By Col (R) Ikram Ullah Khan
“The heights by great men reached and maintained were not attained overnight and by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling hard in the night.” This famous adage comes true when applied to Moulana Muhammad Ashraf.
Moulana Muhammad Ashraf (father of Dr Inayatullah Faizi) was born in 1924 in a well-known religious family of Qazi Ja’far Khan (Ja’far Khan Khalifa as called by the locals). Presently, he is in his nineties but despite being a nonagenarian, he is maintaining an enviable health. He joined Chitral Scouts in 1942. After having served for 17 years, he got early retirement in 1959 because he was destined to do something extraordinary. While in service he intensely felt the importance of education and that spurred him on to make it his life’s objective to educate the youth. So immediately after his retirement from service he started working in that direction as he had a burning desire for achieving anything beyond the ordinary.
With his unflinching and untiring efforts he managed to establish a primary school at Balim in 1960 thereby lighting a candle in darkness. He was appointed the first ever teacher of the school and became its founding head. His appointment came as a surprise to every one because he had no formal education and held no certificate or degree. But he turned out to be a teacher par excellence who gave his sweat and blood for the cause.
As mentioned earlier that after getting early retirement from Chitral Scouts, he devoted himself to kindle the light of knowledge in the entire valley and for that he went from pillar to post to realize his long-cherished dream and ultimately succeeded in establishing a primary school at Balim which was commonly shared by three villages of Laspur valley, namely Sorlaspur, Brok and Balim. His adventure into the field in 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 pinch of salt. But in Shakespeare’s words, “there was method in his madness.” He proved that there was nothing unachievable under the blue canopy if one had will and determination. The cynics who thought the project would finally bite the dust were proved wrong and he ultimately came out victorious. As Allama Muhammad Iqbal says:
“Jo Ho Zauq-e-Yaqeen Paida
Kat Jati Hain Zanjeerain.”
“When the taste of certainty is created, then the shackles are cut”
After crossing the first milestone, he went from door to door to motivate and convince the parents to send their children to school. Through his sheer hard work and dogged determination, he made possible what was thought well-nigh impossible. His abiding passion for education can be gauged from the fact that he literally spent sleepless nights to achieve the goal and I am a witness to that. His conscious efforts, commitment to the cause and enormous contribution for promotion of education in Laspur valley will always be remembered by posterity.
It is worth mentioning here that 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 their lunch along everyday and consume it in the school. Immediately after lunch, all the pupils would perform ablution (wuzu) and offer Zuhr prayers (noon prayers) in congregation regularly and he(the teacher) himself would lead the prayers. This was a daily practice which was invariably performed by all the pupils. One more important event which merits a special mention here 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 Qur’an along with translation was taught, albeit it did not form part of the regular course and was considered an additional activity then. 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 instill into the students 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 Yousaf 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 and due to his brutal honesty, he earned the confidence of all and sundry. People of his caliber and 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.”
Moulana Ashraf is a gifted orator who can speak extempore for hours on any topic with consummate eloquence and ease and can articulate his views with amazing clarity.
Coherence in his talk is remarkable and remains intact till today. He earned the well-deserved epithet of “Moulana” not because he had acquired formal religious education from any Madrasa (religious seminary) but because of his intense religiosity and god-gifted erudition in religious field as he had acquired both religious and temporal education informally. He is a scholar without holding any certificate or degree.
A great visionary of his time who stands head and shoulders above his contemporaries. A wonderful man with a temperate nature and genial disposition who never loses his cool and always carries himself with grace and composure. Even in his harsh tone (which is very rare) one can feel an undercurrent of tenderness and warmth of affection. He always meets his friends and acquaintances with engaging smile on his face. Whoever meets him becomes his friend. That is why he has a vast circle of friends hailing from different segments of society.
Temperamentally, he is a paragon of tolerance and accommodation. What is most remarkable about this towering personality is that despite nudging up against nonagenarianism, even during the aging years of his eventful life he turns out scholarly talks whose instrumentality still clamors for consideration.
May Allah (SWA) shower his choicest blessings upon him. Aameen.
“Bina kardand khush rasmay ba khak- o- khoon ghaltidan
Khuda rahmat kunad ein ashiqanei pak teenat ra.”
“With hard toil they set good traditions
May God shower his blessings upon such lovers of pious beings.”