permission for him to leave us and seek refuge someplace. However we ask him not to seek refuge in Khorasan or Hindustan because they can be nabbed from these places. The best place for refuge is the land of Arabs despite the fact that this land is also full of wrong customs."
After listening to his short speech, all the Ghazis started crying. Many of the Mujahideen went to the homes, some listened to the Ameer and migrated to Arab lands. However, Arbab Bahram Khan still stood by the side of Syed Ahmad Shaheed because he had pledged his whole life to be spent for his cause. His family was also living in Panjtar. Arbab Bahram Khan advised his family and relatives that he has decided to stay back with Ameer ul Mujahideen and if they want they can go stay with his brother Juma Khan. His relatives also were against that and decided that come what may, they will remain in his company.
On this occasion, Arbab Bahram Khan had one wife, one daughter, and five sons; two of whom hadn't reached the age of maturity yet. He also had a nephew named Muhammad Khan who had married Bahram Khan's daughter. He decided to stay behind as well.
They had to pass through different places after leaving Panjtar before they finally arrived at Balakot. Ameer ul Mujahideen was accompanied by around three hundred of his loyalists. It was in Balakot that they found out that a Sikh prince by the name of Sher Singh was marching on towards their position in Balakot accompanied by a thousand well armed men. On this news, Arbab Bahram Khan suggested that it was in the safety of all that we leave from Balakot as well and seek refuge in the mountains of Kaghan. Syed Ahmad Shaheed did not agree to this and replied back that their fate was in the hands of Allah; whatever is supposed to happen, let it happen in Balakot. Arbab Bahram Khan pointed his index finger at his neck and gave word that this neck is now ready to be cut in the way of Allah. History is witness that Bahram Khan fulfilled these words.
On 6th of May 1831, the martyrs battleground in Balakot saw that Arbab Bahram Khan stayed in the company of Ameer ul Mujahideen with his gun in his hand. Eyewitnesses testify that on a number of occasions, Bahram Khan would go out in the open just to protect his Ameer from getting wounded. Battle was waged in Balakot for the whole day. At night fall the bodies of Arbab Bahram Khan were found just a little distance away from Shah Ismail Shaheed. Both of them had attained martyrdom and were buried a little distance away from each other.
Six months had passed since the battle of Balakot. Arbab Bahram Khan Shaheed's nephew and his son in law; Arbab Muhammad Khan gathered his tribesmen and told them that he wants to bring the body of Arbab Sahib Shaheed from Balakot and have it reburied in Tehkal. All the tribesmen advised that there was no point in bringing bones from so far and burying it over here. But the young Muhammad Khan was adamant. He believed that his uncle had waged a just struggle under the leadership of Syed Ahmad Shaheed and had become a martyred. Hence there was absolutely no way that his body would be mutilated in the grave.
He took off to Balakot with forty men to accomplish this task. People in Balakot also tried to refrain Muhammad Khan from digging up the grave but Muhammad Khan did not move one inch back from his vow of bringing the body back to Tehkal. He proceeded with the digging of the grave and took Arbab Bahram Khan Shaheed's body out. It was found to be in its original condition, with no deformed body part and no bad smell. There was only a small mark on his toe nails.
At Tehkal, thousands of well wishers and his followers attended the re-burial of this great Mujahed. On this occasion, these words come to one's mouth that
ع خدا رحمت کندایں عاشقان پاک طینت را
Arbab Bahram Khan Shaheed, Muhammad Shafee Sabir
Published in Khyber.ORG on Friday, September 16 2005 (http://www.khyber.org)