Haji Sahib Turangzai

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Haji Sahib Turangzai, Muhammad Shafi Sabir
Published in Khyber.ORG on Friday, September 16 2005 (http://www.khyber.org)

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Haji Sahib Turangzai

Muhammad Shafi Sabir

Tazkara Sarfaroshan e Sarhad

Publishing Date: Friday, September 16 2005

If Shah Wali Ullah Dehlvi Rahmatullah Alaihe is the fore bearer of modern Islamic reforms in India, then Haji Sahib Turangzai is without doubt the fore bearer of Islamic reform in the Frontier. Haji Sahib's real name was Fazal Wahid and he was born to the Sadaat family in 1858 at Turangzai; a famous town in District Charsadda. His father's name was Fazal Ahad. The Sadaat family is looked upon with respect because they have brought up many nameworthy revolutionary leaders. Hazrat Sahib's mother was a pious woman who belonged to Hazrat Kaka Sahib's family.

Back in those days, Turangzai was a center of religious learning. Syed Abu Bakar was a renowned Alim of the area and Haji Sahib obtained his initial schooling from him. For further studies, he obtained admission in a famous seminary in Tehkal Payan; a small village on the outskirts of Peshawar. The Muhtamim (caretaker) of the seminary was from the Tariqat of Shah Wali Ullah Muhadis Dehlvi RA. He also held allegiance to Hazrat Najmudin Hadda Mullah Sahib of Jalalabad. The seminary stressed upon cultivating & nurturing Islamic Thought in its students along with giving them proper education. Having this upbringing through to completion of his education, young Fazal Wahid devoted his life and efforts for serving Islam.

After completing his education, Haji Sahib came back to his home town of Turangzai and took up farming to earn a livelihood. He also kept himself occupied with Da'wa activities in the area as well. It was not long that he went to Darul Uloom Deoband where he was introduced to Sheikh ul Hind Maulana Mahmood ul Hasan by the Pashtoon students of the seminary. Haji Sahib grew an attachment to him and in 1294 Hijri, accompanied the Sheikh on Hajj. The group of Haji's was headed by Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi. Along with them were other luminaries such as Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanotvi. Upon arrival at Makkah, Haji Sahib had the privilege to meet with Haji Imdad Ullah Mahajar Makki where he pleaded allegiance to him. After completing his Hajj, Haji Sahib came to Rawalpindi where he did Ziarah of Hazrat Bari Shah Lateef Rahmatullah Alaihe.

Fazal Wahid had till now had a traditional Islamic upbringing and he already possessed sound knowledge of Islam. His allegiance to Haji Imdadullah Mahajar Makki and his performance of Hajj with them gave further leverage to his stature; hence the people gave him the title of "Haji Sahib". Haji Sahib continued with his Da'wa activities and later on, gave another Bait (allegiance) to Hazrat Najmudin Hadda Mullah Sahib under the Qadri Tariqat. Hazrat Najmudin Sahib was Khaleefa of Akhund Sahib Swat and at the time he was also waging an armed struggle against the British. In many of his campaigns, he had inflicted heavy losses upon them and thus earned name and respect for himself.

The detachment of Greece from the Ottomon Caliphate in Turkey resulted in wide-scale reprisals from Muslims in Afghanistan, the Frontier, and India. Widespread protests were made throughout the region. An open rebellion was launched against the British by all the tribes from Chitral to Waziristan. Haji Sahib Turangzai also took part in an armed struggle under the leadership of Hadda Mullah Sahib when British Cantoments at Malakand and Chakdarra were attacked in 1897. He fought the enemy at the fronts of Malakand, Batkhela, Pir Kali, and Chakdarra. After the demise of Hadda Mullah Sahib in 1902, Maulana Muhammad Alam was appointed his Khaleefa. Maulana Muhammad Alam was also known as Sufi Alam Gul. After this great loss, Haji Sahib Turangzai gave a renewed pledge to Hadda Mullah Sahib's new Khaleefa. In return, Sufi Sahib gifted him with his sword and turban and appointed him his Khaleefa as well.

In 1908, Haji Sahib had the privilege to go on Hajj once again. Upon his return, he started his Da'wa works again and in this regard started touring each village and town. His reform activities concentrated upon ridding the society from social ills; especially extravagant spending on weddings, ridding the muslim populace from debts owed to Hindus, observing non-Muslim customs, etc. etc. He also tried to create awareness amongst the people to solve their disputes and issues in their own Jirgas instead of referring matters to British courts. Haji Sahib established independent schools and madrassas in the areas under his influence. These efforts for promoting education also bore fruit and within no time, over fifty such schools and madrassas were established in Peshawar, Hasht Nagar, and Mardan.

Although these activities were non-political in nature, the British saw them as threats to its own system of governance and education. They accused Haji Sahib of running a parallel government to that of the British and had him arrested and put on trial. On the basis of lack of evidence, Haji Sahib was released but his fellow workers were given sentences of up to three years.

Despite this political victimization, Haji Sahib continued his efforts to promote education. Amongst his supporters and fellow workers, the most noticeable names were those of Khan Adbul Ghafar Khan, Maulana Saif ur Rahman (Mithra), Maulana Shah Rasool Khan (Bara Garhi), Maulana Qari Muhammad Idris (Banda Mallaha), Qazi Sahib Karhwi, Maulana Mira Jan (Ziarat Kaka Sahib), Maulvi Abdul Aziz (Utman Zai), Maulana Taj-ud-Din (Mardan), Maulana Shakirullah (Utman Zai), Maulana Qari Abdul Mastan (Akbar Pura) and Maulana Syed Zaman Shah (Swabi).

In 1913, Sir Sahibzada Abdul Qayum Khan chose Haji Sahib Turangzai to inaugurate the foundation laying ceremony of Darul Uloom Islamia (present day Islamia College). The common people looked at any effort by the British to promote education with mistrust. Sahibzada Abdul Qayum knew that if the college had backing of Haji Sahib, no-one would show opposition to its establishment. The then Chief Commissioner Sir Roos Keppell was also of the view that the most trusted person in the eyes of the people was Haji Sahib Turangzai and with his support, no one would show any opposition to the institute. But both of them were also worried that Haji Sahib might reject their offer. Hence it was decided that Haji Sahib would first be asked to inaugurate the foundation ceremony of the College Mosque. The construction work on the mosque was financed by Haji Kareem Bakhsh Sethi of Peshawar. As expected, Haji Sahib accepted the offer of inaugurating the mosque construction work.

Later, Haji Sahib also accepted to inaugurate foundation laying of the college on the 21st of March, 1912. Sahibzada Abdul Qayum Khan, and Sardar Muhammad Aslam Khan were also present on the occasion. Haji Sahib recited the Kalma Tayiba and placed the first brick. He was followed by others who also placed a brick each and in this way, the first college of the Frontier was established under the approval of Haji Sahib Turangzai.

With the establishment of Islamia College, the British aimed at reducing the influence of Aligarh which acted as a single platform for Muslims throughout the subcontinent to get together. It was the objectives of the British to quarantine Muslims in the frontier from the rest of the sub-continent. Hence they invested heavily in projects throughout the Frontier whether educational, social, or infrastructural. By the start of First World War, things had changed. The attack on the Turkish Ottomon Caliphate resulted in widespread unrest in the Muslim world. Muslims from the subcontinent started their resistance against the British with the "Tehreek e Hizbollah" and the "Reshmi Romal Movement" (Silk Handkerchief Movement). In 1914, a secret meeting was held at Delhi's Fateh Puri Mosque where it was decided that Tehreek e Hezbollah will be divided into two groups; one participating in physical resistance whereas the other chapter advocating Da'wah activities. Under the suggestion of Maulvi Mahmood ul Hassan, Haji Sahib Turangzai was appointed the "Ameer ul Mujahideen" (Leader of the Mujahideen) for the resistance chapter.

Tehreek e Hezbollah's intention was to allow Turk forces to station themselves at the Tribal areas via Afghanistan and then together attack British and other targets in the sub-continent. The British used to conscript locals forcefully and then send them off to Turkey to fight the war for them. Hence the aim was that once the war was brought to British India's borders, this forceful conscription would stop. Unfortunately Afghanistan's emperor Ameer Habibullah Khan was in connivance with the British and had made a pledge not to allow Afghanistan's soil be used for any activities against their regime. At the same time he also kept Hezbollah in the dark and promised full support to them. Hezbollah thus put full faith in the Ameer's word but later repented upon their decision.

Meanwhile, Sheikh ul Hind Maulana Mahmood ul Hasan paved the way for Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad to visit Peshawar. In a landmark gathering, he made the public aware about Ameer Habibullah Khan's double standards and pledged to defend the sanctity of the Ottomon Caliphate. Many in the gathering voiced support and gave a word of honour to Maulana Azad.

On the 12th of June 1915, Haji Sahib Turangzai visited Peshawar and gave directions to Hezbollah's party members at Hakeem Muhammad Aslam Sanjri's house. Haji Sahib's wife had passed away on the 9th of May and thus her Salwekhtai was being held on the 18th of June. Haji Sahib spent all of this day receiving guests who had come to offer condolences. While he was still attending guests, his party workers informed him that the Frontier Government had issued warrants for his arrest on the 15th. At midnight, Haji Sahib left Peshawar and headed for Mohmand Territory along with his sons and trusted friends. The next day the Government came to know that Haji Sahib had evaded arrest. A senior British Official commented that his evasion of arrest is British India's greatest failure in the sub-continent.

Within days of arriving at Mohmand, Haji Sahib along with Mujahideen from Chamarkand accelerated attacks on British positions in the nearby areas. The Chamarkand Mujahideen were under the leadership of Ameer Niamatullah Khan. In August 1915, they attacked a British camp stationed at Rustam in Mardan. The number of injured and dead were so great that sixteen trucks were used to transfer them to hospitals in Mardan. This was not an isolated incident. Maulana Ghulam Rasool Mahar writes that the number of dead and injured in the series of attacks on Rustam was upto 600.

The British realized that it would have been in their best interests if Haji Sahib had lived in Turangzai peacefully rather than operating from Mohmand Territory. They arranged for important figures from Peshawar to go to Haji Sahib to broker a truce but it was out rightly rejected. By the end of the year, Haji Sahib once again made an appeal for Jehad and people from Peshawar, Mardan, and even Afghanistan accepted that call. By 1916, thousands of Mujahideen were stationed in Bajaur and Mohmand. The British had already acknowledged their threat and made further security arrangements at Shabqadar Fort, constructed safety bunkers all the way from Michni Bridge to Abazai Bridge, and put up a 17 mile long electrified fence to ward of the Mujahideen.

Without taking into consideration any of the above security arrangements, Haji Sahib commanded a Lashkar comprising of 6000 men and attacked Shabqadar Fort. The British had already expected the scale of the attack and knew that it would be next to impossible to push back the Lashkar without taking huge casualties on their side. Hence they resorted to aerial bombardment and putting their artillery into effect. A stiff battle was fought and the Lashkar managed to take over the fort. Many amongst the Lashkar earned name for themselves due to their bravery. They included Dawa Jan Khoga Khel, Jan Khan, Ghulam Jan, Sher Ali Khan, Said Meeran, Mia Khan and Hazrat Khan Isa Khel. Of these names, Dawa Jan Khoga Khel is the most celebrated in Mohmand history. He is reputed to have shot a British Officer who was commanding his troops while saddled. After falling from his horse, the Officer fought back and shot Dawa Jan as well. Both the injured carried on the fight by hand and died bravely at the same place together.

In 1923, the British sent their troops to Mohmand Territory to stamp out the resistance. This time however, instead of any bloodshed they managed to sign a truce after which they pushed back their troops. Haji Sahib stayed temporarily in various places after this pact. Many influential in Swat, Buner and Dir were hesitant to give permanent refuge to Haji Sahib due to fear of confronting the British. After many negotiations, Haji Sahib managed to secure a written agreement with the tribes and settled himself in Sur Kamar (Red Mountain). A Darwesh Faqeer by the name of "Gud Mullah" (Limbless Mullah) had engaged himself in building a huge mosque at the place. People would be astonished on seeing the mosque and would comment that there are not more than 10 people for Friday prayers or Eid prayers in the area so what is the need of such a big mosque. Gud Mullah would smile back that Allah SWT will send such a pious person to this mosque that even this big mosque would not suffice to accommodate all his followers. His words were proved right.

Haji Sahib changed the name of Sur Qamar to Ghazi Abad after settling here. It is said that there was shortage of water in the area. There was only one small stream which was enough for ablution needs of not more than fifteen people. One morning, Haji Sahib went there and prayed and cried to Allah SWT. By the blessings of Allah SWT, the capacity of water in the stream grew so much that four watermills operate on the stream which provide water to fields in a area that is roughly 3-4 square miles.

In 1926, the British started a programme to construct a road network in Mohmand Territory so that it is convenient to transfer troops easily if the need for it arises. Haji Sahib vehemently opposed this road network. Two main confrontations were made with the British; one in 1926 and the second in 1927. The famous Mujahed; Faqeer Sahib of Langar also participated in these confrontations. Haji Sahib did not suffer much losses but the British were still successful in spreading their network.

In 1928, Haji Sahib developed an injury in his knee. He grew unable to walk and was confined to his charpoy (wooden bed) only. But his followers would still carry him around while he would be in his charpoy. Despite his disability, Haji Sahib would always be present at every battle. His efforts for the Khilafat Movement and the Hijrat Movement gave fruit. Those who were victimized by the British; by registration of cases against them in British Courts, would come to Ghazi Abad and seek refuge with Haji Sahib. Muslims from throughout the sub-continent would send in their donations and weapons to Ghazi Abad to support the Mujahideen.

By 1930, the independence movement gained momentum in the Frontier. At Qissa Khwani Bazar in Peshawar, the British fired upon protesting crowds, killing and injuring dozens of people. This incident provoked Tribesmen and resistance against the British increased ten-folds. A Lashkar of Utman Khels attacked British positions in Hasht Nagar in May 1930. To stop them in their tracks, the British resorted to aerial bombardment. But instead of pushing back, the Utman Khel's barricaded themselves around Jinday Khwarh. From here, they continued their raids on government targets for quite a number of days. Not long after, the British started to arrest those people who would play any role in the independence movement. Many from Hasht Nagar were rounded up. Meanwhile, a thousand strong Mohmand lashkar was formed under the leadership of Haji Sahib's elder son Hazrat Badsha Gul and they threatened to attack Hasht Nagar if the arrests did not stop. Faced with this new threat, the British started flying reconnaissance missions across Mohmand territory in order to subdue the people. They dropped some pamphlets in Halim Zai warning the locals that if any individual was found facilitating Haji Sahib or any of his cohorts, their villages would be bombed.

The scare tactics of the British did not work and consequently the Mohmand Lashkar started heading for Hasht Nagar. As a result, the Royal Air Force mercilessly bombed Gandhab valley; where the lashkar's food and ammunition supplies were stored. Meanwhile, the British sent a Jirga comprising of seven respected maliks from Lower Mohmand to Hazrat Badsha Gul in order to convince him to pull back but he didn't accept their demands. The lashkar stayed entrenched until 13 June 1930 but they suffered huge damages because of the consistent bombardment of their positions. Many attacks were made on British positions, convoys, and their instalments between 1931 and 1933. But they were not able to reach the British stronghold of Shabqadar because the lower Mohmands had signed a peace pact.

In 1935, the British sent three brigades into Upper Mohmand in order to put an end to the rebellion once and for all. The brigades were given in command to Brig. Auckenlick because of the absence of Maj. Gen. Musprat. One of the most memorable occasion of this conflict was the stand off at Nahaqai Pass on 29 September 1935. Mohmand is comparably a small tribe and their numbers were far less than that of the British but they put a brave resistance and kept hold of the pass. When Maj. Gen. Gough Hamilton toured Pakistan much later, he visited the site of this battle. In those days, Hamilton served as Sec. Lieutenant in the Frontier Force Regiment. He was part of the stand off at Nahaqai and narrated an incident where a group of Mohmand sharp shooters besieged their positions and killed 35 British officers and injured 60 of them in one night only. Hamilton was awarded a DSO by the Queen for his part in the battle.

The British also used bombers in the battle and levelled village after village. They even poisoned lakes and ponds which were one of the main water sources for the Mujahideen. Haji Sahib himself was physically part of the battle at the front of Palaki. His presence was a great source of motivation to the Mujahideen. At the peak of the battle, the British suffered huge casualties. A complete Guides force of theirs was wiped out by the Usman Khel's. In yet another incident, a Mujahed named Mughal Khan from the Isa Khel tribe cut off the head of a senior British officer which left them in complete shock. They sent men to the Mohmands and invited them for talks. A grand Jirga was held at Gandhab which was participated by nearly all well known Mohmand Maliks. After a long discussion, both parties agreed to terms and a peace tract was signed. This was to be Haji Fazal Wahid of Turangzai's last Jehad.

Just one year later in 1936, Haji Sahib fell seriously ill. With time, his condition worsened and his finally his soul left this world on the 14th of December 1937 aged 81. He was survived by three sons and two daughters. His eldest son Hazrat Badsha Gul took over responsibilities after his demise. Badsha Gul also served as president of the NWFP chapter of Pakistan Muslim League (PML) at one time.

Translation From Tazkara Sarfaroshan e Sarhad by Muhammad Shafi Sabir


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Haji Sahib Turangzai, Muhammad Shafi Sabir
Published in Khyber.ORG on Friday, September 16 2005 (http://www.khyber.org)