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Maulana Muhammad Ashraf, a legendary figure

Col (r) Ikram Ullah Khan

“The insight and experience of great people is a valuable source of inspiration and motivation, and learning from such legendary figures is a fantastic way to grow. Success and failure go side by side in human life. Even the world’s most successful individuals have experienced their fair share of setbacks and hardships, and there is much to learn from their failures as well as successes”.
I dedicate this paragraph to my maternal uncle Maulana Muhammad Ashraf.

Maulana Muhammad Ashraf, father of Dr Inayatullah Faizi, was born into a well-known religious family of Qazi Jaffar Khan (Jaffar Khan Khaifa as locals would call him) in 1922. He was raised in an environment that carried an aura of religiosity. He received informal education from his father as there was no concept of formal education in Chitral those days especially in remote valleys like Laspur and Yarkhun. He learnt the Holy Quran from his father and was also taught Gulistan-e-Sa’adi and Bostan-e-Sa’adi, famous prose and poetry books of Sheikh Sa’adi. His father had a fairly good knowledge of Persian and the Holy Quran.

Maulana Muhammad Ashraf is a rare name who sprang from the backwaters of Laspur valley and rose to prominence by dint of his god-gifted talent, relentless toil and unflinching determination. When he crossed his adolescence and entered the threshold of adulthood, he joined Chitral Scouts in 1941 as a sepoy and served in the signal branch for nearly 17 years. He got early retirement in 1958 because he was destined to do something extraordinary. During his service he attended mandatory courses pertaining to his profession as a signalman.

While doing his professional courses, he intensely felt the importance of education and that spurred him on to make it his life’s sole objective to educate the youth. So he decided to get an early retirement and embark upon his mission without wasting further time. Immediately after his retirement from service, he put his heart and soul into achieving the goal he had set for himself. He was determined to achieve something beyond the ordinary notwithstanding the fact that it was no mean feat at all to accomplish. He seems to believe in the famous English saying which goes: “When things get tough, the tough gets going”.

This is what exactly happened with him. He ran from pillar to post to get a primary school at Balim and ultimately succeeded in establishing it in 1960 which was commonly shared by three villages of Laspur valley, namely Sorlaspur, Balim and Brok. So he has the singular honour to kindle a candle in the darkness and illuminate the valley with knowledge.

He was appointed the first ever teacher of the school and became its founding head. His appointment came as a pleasant surprise to many as he had no formal education and didn’t have the requisite qualification. But he turned out to be a teacher par excellence. His hardships, however, didn’t end here as he had to give his sweat and blood for the cause which he did with a smiling face. He had to visit each and every household to convince the parents to send their children to school.

His adventure into the field those days was a leap in the dark because that was the time when public awareness about the importance of education was scanty and one could hardly see light at the end of the tunnel. To many it sounded a stark madness and they took it with a grain of salt. But in Shakespeare’s words, “there was a method in his madness”. He proved that there is nothing unachievable under the blue canopy if there is will and determination. As Allama Iqbal says:
“Jo Ho Zauq-e-Yaqeen Paida
Tou Kat jati Hain Zanjeerain”
“When the taste of certainty is created, then the shackles are cut”

The cynics who thought the project would finally bite the dust were proved wrong and he ultimately came out victorious. Through his hard toil and unflinching determination, he made possible what was thought well-nigh impossible. His abiding passion for the realization of his dream can be gauged from the fact that he literally spent sleepless nights to make his mission successful and I am a witness to that. His relentless efforts, commitment to the cause and enormous contributions for promotion of education in Laspur valley will always be remembered by posterity.

It’s worth mentioning here that he is the pioneer of introducing new culture in school environment. For the first time in the history of Chitral, the concept of lunch box was introduced by him for the pupils. All the pupils would carry the lunch box along everyday and consume it in the school. Immediately after lunch, all the pupils would perform ablution (wuzu) and offer zuhur prayers (noon prayers) collectively and he himself would lead the prayers. This was a daily practice which was invariably done by all the pupils.

One more important event which merits a special mention is that motivation talk used to be delivered by him in the morning assembly. Moreover, apart from teaching the academic curriculum, one most important component of education i.e. Naazira Quran with translation was taught, albeit it didn’t form part of the curriculum and was cosidered as an additional activity. During his incumbency as a teacher, every single act he performed was instructive. These were some of the important measures taken by one single person to instil into the pupils the most important dimension of education, i.e. personality grooming and character building which unluckily remains a neglected area and a rare phenomenon in today’s academia.

The first batch of his students included Dr Inayatullah Faizi, Mr Muhammad Yousuf Shahzad, advocate Muhammad Shahabuddin and Col (r) Ikram Ullah Khan (myself). He has been instrumental in making us what we are today. He made all this possible because he was sincere and honest to the bone. Due to his sincerity and brutal honesty, he earned respect and confidence of all and sundry. People of his calibre and intellectual stature are born in centuries.
“Bari Mushkil Se Hota Hai
Chaman Mein Didawar Paida”
“With great difficulty, the one with true vision is born in the garden”

He has been a gifted orator who could speak extempore for hours on any topic with consummate eloquence and ease and articulate his views with amazing clarity and remarkable coherence. Alas! Today he finds himself in a hospital bed speechless.

As for the title of “Maulana” attached with his name, it’s worth mentioning here that he earned the title not because he has acquired formal religious education from any Madrasa (religious seminary) but because of his god-gifted erudition in religious field and intense religiosity he earned it. He is deeply steeped in both religious and temporal knowledge. He is a true scholar without holding any certificate or degree.

A wonderful man with a temperate nature who never lost his cool even once during his entire life. He is famed for carrying himself with grace and dignity. Tolerance, sympathy, forgiveness and composure are the hallmarks of his inspiring personality. May Allah (SWT) grant him speedy recovery and enable him to be on his feet again.

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  1. Salman Ali says

    Good job, Lt Col (retd) Ikarmullah Khan!

    1. Ikram Ullah Khan says

      Dear, I would like to make a small little correction. I am Col (r) not Lt Col. God bless.

      1. Salman Ali says

        choro sir ji style me kya rakha he…I would still love to call you ‘missionary’ sahib for your “great services” to the community 🙂

  2. Dur Wali Khan says

    Col sb has nicely summarized the glorious periods of the life of Maulana Uncle, who devoted his entire life to bring positive change in the lives of the people of his area. He succeeded to bring revolutionary change in the society through education. Nelson Mandela says “education is the most powerful weapon, we can use to change the world”. He used this weapon very wisely to bring about positive change in the society. He did not hesitate to visit door to door to convince illiterate parents to send their children to school for learning. This motivational and convincing approach of Maulana Uncle made a visible change in the behaviors of the people towards education in 1958. Today Laspur valley is known as a land of knowledge loving people. This credit only goes to Maulana Uncle, who emerged as an educational reformer in the society in fifties.
    He always tried his best to inspire others by his words and actions. People with God gifted ability and minds like Maulana uncle set precedent for others to follow. He is such as bold and highly talented man that there is no limitations in his mind and believes to make everything limitless by his strong determination and continuous hardworking. He has been the biggest source of inspiration and role model for young generations to grow.
    Maulana uncle always quotes the verses of Holy Quran “God does not change the conditions of the people unless they want to change their conditions by themselves”. He tried his best to convince people by quoting Holy verses from Quran that nobody can touch success without determination and continuous hardworking. He always encouraged his students that don’t worry what people think about you, trust yourself and do your best you can, success will be your Insha Allah”. These meaningful words inspired those, who believed in commitment and continuous hardworking, like his students Dr Inayat Ullah Faizi, Col ® Ikram Ullah, Director ® Muhammad Yousuf Shahzad, Advocate high court Muhammad Shahabuddin and Inspector ® Muhammad Rasool.
    Today I feel proud myself to be the nephew of such great visionary personality, who preferred to devote his life to make differences in the lives of others. No doubt, beautiful minds and visionary leaders like Maulana Uncle born once in centuries.
    May Almighty Allah grant him early recovery and long healthy life. Ameen.

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