The historic Islamia College Peshawar (ICP), now University, spread over more than 900 kanals stands proudly at the foot of the Khyber Pass. Its magnificent building is a medley of Mughal and British architecture. The grand golden academic block, 12 residential hostels, lush green grounds, an up-to-date library stocking old manuscripts along with new books, recreation centre and the magnificent Khyber Union Roos-Keppel Hall speak of its past glory. The ICUP has on its roll approximately 300 faculty members and is providing quality education to more than 10,000 male and 800 female students from intermediate to masters and doctorate levels in various faculties.
The college was founded by Sir Sahibzada Abdul Qayum Khan, and the then chief commissioner of the province, Sir George Roos-Keppel, in an effort to provide quality education to the region’s youth. It is said that while the idea of a college was shaping up in the minds of Sir Sahibzada Abdul Qayum Khan and Sir George Roos-Keppel it was strengthened when they visited Aligarh Muslim University in 1909. During their visit some students from NWFP told them that they needed a hostel, on which the Sahibzada told them that he will build them a college at Peshawar.
On return they launched a campaign for collecting donations for a college. Prominent members of the society like Sethi Karim Bakhash, Abdul Karim Khan and Abdul Qayum Khan as well as several tribal chiefs and noted religious scholars donated generously; the ruler of Dir State Aurangzeb contributed 400 trees besides cash.
Bibi Gul, the widow of Khairullah Khan, a resident of village Prang, Charsadda, donated her jewellery aiming to inspire other women, but unfortunately females were kept deprived of education here. It was only in 2007 when Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor and president of Senior Alumni Association of ICP Lt Gen (R) Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai granted university status to the ICP that girls were allowed admission here.
Maulana Fazal Wahid also known as Haji Sahib of Turangzai, famous religious leader of the time, laid the foundation stone of the college. Mr L. Tipping became the first principal while Allama Inayatullah Mashraqi was the vice principal of the college. The ICP’s academic journey started with only 10 faculty members and 33 students; Sahibzada Khurshid Khan the first student later become the governor of KP.
The Edwards College Peshawar (1900) and Islamia College Peshawar (1913) have enjoyed traditional rivalry, both symbolising the cultures of the Oxford and Cambridge universities in co-curricular activities. Since its inception, the ICP has produced hundreds of intellectuals, political leaders, literary figures, army men, professionals, bureaucrats, academicians and scientists who later played a remarkable role in the socio-economic development of this province and the country at large.
The Islamia College Peshawar enjoyed a rich history of grooming young students in co-curricular activities, like stage shows, seminars and poetry readings. The elections for Khyber Union’s presidentship used to be the most memorable activity. There used to be a mock UNO Assembly in which the participants would get training in international politics.
While preparations for the centenary celebration in March 2013 are underway, Prof. Dr Noor Jahan, the first ever acting woman Vice Chancellor of ICUP, says, “The ICUP will continue to shed rays of enlightenment, female education too will get a great boost after the college opened its doors to women. On the occasion the ground-breaking ceremony of a girl’s hostel is planned. The ICUP will be included in the World’s Heritage list shortly”.
Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah visited this college in 1936, 1945 and 1948. In 1936, he made the college one of the heirs to his property; later on the Quaid Trust paid Rs10,811,600 in instalments to the college.
Lt Gen (R) Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai President Senior Alumni Association (SAA, formed in 1990s and reorganised in 2000) while sharing his memories of ICP says that he was a food monitor at the Harding hostel but also took active part in sports and literary activities. “I graduated from ICP in 1966 and then joined Pakistan Military Academy (PMA). Taking admission to ICP was my dream because I studied in a government school situated far away from our village, and had to walk all the way, often my feet would be bleeding when I reached home. My stay in ICP was the best part of my life. The number of registered senior alumni is now 630 playing a great role for the further improvement of the ICUP. The SAA includes retired army men, judges, civil bureaucrats, professionals, engineers and doctors; the ICUP has campuses in Charsadda and Swabi as well.”
Well known cardiologist Dr Rehman, an old Islamian, says, “I was a student of ICP from 1960 to 1962 for my FSc. It is a paradise lost not only for me but for everyone. Its black sherwani was a symbol of dignity. The student’s urge for study and teachers’ dedication was exemplary. Now when I drive past its premises I see the Islamians littering its lush green lawns. I cannot simply see its glory waning.”
Prof Dr Yasin Iqbal, Professor at the University of Peshawar recalls the days when he was a student of ICP in the late ’70s, “The students were selected on merit and comprised students from Chitral to Dera Ismail Khan demonstrating a unique cultural diversity. Like the students, the teachers used to be the cream of the subcontinent, everyone with his uncompromising stand on principles as they had been selected on merit and not on the basis of political affiliations or bribes. Once Gen. Ziaul Haq asked the principal for a favour for admission of a disable candidate, but Prof Dr Abdul Matin very politely refused as it was not possible under the rules. Today when I stand in Cambridge or Oxford University and look back at ICP, I feel enormously proud, but unfortunately now we have destroyed this great institution for our temporary political and financial interests and favouritism.”
Miss Wagma Ayoub Khattak who became the first ever female President of Khyber Debating Society proudly says that the number of participants in the literary activities of the various societies and clubs is increasing with the passage of time, adding that female Islamians too will bring success to the college.
Muhammad Ishaq, retired teacher and former chief procter at Islamia College Peshawar, shares his fond memories: “When I joined The ICP way back in 1973, the teachers used to be very dedicated and devoted to their profession, always involved with students who remained focussed on their studies. Perfect discipline and excellent academic performance were the hallmarks of the college, which would tame down students coming from unruly tribal background. Now it pains me to hear that values and good traditions of the college are being eroded, gap between teachers and students is widening which is harmful for the progress of the institution.”
Dr Abdullah Sadiq a distinguished professor of nuclear physics and solid state physics and presently Dean of Physics Department Air University of Pakistan Air Force, Islamabad, says, “I was very fortunate to have some very caring teachers throughout my student life from class 1 in Islamia collegiate School, Peshawar, to my PhD from the University of Illinois in USA. Perhaps the most memorable of them is Professor Abdul Majid Mian. He was the principal of Islamia College, Peshawar when I was a student there from 1956-60 and my physics teacher from 1960-62 at the University of Peshawar.
After my BSc I had planned to seek a job due to my family circumstances and went to Professor Mian for a reference letter. In his typical style he asked me in Pashto “Gulaba what are your marks?” When told, he refused to give me a reference letter and asked me to join the Physics Department,
Later on he was very upset when I declined a Commonwealth scholarship at the University of Edinburgh UK in favour of a teaching assistant-ship at the University of Illinois, USA. He was rightly concerned that it will take much longer to complete my studies making me junior to my contemporaries studying in the UK. As a kind and caring teacher he helped and advised me at a crucial stage of my career.”
Noted educationist and former principal ICP, Prof Dr Abdul Matin says, “It was a great privilege and honour for me to get admitted to the ICP in 1948, it was in its glory then as most teachers and students were devoted to the cause of education. One of the greatest contributions is that in its early stages it resolved the issue of dichotomy between secular and religious education. ICP amalgamated both and catered to moral, spiritual, social, cultural and political aspirations of the state and society. The centenary celebrations shall remain meaningless unless all its stakeholders take into consideration the past glory, present situation and future plans of the historic institution.”