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Khan Bahadur

Noor Mohammad

 

Introduction

This is an attempt to create a biography of Noor Muhammad who leaves behind 2 surviving daughters, 29 grandchildren and around 60 great grandchildren who benefitted from his commitment to education, character building and leadership. The greatest legacy that he leaves behind is his care, of not only his immediate children, but that of his extended family, the baradari and the community at large.  

 

His greatest economic achievement was the investment that he made in purchasing around 575 acres of agricultural land near Burewala in 1946. This provided an economic runway for over 70 years to his children and grandchildren till it was sold off in 2018.

 

The objective of this initiative is to pass down his life-history for his future generations and inspire them to commit similar acts of care for their family and the community at large.

 

This is an evolving write-up and will be gradually expanded as more information is gathered.

Introduction
Early Life

Early Life

As reported by his daughter, Iffat Zaki, he was born in the year 1886 in the Village of Narowal and came from a humble background. His early ancestors were converted to Islam by Baba Shah Shams Tabraiz, who was also the spiritual teacher of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi. He had three sisters and his mother was primarily responsible for his education. His early schooling was in Islamia School in Narowal. Reportedly, his mother would do some weaving and whatever money she saved, was used to buy books for Noor Muhammad. As narrated by his middle daughter, Ismat Bashir, they were so poor, that his mother would put up a cooking pot on fire filled with water, pretending that food was being prepared to comfort the hungry kids that a meal was on its way.

 

It has been reported by multiple sources that there was never enough money to have sufficient kerosine oil to light the lamps, so he would have to go outside and study under the street lights.

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Narrating another incident about his love for education, his granddaughter, Lubna Shahid, states he would keep himself busy reading books. Once, his mother challenged him to catch some fish from a nearby Pond. He went there and while fishing, he remained so absorbed in reading that he was unable to catch any fish. Later, his friend guided him and they were able to have a small catch which he took home to his mother. 

 

After completing his schooling, he travelled to Lahore for his admissions to FC College.

Being poor, he started the journey on foot (a distance of around 120 kms) and arrived in Lahore

with just one rupee in his pocket. 

 

After completing his studies from FC College, he completed his Masters from Government College, Lahore (Major: History) and passed his professional exams of the Pakistan Civil Service (PCS).

 

On social norms, as narrated by his granddaughter, Lubna Shahid, he strictly forbade

inter-marriages among cousins. He gave these instructions to Sheikh Ameer Ali, his eldest son.

Sheikh Ameer Ali asked him, “What if the cousins happen to fall in love? Noor Muhammad replied “forbid them”. If the couple still insists then “you should not attend their wedding”. He also clarified that if the marriage happens between the cousins that are from a brother and a sister,

then that is acceptable as the sister’s children are from a different family. 

 

His main concern in giving this directive was that he feared that it could lead to medical issues

if the practice is perpetuated.

Married Life

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As narrated by his daughter, Iffat Zaki, his first wife died of illness.

He had no children from his first wife. He was married again at the age of 29 to Noor Begum

(who was 15 years old and was from Zafarwal, a town near Narowal). Though she was from a well-off family, she did not bring any wealth as dowry. Everything that the couple accumulated

over their lives was self made.

 

Noor Begum had 11 siblings; 10 sisters and 1 brother. Her only brother was born right after Noor Begum’s birth. Therefore, she was referred to as “Paghanwali” the “one who brings glad tidings”. Her father was referred to as Sheikh Kakka and was considered as the ‘Village Elder’ who was an un-appointed Judge to dispense judgments on social matters which were respected by people of all religions in the community (Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs, etc.)

 

Sheikh Kakka was involved in the Business of “Kundal” — jewelry made from bird feathers which he sold in the neighbouring town of Amritsar and reportedly was a successful businessman of his time.

 

Sheikh Kakka was also a strong supporter of education and seeing the passion that Noor Muhammad had for education, he consented to give away his daughter in marriage despite her being so much younger than Noor Muhammad. Their mutual relationship was very cordial. She gave a lot of respect to him, but clearly he was the head of the house.

 

Noor Begum’s name is still mentioned in the Ladies Club of Muzaffargarh.

 


 

From Noor Begum, he had 11 children (refer to the family tree below): 8 sons and 3 daughters.

The eldest son (Sheikh Wazeer Ali) reportedly died at birth, but the other 10 children had normal lives and were all well-schooled and served in the Civil Service, Pakistan Railways, Foreign Service and the Military. Sheikh Zaheer, the 4th in line stayed back at the Farm and looked after the lands in ZaheerNagar.

 

As reported by his grandson, Shahzad Zameer, after his retirement in 1941, he commuted his pension and purchased 575 acres of land in a village that eventually became known as ZaheerNagar (named after his son, Sheikh Zaheer Ali.) This land was not in one parcel, but was scattered in many different parts in the area which later, his son Sheikh Zaheer Ali, aggregated into one large parcel which

the family continued to own till 2018.

 

This was barren land and the decision to purchase the land was reportedly criticized by his sons. However, he advised them that it is a decision they will not regret in the long-term. That proved to be true because for the next 70 years, the land provided an economic runway for the entire family until 2018,

when it was finally sold off.

 
Married Lifr

Uplift of the Biradari

He was passionate about uplifting the Bardari and over a period of time, educated another 10 children from his extended family, in his own home. This was in spite of having 10 children of his own. 

According to his grand daughter-in-law, Aneela Zaheer, after his obligatory prayers, he would be heard praying “O Allah, wean my baradari away from a livelihood of weaving and give them a more sustainable form of livelihood.”
 

Exercise

He was very particular about exercise and practiced it with discipline and regularity. His favorites were headstand, stretching and push-ups. He was also an avid horseback rider and used to visit his constituencies when he was a Revenue Officer.

 

He was also a firm believer in the homeopathic treatment of Water Tub; this entailed lying in a tub submerged in water, with feet and legs slightly elevated; and massaging the stomach.

 

An interesting incident that was narrated was that once while living in Narowal, his granddaughter Zanobia Zaheer (now Zanobia Bakhtiar) was extremely unwell and he suggested that she should undergo the treatment of Tub. His wife opposed it fearing that it might prove fatal and people might say that they self treated her to save on the doctors fee.

 

Brushing aside these protests, he said, “Is she nothing to me?, she is as much to me as she is to Zaheer” and insisted that the treatment be carried out at once. Low and behold, in a little while, her condition started to improve and she was back on her feet.

Diet and Spirituality

He was a light eater. He was fond of meat whenever he could afford it. Dinner time was usually early (before sunset). He was an early riser and was very particular about his Fajr prayers and usually observed his Tahajjud prayers. Though he was particular about his prayers and was generally a religious person, paradoxically, he never pushed his children towards religion. 

 

His faith in God was strong. He believed that nothing bad could happen to him. Early in his career, he sat for his exam for “afsar-e-mall (Revenue Officer). To his shock, he failed the examination. He was a smart and hard working person and it did not seem like such a difficult exam so he was immensely disappointed. Nevertheless, he stayed hopeful and said to himself “it is for the best”.

 

Six months later, the PCS exams were announced (more prestigious) and the stated requirement was that those who have passed their Revenue Officer exams were not allowed to sit for the PCS exam! This karma reinforced his faith in God.

 

As narrated by his grandson, Basit Muzaffar, who heard from his mother, the late Nusrat Muzaffar, that he would take a short lunch break and barely had time to complete his lunch; but he was so particular about his afternoon prayers that he would perform them with with his boots on.

Old Age

Old Age

The last three years of life were spent at Sheikh Imtiaz’s (his son) place in Canal bank, Lahore. He was unwell during these years and as reported by Tahir Imtiaz (his grandson) & Lubna Shahid (his granddaughter), his eldest son, Sheikh Ameer Ali, used to come daily to visit him. At some stage, he went for his eye operation to Multan and thereafter passed away on 23rd October 1960 at the age of 74.

Professional Life

As narrated by his daughter, Iffat Zaki, he had an illustrious career in the Civil Service. Not much is currently known about his early life other than that he initially served as a Mall Officer (Revenue Officer) in Gurdaspur at a salary of Rs. 700 per month. Later, he joined the 'District Management Group’ where he rose to become the Deputy Commissioner (DC) in Faisalabad. He also served as DC at Sheikhupura (Nov, 1935 – Sep, 1938), Muzaffargarh and the State of Bahawalpur in 1947.

 

He was awarded the title of Khan Bahadur for his distinguished services to the State.

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Professional Life
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He was a strong supporter of education and as reported by his grandson, Farid uddin Ahmad, set up schools in the Districts that he served.

 

Reportedly, there is a school in Faisalabad that is named the Noor Muhammad Industrial School and as reported by his great grandson, Mohsin Moin, there is a road in Sheikhapura called the Noor Muhammad Road near the district courts

As narrated by Shaista Tahir, grand daughter-in-law of Noor Muhammad,

the Ofice Superintendent of Shekihapura was once asked:

“You have been in this office before partition and have worked with many DCs. In your opinion who

has been the best DC”?

 

He paused for a second and said:

“Noor Muhammad was the most humble, honest and hard working DC that I came across

in my whole career”.

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Qaisra Tayyab (his grand daughter-in-law) narrated that once her father was traveling

by train and met Noor Muhammad. Though it was a brief encounter, her father was so impressed with Noor Muhammad’s  personality that he described Noor Muhammad

as someone who is “not a human, he is an angel”.


Sheheryar Ali (his grandson) narrates a story shared by Noor Muhammad’s daughter, Nusrat Muzaffar. Nusrat met a Sikh family in Los Angeles in 2005 and the family reminisced about how — at the time of partition of India-Pakistan — Noor Muhammad helped them settle their property claims fairly and honestly and it’s something the family remembers till this day.

As narrated by Bakhtiar Khawaja, his grand son-in-law (husband of Zanobia Bakhtiar) who belongs to a prominent family of Faisalabad, that Noor Muhammad and Bakhtiar’s father, Khawaja Ghulam Hussain (a top criminal lawyer of his time) were good friends and had a lot of respect and mutual admiration for each other.

 

In fact, they named some of their children after each other’s children, i.e., Dr. Iftikhar Khawaja was named after Sheikh Iftikhar Ali (the 4th son of Noor Muhammad). Sheikh Zaheer Ali (5th son) was named after Zaheer Iqbal the eldest son of Khawaja Ghulam Hussain.

 

Similarly, Bakhtiar Khawaja himself was named after Bakhtiar Ali (the youngest son of Noor Muhammad.)

Khan Bahadur Noor Muhammad Campus

Recently, his daughters, grandchildren, their spouses, and friends of the family have established a TCF primary school in his memory called the Khan Bahadur Noor Muhammad Campus at ZaheerNagar, which commenced operations on September 1st, 2020.

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Family Tree

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Family Tree

Reviews

“This narrative seems to be a good reading and reflects the greatness of a self made man who broke the shackles of poverty and emerged as a source of inspiration for other members of the community to which he belonged.  Not only that, he educated some of his nephews to become great writers

and teachers.“

- Dr. S. M. Naqi

 
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