Celebrating grandeur: Ghulam Hassan Khan


By Daisy Khan


Today, 116 years ago, a great man was born. My late grandfather Ghulam Hassan Khan (Dadaji) was a visionary man, whose actions shaped the destiny of his family.

As a studious young man, he yearned for a higher education so he applied for a scholarship.

This brightest of the bunch became the first Kashmiri to leave the valley to study abroad. In 1926 he joined Harvard’s Engineering School leaving his wife and two kids behind.

Four years later he graduated with Phi Beta honors. His interest in Islam began in the Harvard library when his professor asked him to give a lecture on Islam. He was so nervous, his teacher inticed him with $20 stipend. (in 1926)

When he returned to Kashmir, he built roads, bridges, Dams. Some of his works are still standing today. The Palace hotel, the Governors Palace, The SMHS hospital, The Boulevard Road and many others. Then built the Barzalla Mosque and wrote tons of books on Islam.

He sent his son, my father to America to study transportation. He too returned home to do great things. Next was my Doctor Uncle Faroque, who never returned, because America was desperate for doctors and the opportunity too great. He went on to build the Islamic center of Westbury and the Interfaith institute of Long Island. Then came uncle Rafiq, an Architect, he stayed in LA doing town planning. He continues his charity works.

Another Doctor, Aunt Mumtaz, arrived with the intention of settling in America, she is retired and walks 45 minutes everyday.

Then I came study with an intention to go back. But alas for Kashmir, I loved this place too much, so I stayed on too. I regret not being able to give back to my motherland the same way that I have to my adopted land.

I pursued a career as an architectural designer until 9.11 when everything changed. Now I dont build spaces, I disseminate ideas, write books, build bridges and strengthen communities.

One by one, I was joined by my siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews. One niece just got admission to Harvard Law School! Thank God, everyone is at the top of their game.

When I left, my grandfather gave me a Quran with wonderful words of advice and one simple command “make the Khan name proud!” I hope I have.

I want to thank God for sending such a beautiful soul to this earth. His 75+ progeny are thriving and contributing to the world because of his actions.

Happy birthday Dadaji. You are not here but you are always in our hearts.

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