A MAN TO MATCH HIS MOUNTAINS: Badshah Khan: Non-violent Soldier of Islam by Eknath Easwaran

A MAN TO MATCH HIS MOUNTAINS: Badshah Khan: Non-violent Soldier of Islam

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Vivid, heart-on-its-sleeve hagiography--but then, why not, since the man apparently was (and, at 95, still is) a saint? Abdul Ghaffar Khan (called ""Badshah,"" or king) is a Pathan, a member of a fierce, Pashto- (or Pushto- or Afghan-) speaking, Muslim people, whose 60 tribes and nine-million-plus population are divided between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The son of a rich landowner in the Northwest Frontier Province, just south of the Khyber Pass, Khan has had a remarkable career as a champion of Pathan independence, nonviolent resistance, Islamic piety, popular education, and feminism (?!). He was inspired by and closely associated with Mahatma Gandhi, especially from 1934 to 1947. He founded a curious group called the Khudai Khidmatgars (""the Servants of God""), a unique, unarmed army of national liberation which belied the universal Pathan reputation for bloodthirstiness by confronting British imperial forces with no weapons but red-hot patriotism and religious faith. Not a few were beaten and killed, but they seldom retaliated. Khan himself spent 15 years in British jails, another 15 under imprisonment by the Pakistani government (plus another seven in exile--Pakistan never trusted the Pathans and vice versa). Like Gandhi he lamented the division of India into two countries, and since then he has been a mostly marginal figure. Easwaran, a teacher of meditation in California since 1960, knew Khan back in the '40s and remembers him now in a mood of tender adulation. Where memory fails, he imagines scenes or dialogue ""to bring out the cultural or historical significance of an event""--and quaintly prints such sections in italic. But there's no dismissing this story, especially not with the extraordinary photos accompanying the text: Khan's simplicity, gentleness, and human warmth are so radiantly obvious here that they make Easwaran's comparison of him to Francis of Assisi quite believable. Naive, but stirring.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Nilgiri--dist. by Random House