Muhammad Hayat Khan

Nawab[1] Muhammad Hayat Khan Khattar CSI (1833–1901)[2][dubious ] was an Indian Muslim who served the Government of British India and rose to considerable distinction.[3]

Muhammad Hayat Khan Khattar

Nawab Muhammad Hayat Khan c.1860s.jpg
Nawab Muhammad Hayat Khan circa 1860s

Early lifeEdit

Muhammad Hayat Khan was born a son of Sardar Karam Khan, a Khattar chieftain[dubious ], in the village of Wah, Punjab during the Sikh Empire[4]

At the end of the First Anglo-Sikh War, his father Karam Khan, cultivated a favourable relationship with officers of the East India Company, appointed to administer[dubious ]the Punjab under Sir Henry Lawrence.

In June-July 1848, he accompanied John Nicholson to the Margalla pass in a mission to capture a strategic tower near Taxila following an uprising of Sikh soldiers.[a][5] During the course of the fight, he gained recognition for daringly rescuing Nicholson[dubious ] when he became trapped in a hazardous situation.[6] Thereafter, Nicholson and Karam Khan became close friends.

In late 1848, Karam Khan was killed whilst asleep, by his half-brother Fatteh Khan. His wife and children fled their ancestral village and sought refuge in the nearby Hazara region[dubious ] where they met James Abbott, the then Deputy Commissioner of Hazara. Abbott in turn sent them to Nicholson, whom affected the restitution of the family to their estate and secured the education of Karam Khan's orphaned children.[7]


After attaining some basic education, especially a fluency in the Persian language, young Muhammad Hayat was appointed by Nicholson as his orderly and Persian interpreter, since he felt a responsibility towards the son of his late friend. Thereafter, Hayat Khan served as a close companion and aide to Nicholson throughout his campaigns and expeditions in Punjab[b] and the 'Punjab Frontier' (areas that would later become part of the North West Frontier Province) and until his death in Delhi, during the Indian War of Independence (or Indian Mutiny) in September 1857.

In 1857, after Nicholson was mortally wounded in the assault on the Kashmir Gate, Delhi, Hyat Khan tended to him though his last 8–9 days of life, and according to tradition, Nicholson on his death-bed recommended the young man's services to Sir John Lawrence, then Chief Commissioner of the Punjab,[8] asking him to reward and assist him in his future career. This proved to be the beginning of Khan's distinguished career spread out over many decades.

Soon after the Mutiny/Rebellion, he was appointed a Thanedar (police officer) at Talagang in Punjab, and was soon transferred to the civil side of administration, as a Tehsildar (junior revenue officer). In 1862, he was then promoted an Extra Assistant Commissioner and sent out to Bannu, and served in that station and nearby Kohat under Sir Louis Cavagnari, then Assistant Commissioner there. In 1864, he was sent on a mission to Afghanistan and in that same year, wrote his famous Hyat i Afghan[dubious ](Afghanistan and its Inhabitants) in Urdu and also translated it himself into Persian, which was published in 1864 (later translated into English by H.Priestley, ICS, published 1875): probably still one of the best works on the subject.

In 1872, Khan was promoted an Assistant Commissioner[dubious ][9] and due to his sterling work, given the award of the Companion of the Order of the Star of India (CSI) on 31 May in the Birthday Honours;[10][11] and later, appointed Assistant Political Agent in the Kurram tribal agency.[12] During the Second Anglo-Afghan War, when General Sir Frederick Roberts (later Field Marshal, Lord Roberts of Kandahar) was sent in command of the Kurram Valley Field Force, Khan was made one of his main native aides.[13]

After the conclusion of the war, Khan returned to civil administrative service in the Punjab, and in due course was moved to the judicial service. Between 1880 and 1888, he remained a District and Sessions Judge in various places. In 1888-89, he became a member of the Punjab Board of Revenue and remained in this position for quite some time, finally being chosen to represent the Muslim zamindars (landowners) as a member of the Punjab Legislative Council in 1897.[14]

In 1899, he was granted the personal title of Nawab in recognition of his long and particularly distinguished services and, in the words of an Englishman, '...a previously well-established Wah family [now] achieved new heights in the annals of British India'.[15][dubious ]

Nawab Muhammad Hayat Khan died in his ancestral village, Wah, in 1901.

Contributions to Muslim educationEdit

Muhammad Hyat Khan was a very close friend and confidant of the senior Muslim thinker, scholar, writer and educational reformer[dubious ][citation needed]Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and remained very active under his guidance in the establishment of the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh (later Aligarh Muslim University)[16] and indeed presided over the 1888, 1889 and 1890 annual sessions of the 'Muhammadan Educational Conference' initiated by Sir Syed.[17][18] He also played an active role in promoting Muslim socio-cultural uplift in his home province of Punjab, and was one of the first twenty or so Punjabi princes and nobles to donate funds for the establishment of the new University College, Punjab (later to develop in the University of the Punjab) in 1870[19]


Nawab Muhammad Hyat had many offspring, and two of them, from his senior wife Zainab Khatun, daughter of S. Ghulam Jilani (a Minister in Kapurthala State),[20] were to achieve particular distinction and fame in years to come: Nawab Sir Liaqat Hyat Khan (born 1887), Sir Sikandar Hyat Khan (born 1892).



  1. ^ In fact as part of the commencement of the Second Anglo-Sikh War
  2. ^ Including the Second Anglo-Sikh War


  1. ^ Malik, Iftikhar Haider (1985). Sikandar Hayat Khan (1892-1942):. National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research.
  2. ^ See Revised edition (1940) of Griffin & Massey Chiefs and Families of Note in the Punjab, Orig. Lahore, 1910, Vol II, p.293; and also K.Haidri, Tarikh I Potohar (Urdu), Lahore 1962, pp.74-74. MHK's date of birth is given wrongly as 1829 in Charles Allen, Soldier-Sahibs, London 2000, due to a confusion with another Punjabi chief
  3. ^ MSD Butler, Final Report on the Attock district for 1901-1904, Lahore, 1905, p.110
  4. ^ Charles Allen, Soldier-Sahibs, London, 2000, p. 166
  5. ^ Allen, p.166
  6. ^ This is the site of the 'Nicholson Memorial' - also called Nicholson's Obelisk - today.[verification needed] Allen, pp.166-167
  7. ^ Allen, pp.173-175
  8. ^ More sensational legend has it that Nicholson wrote a recommendation for Muhammad Hyat Khan, on a slip of paper, in his own blood.[citation needed]L.J. Trotter, in his biography of Nicholson also errs in stating that MHK actually 'carried' his commandant out of Delhi. He also cites a Punjabi folk ballad sung on the streets of Delhi, soon after Nicholson's death, where it is said that 'A soldier of Towana (Tiwana) race' bore Nicholson up,[dubious ] back to camp--in fact a mistaken reference to Muhammad Hyat Khan, Khattar. See LJ Trotter A Life of John Nicholson, London: John Murray, 1897, p. 293 and 321 (Appendix/Ballad)
  9. ^ MK Awan, Tarikh ul Awan, Lahore, n.d., p.31
  10. ^ "No. 23863". The London Gazette. 31 May 1872. p. 2575.
  11. ^ Indian Civil and Military List 1872 ed
  12. ^ Awan, p.31
  13. ^ See Field Marshal Lord Roberts, K.P., V.C., Forty-one Years in India (Richard Bentley & Son, London 1911); volume ii, p.239, mention of MHK in this source is a reference to the steps taken by Roberts following his entry into Kabul on 12 October 1879 (Anglo-Afghan War of 1879) when he immediately imposed martial law: ‘I now appointed Major-General James Hills, V.C., to be Governor of Kabul for the time being, associating with him the able and respected Mahomedan gentleman, Nawab Ghulam Hussein Khan, as the most likely means of securing for the present order and good government in the city. I further instituted two Courts: one political, consisting of Colonel Macgregor, Surgeon-Major Bellew, and Mahomed Hyat Khan, a Mahomedan member of the Punjab Commission, and an excellent Persian and Pushtu scholar, to inquire into the complicated circumstances which led to the attack on the Residency, and to ascertain, if possible, how far the Amir and his Ministers were implicated; the other, a military Court, with Brigadier-General Massy as president, for the trial of those Chiefs and soldiers accused of having taken part in the actual massacre.’
  14. ^ List of Early Members of the First Punjab Council on the Punjab Provincial Assembly site "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 April 2012. Retrieved 24 April 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ Cited in Iftikhar H Malik, Sikandar Hyat Khan, Islamabad, 1985, Chap.1, p.10
  16. ^ Malik, pp.10-11
  17. ^ Malik, p.11
  18. ^ Also see Muhammad Habib Khan Tarin
  19. ^ JF Bruce, A History of the University of the Punjab, Lahore, 1933, p.48
  20. ^ Shaukat Hayat Khan, The Nation that Lost its Soul:Memoirs, Lahore, 1995, p.6