The Journey of Education through High Passes and Pastures

By: Aman Ullah Maad

Education encompasses a person’s holistic development and not mere memorization of facts or information. It includes four main domains, which have also been referred to as four Nafs, i.e., Nafse Ammara (physical domain), Nafse Lawama/Mutazabzab Nafs (social domain), Nafse Natiq/Bolne wala Nafs (language domain), and Nafse Mutmaina/peaceful nafs (intellectual domain). Intellectual domain here basically includes one’s spiritual knowledge and practices, which consequently helps a person go beyond physical entities, makes them have a more holistic understanding of the society and enhances their ability to express themselves with rational. Education; therefore, is a person’s intellectual ability to comprehend knowledge, to transform that knowledge into practice and practice to their attitude. I believe transforming knowledge into practice and practice to attitude is called education.

Muslim preachers had the same approach, when they were educating the believers about Islam, whether it was done via oral or written means.  Since it was not easy for the Muslim preachers to provide education through written communication, they moved from one place to another to help the followers of Islam, and others, learn knowledge verbally, practice the required knowledge and make the faith a part of their daily lives.

The Muslim preachers would teach people about the belief in Allah, Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him), the Quran (book of Allah), Qayama (day of judgement) and Kalima. Apart from teaching beliefs, they also helped their Murids in practicing humanity, which includes love, truth, patience, acceptance generosity and practices Islam guided.  Thus, religious education came hundreds of years before secular education, as we know it today. In fact, it was the religious scholars and leaders who initiated secular education, telling people that both the education are interdependent, and not independent of each other. In other words, the creation of God is being explored and understood by humans through, let’s say, science, the baby of philosophy.

In the context of Shimshal, a valley located in the Gojal region of District Hunza, several examples show that education to people was brought by religious leaders and preachers.  All narrators from history agree that Sher, the son of Mamusing, who is believed to be the first person to explore Shimshal, was educated. He was also reportedly called Mēlo Sher (educated Sher). It is said that he used to make amulet (Tawiz) while he was playing game with the owners of Shimshal Pamir, who left the pasture as they got defeated by Sher.

The person who wrote a famous poem titled Nēmekon”, and dedicated it to Melo Sher,  writes in Wakh: “Shūmē dili tēr mēlowē ho nemekon”, which can be translated as “… Heart is inclined to the educated man, oh sweetie”.

This stanza confirms that Sher was an educated man. In this regard most narrators say that Sher had Ghaibi Ilem (divine knowledge); Muhammad Nayab says that Sher’s mother Khadija may have been an educated women from Wakhan because she was the daughter of a Qazi[1]. He opines that she may have taught her son and enabled him to read and write. Nasiri Khisraw had started religious education in Badakhshan, so some boys and girls may have accessed religious education. The bottom line is that education came to Shimshal with the very family who explored sit at first.

All the narrators believe that Piran/ preachers traveled through the area of Shimshal right from the first year when Mamusing established the settlement of Shimshal. They say Pir Shamsi Tabriz ventured in to Shimshal from Chini Turkistan in the same year when Shimshal was explored. Chunara notes Pri Shams-ud-Din with his two colleagues, Wamars and Surban, traveled from Chini Turkistan to Badakhshan using tracks through the mountainous area (Chunara in Nur-al-mubeen) while people of Shimshal and Wakhan claim that he was Pir Shamsi Tabrazi. This point needs more investigation because several writers are also unclear about whether the person was Shams Tabrazi or Shams-ud-Din. Some of the writers believe that both the names refer to the same person. Whatever the case is, it is certain that Shams was the first person to enter Shimshal village by crossing Shimshal Pamir from Chini Turkistan. Down the Shimshal River, two mountain ranges are dedicated to the travelers, which they used to reach Avgarch crossing Qarun Pass. Qudratullah Baig notes that Shams Airaqi came through Shimshal (Tarikh-e- Ehde Atiq, Riasat-e-Hunza, p 48) while Abdul Hamid Khawar says that Shams Araqi went back from Baltistan and preached in Kashmir. From the interviewees no one knows what he taught the family but everyone says he prayed for harmony in their family and successful life. People believe that he entered Wakhan in Badakhshan through Kilik, Mintika or Yers̄hodh (Irshad) pass. (Need further investigation).

I also witnessed three of his Ziarat/ Qadamga (Shrines) in Wakhan, when I was in Badakhshan for designing and implementation of Environmental Education in District Wakhan of Badakhshan. These shrines are in Rurung, Kret and Bobotangi; villages in Wakhan. People in Wakhan also claim that the traveler was Pir Shamsi Tabrizi. Pir Sham was not only a preacher and poet but also a great explorer who explored Shimshal in the ignorant time.

Following Pir Shams, another missionary Khuja Shedad from Chini Tukistan ventured into Shimshal and refreshed the Ismaili faith for the people of Shimshal, which most of the narrators claimed. His stay in Shimshal is not known to anyone but all the narrators confirmed that Khuja Shedad came from Yarkand side. Two of the narrators narrated that he preached Isnashri faith of Islam, which need to investigate if Isnashiri faith was (is) existing in Yarkand or Sarikul.  It is said that Khuaja Shehdad was killed in Khujashitk between Sost and Chipurson on the way to Badakhshan.

Following footsteps of Khuja Shedad from Chini Turkistan, Shayi Sayeed and Shayi Cheragh entered Shimshal. They taught the rasumaat (religious practices) to a person named Ali Yar from the descendants of Bakhti son of Sher. Shayi Sayeed passed away in Shimshal due to some incurable sickness and was buried in Mazarishit Shimshal. People say that few days after his death Shayi Charagh left Shimshal to reach more people in the region but because of long hard travel he also lost his life in Kamaris Gulmit. His Qadamgo (memorial shrine) is visible in Rezgineben Shimshal

The most prominent preacher Pir Shah Arif also used the same route from Chini Turkistan and entered Shimshal. All the narrators agree that he stayed in Shimshal and preached the Ismaili faith to the people of Shimshal. People of Shimshal claim that while Shah Arif reached Gulmit Mir Salim Khan was based their and he  (Shah Arif) converted ruler of Hunza, Mir Salim Khan, to the Ismaili faith and traveled to Badakhshan through Chipursan valley. Mir Salim Khan could not declare his new faith and later his son accepted the faith and endeavored to convert his subjects to Ismaili Faith. Qudrat Ullah Baig notes that Shah Ardabil came from Badakhshan and preached Ismaili faith to Mir Salim Khan and converted him to Ismalili faith (Tarikh-e- Ehde Atiq, Riasat-e-Hunza, p 140). After conversion of people of lower and central Hunza Mir Salim Khan’s son Shah Ghazanfar invited young people to teach them the new faith. Two young men Mulashikar and Buki from Shimshal were invited to Center Hunza in the period of Arbab Busing. The preacher taught them religious education formally and they carried out their duties as Qazi (judge) and Khalifa (faith implementer). Buki was nominated as Khalifa and Mulashikar as Qazi[2]. Buki’s student, Rahman Big, decedent of Ali Yar, replaced him and the position of Khalifa became part of his family while position of Qazi did not remain with one family; any educated person from the village was posted on the position. Qazi Sayeed Muhammad was the last Qazi in the village. Arbitration board then replaced Qazi system which facilitates people in handling their conflicts. It is commonly said in Gojal that people of upper Hunza (Gojal) were already oriented to the ismaili faith due to the above travelers including Baba Ghundi and Shatalib. It is also narrated a Man Qētligh with Ismaili faith ruled Gojal for some years and then he was defeated by Mir of Hunza.

Several other preachers also came through Shimshal after Khuaja Shedad and before Shah Arif. Some of them also lost their lives while traveling due to sickness bad weather and long traval. Their shrines are proofs of their travel. Among them, Khuja Hamberdi lost his life in Shimshal Pamir while fighting Karqizan and could not reach Shimshal. Three more preachers lost life before reaching Shimshal; one passed away in Welyo Das̄ht, another S̄hūwūrt, and one in Wēlyo. Wēlyo is derived from “Awliya” preacher so the name of the place is dedicated to the preachers. None of the narrators could tell me the name of three preachers who are believed to have passed away in Welyo Das̄ht,  Wēlyo and Shūwūrt (S̄hūwūrt). Khuja Khizar, another preacher from Khuaja Tribe, reached Shimshal and lost his life due to hard and long travel his shrine is in Mazoryber  Shimshal. Some narrates believe that Khuaja Khizar and those their name is not known to the villagers came before Mamusing and the villagers new about these preachers from Karghizan when relation was not bad with eastern people. Baig Dulat, Ahmad Ullah baig, Qurban Khan, Nowbehar and Muhammad Nayab narrated, while Shah Arif came through this area he identified all the shrines and pointed to the people of Shimshal.

All these preachers imparted religious education to the people of Shimshal and other villages in Gojal. This paper is discussing only those whose shrines are present as evidence, or about whom some oral information came through narrators could be chronicled. We may get more detailed information about these accounts from Badakhshan and Chini Turkistan.

Scholars from both the ethnic groups, Khuajas and Sayeeds, have preached Ismaili faith in Chini Turkistan and Badakhshan. People of the region remained intact with religious education but secular education remained far away from the region till Diamond Jubilee Schools were established. People of Shimshal were also provided with available facility a year later, as Diamond Jubilee schools were established in the important villages of Hunza

Diamond Jubilee school for boys in Shimshal was established in 1947 (Rawshani Ka Safar Draft 56, Alija Abdullah Jan) with the employment of Khalifa Bulbul (Nurul Hayat) form Karimabad, Central Hunza. One year later, Mr. Bulbul left Shimshal for further studies in Kashmir (as he mentioned in his interview) and the school remained closed for several years. Alija Abdullah Jan further narrates that the people of Shimshal did not accommodate the teacher because they were not oriented to the importance of education.

The Mir of Hunza reopened the school and appointed Mukhi Muhammad Nayab, who had two years education from Bapo of Khudaabad, to keep the school functional. He taught for a few years in Shimshal, and was replaced by Mukhi  Ali Yar khan, as a teacher after completing his four years studies from Baltit, Hunza. Mukhi Ali Yar is descendant of the previous Ali Yar, who was taught by Shahyi Sayeed and Shahyi Charagh, while Muhammad Nayab is the descendant of Qazi Mēlo Buki.

To provide quality education in the region, Mr. Gulam Sultan from Gulmit, with 10 or 8 years of education, was appointed as a teacher. He taught for about 5 years and two of his students Mr. Rajab Shah and Mr. Muhabat Shah completed their five year education in Shimshal. Mr. Daulat Amin, the first person with 10 years education from the village (Shimshal), joined the DJ school for boys in Shimshal in 1963 as a teacher, and sustained education in the village. Thus, 1963 became the door-opening year for the residents of Shimshal.

Mr. Daulat Amin got offer to join Pakistan Army as a commissioned officer, but he preferred to teach, with the vision of sustaining and promoting education in the Shimshal Valley. His dedication and devotion enabled the people of Shimshal to educate their children up to primary level in the village. Until the eighties, the school remained a primary level institution, imparting education for up to 5th grade. The students who studied till primary and could afford educational expenses, went outside Shimshal to further pursue education. The school was nationalized by the Bhutto government in 1976 and DJ school for boys was closed in Shimshal. There wasn’t any proper school building in the village. However, a room was built by Wali Baig, which was used as a school.

Daulat Amin is considered to be a change agent in the region, because not only did he continue and sustain boys’ education, he also suggested reforms in the social life of the people in Shimshal. He is a complete chapter of the history, which cannot be mentioned here in its entirety. His services and dedication for the people of Shimshal will always be remembered.

Girls education remained much ignored in all over Hunza. People in Shimshal also did not ponder upon this issue, as it was believed that education is the right of boys only.

In 1972, Gulam Rasul, a young man from Shimshal came back from Karachi and initiated informal education for girls in the village. This initiative was kindly taken over by the Aga Khan Education Board Hunza in 1974 and Gulam Rasul was employed as teacher for the Girls School. By then, the community constructed a single-room building, which was used for government boys’ school. The community took over  control of the building and handed it over to Aga Khan Education Board (AKEB) Hunza in 1989. Three more small rooms were added to the building by three individuals: 1) Mr. Baig Daulat, provided half funds for construction of a room, in memory of his two sons who passed away one after the other. (Qurban Ullah Baig due to incurable sickness, and Abad Ullah Baig, due to an accident). Half of the funds for this room were provided by the community, 2), Mr. Samim Shah constructed a classroom for the eternal peace of his martyred brother Sipahi Saeedullah who last his life in Siachin in 1978, and 3), Mr. Chugh Bai, who added another classes room to the building, in memory of his mother. With four rooms (two rooms 12 x 20 feet, and another two 12 x 14) in place, the teaching and learning process became easier. Nine classes were being facilitated in these four rooms. The land was donated by Hussain Khan, another member from the community. On the other hand, the government constructed four classrooms for the boy’s school. Construction material was provided by the government, and community provided free labor.

Daulat Amin and Ghulam Rasul suffered throughout their lives, but enlightened the village of Shimshal by imparting education.

Being a student of Daulat Amin, and a successor of Ghulam Rasul, I will always remember them, pray for their good health, and acknowledge their services to villagers and for their support to me.

This article is dedicated to those who brought and facilitated education in Shimshal and enlightened the people. Sultan Ali (Samarqand) and Ghulam-ud-Din are among the main pioneers for sustaining and promoting education in Shimshal. Lastly, I should never forget the Waizin who preached the importance of education in Shimshal.

This is the first half of my writing. Part 2 will be published later.

[1] Position of law implementation (judge)

[2] This was the era of Shah Ghazanfar Khan succeeded his father Shah Salim Khan in 1833.

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