My Journey Through Life Part 20: Joining Tamaddun Majlish

Twitterfeed

  • "My Journey Through Life" memoir by Prof Ghulam Azam – Part 20: Joining Tamaddun Majlish In this chapter, Ghulam... fb.me/3R78qeqaZ 6 days ago
  • "My Journey Through Life" memoir by Prof Ghulam Azam – CHAPTER NINETEEN In this chapter Ghulam Azam reflects on... fb.me/4HLKO6vw7 3 weeks ago
  • "My Journey Through Life" memoir by Prof Ghulam Azam – CHAPTER EIGHTEEN In this chapter, Ghulam Azam tells the... fb.me/1q1sZI7eb 1 month ago
  • "My Journey Through Life" memoir by Prof Ghulam Azam – CHAPTER SEVENTEEN In this chapter, Ghulam Azam shares the... fb.me/4cjLLsRRf 1 month ago
  • "My Journey Through Life" memoir by Prof Ghulam Azam – CHAPTER SIXTEEN In this chapter, Ghulam Azam tells us... fb.me/6B0WxBOmg 2 months ago

Enter your email address to follow this site and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Prof Ghulam Azam

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 Tabligh Jamaat and Tamaddun Majlish simultaneously as the leader of their Rangpur chapters, emphasising the importance of both organisations. Tabligh 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 Tabligh 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 Tabligh Jamaat and Tamaddun Majlish for their contribution towards my life as a Muslim. Tabligh 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

My Journey Through Life Part 15

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 Fifteen

MA Exams and Seeking Employment

MA Final Exam

I was supposed to appear at my MA final exam in October 1948, but I decided to wait for another year. This was because I was not satisfied with my preparation due to my busy schedule as the General Secretary of Fazlul Haque Muslim Hall Union and for some other personal issues. However, I later realised that this was the wrong decision. I attended my classes regularly and always made a note of the lectures. It was a great mistake not to appear in that year’s exam for the sake of achieving a better mark. No good student would want to lose an academic year and my misjudgement cost me one and a half years. I do hope that no one makes this same mistake in their life. Due to the Hindu-Muslim riots, which happened twice in the latter half of 1949, I lost a further six months. I was supposed to obtain my MA degree in December 1948, but due to my erroneous decision I was unable to receive it any earlier than August 1950.

During the exam, by the grace of Allah, out of the four papers, there was only one question that I was not prepared for. No one received a first class in political science that year and I was one of four students who obtained a high second class. My classmate in my MA final year, named Kafiluddin Mahmud, with whom I would play carom and volleyball regularly, received a first class first in the MA exams of 1948 and immediately joined the university as a lecturer. Incidentally, he examined the paper that contained the one question I was unable to answer. He felt sympathetic towards me and asked why I didn’t do well in that question. I felt embarrassed that my classmate had become my examiner and regretted my decision not to appear in the exam in the same year with him. Kafiluddin Mahmud later joined the civil service and was one of the advisers of the 1991 Caretaker Government of Bangladesh.

I embarked on my spiritual journey with Tablighi Jamaat after appearing in my MA final exam in March 1950 and returned to Dhaka in July 1950 after completing three chillas (four months). Upon returning to university, I came to know that the date of my oral examination had been announced. At that time, the oral examinations would take place after the written examination results were ready, unlike now, when they take place immediately after the written exams. I came to know during my viva that I had done very well in three papers and was asked why the fourth paper, which cost me a first class mark, was not as good. The teachers seemed satisfied with my performances in the oral exams and, when the results were declared in the first week of August, I came to know that I was the second out of four that obtained a high second class.

Choosing a Profession

I had decided during my third Tablighi chilla that I would begin teaching as my profession. I met the head of the department who told me that I could not apply for lectureship at a university as I did not hold an honours undergraduate degree and the only way it could be compensated for was with a first class master’s degree. Hence, I missed that opportunity too, whereas one who had a third class undergraduate degree and fewer marks than me in their master’s degree was able to join the university.

My First Job

I sent applications to four famous university colleges with all my certificates, although I was unaware of whether any of the colleges had a vacancy. While I was looking for jobs after the MA final exams, I went to see the Accountant General[1] Syed Mohammad Jamil who had met me in Tablighi Jamaat and had asked me to visit him after the completion of my third chilla. He was from Northern India and was very affectionate towards me in Tablighi Jamaat, and that relationship continued for many more years. During my exiled life, I met him once in Libya in 1973 at an international youth conference where he sincerely prayed for my life in exile to end. I realised at that time that when people develop a deep love for Allah, their hearts become very soft towards fellow human beings.

When I met Mr Jamil at his residence in Dhaka, he hugged me affectionately and asked me to join his office in the position of an upper division clerk until I obtained the job of my choice. He said, “Hundreds of people work in my office; all upper division clerks are graduates and the lower division clerks are not below matriculation. I have increased the prayer break for the noon prayer (zuhr) to 45 minutes so that someone capable of speaking about Islam can speak about 20/25 minutes after the prayer. However, I am not too happy with their speeches. I have heard you speak many times and would like you to expound Islam to our employees after joining here. I hope you will not decline in doing this service for Islam.” I had no intention whatsoever to do this kind of job, but could not refuse the affectionate demand of Mr Jamil. I thought that it was a good idea to be occupied until I found a proper job. I could get some experience and simultaneously provide some service to Islam and also receive enough money that I wouldn’t need to ask my father to cover my expenses. Hence, I agreed to join.

He asked me to apply that very day and gave me the form, telling me that interviews were held every week and that someone like me would get selected easily. I received a letter for an interview within four days of applying. I then attended the interview two days later and joined after three days. I was among 25/30 clerks under a senior superintendent. He was very caring and as I was new he would often come to my desk in order to help me understand the work. Most of the work was accounting, which I didn’t enjoy, but I continued to do it for the sake of completing a job.

The officers would deliver the speeches after prayer and one of them introduced me and asked me to speak a few days after I joined. It seemed that the audience liked it. However, some senior clerks did not like the fact that a junior clerk was delivering an officer’s job, and I could hear some mutterings around. With Allah’s mercy I saw my acceptability increase after speaking for a few days. If someone displayed an interest in the topics I discussed, I would send them to the Kakrail Mosque to attend Tablighi Jamaat programmes. I worked in that office for only forty days and I was able to encourage 8 to 10 people to join Tabligh during that time.

A Better Offer

After working as an upper division clerk for a month, Mr Jamil asked me to see him at his home. He had already heard that my MA final results had been published, so he asked me to take with me all my certificates and testimonials. He became very happy seeing my papers and said, “I love you for the sake of Islam. The superintendent of my office has praised you highly for your performance in his department and I have heard very satisfactory remarks about your speeches after prayers. I would like you to be permanent in this office, so I want to promote you to the position of an officer. Please sign this paper if you agree.” Saying this he gave me the form, which was 4 or 5 pages long. I was surprised to see that most of the columns had already been filled and realised that he did so by taking the particulars from my previous application. I only needed to complete a few areas. I was overwhelmed by his love and kept looking at the document without saying a word. He said again, “I will be here for at least two more years and will be able to promote you to higher positions. I will make such arrangements that you will continue to thrive in this job. You can sign this document without any worry.”

With a gentle and emotional voice, I expressed my deep gratitude towards him and said, “I know that you love me so much because of the deen (religion) and it is with this spirit of deen that I have decided to take up college teaching as my profession.”

I then explained to him the thoughts that led to the decision that I made whilst at a Mosque in Rangpur during my third chilla. Hearing this, he hugged me, kissed my forehead and said, “My love for you has grown even deeper after seeing your courage to reject such a big offer. May Allah accept you for His deen. Government jobs are not appropriate at all for a person like you. You have made the right decision.” When I returned and relayed this to my father, he said, “You have to make your own decision about these things, but always remember to take decisions with full confidence in Allah and with the spirit of Islam in mind”.

A Strange Telegram

I was asked to lead another Tablighi chilla to train some educated youths. When I informed them of my applications to colleges and the job I was working at the time, I was asked to apply for leave and was told that they would keep in contact with my father and inform me if I had an interview call. However, I could not get long-term leave due to working for only over a month, so after only forty days of serving in that office I resigned and went for the chilla.

After completing the chilla in October, I returned and continued to work for Tabligh in Dhaka and its adjacent areas as I didn’t have any job. In mid-November 1950, I got a telegram from a college to attend an interview, but was surprised to see that there was no mention of the name of the college or the district. The only name that was mentioned in the telegram was the telegram office, Alamnagar, from where it was sent. I was confused as to where the letter was from. I heard that there was a vacancy in the Political Science department at Pabna Edward College, so I went there for the interview only to find that they hadn’t sent me any telegram. I then went to the telephone office and was informed that Alamnagar was in Rangpur, so I decided to go there immediately.

I missed the interview date as I had been to Pabna, so I reached Rangpur the day after the interview and went straight to the residence of the principal. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the principal was none other than Mr Abdul Hakim Qureshi, who was my principal at Islamic Intermediate College for four years. He also taught me Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar during my intermediate class. I said, “Sir, if I knew you were here I would have come to see you a long time ago.” He received me with a cordial handshake and asked why I came a day after the interview. When I informed him the reason he got very annoyed and said, “That head clerk is a fool. How could he send a telegram like this? Please don’t mind this, as it was not your fault”.

I asked him in a low, worried and sad tone, “Sir, will I be given another chance to give an interview?” He replied, “There is no need for an interview. I have already decided to appoint you due to your qualifications being much better than those who came for the interview and my personal acquaintance with you. Return tomorrow to receive your appointment letter and join on the given date.” From the core of my heart came out the expression Alhamdulillah to express my gratitude towards the Lord and my whole existence felt a deep sense of satisfaction. This proves the power of Allah’s decisions, that I could be appointed even without an interview. On the other hand, if He doesn’t approve something, then no amount of effort can lead to success.

As mentioned before, it was during a late night in May 1950 while at the Keramotiya Mosque in Rangpur that I decided not to do any government job and take up teaching as a profession so that I could give more time to the cause of Allah. It was His wish that it was in Rangpur above all where I could start my teaching career. I had sent letters to three other university colleges, but none of them replied, whereas Rangpur Carmichael College appointed me without an interview. Two other colleagues received appointment letters the following day. They were Professor Zamir of Bangla and Professor Kalim of Philosophy. I joined the political science department. After receiving my appointment letter I returned to Dhaka that evening.

[1] A high official responsible for financial records during the British rule, also known as “Her Majesty’s Service”.

My Journey Through Life Part 14

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 Fourteen

Working with Tablighi Jamaat[1]

My father came to see me at my university hostel two months before my MA final exams. Saying, “Come, I will take you somewhere,” he took me to a mosque in Narinda. On the way he didn’t tell me where we were going and for what purpose. As soon as we entered the mosque, I noticed 25 to 30 people doing munajat[2]. The person leading the proceedings was using very emotive language. I had never heard someone doing munajat in Bangla in such an appealing style and I observed that he was crying out loud and everyone taking part was also crying. The words touched my heart and tears came rolling down my cheeks freely. I felt an unprecedented pleasure in praying to Allah that filled my heart. After the munajat my father introduced me to the person who was leading it. He was very handsome and I felt an instant connection with him in our first meeting. He was the president of East Pakistan Tablighi Jamaat, Mawlana Abdul Aziz. I came to know that he was already well-acquainted with my father and it was a humbling experience when he hugged me with deep affection and won my heart immediately. He advised me to pray the isha[3] prayer at Lalbagh Mosque every Thursday, where regular Tabligh events used to take place.

I later came to know that the language of the munajat that touched my heart was actually a translated version of some verses from the Qur’an and some famous Hadith. I realised that our Omnipotent Lord is so merciful that he taught us the best possible language to seek His blessings. Allah ensured that the language of our demands to Him is up to such a standard that all aspects are covered appropriately. There is no need to send a formal application to Allah. Even an illiterate person can also express their feelings to their Lord in their own language.

Lessons in Tabligh

The following Thursday I reached the Khan Muhammad Mosque in Lalbagh as advised by Mawlana Abdul Aziz. After the isha prayer, I noticed around 7 or 8 people sat together who were greeting each other smilingly. I felt that they were Tablighi brothers and this was confirmed by one brother who cordially welcomed me to the group. When they came to know who had recommended me to come, and that my father was a friend of their leader, the welcome became more emotionally charged with affectionate handshakes all around.

Then they started their weekly programme with the discussion on the six principles of Tablighi Jamaat. The chair of the meeting, Mr Abdul Haque, asked each person to explain one principle. The purpose was to make everyone capable of speaking in front of an audience. I too had to do that within a couple of weeks. The six principles of Tabligh are as follows:

  1. Kalimah – the first article of faith declaring Allah as the only one to be worshipped and Muhammad (PBUH) as the messenger of Allah.
  2. Salat – the five daily prayer
  3. Ilm & Zikr – the knowledge and remembrance of Allah
  4. Ikraame-Muslim – honouring a Muslim
  5. Tashihe-Niyat – sincerity of intention
  6. Nafarun fi Sabilillah – going out for the cause of Allah (to invite people towards His way)

After the meeting it was time to eat and people took out the food they had brought from their homes. I was the only person who hadn’t brought my own food. I was not aware that I had to stay until the Morning Prayer, so I hadn’t had my dinner. I was feeling quite embarrassed, but others made me feel comfortable and almost forced me to eat their food. I was also told that I would be their guest every Thursday and didn’t need to bring my own food.

The activities of Tablighi Jamaat include going out in groups to invite people to join the movement and teaching people the six principles, how to perform sincere prayers, the proper pronunciation of the Qur’an, different types of dua,[4] etc. In order to become an active member of Tabligh one must give a long time for this cause, by going on a Chilla[5] (a spiritual journey) in three cycles, each consisting of forty days. Those who are able to spend these four months in this cause are considered the core members of the movement and are given the responsibilities of leadership at different levels.

My First Chilla

I completed the three Chillas after my MA final exams. The first and the last Chilla were spent in my own country, while the second one was spent in Delhi – the headquarters of the Tabligh movement. The 20-member group in my first Chilla was led by the president of the East Pakistan Tablighi Jamaat, Mawlana Abdul Aziz. I learned a lot in the first ten days of that spiritual journey due to my close acquaintance with Mawlana Abdul Aziz. I memorised some important verses from the Qur’an and also learned a lot of Dua from him. He found in me a sincere disciple and asked me to be with him all the time. I used to ask him many questions and he answered them with love and affection. The respect I felt for him was not felt for anyone else.

Suddenly, after the tenth day, Mawlana Aziz told me in front of everyone else that I had to lead the group for the rest of the journey as he had to leave to attend a central meeting of the movement in Dhaka. I was not sure what others felt, but I was dumbfounded at this sudden decision and stood there surprised and tense. Observing my reaction he hugged me and said, “I joined this group to prepare you for leadership. I am confident that you will be able to lead this group efficiently. You are the leader of this group from now on and I will spend my last three days in this group under your able leadership”.

My confidence was boosted when other members expressed their allegiance to my leadership. Yet, I was finding it difficult to come out of the shock and told Mawlana Aziz with tears in my eyes, “I have been learning many things from you in the last ten days. I am worried that I now have to lead the team with only ten days of training.” He consoled me saying, “Allah directly helps those who work in His cause. As you go on teaching others your knowledge will also increase naturally.” However, as he was still around for three more days it was easy for me to get into the leadership mode as I was able to get important tips from him whenever I needed it.

Second Chilla in Delhi

I was told after my first Chilla that the second one will be in Delhi and that I would be accompanied by another person from Dhaka, and a third person from Kolkata. This was in April 1950 and at that time there was no passport control between India and Pakistan. I and my companion reached Kolkata by train and went to the central Tablighi mosque where we were joined by an Urdu-speaking gentleman who was made the leader of our three-member team. We started for Delhi on a train that took 24 hours to reach our destination. We prayed all the prayers on the train and our Hindu and Sikh co-passengers happily made space for us to pray.

I was happy to know that our leader was Urdu-speaking, as I was keen on learning the language. I considered it to be a sweet language from my boyhood when I used to hear it during my trips to Dhaka with my mother. I learned a little bit from my cousins in Dhaka and also spoke some Urdu with my paternal grandmother after returning from Dhaka. I don’t remember these much but heard about it from my mother and grandmother. I also realised later that the Urdu my mother spoke was not the standard form of the language.

As our leader lived in Kolkata he understood Bangla well, so it was easy for us to learn Urdu from him. During my involvement in the language movement I had decided that I would not learn Urdu, but my anger towards the language could not be sustained, and I learned the language with enthusiasm. It was relatively easy for me to learn as many words in Urdu are taken from Arabic. However, although Urdu used Arabic script I initially found it difficult to read as there were no diacritical marks like those in Arabic. Our leader helped me learn how to read.

The Tablighi Jamaat headquarters were situated in a small mosque in an area called Nizamuddin in Old Delhi. The Central President of the movement at that time was Mawlana Yusuf, the son of the founder of Tablighi Jamaat, Mawlana Iliyas, who used to live in that mosque’s premises. All the speeches in Delhi were in Urdu. We were able to understand most of them, but speaking was a bit difficult as we were often worried about making mistakes.

I and my companion from Dhaka were sent to a district called Bijnor with eight other members, under the leadership of Mawlana Ziauddin Aligarhi. I was hugely impressed by the personality of Mawlana Aligarhi, and learned a lot of things from him. He was our leader, but he never let us look after him; rather he would always be prepared to look after us. He was such an impressive leader that he never needed to order us to do anything. We got used to doing whatever was required without his order. I had never seen a leader as successful until then. Later when I was given the leadership, I tried to follow his style, but I do not think I was as successful as he was.

Efforts to learn Urdu continued during our tour of Bijnor. The thing I found extremely difficult to learn is the use of gender. Urdu has genders for all nouns, which is completely different from Bangla. Our leader during the journey to Delhi had said that it was acceptable to use masculine in place of feminine, but the other way round would be a problem. This was a good lesson that eased our worries a bit. Yet there would be mistakes due to linguistic differences between Bangla and Urdu. For example, I once said, khaneka pani dijiye ‘Please give me water to eat’ as this is how we say this in Bangla. A brother gave me water and said bhai lijiye khaneka pani, ye hai pine ka roti ‘brother, here is your water to eat, and this is your bread to drink’. I felt really embarrassed. However, when I heard that even in Persian they say ‘water to eat’ I felt a bit better. When I was given a similar answer by another brother after returning to Delhi, I said, ap pani pite raho, hum pani khatei rahenge ‘you continue to drink water, but we will keep on eating water.’

Before returning to Dhaka we spent three days in Delhi. This time I enjoyed the speeches of the Central President of Tabligh, Mawlana Yusuf (popularly called Hazratji) even more as my Urdu had improved considerably by then. When I was leaving Delhi it was an emotional moment to part from my dear leader Mawlana Aligarhi, whose personality had a huge impact on me. I cried a lot hugging him and found it difficult to stop. He also shed tears and gave me some valuable advice that I remembered for the rest of my life. He was one of the few Tablighi leaders who did not make rude comments about my joining Jamaat-e-Islami.

Third Chilla

As my first Chilla was in eastern Bengal I wanted to visit northern and southern Bengal for the third one. I started for Dinajpur[6] by train as the leader of a 15-member group. During the journey when it was time for prayer, I spoke about the importance of praying in congregation. Although it was meant for my fellow Tablighi brothers,  I spoke loudly to also convey this message to many other passengers in the compartment. One of us did the call to prayer and we observed that quite a few of our fellow passengers were prepared to pray with us. Others moved away to allow us more space to pray. I spoke about our activities in Tabligh after the prayer and invited others to join. Later four or five passengers who were going to Dinajpur joined us in a mosque for two days.

Although it was not part of the activities of Tabligh, I introduced something that impressed everyone and all the passengers followed this during the journey. When the train stopped at a station everyone would help passengers to get down with their luggage and help those people getting on the train with their luggage. We also ensured that elderly people, women and children had seats, by giving up our own seats. I told my companions to give up their seat when an elderly person was standing as Islam teaches us to respect the elders. I still remember the beautiful scene how younger people, including those who were not in our delegation, gave up their seats for the elders during that journey. This proves that people do possess basic human qualities; the problem is this feeling is not encouraged much. The sense of humanity is universal.

After spending three days in Dinajpur, we went to Rangpur and stayed in a famous mosque called Keramatiya Mosque. The Imam allowed us to stay there but did not seem too keen on our cause. He later joined Jamaat-e-Islami and told me that he had never found the Tablighi movement appealing as it lacked the revolutionary approach that he had been looking for, being inspired by the works of Mawlana Abul Kalam Azad[7] and Allama Iqbal[8].

After spending three days each in Rangpur, Bogra, Pabna and Rajshahi, and a few days in some other places on the way back to Dhaka, I finally completed my three Chillas. I returned to our house in Moghbazar and met my parents after spending four months on the spiritual tour of Tablighi Jamaat. This tour changed my life forever. I decided, while in Rangpur, that I would take up college teaching as my profession rather than becoming a government officer. In this way I would be able to perform Chillas during the vacation. After my MA results, I sent letters to four colleges and, incidentally, I was given an offer from Rangpur Carmichael College – the same city where I had decided to take up this profession.

 

[1] An Islamic religious movement based on the principle of the “Work of the Prophets” inviting to Allah in the manner of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

[2] Individual or collective supplications, often following ritual prayers.

[3] The fifth of the five daily prayers Muslims perform, prayed in the late evening.

[4] Supplications to God, often performed in Arabic and including verses from the Qur’an.

[5] A Persian word meaning forty days of spiritual journey.

[6] A northern district in Bangladesh.

[7] An Indian scholar and a senior political leader of the Indian independence movement. Following India’s independence, he became the first Minister of Education in the Indian government.

[8] Sir Muhammad Iqbal, widely known as Allama Iqbal, was an academic, philosopher, poet, barrister, mystic and politician in British India who is widely regarded as having inspired the Pakistan Movement.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 73 other followers