Do you know who was Allama Mashriqi?

Legacy of Pakistani scholar lives on
By Nasim Yousaf 

Allama Mashriqi was one of the founding fathers of Islamia College in Peshawar, Pakistan. His long association with the 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 1913-1930 tenure with the government of British India’s education department, in different capacities – including as under secretary – 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 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 University of Cambridge. Mashriqi had created history through his unprecedented academic achievements (which were a great honor for Asia) with achievements which were praised by daily newspapers in the United Kingdom. 

“It was hitherto considered not possible at Cambridge that a man could take honors in four Triposes [the tripos is the final honors examination for a BA degree at Cambridge University] 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,” wrote the The Star, London, in 1912. 

The Yorkshire Post, wrote on June 13, 1912: “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 honors in four different subjects.” 

News of his academic successes was not only publicized in the UK, but spread all across India. Mashriqi was showered with job offers (including the Premiership of Alver State in British India) with lucrative salaries 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. He 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 1, 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 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 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. In 1919, he became a member of the prestigious Indian Education Service 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. He then went on to form the Khaksar Tehrik (also known as Khaksar movement). 

Though Mashriqi was directly associated with Islamia College for its first five years (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 far written 12 books and many articles in peer-reviewed academic journals. His most recent book, Mahatma Gandhi and My Grandfather, Allama Mashriqi explores India’s partition. He is working on additional books and articles

(Copyright Nasim Yousaf 2013) 

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