My Journey Through Life Part 22: Joining Jamaat-e-Islami

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Prof Ghulam Azam

My Journey Through Life Part 22: Joining Jamaat-e-Islami

MY JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
BY
PROFESSOR GHULAM AZAM

cropped-pga-reading.jpg

(Abridged translated version of the author’s original Bangla memoirJibone Ja Dekhlam)
Translated and Edited by Dr Salman Al-Azami
Copyright – The Ghulam Azam Foundation
Chapter Twenty Two

Joining Jamaat-e-Islami

 

Jamaat-e-Islami Conference in Gaibandha

It was April 1954. My restless mind became a bit stable after having been invited by Mr Abdul Khaleque to attend their conference in Gaibandha. On the very day I was supposed to travel, the President of Tablighi Jamaat, Mawlana Abdul Aziz, was scheduled to reach Rangpur. He was the main leader in Tabligh and as the president of its Rangpur branch, I was supposed to be his host. However, I needed to travel to Gaibandha to know more about Jamaat-e-Islami. It was a great dilemma for me. I decided that I would ask my youngest brother Mahdi (then a higher secondary student at my college) to take Mawlana Aziz from the station to the main Tablighi Mosque in Rangpur. His train was supposed to arrive before the departure of my train to Gaibandha, so when he arrived, I informed him very respectfully the reason for my failure to accompany him and said that my brother would drop him at the Tablighi Mosque. Mawlana Aziz looked at me with astonishment and was unable to say anything due to the shock of seeing me leave like this. I understood that it was natural for him to be confused to see me leave when I was aware of his visit. Due to our close relationship, he was surprised that I could behave in that manner. However, I had little time to explain to him the reasoning behind my departure as my train was only a few minutes later. He came to know from my brother that I was travelling to Gaibandha to attend a conference of Jamaat-e-Islami. Later, I came to know that he immediately wrote to my father, who was then attending a Tablighi chilla in Lahore, saying that I had joined an organisation which was worse than Qadianis.[1]

At the Conference

Mr Abdul Khaleque received me from Gaibandha Station and took me to a place where guests from Dhaka had been resting after lunch. There was no opportunity to be introduced to them before the conference, which was held at the Municipal Park in Gaibandha. I sat on a bench in the park and listened to the speeches. Mr Khaleque was one of the three people that spoke at the conference until the Evening Prayer. The two other speakers, who spoke in Urdu, were the Dhaka City President of Jamaat and a young lecturer of Economics in Dhaka University, Mr Muhammad Ozair, and the organiser of Jamaat’s North Bengal Zone, Mr Asad Gilani. The Chief Guest was Mawlana Abdur Rahim, the then provincial secretary of East Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami who spoke after the evening prayer. After the prayer finished, some students of Rangpur Carmichael College came to see me, among whom some were my own students. I went back to the bench I was sitting at after the prayer and found myself surrounded by 20/25 students of my college. I was known as a preacher of Islam due to my speeches after the noon prayer at the college building. As Gaibandha College was newly established at that time, most students from Gaibandha studying at degree level were students of Rangpur.

I felt quite embarrassed when suddenly Mr Khaleque made an announcement during Mawlana Abdur Rahim’s speech saying, “We received several requests from students of Rangpur College to allow their teacher, Professor Ghulam Azam, to speak. He will speak immediately after the conference of Jamaat-e-Islami officially concludes.” I felt uncomfortable that some might imagine that I had asked my students to make such a request. Nonetheless, when the conference officially ended and all speakers left the stage, I went up the stage and said, “This is a conference of Jamaat-e-Islami, so it was improper to ask someone from outside to speak here. I came from Rangpur to listen to the leaders of Jamaat. I was not supposed to speak here, nor had I any intention to do so. It is very kind of the leadership of Jamaat-e-Islami to have listened to this illogical demand from some of my students, and therefore I thank them for their magnanimity.” After this opening, I spoke for 15 minutes highlighting the sovereignty of Allah and asking all to join Jamaat-e-Islami.

Meeting with the Jamaat Leaders

After the night prayer and dinner, Mr Abdul Khaleque introduced me to the leaders of his party. Mawlana Abdur Rahim and Professor Muhammad Ozair sat with me while Mr Asad Gilani went to rest as he was very tired. Another person in the meeting was Sheikh Amin Uddin from Bogra.[2] Mr Abdul Khaleque introduced me as the President of Rangpur Tablighi Jamaat before he left. I wanted him to stay in the meeting and expected him to ask me about the books he had given me a month before, but he had some post conference engagements that he could not avoid.

I had thought that Mawlana Abdur Rahim would speak to me as the leader of East Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami, but it was Professor Ozair who played the leading role in the discussion. He spoke continuously in a very aggressive language against Tablighi Jamaat and its works, saying that it was a destructive force against Islam due to advocating Islam merely as a religion keeping the people away from striving in the cause of Allah. He also asked me to answer some questions, but I didn’t know what to say. If I had no prior knowledge as to Jamaat-e-Islami, Professor Ozair’s approach would have given me a very negative impression of them. However, I had already been attracted to the organisation through my understanding of Islam as a way of life due to my involvement with Tamaddun Majlish and because of reading some books by Mawlana Mawdudi. I was already mentally prepared to join Jamaat. He had no idea what I had been thinking; yet he decided to speak in such an aggressive style. I found a serious lack of hikmah[3] and Maw’ezatul Hasanah[4] in his approach and I believe that any other person would stay away from Jamaat as a result of his style. When I complained about his approach to Mr Khaleque, and when he was asked about it, Professor Ozair apparently said, “Tablighi people are generally blinded about these issues and are usually never convinced about other opinions. I had thought he would never join Jamaat leaving Tabligh, so I decided to express my anger towards them whilst speaking to him.”

The meeting ended at 11.30 pm. Sheikh Amin Uddin held my hand and took me to a room where two beds had been arranged. He asked me to sleep in one of them.

A Significant Night

That night was a turning point in my life as that was when Allah helped me to make my decision. After speaking with me for a few minutes, Sheikh Amin Uddin went to sleep and soon the sound of snoring could be heard. However, I was then in a completely different world and my mind was in total disarray as to what I should do. There was no sign of sleep at all. Even though I was seriously considering joining Jamaat-e-Islami, still I was not able to make the final decision. Although most of the things Professor Ozair had said in his aggressive language made sense, my deep acquaintances with friends and senior leaders of Tablighi Jamaat were preventing me from taking such a decision. Leaving Tamaddun Majlish was not a problem as Jamaat-e-Islami had everything Tamaddun Majlish could offer. It was the deep spiritual feeling I had developed through Tablighi Jamaat that was making it hard for me to leave. When I realised that I was not able to sleep until 3 am, I decided to perform ablution and start praying tahajjud prayer.[5] After praying for an hour, I started pleading to Allah to help me to arrive at a verdict. Dua means to speak to Allah and I never feel comfortable speaking to Him silently, particularly after tahajjud prayer. Whether the language is Arabic or Bangla, I plead to Allah aloud. Due to my restless condition, my voice was probably louder than usual as I had completely forgotten that someone else was also in that room. I was in an extremely emotional state and pleaded to Allah in a very passionate manner. I still remember the key aspects of that dua as it was at one of the most critical junctures of my life:

“Oh Allah! You are the only one who can guide a person to the right path. There are so many different types of organisations and activities in the name of Islam that it is beyond me to conclude which one is right. I was very content working with Tablighi Jamaat, and although I realised that working with them alone is not enough, I cannot leave its attraction. The call for Jamaat-e-Islami has been very appealing to me and I am in this dilemma since then. I am unable to make a final decision. You are the owner of my heart, so I am completely surrendering to you. Please help me take the right decision and remove the restlessness from my heart.”

For over an hour I continued to cry to Allah, repeating these words until the adhan[6] for the morning prayer. After the adhan, Sheikh Amin Uddin got up, did his ablution, picked me up from the prayer mat, hugged me with deep brotherly love, and took me to the place where the morning prayer was meant to be held. There, Mawlana Abdur Rahim led the prayer and I enjoyed his recitation very much. After the prayer, brother Amin Uddin took me near Mawlana Abdur Rahim and brought a piece of paper and a pen from Mr Abdul Khaleque and gave them to me. I started reading the paper carefully while others around me were silently staring at me. The paper I was given was the form to join Jamaat-e-Islami. I liked every word in the form and found nothing to disagree with, so I quietly completed the form and signed it. Subsequently, Sheikh Amin Uddin immediately asked Mawlana Abdur Rahim to make dua. While Mawlana Abdur Rahim was supplicating in Bangla, Sheikh Amin Uddin was translating it into Urdu. He prayed to Allah to enable me to make a significant contribution to the Islamic movement. Although I found little emotion in the Bangla dua, Sheikh Amin Uddin’s dua made me emotional.

I cannot express in words how content I felt after the dua. The restlessness that had lasted a month was now diminished. The stress of uncertainty had completely disappeared. Sheikh Amin Uddin was the first to give me an emotional embrace after which everyone else embraced me and graciously welcomed me into the organisation.

Role of Sheikh Amin Uddin

Sheikh Amin Uddin later took me back to the room where we spent the night before. If he had not brought the form to me in such a way, my joining Jamaat might have been delayed. He himself told me his reasons for playing that role:

“I was awakened by the sound of your passionate crying to Allah late at night. I decided to remain quiet so that your dua was not disturbed. I kept praying to Allah that He accept your dua. The wordings of your dua touched me deeply and I was certain that your mental state was such that you would complete the form if it was given to you after the morning prayer. That is why I took the form from Mr Abdul Khaleque and gave it to you. Mawlana Abdur Rahim was not aware of your situation, so his dua didn’t have much emotion, but I could not but play my role during that dua.”

I felt very happy after hearing everything from him, but at the same time was embarrassed that I had displayed such a degree of emotion through my dua that I was oblivious to his presence and had caused him to awaken.

The day of my joining Jamaat-e-Islami is so significant in my life that I still remember each miniscule detail. It was Tuesday, 22 April 1954. The day is also meaningful in another way as I was also born on a Tuesday, whereas the Tuesday of 22nd April was my new birth in the way of deen. After spending a month with uncertainty, Allah enabled me to come to the right decision on that day.

 

[1] A term used by some South Asian Muslims to refer to the Ahmediyya community, although it is considered pejorative to that community. Although they identify themselves as Muslims, many do not consider them Muslims due to their belief that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is not the last prophet.

[2] Another nearby district of northern Bangladesh.

[3] Wisdom

[4] Best use of language while calling people to Allah’s cause as advised in the Qur’an.

[5] Late night prayer before dawn highly recommended to come closer to Allah.

[6] Call for prayer.

 

My Journey Through Life Part 21: Introduction to Jamaat-e-Islami

MY JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
BY
PROFESSOR GHULAM AZAM

cropped-pga-reading.jpg

(Abridged translated version of the author’s original Bangla memoir Jibone Ja Dekhlam)
Translated and Edited by Dr Salman Al-Azami
Copyright – The Ghulam Azam Foundation
Chapter Twenty One
Introduction to Jamaat-e-Islami – Part 1

I was not a Member of any Political Party

In the early 1950s, I was the Ameer (President) of Tablighi Jamaat in Rangpur and at the same time the leader of the Rangpur chapter of Tamaddun Majlish. I was not aware of the existence of Jamaat-e-Islami till then. I had read and was influenced by the thoughts of Mawlana Mawdudi by reading the English translations of two of his books ‘The Process of Islamic Revolution’ and ‘Political Theory of Islam’, and the Bangla translation of another book Ekmatro Dhormo (The Only Religion) through my involvement with Tamaddun Majlish. However, I did not learn anything about the Jamaat-e-Islami organisation through reading those books.

I was not involved with any political party, though I once assisted in organising a public meeting of a party called the Khalafat Rabbani Party because I had become a fan of its leader Mr Abul Hashem while working as a student activist of the Pakistan movement, therefore I thought I should be of service to this incredible man. It was natural for people to think that I was involved with a political party as I was a teacher of political science and was very active with the language movement in Rangpur. Proposals for joining different political parties started to pour in similar to the manner in which people continue to propose to a marriageable girl until she is married. The first proposal came from the Muslim League when Mashiur Rahman Jadu Miah1 was the leader of the Muslim League, Rangpur branch and sent an advocate to see me. The man said to me, “You were active with the Pakistan movement during your student life and believe in Islamic ideology and Muslim nationalism. Pakistan was established under the leadership of the Muslim League and the party badly needs a leader like you. Mr Jadu Miah will come and see you if you agree to join.”

Why I Did not Join the Muslim League

I was already upset about the Muslim League due to its serious betrayal of the Islamic ideology by both the central and the provincial governments, and my annoyance intensified because of their role against the Bangla language movement. Moreover, after reading Mawlana Mawdudi’s ‘The Process of Islamic Revolution’ I became clear that there could be no service towards Islam by the Muslim League. Therefore, I politely told the representative of Jadu Miah that I had not yet decided to join any political party. I was not mentally prepared to join a political party that was not Islamic as I was involved with both Tablighi Jamaat and Tamaddun Majlish, and the impression about an Islamic political party I developed through reading Mawlana Maududi’s book made me sure that there was no such party in Pakistan at that time.

The Democratic Party

One of my comrades during the language movement in 1952, Sufi Motahar Hossain, asked me to join a political party called ‘The Democratic Party’. The party was not very big, but I decided to consider the proposal as I had known its leader Mahmud Ali since the Pakistan Movement. He later became the Provincial Secretary of the Muslim League when Mawlana Abdul Haid Khan Bhashani2 was its President. I did not know much about The Democratic Party, but understood by its name that democracy was its ideology. I also liked its leader and was close to Motahar through my involvement in the language movement, so I agreed to join the party and become the convener of the party’s Rangpur branch, though Motahar did the main work of the party, with me officially as the leader in Rangpur.

It was most likely 1953 when Mahmud Ali came to visit Rangpur to speak at a party event held at the District Board Hall, with me in the Chair and Motahar as the master of the ceremony. Interestingly, most speakers in the programme praised socialism more than democracy whereas there is no place of democracy in socialism. Although the Chief Guest Mahmud Ali spoke in favour of democracy, he maintained that the public do not get the benefit of democracy without socialism. I felt very embarrassed as the Chair of the event and realised that it was impossible to work with these people. However, I decided not say anything against socialism at that event and just spoke about the importance of democracy and strongly reminded everyone that Allah’s sovereignty should be the essence of all democratic work. After the programme, I invited Mr Mahmud Ali for dinner at my house in the college compound and handed over my resignation from membership of his party. He realised that I was not ‘fit’ to be a member of his party.

First Encounter with Jamaat-e-Islami

I had never been approached by anyone from Jamaat-e-Islami before and the party had no branch in Rangpur. Hence I never knew that such a party even existed. It was Allah’s blessing that He showed me the way in a miraculous fashion, i.e., without my intention or effort and without any direct approach from Jamaat I received its call and eventually decided to join them. The incident was very interesting.

I received a letter from Engineer Mukit, a central leader of Tabligh, that a group of Tablighi brothers were coming to North Bengal on foot, which meant they were stopping at different places on their way here and that they would reach Gaibandha (a neighbouring district) on a particular date where I should meet them. I reached Gaibanda on that day, which was Friday, and met the brothers from Dhaka. I was told that they have taken permission from the imam and the chair of the mosque committee for me to speak after the Friday prayers. To my surprise, the announcement after the prayer said that there would be two speakers – Ghulam Azam on behalf of Tablighi Jamaat and Abdul Khaleque on behalf of Jamaat-e-Islami. This is the first time I heard the name of Jamaat-e-Islami and was quite happy and eager to hear what they had to say.

I was given the opportunity to speak first. I talked about the six Usul (principles) of Tablighi Jamaat and invited everyone to join the brothers who came from Dhaka. Then Mr Abdul Khaleque talked about the revolutionary call of the Kalimah Tayyiba3 and asked everyone to join Jamaat-e-Islami to establish a society and a state based on the principles of Allah’s obedience and the Prophet’s leadership. After his speech he shook my hands and was introduced to me. We found out that we came from the same sub-district, so we felt closer to each other. He urged me to leave the mosque with him and I could not refuse.

He took me to the Jamaat office, which was in the living room of a tin-shed house, but looked clean and tidy. There were a few beautiful posters of Quranic verses with Urdu translations around the room with a bed in one corner next to a chair and a desk. I was informed that Mr Abdul Khaleque slept in that bed and worked on that desk and they would have their weekly programmes in the big living room space. Mr Abdul Khaleque put a cloth on the floor where we both sat for about ten minutes. He gave me two Urdu booklets before I left and said:

Islam is not only a religion and the Prophet (PBUH) was not only a religious leader; Islam is a complete way of life given by Allah and it includes everything that the Prophet (PBUH) did for 23 years. He created an Islamic state in Madina and established the Islamic system of governance in the family, society and state. The whole life of the Prophet is Islam, and if we take only the spiritual side of it then we have only partially followed Islam. Human beings can have peace in this life and salvation after death only by establishing an Islamic society and state; while the vested interest groups who lead man-made social systems only do that to create and maintain their own leadership, power, and wealth so that they can dominate society and enjoy a comfortable life. Jamaat-e-Islami wants to build society and the state on the basis of the Quranic doctrines which the government does not like. One year ago they even wanted to hang Mawlana Mawdudi, but those who are involved with Jamaat do not care about imprisonment or the death sentence. I am giving you two booklets in Urdu written by Mawlana Mawdudi that haven’t yet been translated into Bangla. While reading these books just think about one question, “If the organisation (Tabligh) you work with wants to establish the Islam of the Prophet (PBUH), then why doesn’t the un-Islamic government of the country oppose it?”

My Reaction to the Meeting

Mr Abdul Khaleque’s question put me in a huge ocean of thought as I was aware of Islam’s revolutionary message through Tamaddun Majlish. The two books he gave were Banao our Bigar (Build and Break) and Hedayat (Guidance). He had to give me the Urdu versions as these books were not translated into Bangla then. I had learned to read Urdu during my Tablighi Chilla, but the language of the books was slightly difficult. I finished Banao our Bigar during my journey back to Rangpur and though it was challenging I could understand its core message.

I felt that someone was pulling me out of Tablighi Jamaat and dragging me towards Jamaat-e-Islami. I became restless after connecting the message of that book with the book I previously read by the same author ‘The Process of Islamic Revolution’, which talks about Allah’s role in the running of a society and a state. Moreover, the more I searched for the answer to Mr Abdul Khaleque’s powerful question, the more perplexed I became and found no logical answer. In this restless condition I went to my next door neighbour Mawlana Syed Ishaq Ahmed who was a senior colleague and a professor of Arabic. Despite our age gap, we were very close. I asked him to read the book and said, “I have come to know a new Islamic movement called Jamaat-e-Islami and I want to talk with you about it after you have read this book.” I met him at 10 pm the night I reached Rangpur from Gaibandha. The next morning after breakfast I started to read the other book, Hedayat, when Professor Ishaq came to my house and, in a voice filled with emotion, said, “Where did you get this book? I finished it last night and have been unable to sleep well since then. Please give me another book by the same author if you have one.” I discussed with him the question Mr Abdul Khaleque asked me. Before he left, Professor Ishaq took the book Hedayat before I could finish.

It was March 1954. The college was closed then at that time; if this were not so, I would have had a lot of problems. I was so restless that I began to develop irregular eating and sleeping habits. I was so sincerely involved with Tablighi Jamaat that it was difficult for me to leave that organisation. I was going through a huge mental turmoil as confusion about the deen is a very complex matter. I felt very tense because the success or failure in the hereafter is directly related to my decision to stay with or leave Tablighi Jamaat. My attraction towards Jamaat-e-Islami increased when I talked to Professor Ishaq, and I was surprised by how quickly he became contented while I remained indecisive. It was probably simple for him to make such a decision quickly because, unlike me, he didn’t have to leave an organisation. After reading Hedayat Professor Ishaq said, “I have never had such beautiful impression about the relationship with Allah. I kept pleading to Allah for guidance after reading this book and He helped me make the right decision”.

As my wife and two small children were at my in-laws at that time I kept myself fully occupied thinking about this issue day and night. I felt uneasy as I had never found myself in that situation before and thought that I should talk to Mr Abdul Khaleque about it. Two weeks passed in that way when I received an encouraging letter from Mr Abdul Khaleque in which he invited me to attend a conference of Jamaat-e-Islami in Gaibandha where central leaders of the party would arrive from Dhaka. I was already considering going to Gaibandha to meet Mr Abdul Khaleque, so I immediately decided to attend the conference and began to feel better thinking that I would get to know Jamaat-e-Islami better by attending their conference. I started to count days until I would attend the conference.

1 A former Bangladesh Senior Minister, with the rank and status of a Prime Minister, during the presidency of Ziaur Rahman.

2 Mawlana Bhashani is regarded as the proponent of anti-imperialist, non-communal and left-leaning politics by his admirers in present-day Bangladesh and beyond.

3 The first article of faith that declares that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad (PBUH) is his messenger and servant.

My Journey Through Life Part 20: Joining Tamaddun Majlish

MY JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE

BY

PROFESSOR GHULAM AZAM

cropped-pga-reading.jpg

(Abridged translated version of the author’s original Bangla memoir Jibone Ja Dekhlam)

Translated and Edited by Dr Salman Al-Azami

Copyright – The Ghulam Azam Foundation

Chapter Twenty

Joining Tamaddun Majlish

In mid-1952 a person named Sulaiman Khan of Tamaddun Majlish came to see me at my Rangpur College campus home. He came all the way from Chittagong[1] just to see me. I was surprised and asked him the purpose of his visit and was told that he came to talk about Tamaddun Majlish[2].

I cordially invited him into my house upon hearing the name Tamaddun Majlish. I had heard about this organisation many times when I was politically active in Dhaka University in 1948. During the Language Movement I used one of their books called Is Pakistan’s State Language Bangla or Urdu? (Pakistaner Rashtro Bhasha Bangla na Urdu?) during the campaign to establish Bangla as a state language. I had also seen the founder of the organisation, a young lecturer of Dhaka University, Mr Abul Kashem, several times although I was never formally introduced to him.

Mr Khan stayed with me for two days. As my wife was not at home we spent a lot of time together and discussed many things and soon became close friends. I was impressed by his sweet smile, conversational style, and his ability to speak eloquently. I developed deep love for him as a brother of deen (religion). He told me that the Tablighi Jamaat teaches the meaning of the Kalimah[3]; that there is no other god than Allah, and teaches the oath that one will spend one’s life obeying Allah’s orders following the path of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This is obviously correct in terms of wordings, but when they use the word ma‘bud to mean ‘someone to worship’ only and the word ibadah (worship) is confined to some religious rituals then this Kalimah bears little revolutionary significance. Therefore, the fact that the oath in the Kalimah is applicable to all walks of life is not highlighted much by Tabligh, although it instils the sense that the promise in the oath has to be kept.

This little speech of brother Sulaiman shook my conscience and touched my heart. He reminded me that we also need to lead our social and economic lives by obeying Allah in the path of the Prophet (PBUH), highlighting the fact that our Prophet himself led a huge revolution in his land of birth on the basis of the Kalimah. That Tamaddun Majlish called upon people with the message of this revolution left me no other option but to join them. I had never received this type of message before. I completed the membership form of the organisation and took the responsibility to develop and lead it in Rangpur. He left some books with me, which I bought from him. I found two key points about the movement from those books – the sovereignty of Allah and that He is the owner of all our wealth.

Sovereignty of Allah

As a student and then a teacher of political science, I knew the word ‘sovereignty’ very well as an important terminology in the discipline. One of the four core components in the definition of a state is sovereignty. The book, The Grammar of Politics, written by a famous British political scientist, Professor Harold Laski, was my textbook at MA level. In its chapter on ‘Location of Sovereignty’ he proved that there is no such thing as a ‘sovereign force’ in a state. It is not possible to find out where to find the features of sovereignty that political science speaks of. I knew this concept very well and had to teach sovereignty as a key term in my discipline to my students.

In fact, I was a bit perplexed about how to go about with this concept as I was a strong supporter of Laski’s theory. After getting the solution of the term through Tamaddun Majlish I began to invite people to this movement making the sovereignty of Allah as the key point in my discussions. The attributes of Allah found in Ayatul Kursi[4] are similar to quite a few features of sovereignty in political science. I realised that Laski’s confusion on the concept can only be resolved by accepting Allah as the sovereign entity. I also acquired the book Political Theory of Islam by Mawlana Mawdudi through my involvement with Tamaddun Majlish. My concept of sovereignty became clearer after reading that book and I started lecturing my students based on my renewed understanding of the concept.

I developed a partial understanding of the second point of brother Sulaiman’s speech that Allah is the owner of all our wealth, which can be found in the verse: ‘Allah is the owner of everything in the heavens and the earth (lillahi ma fis samawati wama fil ardh)’.[5] Therefore, Islam does not believe in personal wealth, which is the basis of a capitalist economy leading to economic oppressions in a society.

The political mission of Tamaddun Majlish was clear to me and, as it was related to my academic discipline, I decided to concentrate my calls to the organisation on this point. As I was not yet very clear on the economic aspect, I decided to know more about the area before speaking about it.

Serving Two Organisations Simultaneously

I continued to serve both Tablighi Jamaat and Tamaddun Majlish simultaneously as the leader of their Rangpur chapters, emphasising the importance of both organisations. Tablighi Jamaat remained central to me in terms of spirituality, while I continued to call people towards Tamaddun Majlish highlighting its political and economic thoughts. I was satisfied that both these organisations were able to lead me to the establishment of Islam in my life. I still remember that I once took some posters of Tamaddun Majlish while going on a Tablighi chilla.

Islamic Cultural Conference

After joining Tamaddun Majlish, my first opportunity to attend a major programme of the organisation was the Islamic Cultural Conference held at the famous Curzon Hall of Dhaka University in October 1952. The three-day conference was presided over by the President of Tamaddun Majlish and a professor of philosophy, Dewan Mohammad Ajraf, while the conference was inaugurated by the editor of Daily Tasneem of Lahore, Mawlana Nasrullah Khan Aziz. I was asked by the founder secretary of the organisation, Professor Abul Kashem, to bring the guest from Lahore to the conference venue from 205 Nawabpur Road where Jamaat-e-Islami office was at that time. He gave his inaugural address in refined Urdu, which I didn’t understand very well as I had only learned enough Urdu to carry basic conversation. However, I did understand the spirit of Islamic movement in the speech.

As already mentioned, I understood the concept of Allah’s sovereignty very well, but was not very clear about the concept of Islamic economics while working with this organisation. In the session on social science in the conference, I became a bit worried about the content of a speech by one Mir Shamsul Huda whose topic was, ‘Allah + Marxism = Islamic Economics’ where he clearly announced that we can accept a Marxian economic system as Islamic. Although Karl Marx was an atheist, he suggested that if we just avoid the atheistic concept of Marx, then there is no problem. I had read and initially liked a book written by the Chair of that session, Mazharuddin Siddiqui, entitled Economic System of Islam, and liked some aspects of it, but when I came to know that he accepted Socialist economics as Islamic I lost interest in it. It seemed that due to the lack of knowledge on Islamic economics, even some Islamic scholars considered socialism as an alternative to capitalism.

Knowing Islamic Economic Systems

I spent 15 days during the Ramadan of 1953 at a training camp of Tamaddun Majlish where I realised that they loved Islam with sincerity and had strong faith in Allah, the Prophet (PBUH) and the Quran. They were also very keen to learn about Islam, but as there was very little Islamic literature at that time they struggled, like I did, in developing in-depth knowledge of Islam. I was particularly concerned that my knowledge about the Islamic economic system remained unclear.

We had the impression that two fundamental aspects of socialism can be found in Islam

  1. Personal wealth is the foundation of capitalist oppression, so it is not natural for Islam to support personal wealth, because Islam cannot support oppression. We thought that the verse lillahi ma fis samawati wama fil ardh, which means ‘whatever exists in the heavens and the earth belongs to Allah’[6] is a straightforward announcement against personal wealth.
  2. We also thought that labour was the only cause for production. Socialism does not accept personal wealth as the ‘cause of production’ because of its hatred towards capitalist economics. We used the verse laisa lil insani illa ma sa’a, which means ‘man can have nothing but what he strives for’[7] to support this principle. The essence of this principle was that only labour is the source of production and that no one has the right to any wealth without labour.

I was able to gain real knowledge of Islamic economics in 1956, two years after joining Jamaat-e-Islami in 1954. This was when Mawlana Mawdudi came to the then East Pakistan for the first time. I arranged a meeting between Mawlana Mawdudi and Professor Abul Kashem at the request of the latter where these two verses were discussed in details. When Professor Kashem tried to justify labour as the source of production citing laisa lil insani illa ma sa‘a as the basis, Mawlana Mawdudi said, “Brother, wherever this verse has been used in the Quran, Allah used it for life after death. People will only get on the Day of Judgment that which they have earned in this world; so one will neither be blamed for someone else’s sins, nor will they be benefitted by other people’s good deeds. If you apply the socialist principle then children, old people, disabled – no one can have any wealth. They would have no right whereas Allah has categorically given them their rights.”

When Professor Kashem reminded that Islam does not support personal wealth as declared in the verse lillahi ma fis samawati wama fil ardh, Mawlana Mawdudi said, “Allah Himself has given the right to inheritance after the death of a person. He has allowed personal wealth. This misconception has been created due to not understanding the verse properly. Allah is the supreme owner and the ownership of human beings is controlled by Allah’s doctrines. Through that verse Allah tells humans that you are not the supreme owner of your wealth that you can use them however you like. Allah is the ultimate owner of your wealth and it is He who has given it to you, so it is the responsibility of human beings to follow the instructions of earning and spending wealth. Capitalism has been created due to violating those instructions, which has led to public being oppressed by the privileged few”.

I Have Always Loved Tamaddun Majlish

Although I left Tamaddun Majlish and joined Jamaat-e-Islami, I have always had a good impression about the organisation and never said anything negative about them. I have written in several books how grateful I am to the organisation as it is my involvement with this organisation that led me to join the Islamic movement.

After Mr Abdul Khaleq invited me to join Jamaat-e-Islami in 1954, and after reading two Urdu books he gave to me, I could feel that someone was dragging me to that organisation. I was satisfied with the spiritual side of Tabligh and the political side of Tamaddun Majlish, but when I realised that both could be found in Jamaat-e-Islami, then I decided to leave both these organisations and get involved in all aspects of Islam in one organisation rather than being involved in two.

Given my closeness to the Tablighi Jamaat, I am doubtful about whether I would have joined Jamaat-e-Islami had I not been involved with Tamaddun Majlish. I sincerely acknowledge the contribution of Tamaddun Majlish for paving the way for me to join Jamaat-e-Islami. I am forever grateful to Tablighi Jamaat and Tamaddun Majlish for their contribution towards my life as a Muslim. Tablighi Jamaat gave me the spirit of missionary work while Tamaddun Majlish made me the understanding Islam as a movement for social revolution. I first heard the term ‘Islamic movement’ from Tamaddun Majlish.

If brother Sulaiman had not come all the way from Chittagong to invite me to Tamaddun Majlish, I would not have joined it only by reading their literature. Similarly I would not have joined Jamaat-e-Islami had I not been approached by Mr Abdul Khaleq. From my own experience I have come to learn that people may be influenced by the speeches at public meetings or other gatherings, but no one joins an organisation if they are not personally approached by someone.

[1] A major coastal seaport city and financial centre in south eastern Bangladesh.

[2] An Islamic cultural organisation in Bangladesh, established in 1947 in erstwhile East Pakistan, which founded the Bangla Language Movement.

[3] The first article of faith in Islam.

[4] The Throne Verse or Ayatul Kursi, is the 255th verse (ayah) of the second chapter (sura) Al-Baqara in the Quran. It is one of the most famous verses of the Quran and is widely memorised and displayed in the Islamic world due to its emphatic description of Allah’s power over the entire universe.

[5] Quran (4:131)

[6] Quran (4:131)

[7] Quran (53:39)

My Journey Through Life Part 19

MY JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE

BY

PROFESSOR GHULAM AZAM

cropped-pga-reading.jpg

(Abridged translated version of the author’s original Bangla memoir Jibone Ja Dekhlam)

Translated and Edited by Dr Salman Al-Azami

Copyright – The Ghulam Azam Foundation

Chapter Nineteen

My Wedding

Part 2

After the night prayer (Isha) when we finished our food, I was called to go inside to meet my bride. The ceremony where the bride and the groom meet each other is called rusumat. It is a Persian word, which means ‘tradition’. In our country many un-Islamic things usually happen in this ceremony where cousins, relatives and friends of both sides gather and have fun without any regard to the boundaries of the Sharia. Generally, the bride’s grandmothers lead these ceremonies. As I knew what happens in rusumat, I was a bit worried. However, when I went inside my worries disappeared as only the younger brothers and a sister of the bride along with some other cousins and relatives who were not yet adult at that time were present. There were no young men or women whose presence there would be deemed un-Islamic.

My wife’s maternal grandmother led the ceremony. She was not as old as her paternal grandmother as she was the bride’s step grandmother whom her grandfather married after his first wife passed away. She was in good health despite her age and led the ceremony very efficiently. I was asked to sit next to the bride in such a way that we couldn’t see each other, but could see other people around us. Meanwhile, the bride had a long scarf over her head and wasn’t able to see anything. My grandmother in law brought a mirror, held it in front of me and asked if I could see my bride. This was the first time I had the opportunity to see the face of my life partner. I asked, “Is it forbidden to see her without a mirror?” and the experienced lady said, “This is the way to be introduced.”

The following day we returned to Chandina. My newly wedded wife having to go through the same tedious journey. My maternal grandmother-in-law, who had led the rusumat, came with us. My mother said to her, “My mother in law had told me to marry this son of mine in a family where he would have both grandmothers alive. She thought it necessary that the sense of humour he shared with his grandmother ought to be shared with his wife’s grandmothers too. Allah has kindly granted her wish.”

Marriage is a Big Thing

Most people marry only once. Very few educated people in our society have two wives, though some people remarry if their wife passes way. Having more than one wife at the same time may be common in the Arab world, but is very rare in our country. Those who have more than one wife struggle to maintain peace in the family.

Marriage is truly a large part of one’s life. The bachelor life before marriage is without difficulty for most people, but if a person loses his wife or becomes divorced, life becomes extremely tough. People are used to life without a wife before getting married, but marriage brings a great change in one’s life as if a revolution has taken place. The lifestyle becomes completely different and a person’s daily routine is changed for ever once a woman becomes his life partner. He prefers to spend as much time as possible with his wife.

How I Reacted to My New Life

I mentioned before that I wanted to get married a bit later. I was not desperate at that time to have a wife and could have managed well without getting married for a few more years. However, as soon as I was married I began to feel that the life of a bachelor was no life at all. I was amazed to discover the way a new person could conquer me in such a big way. Someone I had never met before became such an integral part of my life; no one else could ever become that.

There was another feeling at that time that gave me overwhelming pleasure. It was the feeling that there was one person who was entirely mine that no one else could share. Her relationship with her parents, siblings, in-laws and others are completely different. She was only mine as my life partner; no one else was that close. With this feeling in mind, I actually ended up doing injustice to my wife. I wanted my wife to be with me all the time for which her academic life had to be discontinued. She had completed Alim and needed to be with her father to complete her Fazil degree. My father-in-law would teach his daughters at home and prepare them for exams. My wife had passed Alim in this way, but I discontinued her studies.

This was a great mistake in my life. I was of the erroneous opinion that as my wife didn’t need to work, it was therefore unnecessary for her to have higher degrees. I forgot that higher degrees make people more educated. I was satisfied with her level of intelligence, but it would have been wonderful if she had completed her graduation. When I realised this, it was too late. It was selfish of me to think that I would keep her with me all the time and not let her complete her studies. On the other hand, her own elder sister, Syeda Zakia Khatun, became the first woman in the country to complete Kamil by being home tutored by her father. She started her career as an Arabic teacher of a girls’ school and also obtained two MA degrees from Dhaka University in Arabic and Islamic Studies. She retired as the Vice Principal of Suhrawardy Degree College. I regret for not allowing her younger sister to follow a similar path.

A Wife is a Friend

Allah says in the Qur’an in chapter 30 verse 21: “And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.”

The peace and tranquillity that encompass a man and a woman and the love and friendship that are created between them through marriage is the greatest blessing of Allah. It is our Creator who brings this love and mercy between two people who never knew each other before marriage. No one else can create this relationship, as Allah stated in that verse that this is one of His signs that only those who think can realise. The love and affection a couple have for one another is truly astonishing. Couples who are not blessed with this love and affection have no idea what peace in life means.

The most important point in that verse is the friendship Allah creates between the two people. The definition of the couple here is beautiful; they are close friends who show mercy to each other. Only true friends show mercy to one another at difficult times. I find it surprising that this attitude of friendship toward wives is missing even among many religious families. For them, a wife is nothing but a servant whose prime responsibility is to look after her husband. The wife must look after everything in the house and the husband thinks that it is not his responsibility. The husband enjoys his weekends, but the wife has no holidays; rather her workload is increased when the husband is at home.

Allah has made the wife as a friend of the husband with whom he should discuss all family matters and whose advice he should seek and give importance to. She deserves love and respect. If he rebukes her in front of their children, then he is not treating her as his friend. Children will then consider their mother to be their father’s employee, which eventually affects their behaviour towards their mother. If they see their father treating their mother with respect, then it is a very important lesson for their future. If children misbehave with their mother, then the father has the responsibility to control them and ensure that they respect their mother.

An Example

My eldest son Mamoon was then in Class 8. The Jamaat office at that time was in Nakhalpara in Dhaka. One day, upon returning from the office at 10pm, I was concerned to find my wife very upset. I never saw her that upset no matter how late I would be, because she had confidence in me that I wouldn’t be late without any reason. I understood that something unusual had happened that day. I asked her with empathy the reason for her being upset. She didn’t reply, but I could see tears in her eyes. I became very worried and asked, “What happened? Why aren’t you telling me?” She replied in a slightly angered voice, “Your son behaved rudely with me.” I was surprised and asked, “Which son?” and she replied, “The eldest one.”

He was not only my son, hers too. Yet parents generally complain about their children to the other half as if the other person’s child has done the wrong thing.

I became angry hearing about Mamoon’s behaviour and wondered what to do. I am not the type of person to smack their child out of anger. Besides, he had never behaved like that before. When my anger calmed down a bit I called my son and said,

“Do you want to go to heaven?”

He nodded saying yes. He stood with his head down realising the gravity of the situation as I called him at an unusual time.

Then I asked, “Don’t you know that your heaven lies under the feet of your mother?”

He again nodded meaning that he knew it.

“Did you misbehave with your mother?”

He again nodded and seemed clearly repentant. The first stage of tawba is repentance. The next stage is seeking forgiveness.

Then I said, “Come with me to your mother.”

When I stood holding his hand I found tears in his eyes. As soon as he reached his mother he jumped to her feet and started crying aloud. He didn’t need to seek forgiveness through words and he wasn’t in a position to do so either. His mother took her son in her arms and started crying uncontrollably. Even my eyes became teary with happiness from witnessing such a lovely bond between the mother and the son.

The final stage of tawba is to resolve not to repeat the sin. This son of mine never repeated this type of behaviour with his mother that would make her unhappy. This proves that when one tries to control children with love, the success becomes permanent. I applied this type of successful strategy to keep my children in the right path throughout my life.

I learned another thing through my experience of bringing up children. If a child is rebuked or smacked in front of their younger siblings, then they feel insulted and behave rudely with their younger brothers and sisters. To succeed in bringing up children properly we should remember not to affect their self-respect. It is never a good idea to insult children in front of their younger siblings.

It is the responsibility of the husband to ensure the dignity of his wife and it is the parents’ responsibility to ensure the self-respect of their children. There is no alternative than to manage children with love. It is not possible for a child to grow up as a worthy citizen if they see their parents fighting and arguing all the time. Only humane behaviour can develop humane qualities, nothing else.

My Journey Through Life Part 18

MY JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE

BY

PROFESSOR GHULAM AZAM

 PGA41

(Abridged translated version of the author’s original Bangla memoir Jibone Ja Dekhlam)

Translated and Edited by Dr Salman Al-Azami

Copyright – The Ghulam Azam Foundation 

Chapter Eighteen

My Wedding Part I

I was not keen to get married early, as I had just started working and had very little savings. After a few months of joining the college a letter arrived from my father saying, “We have started searching for a bride for you; you too should join the search.” I was a little concerned as I was not prepared to get married for another couple of years until I had some savings. I knew that my father would bear the expenses of my wedding, but there were some expenditures that were entirely my responsibility to manage. Hence, I wrote to my father that I wanted to wait two more years and that I would discuss this issue in detail when I returned home during the summer break.

When I reached home for the summer holidays my mother informed me that the search for my bride was in full swing, particularly because the bride for my younger brother Dr Ghulam Muazzam was all but fixed. It was awkward to get the younger brother married before the elder brother, hence the hurry. My younger brother had by then joined Dhaka Medical College after completing his MBBS degree from Kolkata Medical College with a gold medal award for excellence. I came to know from my mother that he was ready to get married. I knew that my age was ideal for matrimony and that one should not unnecessarily delay marriage. Meanwhile, my father was not ready to accept the reason for my desire to delay my marriage.

The Search Continues

I wanted to know how they could find a bride for my younger brother so quickly, whereas there was little opportunity to find one for me. I was told that my father wanted a daughter of an Islamic scholar as a bride for me, one who was capable of giving proper Islamic teaching to his daughter. It was difficult to find someone who could fulfil these conditions, hence the delay. On the other hand there was no need to even search for the bride of my younger brother. My father was very keen to develop a new relationship with the family of my grandfather’s namesake and his close friend and classmate, Mawlana Abdus Subhan. He found that his second son, Mohammad Hossain, had a daughter yet to be married. My mother and sisters had already seen the girl and liked her, but they could not send the proposal until I got married. I was delaying the marriage of my younger brother, hence I had no other option but to agree to get married soon.

Those who were assigned to search for my bride continued their task and I had no control over it. But I had to give information about one proposal myself. My colleague in History at Rangpur College, Yusuf, who was also my classmate and close friend at Islamic Intermediate College, one day showed me a letter in the teachers’ common room. It was written by a professor of English at Kushtia College named A T Saadi. I knew him a little as he was my junior in Dhaka University. The letter was a marriage proposal for his second sister with me, for which he wanted Yusuf to do the matchmaking. He asked me to read the letter as part of the responsibility he was given. I came to know that the prospective bride’s father, Mawlana Mir Abdus Salam, was a professor of Arabic at Naogaon Degree College. Her uncle (husband of her aunt) was Mawlana Abdullahil Baki, the then president of the East Pakistan Muslim League and a member of the Pakistan National Assembly. Along with other additional information, this seemed quite a good proposal to me. I asked my friend and matchmaker to get more information about the bride and her siblings. I then wrote to my father about this proposal.

I was surprised when I received my father’s reply. I was informed that the bride’s father had already been to Chandina to meet my father and developed a warm relationship. My father had already chosen my father-in-law and the bride’s father had also chosen me as his son-in-law. He was so satisfied with the recommendation given about me by his son that he didn’t feel the need to meet me in person. I also came to know that some relatives of the bride living in Rangpur and Bogra had come to see me without me realising it, and certified that it was difficult to find such a good groom among thousands. My prospective father-in-law had stated all this to my father during their meeting.

My father’s letter also said that the bride’s father had invited me to go and see her at their residence in Naogaon and reminded my father that it was an important Islamic practice. This made me respect the bride’s father even more. I realised that my father had already fixed my marriage and was waiting for my approval. He would take the next step once I saw the bride and gave my consent. This was quite embarrassing for me. I had never heard of such a situation among my relatives where the groom had to go all by himself to see the bride. Usually this is done by the groom’s father, mother, sister, aunt, sister-in-law and so on, but in my case the difficult task was given to me, that too all alone. I realised that my father had already developed the relationship with the bride’s father and did not find it necessary to see the bride himself. I was in a dilemma whether to see the bride or not. What would I tell my father if I didn’t like her? He had already selected her and felt that he had found the daughter-in-law he wanted. There was no other alternative proposal that would fulfil the condition of my father. It was really embarrassing for me to see the bride in those circumstances. When I was considering my options, the second letter from Mr Saadi arrived through my matchmaker with the information I had asked for.

I told my matchmaker that I had never seen such a successful matchmaker who didn’t have to do any running around and got all the information through letters. The information I got in the second letter was enough for me and I informed my father that I didn’t want to see the bride and I had full confidence in his choice. I thought, what use would it be by seeing the bride other than seeing her face, and girls from families like this would never even stare at me. I remembered that when my sister’s groom came to see her, they asked her to open her eyes. She opened them for a second and closed them again and didn’t utter a single word. The groom’s father was rather happy at this shyness of my sister.

What I came to know about the bride from Mr Saadi’s letter was that most of the brothers and sisters of the family were studying. Mr Saadi was the eldest followed by three sisters with the bride being the second. She had passed Alim1 and was preparing for her Fazil2 exams. Her elder sister had already completed her Kamil3 and was married to a man with a Kamil as well as an MA degree in Arabic.  I had never heard of a woman with a madrasah degree before. My father-in-law used to teach his own daughters and arranged for them to appear in the board exams. Later, Dr Mohammad Shahidullah heard about the match and became very happy that I got married to a daughter of Mawlana Mir Abdus Salam and asked me whether my wife was Afifa. When he saw my surprise he said, “She sat in the Alim exam in Bogra College when I was its principal. I was very curious about her as she was the only female examinee. Then I met your father-in-law and soon became his good friend. That is how I remember her name.”

Bridegroom’s Party

The groom has to go to the place where the bride’s family arrange the wedding party. My father-in-law lived in Naogaon, a district in northern Bangladesh, and was a professor of Arabic in Naogaon College. He arranged the ceremony at his own house. On the other hand, my father lived and worked in Chandina, which was very far from Naogaon. We started the long journey by first taking a bus towards Comilla Railway Station and got on a train at 10pm. Lower middle class people like us had to travel on the inter-class compartment where there was no scope for reserving seats. It was difficult to get on those compartments at night time as it was full of people. We somehow managed to get on the train. As the journey was for the whole night, it was important to find a place to sleep, which was very difficult. There was no question of getting any place on the seats, so we were looking for places where people keep luggage. My younger brothers and cousins somehow found a place for me to sleep. I was given this privilege not only for being the eldest in the generation, but also for being the groom. My uncle managed to get a place for my father to sleep in the next compartment. The train reached Bahadurabad Station early in the morning. Now it was time to rush for seats on the ferry to go to the other side of the river Jamuna. This is the reality of life; the competition never ends, and everyone is busy to ensure that they get what they want.

It was 28 December 1951. The weather was very cold and foggy. We somehow managed to do our ablution for the morning prayers and perform the prayer. When the train reached the Fulchuri Port at the other side of the Jamuna, then we had to run again to get seats on the train. The road was terrible to run on, but few care. I saw quite a few elderly people and children tripping over while running. When we finally reached Shantahar Station it was noon. My in-laws had reserved a bus for us at the station, so we didn’t need to hurry again. The Naogaon city is three miles from Shantahar Station, and when the bus reached Chakdev Street it was time for the noon prayers. We started our journey by bus and ended with it. In the middle we took a train, then ferry, then again train. After a marathon 18 hour journey, everyone was extremely tired and hungry.

The Ceremony

My father-in-law was a renowned scholar of Ahl al-Hadith4 and was very cautious about the guidelines of sharia. That is why there was no extravagance in the decoration of the wedding venue. The simple ceremony began after the afternoon prayer. The marriage registrar of Naogaon was a resident of the same street, so there was no delay. The main wedding ceremony was led by the bride’s father. After the completion of the wedding rituals, he led a very emotional dua during which he wept and made us weep too. I saw tears in my father’s eyes who seemed very happy to marry me to a family of the standard he wanted. His tears were to express deep happiness for the achievement of marrying his eldest son to a good Islamic family.

One of the conditions for an Islamic wedding is fixing an amount for a dowry or marriage gift that has to be paid to the bride by the groom. When the marriage registrar asked what amount should be recorded, my father asked my father-in-law if he had any demand about the amount. My father-in-law said, “The main factor is the relationship between the bride and the groom. I am not in favour of a big amount for dowry, so three thousand will be enough.” My father said, “If there is love, then the husband gives much more to a wife than she needs. As it is an obligation that the dowry is paid, we need to fix an amount that can be paid quickly. Could we reduce the amount a little bit as my son doesn’t have a big income? I know three thousand is not much, but it would be nice if it is reduced a little bit.” The bride’s father then said, “You can suggest what that amount should be. I have decided to marry my daughter to your son, so I give that responsibility to you as the groom’s father.”

I was feeling a bit uncomfortable and thought that it would have been nice had my father not asked to reduce the amount for the dowry. I was praying that my father did not demand the amount to be much less. He then requested very humbly whether making it five hundred less would be alright. My father-in-law agreed, and my wedding was completed with 2,500 taka dowry. It was not possible to provide my wife with the full amount immediately. When I received the money from my provident fund after resigning from my job, I immediately fulfilled the full amount of the dowry to her.

1 A madrasah degree equivalent to higher secondary exams

2 Equivalent to undergraduate degree

3 Postgraduate degree

4 The phrase Ahl al-Hadith (people of hadith) refers to a group who venerate the Sunnah and seek to propagate it.

My Journey Through Life Part 17

MY JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE

BY

PROFESSOR GHULAM AZAM

 PGA41

(Abridged translated version of the author’s original Bangla memoir Jibone Ja Dekhlam)

Translated and Edited by Dr Salman Al-Azami

Copyright – The Ghulam Azam Foundation 

Chapter Seventeen

The Language Movement

The multilingual Muslims in undivided India during British rule had Urdu as their lingua franca, while Hindi was the lingua franca of the Hindus. These two languages are quite similar in terms of sound and structure. However, there are two clear differences: firstly, Urdu is written in Arabic script although Urdu has more letters than Arabic, while Hindi is written in Devanagri script. The second difference is in vocabulary, with Urdu having many Arabic and Persian words while Hindi is full of Sanskrit words. However, there are quite a few Sanskrit words in Urdu and a significant number of Arabic and Persian words in Hindi. In fact these two languages are not original languages, but lingua francas. In other words, they are combinations of various languages. Bangla also has many Sanskrit words, but due to pronunciation differences it is not always easy to understand Hindi.

Urdu is the mother tongue of many people in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. The capital of Urdu is there. The Nizam (ruler) of the Southern Indian state of Hyderabad had declared Urdu as the state language and paved the way for the language to develop by making it the medium of instruction at Osmania University. Most of the Islamic literature published in India since colonisation have been in Urdu, which contributed to a huge collection of Urdu literature. With many books in English translated into Urdu, the language is now considered very rich.

National Language Debate in Pakistan

Pakistan was created with four provinces in the west and one province in the east. The people in these provinces spoke different languages. The main languages of the four western provinces are Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtu, and Baluchi, although the common language of the educated people in all those provinces is Urdu. Although these four languages have developed significantly since then, they hadn’t developed much literature at that time. Urdu was the medium of education in madrasahs and the scholars practised the language widely. As Urdu was compulsory in schools, modern educated people were able to learn the language. Considering all this, it can be said that Urdu was the most common language of West Pakistan at that time.

However, apart from those who studied in madrasahs, modern educated and common people in East Pakistan knew nothing about Urdu. Making Urdu the only national language would certainly make people in this region, even those who completed university, completely illiterate in different affairs of the state. I found it difficult to understand why those who were in favour of Urdu as the only state language did not realise this matter. They were probably in the wrong illusion that a nation state should have only one state language. That probably led them to declare that Urdu would be the only state language of Pakistan. However, one has to condemn the effort to persist on this despite Tamaddun Majlish starting a movement demanding the declaration of Bangla as one of the state languages of Pakistan.

The movement to declare Bangla as one of the state languages began during the first visit to Dhaka by Pakistan’s Founding Father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in March 1948. The Prime Minister of East Pakistan at that time was Khwaja Nazimuddin. Realising the intensity of the movement of 11th March, he decided to come to a compromise with the leaders of the ‘Rashtra Bhasha Shongram Committee’ (Committee for the State Language Movement). An eight-point treaty was agreed between the Prime Minister and the committee on 15th March. The second point of the treaty said: “A proposal comprising the recommendation for making Bangla a state language have to be sent to the central government.”

However, on 21 March Mohammad Ali Jinnah declared at a civic reception at the Racecourse Ground, “Urdu will be the only state language.” I became so agitated that I left the ground immediately with some of my friends. When he made the same announcement at the convocation ceremony at Curzon Hall in Dhaka University on 24 March, the audience shouted “No, No!” When the movement committee met with Jinnah the same evening, he said, “Let us differ respectfully.” He further said, “You can make demands of the government in a systematic manner, but if you try through any other means then you will be dealt with very strictly.”

The huge personality of Mohammad Ali Jinnah was able to temporarily tame the movement for the state language, but the publicity campaign for the demand continued.

Memorandum to the Prime Minister

The Dhaka University Students’ Union organised a huge student rally at the University Gymnasium Ground on 27 November 1948, where students from all educational institutions were invited to attend. The occasion was very important; it was to submit a Memorandum to the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawabzada Liaqat Ali Khan, on behalf of students.

As my classes for the MA ended in June 1948, I didn’t go back to stay in the hostel after the summer holidays, instead staying at my uncle Shafiqul Islam’s house in Tikatuli, Dhaka. I had to continue the duties as General Secretary of the Students’ Union although as there was no election for the 1948-49 session. However, due to not staying at the hall, an Acting General Secretary was nominated from the elected representatives.

The responsibility for writing the memorandum to be read to the Prime Minister was given to the then Vice President of Salimullah Muslim Hall, Abdur Rahman Chowdhury, (who later became a renowned justice of the Supreme Court) with a committee approving the draft. The problem arose as to who would read it out at the event in front of the Prime Minister. The natural choice would be the Vice President of the Students’ Union, but as the VP was a Hindu, it was decided that considering the demand for Bangla as a state language was the most important aspect of the memorandum, it wouldn’t be wise to ask Arvind Bose to read the memorandum. The main reason for this decision was that the Muslim League government had already started to confuse the public saying that the demand for Bangla was mainly the demand of the Hindus. Hence, it was decided that Ghulam Azam would read the memorandum as the General Secretary of the Students’ Union.

As students from all educational institutions attended the event, the huge ground was packed with people, including on the adjacent roads as well. The Prime Minister, Nawabzada Liaqat Ali Khan, was seated on the right of the Chair of the programme with his wife Begum Rana Liaqat Ali Khan sat next to him. When I stood to read the memorandum, I noticed that Mrs Khan was just a couple of yards behind the microphone stand. The introduction of the memorandum was to warmly welcome the Prime Minister and to reiterate our commitment to the development of peace and prosperity of Pakistan, to underscore the need to bring unity between East and West Pakistan, and to condemn the narrow mentality of those who only work for regional and provincial interests. The Prime minister became very happy with this introduction and clapped while I kept on reading the memorandum, written in eloquent English, in a loud and clear voice.

When I read the section demanding Bangla be declared a state language, the whole audience gave a huge round of applause supporting the demand. I paused to allow for the clapping to continue.

At that time, I heard the Prime Minister’s wife telling him, “language ke bare me saf saf keh dena (tell them clearly about the language issue).”

I started reading again. This time I repeated the paragraph about the language issue even more firmly. Again the clapping started and some stood up clapping. After the audience became calm, I read out the remainder of the long memorandum and handed it over to the Prime minister on behalf of the students. He shook my hand and accepted it without saying a word.

Then he stood up to give his speech. I was worried that he would reiterate the same words that Mohammad Ali Jinnah had uttered. He began his speech in an angry voice saying, “If this is not regionalism then what is?” He then said in a manner as if to rebuke the audience, “We will not tolerate any regionalism, for the sake of the nation and its unity.”

I became even more worried and wondered how the audience would react if, taking the suggestion of his wife, he used the same language as Jinnah and clearly spoke against the language demand. What would I do if he did that? Would it be possible for me to sit quietly on the stage when the whole audience wanted Bangla to be a state language? I decided that I would instantly protest saying, “No, No” if he said anything against our demand.

As I was getting increasingly tense what the Prime Minister would say, I found him change his tone completely. He talked positively about our other demands; asked students to concentrate on their studies; and asked them to grow up as worthy citizens of the nation. However, he said absolutely nothing about the language issue. He could have said that he was not able to make a decision about this without talking to the Parliament. He probably decided not to say anything against it considering the sentiments among the audience. Despite not being happy with his speech, I had no opportunity to protest as the clever politician managed the situation very deftly.

21 February 1952

The first Prime Minister of Pakistan was assassinated at a public meeting in Rawalpindi on 16 October 1951, and the then Governor, General Khwaja Nazimuddin, became the Prime Minister. Although he was from the Nawab Bari of Dhaka, his mother tongue was Urdu. On 27 January 1951, Khwaja Nazimuddin declared at a public meeting at the Paltan Ground that Urdu will be the only state language of Pakistan. He wouldn’t have made this declaration if he had been as clever as Liaqat Ali Khan. I was astonished at this, as he was the person who had signed a treaty to consider Bangla as a state language when he was the Prime Minister of East Pakistan.

The language movement attained a new momentum after Khwaja Nazimuddin’s announcement. On 21st February, students defied Section 1441 and demonstrated in favour of their demand. The procession started from Dhaka University campus. When it reached the front of Dhaka Medical College Hostel, police fired upon it killing four people and injuring another 17. This killing triggered a mass movement in East Pakistan demanding Bangla to be declared a state language, culminating in the movement’s success the following year.

I was working at Rangpur Carmichael College at that time. Like other parts of East Pakistan, students brought out processions in Rangpur as well. I and my colleague Professor Jamiruddin were among those who led that demonstration. As a result, both of us and some leading students were arrested on 6 March.

First Experience of Jail

The jailor of Rangpur was a friend of Professor Jamiruddin. I and Jamiruddin were flat mates at that time when he came to visit his friend. I had been curious about life in a prison since boyhood, when I used to live in a tutored lodging adjacent to the walls of Dhaka Central Jail in 1939. Prior to my arrest, I asked the jailor if he could take me around the jail, and he said he could do so after getting permission from the authorities. Incidentally, a month later, the same jailor put me and his friend into jail and didn’t have to bother asking permission to show me around.

The Jailor felt very embarrassed, particularly because he couldn’t arrange division2 for us in jail on the first day and we had to sleep on the floor like common criminals resident there. He fast tracked the process the following day and arranged our division swiftly. This was my first experience of jail, and I actually liked it. A prison cell is very effective if one wants to come closer to Allah. When one is away from the family and confined within high walls, then Allah becomes their only resort to get comfort, and He becomes ever closer. No prison wall can stop this. He is the only person to talk to. The taste of pure submission I felt during Tahajjud during those days was unprecedented.

However, I was very sad for one reason. That was the spring time of my married life, as I was newly married just three months earlier on 28 December 1951. We had just began our life together as a family in mid-January, when I brought my wife to my college accommodation. I had to stay in jail for 25 days and it could have been longer if my uncle, Advocate Shafiqul Islam (former leader of Muslim League), had not arranged my release through the then provincial Prime Minister, Nurul Amin.

My Journey Through Life Part 16

MY JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE

BY

PROFESSOR GHULAM AZAM

 PGA41

(Abridged translated version of the author’s original Bangla memoir Jibone Ja Dekhlam)

Translated and Edited by Dr Salman Al-Azami

Copyright – The Ghulam Azam Foundation 

Chapter Sixteen

Life as an Academic

Rangpur Carmichael College

During British rule, five colleges in undivided Bengal were known as premier colleges. Four of the colleges, apart from the Presidency College in Kolkata, are in Bangladesh, with Carmichael College being one of them. Situated two miles away from Rangpur city, the college is on a huge stretch of land encompassing nine acres. I used to love the college campus for its beautiful serene environment.

Teaching Journey Begins

My visit to Rangpur for the interview made me aware of how cold it could become there during December and January. I had no winter clothes and spent my student life wearing cotton clothing. I would at best wear a woollen shawl during the cold season. After being advised by some colleagues at the college, I got myself some flannel shirts and a sherwani for the winter in Rangpur. I joined the college on 3rd December 1950. The principal introduced me to Professor Gopal, an elderly person who was in charge of the college timetable. He cordially invited me to his room and asked the typist to prepare my timetable from a piece of paper on which he had noted it down from a master timetable at his desk. When it was ready, he gave me the paper and said, “I wish you all the success, welcome!”

I got a bit worried looking at the timetable as I was given 24 lectures over six days a week for first and second year BA students. Professor Gopal explained that I was the only lecturer in my subject and needed to take all the lectures on Political Science and Civics. I was also told that Professor Abdul Mannan of the Economics department used to take these lectures before. I went to the principal and requested him to relieve me from such a high teaching load. He called Professor Gopal and they both requested Professor Mannan to take six of my 24 lectures, which he kindly agreed. I eventually got 18 hours of teaching a week.

My first lecture was on 5th December with the intermediate1 students. At that time, lecturers had to take the female students with them to class who would then go to the girls’ common room after the lecture. After taking the attendance register I looked at my students. It was a huge classroom with almost 200 students. Some of them didn’t even have a place to sit. I decided to give my students some important pieces of advice at the beginning. All the lectures at that time were in English and teacher-student communication outside the classroom was also in English. I said the following:

You are the future of the nation. It is you who will lead this country towards development, so you need to equip yourselves with different types of skills to face the challenges ahead. You need to be sincere towards your academic matters, but at the same time you should indulge in activities that will help you grow as good human beings.”

I then told them about five things that would help them do well in studies and two habits that would build them as good human beings. The points I gave for doing well in exams are:

  1. Be regular in class

  2. Go through the topic to be discussed in a lecture beforehand

  3. Listen to the lectures carefully and note down important points

  4. Discuss topics covered in class with friends

  5. Always ask questions if something is not clear

I reminded them that only good students have the courage to ask questions as their inquisitive minds would like to understand things clearly. I also told them that I would like to help them learn and whoever has this attitude would find me beside them.

My suggestions for being a good person were:

  1. Read biographies of noble men and women in history

  2. Read books as much as you can both in Bangla and in English

Their expressions told me that the students were encouraged by my words and looked happy when they left class at the end of the lecture. In the corridor outside the classroom, around eight to ten students surrounded me and said, “We have never heard such beautiful advice.” I saw quite a few students behind them nodding in agreement.

I felt content after my first lecture. I took up teaching not only as my profession, but also as a passion. My mission was to help my students develop as good human beings. I always believe that this should be the only reason for taking up teaching as a profession. Those who do this only as a job will fail to make this contribution as they spend every day as monotonous routine work and are not lucky enough to have the pleasure of developing good human individuals.

Why Teaching?

My salary was only 180 taka, which was much less than one could get in a government job. As a result meritorious students who possessed the qualities of good academics joined the civil service to earn better livelihood. However, my motivation to become a teacher was entirely missionary, so my pay scale was never a priority for me. I used to encourage my students to take up this profession saying that this is the only profession which expects one to maintain good moral character. This profession enables people to keep themselves away from bribery and corruption and encourages them to build future citizens who have good moral character.

I was a teacher at Rangpur Carmichael College for only a few years. I would have spent my whole life in this profession had I not felt compelled to leave it for the sake of the Islamic movement. I loved the profession so much that I would often dream that I was giving lectures at my college or walking towards college. Another advantage of teaching as a profession is the respect one gets throughout one’s life. During my organisational visits to greater Rangpur and Bogra districts, I would often find my former students, many of whom were teachers themselves. Is it possible to measure the love and respect they showed towards me? This is much more precious for me than any material goods in this life.

My father used to say that no one wants to see others more successful than themselves other than parents and teachers. Genuine good teachers get respect from their students as parents get from their children. That is why for me it is the best profession and one that builds humanity.

The Prophet (PBUH) said, “I have been sent as a teacher.” However, he didn’t say that to mean a profession, but as the teacher of mankind, because he is the ideal teacher for every aspect of our lives.

Prayer Arrangement in College

There was a break of 45 minutes for Zuhr (noon) prayer and most teachers who used to pray would go back to their campus accommodation to pray. Students would pray at the Lalbagh Bazar Mosque nearby. Some of them could be seen praying on the grass inside the campus. I felt that there should be prayer arrangement in the college building, which would make it easier for everyone to pray and encourage more people to perform their prayers. With this in mind I convinced the principal to allocate a room for prayer in the main college building. Among the lecturers, I was the one always present during the prayer and I would spend 20 minutes each day to discuss about different aspects of Islam. I would pray there every day even when I didn’t have a lecture.

I observed that due to my discussions on Islam the attendees in the prayer room started to increase. I would use a blackboard to explain things on Islam, and despite having teachers of Arabic and Persian attending prayers, who were also Islamic scholars, students considered me their teacher on Islam and would often come to me with questions.

1 Higher secondary level

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