Professor Ghulam Azam

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Prof Azam Reading(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-Six

My Father’s Reaction to my Joining Jamaat-e-Islami

I joined Jamaat-e-Islami in April 1954 and at the end of May, my father suddenly appeared in Rangpur without any prior notice. My previous attempts to bring him to Rangpur, even after sending transport cost, were unsuccessful, so I was surprised to suddenly see him in my house. Moreover, I knew that he was supposed to be in Lahore via Delhi for the three Tablighi Chillas, hence my astonishment was even greater. He reached my house at the college campus at 1.30 pm when I had just finished my prayer. As soon as he came inside he started speaking furiously without any greeting:

“You gave the Three Chillas before I did. I need to know why you decided to leave Tablighi Jamaat after becoming its leader. You are the eldest in the generation and we have lots of hope on you. I introduced you to Tabligh in order to have salvation in the hereafter. You must tell me why you decided to join another organisation after progressing so well in Tabligh.”

I politely asked my father to first have shower, pray and eat so that we could discuss this in a relaxed manner. His rage seemed to subside a little and we started to talk after lunch. I spoke first:

“My dear father, your son has not become derailed. You brought me up since my childhood. Whatever I learned from working with Tabligh will benefit me for the rest of my life. I joined Jamaat-e-Islami after thinking very deeply. I didn’t know about this organisation before and you too can decide whether it is the right path after knowing more about it.” He became even angrier and said, “I don’t want to know about them and I urge you to leave that organisation and resume your work with Tablighi Jamaat.”

I said, “I never had the audacity to argue with you in my life, and never disagreed with you looking in your eyes. However, what we are discussing now relates to taking decisions on the basis of Qur’an and Hadith. I have decided to join Jamaat-e-Islami for the same reason when I joined Tablighi Jamaat.

By this time he was enraged. He said, “Doesn’t Mawlana Abdul Aziz understand anything? Why did he write to me saying that my son has joined an organisation that is worse than the Qadianis? I immediately returned to the country after getting that letter. I left Dhaka the following day to see you. I can’t tell you how worried I am.”

I could not control my tears after hearing this. What father would not get worried if he hears from a trusted scholar that his son has become worse than the Qadianis? He was worried because he was my well-wisher. I felt so wretched seeing his downcast expression that I cried out loudly. My father thought that I was crying because of repentance and that I had realised my mistakes. He also started crying and hugging me. It was such an embarrassing moment! When both of us became calmer and sat down, my father looked at me with expectation that I would immediately renounce my association with Jamaat-e-Islami and re-join Tablighi Jamaat. I tried to console him by saying:

“Father, one needs to take decisions on the Deen after properly reflecting on things and after much contemplation. I want to give you some books about Jamaat-e-Islami so that you know about them well. Mawlana Abdul Aziz has written such letter to you because he doesn’t know much about the organisation.” He became angry again and said, “I know Mawlana Abdul Aziz very well and am confident that he couldn’t write such a letter without knowing about it. You have to return to Tablighi Jamaat”.

I had never been in such a difficult situation in my life. The father whom I love so much; whose orders I had always obeyed even when I didn’t agree; in front of whom I had never dared to justify my wrongdoings; in fear of whose disappointment I had never disobeyed any orders – I was extremely uneasy for not having any other alternative but to argue with such a great father! Realising that he was imposing a wrong choice on me without even realising it I kept helplessly staring at him without a word while tears kept rolling down my cheeks. He also felt uneasy seeing that the son who had never disobeyed him before was holding on to his decision so firmly. He probably felt pity on me and softly, in a broken voice, said:

“I am alive with the hope that you will be the leader among your siblings to the right path, and that through you I will be able to achieve success in the hereafter. I was contended that I would be meeting Allah seeing you progressed in the path of Allah. I had never imagined that you would choose an erroneous path. Your grandfather used to pray for you a lot and left the world with huge expectations about you. I can’t express how stressful I am feeling at the moment.” He stopped speaking, but kept crying. I sat down holding his two legs and said:

“Father, I did not make such a decision for worldly gains. I had never had such extensive knowledge about Islam before. I had never heard so heart-wrenching explanations of the Qur’an before. I am confident that you can make the right decision after reading only a few books. I am giving you some books to read. I will be coming to Dhaka for a long two-month Ramadan and summer holiday in a week’s time and can then discuss about these issues in detail there.”

Looking at him, I felt that my worries were over for the time being. He returned to Dhaka the next day. I gave him the same two books Mawlana Abdul Khaleque had given me before I joined Jamaat.

Encounter with Father in Dhaka

I had thought that I would find my father in a favourable mood going back to Dhaka, but I understood that my crisis was far from over as soon as I looked at his face. I knew that the path of the Islamic movement had obstacles, but had never thought that it would come from such a person. It seemed that there was no positive effect of the three books I had given him to read and soon realised my mistake in giving him the book written by Mr Islahi, in wich there was a harsh attack on the Tablighi movement in the very first chapter. My father was so annoyed with the first chapter that he didn’t continue reading the book. This made me understand that criticisms of a religious activity should be done in a pragmatic manner and compassionate style so that people can consider it rationally. Unfortunately, Mawlana Islahi’s criticisms had neither pragmatism nor compassion and the sarcastic tone in which he criticised Tablighi Jamaat hurt my father’s feelings for which the other two books failed to make any positive impression. He commented:

“You and Mawdudi understand everything, nobody else knows anything. Is Tablighi Jamaat so bad?”

I tried to sit down with my father along with my younger brother Dr Ghulam Muazzam. My father asked me some questions, which I answered satisfactorily through the logic of the Qur’an. He also criticised some political activities of Jamaat and the way I answered them attracted my younger brother as well. However, instead of being satisfied with my logical answers, my father got angry and said, “Does that mean that everyone apart from you is in the wrong path?”

The relationship between a father and a son is such that it sometimes becomes psychologically impossible for a father to concede defeat to a son. The respect a father deserves means that a child should always listen to him. It was difficult for a father at that time to accept that the son was right and he was wrong. My father had no arguments to prove that I was in the wrong path, but he insisted on the belief that I was derailed. I proved through logical evidence that I was right, but the more I tried to convince him in a polite manner, the more irritated he would become. It was a hugely embarrassing moment for me. Then my younger brother managed the uneasy situation with a wonderful comment:

“Father, what has pleased me most is that we are having debate about the Deen in our house, whereas in other houses arguments between a father and a son or among brothers and sisters are due to property disputes. I learned a lot of things from this discussion and if you two continue more discussions like this it will increase my knowledge further.”

After much thought I gave my father another Urdu book to read, but he criticised the book in our next meeting. I tried to prove why the writer was right and my brother also tried to support me. By then I realised that even the book of Allah can be misinterpreted if it is not read with a neutral mind, so I decided not to give any more books to my father for the time being.


Words of Consolation

I started working with the Dhaka city branch of Jamaat-e-Islami while on college holidays. In one such programme there was tafseer (Explanation of Quran) session by a scholar who was explaining the verses from Sura Luqman where the prophet Luqman was giving some advice to his sons. The part of I liked most is how to manage the situation when there is a conflict with parents about the Deen. It seemed to me that those verses were revealed to resolve my situation. I had read them many times before, but never before had they appeared so meaningful to me.

I started behaving with my father according to teachings of those verses. If there was a situation where my reply to his comments would lead to arguments, I would remain silent. On the other hand I tried to please my father as much as possible in other worldly affairs. I tried to spend time with him as much as possible and attend to look after him to the best of my ability. After discussing with my brother I decided that I should not give him any book to read myself as we needed him to read with a neutral mind-set. My brother used a pragmatic approach to convince my father and said:

“Father, the books that my brother has been reading to choose his current path are in Urdu, which I struggle to read. As a scholar I request that you read them and explain them to me. He is progressing through his knowledge and logic, and it is wise not to argue with him without reading these books. His character has always been good, and now it has become even better. His mannerism is also very attractive. I don’t think he is that kind of person who would blindly take up a path. I suggest that you read those books with patience.”

My brother was successful and my father started asking me for books. I felt much relieved for the improvement of the situation.

My Father’s Change of Heart about Jamaat-e-Islami

A few days after I returned to Rangpur after the holidays I received a letter from my father in which he asked me to go to Khulna[1] where the Central president of Tablighi Jamaat Hazratji Mawlana Yusuf was supposed to attend a conference. I knew that my father had softened from his previous stance against Jamaat that he had developed through the wrong impression given to him about Jamaat by the then East Pakistan President of Tabligh. However, reading Mawlana Moududi’s books may have made his position softer, he still wanted to ensure that I was doing the right thing by making me have a face-to-face meeting with Tablighi leaders.

I reached Khulna as per my father’s instruction, while my father and brother Ghulam Muazzam arrived from Dhaka. There was no scope of meeting the Tablighi president in Khulna and we heard that Hazratji had assigned a leader of Tabligh Mr Faridi to talk to me. I took the reserved river boat along with Mr Faridi, my father and brother towards Dhaka so that the conversation could take place. However, my father was not at all satisfied with that conversation as Mr Faridi gave me little opportunity to talk and kept insisting that I should go for another Tablighi chilla.

Meanwhile I got arrested for my involvement in the language movement and also lost my job with the college due to that. After being released from jail, I joined Jamaat-e-Islami full time and in May 1955 I went to the then West Pakistan for some important political lobbying. Before starting for Karachi I left a shelf full of books related to the Islamic movement in my father’s bedroom, and asked my ever-helpful brother to convince my father to read as many of them as possible. When I returned in December, my father had read a number of those books and I learned from my brother that his attitude towards Jamaat was getting more and more positive.

Another Meeting with Tabligh Leaders

My father arranged another meeting between me and the Tabligh leaders. This time it was with Mawlana Ziauddin Aligarhi who was one of my teachers during my Chilla  in India. We went to Kakrail Mosque[2] for the meeting where I met both Mawlana Aligarhi and East Pakistan Tabligh President Mawlana Abdul Aziz. I could see almost 30/40 brothers of Tabligh sitting around me and praying. I realised that they were praying for my return to Tabligh.

Due to Mawlana Aligarhi our conversation was in Urdu. As with Mawlana Faridi, he too kept insisting that I should resume working for Tablighi Jamaat. When I requested them to give me some opportunity to say a few words, Mawlana Abdul Aziz said that we should talk exclusively about these matters instead of speaking in front of so many people. Only four of us went inside, the two Tablighi leaders, my father and I.  I said to them:

“After reading the explanations of the Qur’an thoroughly I am convinced that the methodology and process of working for the Deen followed by our Prophet (PBUH) was much wider than the ones of Tablighi Jamaat.”

Mawlana Abdul Aziz tried to remind me that their methodology was right and was followed by many big scholars. When I tried to say that if those scholar read the full explanation of these Quranic verses, then they too would be convinced and many more people would get the real light of Islam, he became angry and said, “So you mean we have no knowledge about Islam? We don’t read any books if not suggested by our senior leaders.” Saying this he stood up while Mawlana Aligarhi remained silent. Soon, we returned home.

My Father’s Complete Change of Attitude

Coming back home after my meeting with the two Tablighi leaders, my father said to my younger brother in my presence, “They don’t have any ability to debate with your brother. They were not even prepared to discuss the matter. I took him to meet them for discussion, but they surrounded us with a group of Tablighi people and kept giving their own opinions in front of them. When he was about to speak, they moved him away from other people, probably in fear that others would be convinced by his words. They took him inside to talk in secret, but even there they stopped him and didn’t let him finish his side of the argument. What they said angrily when being asked to read the Tafseer of the Qur’an is completely illogical”.

I felt very relieved after this and felt happy that my father no longer accepted the accusation against Jamaat-e-Islami that Mawlana Abdul Aziz had made to him. A heavy weight was released from my chest. There was an effort to create an unfortunate conflict with my father by spreading fabricated accusations against Jamaat-e-Islami, whereas it was he who brought me up since my childhood in the way of Islam. This incident remains one of the saddest events of my life. Had they not given the fatwa “Jamaat-e-Islami is worse than the Qadianis” then I wouldn’t have endured that suffering and my father wouldn’t go through such stress for three years. How dangerous a fabricated fatwa can be!

Since that incident my father lost interest to go to Kakrail Mosque like before.

[1] The third largest city of Bangladesh

[2] Central Mosque for Tablighi jamaat in Bangladesh

My Journey Through Life Part 25: Mawlana Mawdudi’s Writings




Prof Azam Reading(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-Five

Mawlana Mawdudi’s Writings

Resigning from Tablighi Jamaat and Tamaddun Majlish

The first thing I decided to do after joining Jamaat-e-Islami is resign from my responsibilities in both Tablighi Jamaat and Tamaddun Majlish. It was a struggle leading the Rangpur branch of two organisations at the same time, but I had felt it necessary as I was compelled to be involved in both the organisations to fulfil my Islamic responsibilities. When I found the combination of both in Jamaat-e-Islami, I thought it was proper to leave both the organisations and concentrate on the new path I had chosen to pursue.

Starting Jamaat Activities

I was given the responsibility of opening new branches in Rangpur and soon two branches became active – one in the city and the other in my college campus. Mr Abdul Khaleque, who inspired me to join Jamaat, came to Rangpur a few days later and was very happy to know of the speed of the work. In the first meeting of the college unit, Mr Khaleque’s speech about understanding the Qur’an was very inspiring. My previous efforts to have an in-depth understanding of the Qur’an by reading the English translation by Yusuf Ali and the Bangla translation by Ali Hassan were not very successful, but Mr Khaleque made me believe that it was possible for me to make an in-depth study of the Qur’an without knowing Arabic. I couldn’t know what others felt, but Mr Khaleque’s speech was a milestone in my efforts to understand the Qur’an. The summary of that speech is given below:

Even an expert in the Arabic language will struggle to understand the Qur’an properly as a book. To understand the Qur’an one has to first understand what responsibilities, as a Prophet, were entrusted upon the person to whom it was revealed. The Prophet’s (PBUH) main responsibility was to guide humanity towards peace in this world and salvation in the hereafter by establishing the only pure, perfect and balanced way of life in every sphere of society. The Prophet’s life in his last 23 years was the practical example of this responsibility. Angel Jibrael (May Allah be pleased with him) would come at different stages of the Prophet’s life and reveal verses from the Qur’an, which were later compiled as the whole Qur’an consisting of 30 parts. Therefore, whatever the Prophet said and did are the practical explanations of the Qur’an. It is not at all possible for one to understand the verses of the Qur’an by just mastering the Arabic language, separating them from the history of the Islamic movement that the Prophet led, from receiving the first revelation in the mountain of Hera until his death at the age of 63. The Qur’an is the guide book for the Islamic movement and it is completely impossible to understand it by separating it from the movement. Only those who follow the footsteps of the Prophet in striving to establish Allah’s Deen can internalise the essence of the Qur’anic message, because they can relate their own issues to the ones the Prophet faced, and to the solutions Allah provided for them in the Qur’an. They will feel that the Qur’an was revealed for them.

Introduction to Tafhimul Qur’an

I had the opportunity to listen to his explanations of the Qur’an for three consecutive weeks, which completely blew me away, particularly the process of trying to understand the Qur’an. I was wondering where he learned his amazing system. When asked, his simple answer was that it was not to his credit as he got everything from Tafhimul Qur’an by Mawlana Mawdudi. When I heard that it was available only in Urdu, I decided to learn the language to have access to the treasures hidden in it. I had learned Urdu while working with Tablighi Jamaat, but I knew that would not be enough to understand Tafhimul Qur’an. I made an agreement with Professor Mahfuzur Rahman of the Urdu department that he would teach me Urdu and I would help him learn Bangla.

Mr Khaleque had told me to first read and internalise the introduction. The language seemed quite difficult initially and I had to ask for the meaning of a number of words from my Urdu mentor. By that time I got completely absorbed into learning the language, and my Arabic background helped me a great deal as many Urdu words have been borrowed from Arabic. It took me a while to grasp the introduction of Tafhimul Qur’an, but once it was done, I developed the technique of how to approach studying the Qur’an. Later, I wrote a book called Qur’an Bujha Shohoj (Easy understanding of the Qur’an) on the basis of the introduction in order to provide tips for the common people to understand the Holy book. I feel that the sin I had committed by stopping the study of the Qur’an can be slightly compensated through this small effort.

The Pleasure of Learning a Language

After a few months’ effort I started feeling that I had achieved some command over the Urdu language. It is not possible to describe the pleasure of learning a language. I felt even more encouraged when I heard that almost all the important books in Arabic on Islam had been translated into Urdu, so a well-rounded knowledge about Islam was possible to achieve.

I found learning Arabic much more difficult than Urdu and realised that I would need much more effort to learn Arabic than I had to give for Urdu. I regret that I could not achieve a full command over the Arabic language. I wasn’t able to give more time for this, being too busy with the work of the Islamic movement. There was an opportunity to learn Arabic during my exile life from 1972 to 1978, but I was engulfed in too many problems and I was not able to concentrate on this task. I am having to leave this world with this feeling of guilt.

Propagations against Mawlana Mawdudi’s Literature

I continued to study the Tafhimul Qur’an with deep satisfaction and within six months I developed tremendous love for Mawlana Mawdudi. He was then serving life imprisonment having been relieved from the death sentence. I sometimes became so emotional while reading that I would interrupt my reading only to pray for him. The dua for him was spontaneous particularly when I was able to understand the proper meanings of some verses that I had not been able to grasp before.

When I returned to Rangpur after the winter holidays in 1955, I found some Urdu books sent to my address from Delhi and Karachi. I started reading them with curiosity and found that all the books contained fatwas against Mawlana Mawdudi and Jamaat-e-Islami. I realised that these books had been sent to me by the efforts of my respected Tablighi leader the President of Tablighi Jamaat in the then East Pakistan Mawlana Abdul Aziz; otherwise no one in those places would know my name and address in Rangpur. I felt that he loved me so much that he was desperate to ‘save’ me from the ‘wrong’ path. He sincerely believed that Jamaat-e-Islami was worse than the Qadianis (the Ahmadiya community).

I felt worried when I saw the names of those who gave the fatwa, which included some of those whom I considered major scholars in Islam. I don’t know how I would have reacted had I not been already passionate about Mawlana Mawdudi. I didn’t accept the fatwas simply because they were major scholars, but decided to go deep into the issues they raised. I first read the fatwas thoroughly and then started reading all the books that the fatwas referred to. I must admit that because of the fatwas I read so many books of Mawlana Mawdudi in a year that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It certainly made me wiser about many things and enabled me to know many different aspects of Islam I had not known before. The summary of my conclusions on the criticisms are below:

  1. Some writers did not show personal hatred towards Mawlana Mawdudi, but criticised some of his works through logic and from a neutral point of view. This taught me that it would be wrong to consider Mawlana Mawdudi as infallible and follow him blindly. No person other than the Prophets is infallible, so everyone has to be judged on the basis of what the Prophet said.

  2. Some writers spread hatred while criticising him. They were more eager to confuse the readers than correct any mistakes. They tried to do this in three ways:

  1. While quoting Mawlana Mawdudi, they deleted things he said before or after the quoted elements so that it would look extremely offensive to anyone reading it.

  2. Sometimes they added words or phrases to Mawlana Mawdudi’s writings and attributed it all to him.

  3. Sometimes they quoted a sentence from Mawlana Mawdudi’s books that Mawlana actually quoted and criticised himself in his books; but here they attributed those controversial elements to him.

  1. I found one writer who did not show hatred but disagreed with everything Mawlana Mawdudi said about prayer, fasting, alms giving and pilgrimage; which made me convinced that he considered Islam only a religion and not a revolutionary movement.

Reading these books helped me in the following ways:

  1. These books made me read many books by Mawlana Mawdudi in a short period of time that I wouldn’t have otherwise. This enhanced my knowledge on the Islamic movement, Islamic organisation and different aspects of Islam in general.

  2. These books helped me to be careful not to consider every view of Mawlana Mawdudi as infallible just because of my deep respect for him. It helped me to resolve that I would not consider any book as a document unless it is backed up by the Qur’an and Hadith.

  3. It enabled me to understand the difference between the language of sincere and constructive criticism and the language of hatred so that I accepted the former and rejected the latter.


My Journey Through Life Part 24: Taste of Fatherhood




Prof Azam Reading (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-four:

Taste of Fatherhood

My Wife’s Pregnancy

My wife became pregnant in the middle of 1952. The sense of impending fatherhood created tremendous excitement in me and I began researching and preparing a welcome for the new addition to my family. A few days later I went to my tailor, and while we were speaking, his two-year-old boy gave him a hug. I had witnessed this before, but at that moment, it seemed particularly special to me as a would-be father. I inquired after him, “How does it feel to be called abbu (dad)?” He replied, “Of course it is sweet, but he also is very naughty. See, he didn’t let me speak to you properly. At night he not only disturbs his mother but also doesn’t let me sleep sometimes”. Saying this he started kissing his little boy. I realised that no matter how naughty children are, a parent’s love for their child makes them forget everything.

In order to maintain the continuity of the human race, Allah created such love for children among parents so that they become keen to have children. If there are no children within a few years of marriage the couple and their extended family members become anxious. They see the doctor; if that doesn’t work they seek alternative means, in their desperation for a child. A mother happily goes through the adversities of pregnancy, delivery pain, breastfeeding, and looking after a child. Yet, they forget everything after seeing the face of their child. If they were unable to overlook such difficulties then no mother would want to bear a child again.  Allah talks about this suffering of a mother in the Qur’an: “His mother carried him with hardship and gave birth to him with hardship, and his gestation and weaning [period] is thirty months.” (46:15)

That is why Allah has given a mother a status that is three times higher than the father. A mother suffers exceedingly during the initial months of pregnancy, although the extent is not the same for all of them. Some continue to feel sick for up to five or six months of pregnancy and find it hard to eat and digest food due to a continuous tendency to vomit. Unfortunately, my wife was one of them. She had to stay under her mother’s care for the majority of her pregnancy, while I would visit her every week. I sympathised with her greatly, but it was beyond my power to help her in any way other than to pray for her. There were appointments with a doctor; however, their usefulness was limited. Finally, my father-in-law brought some herbal medicine that did some good. I didn’t dare bring her to stay with me in her frail condition.

The Birth of My First Child

As per the custom in our country, the first child is generally born in the maternal grandparent’s house. I was avidly waiting for the day when I would be able to taste fatherhood. A telegram came on 2nd February 1952. I found the postman waiting after I had signed the receipt of the telegram. He had read the telegram and so wanted a tip, which I obliged. I came to know that my wife gave birth to a baby boy.

A child is one of Allah’s biggest mercy whether it is a boy or a girl. However, I had been praying for a son as the first child of my next generation, and thanked Allah for granting my wish. As girls are married to another family, I wanted the first child to be a son so that he could be the leader of the generation and guide his younger siblings in the right direction. There is a tradition of the first child being a son in our family. My paternal grandfather, my father, and I are all the first children in our generation. The birth of my son maintained that tradition, which made me even happier. I immediately asked my father-in-law to arrange two goats to be sacrificed for the aqiqa[1] and sent money to my father to attend the aqiqa ceremony.

Naming the Child

My father was extremely happy to become a grandfather for the first time. My brothers and sisters were proud to become uncles and aunts respectively. My mother, despite being slightly introverted, also couldn’t resist showing her elation. My father was asked to name the child. He said that he had dreamt his father (my grandfather) reminded him that the Prophet (PBUH) recommended Abdullah and Abdur Rahman as the best names. Therefore, my father decided to name him Abdullah. When my siblings asked what should be his nickname, my father said that four names can be chosen from the Arabic word amn. They are Mamoon, Ameen, Momen and Amaan and they could choose any one of them. They all preferred Mamoon, which I also favoured. In this way before his aqiqa he was named Abdullahil Mamoon. Mamoon means ‘secure’ or ‘secured’ while Amn means ‘security’ or ‘peace’, so Mamoon also means ‘having peace’.

No matter how happy, emotional and proud I was to become a father, I was not aware of what the little baby needed and what to take for him, so I decided not to buy anything from Rangpur and  to choose whatever was necessary from Naogaon after discussing with my wife.

Meeting the New Guest

I started for Naogaon the day before the aqiqa, full of emotion and enthusiasm, but left empty-handed only taking the name of the child with me. My mind was entirely occupied by my unseen son; his appearance, who he resembled most etc. kept creeping into my mind. The train arrived on time, but I felt it took much longer than usual. My journey in the horse carriage from the station to home seemed even longer. I kept looking at my watch, but the road appeared awfully long. The human mind is very strange! It can’t always cope with the situation and the environment and decides to take its own path for which human beings suffer from mental anxiety and restlessness. There is a saying in Arabic, which translates to, “Waiting is even worse than death.”

When I reached my in-law’s house it was my wife’s paternal grandmother who congratulated me first. My brother-in-law embraced me to express their happiness. My mother-in-law asked that I first take a shower, pray and eat, but I said, “I want to see the new guest first”. My wife’s grandmother agreed and took me to my wife’s room. It was a very cold day, so she wrapped the baby in a beautiful big towel and put him on my lap. I kept looking at him for a long time. His eyes were first closed, but when they opened after a while, I felt like the happiest man in the world. My wife’s grandmother said to my wife, “See how he is looking at his father! He hardly kept his eyes open in the last few days.”

I saw a contended smile in my wife’s face. I had said nothing to her other than assalamu alaikum after entering the room. Everything was centred around the baby. I noticed how proud she was to become a mother and her satisfaction in being able to fulfill my desire of a son through the mercy of Allah. When I had the opportunity to speak to my wife in private I witnessed a significant change in my intimate life partner. There was a different manner in the way she walked and spoke. I had read in a book of philosophy that a woman does not feel fulfilled in her husband’s house until she becomes a mother. She probably feels that her position is consolidated after the birth of her child, which makes her feel more confident.

First Night with Wife and Son

When we went to sleep it was as before, both of us lying down beside each other; the only difference was that our new child accompanied us on the left side of my wife. It is natural that she needed to concentrate on the new baby as he was only a few days’ old. She had to change his nappies, feed him, discover what happened when he cried etc. On the other side of the mother the child’s father was comfortable, while the mother needed to be ever busy. There is no comparison to the care a mother gives to a child. This naturally makes the father of the child appreciative of his wife. I felt very grateful to my wife upon seeing her dedication and sacrifice for our son.

A Unique Sense of Pain

Despite feeling very happy and proud on becoming a father and appreciating the sacrifice and dedication of my wife towards the care of my son, I still felt a unique sense of pain in my heart. It is such a feeling that one can feel inside, but will find it difficult to explain to others. Those among the readers who have the experience of becoming a father may well have forgotten this pain, but should remember this pain after reading this. The inimitable love towards the child and the pride of being a father quickly makes this pain disappear from our memory, but no one can deny the existence of that temporary sense of misery. I should now explain which pain I am talking about rather than testing the readers’ patience further.

In a previous chapter I had written about the feeling I had after getting married that made me feel very content, which was the appearance of a person in my life who was entirely mine. She was only mine from the night till morning and it was only I who was the centre of all her attentiveness. No one else had any right over her at that time. After she became a mother I did sleep beside her, but her attentiveness towards me reduced to less than 10% compared to before. I felt that bitterness quite intensely on that first night. Where had my intimate life partner disappeared? How could another person take over her completely? How could I suddenly be deprived of my right? Can we describe this feeling with anything other than pain? This torment is not only subtle, but deep as well. One can share their different types of pain with others, which can be reduced and overcome by the support and help of others. This is one pain that can’t be shared with anyone. My wife will also know for the first time about my distress after reading this, and will realise the pain I felt all those years ago, but I did not confide these feelings even with her.

When one can’t share one’s pain with others then the pain becomes even deeper. After spending two such ‘painful’ nights with my life partner and after the aqiqa, the next day I returned to Rangpur. For one and a half months I continued to spend two nights with my family every week.

Today, I have expressed this feeling that no one else other than Allah had known before. The world is such a place that there is no happiness without pain. This is such a universal truth that no one can deny it. How much pain does a mother need to go through before having the pleasure of having a baby? Compared to what she went through my temporary anguish is nothing, especially in relation to the pleasure of becoming a father.

[1] A highly encouraged practice in Islam when an animal is sacrificed and the meat distributed among relatives, friends and the poor on the occasion of the birth of a child, generally after seven days of birth.

My Journey Through Life Part 23 : Beginning Married Life




Prof Azam Reading

(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 23:

Beginning Married Life

I got married on 28th December, 1951. The ‘Bridegroom’s Party’ returned to Chandina with the new bride. My mother was very excited to have her first daughter-in-law in the house and kept reminding us how happy my grandmother would have been if she was alive to see that day. There is a tradition in Bangladesh that the bride is accompanied by some of her close relatives when she first comes to her in-laws’. My wife was accompanied by her younger brother Akram, her cousin Hena, who was just a child, and her maternal grandmother whose presence in our house delighted me as I found her extremely pleasant with a wonderful sense of humour during the rusumat after my wedding. Her presence made my post married life even more delightful.

My father was keen to arrange a walima[1], but could not do so due to some genuine problems. The bride generally returns to her father’s home after the walima, which is usually held within a couple of days of the wedding. As he couldn’t arrange the walima, my father asked my father-in-law to take his daughter back to her home after a week, which he did. I stayed at my in-laws in Naogaon for a couple of days before leaving for Rangpur promising my wife that I would take her there as soon as I sorted out my family accommodation.

Starting a New Family Life in Rangpur

I brought my wife from Naogaon to Rangpur in the middle of February 1952. I was given the house of the Vice Principal as my temporary accommodation as it was empty due to the absence of a Vice Principal at the college at that time. The house had several rooms, but there was no furniture, so I managed to get the minimum I needed to start my family life before bringing my wife. This time my wife’s paternal grandmother accompanied my wife to Rangpur.

A boy called Abdul Jalil worked as my domestic help and had been in my house since before my wedding. He was a simple, honest and active boy who learned cooking from me. I had a cooking badge when I was with the scout movement during my school years, which came in very handy in my professional life. I taught several of the domestic help boys I had to cook, and each of them left getting a better job. However, Abdul Jalil did not leave me. He used to call me Abba ‘father’ with such sincerity that I had to treat him as my own son. I give him the full credit of building that relationship and due to him my family life in Rangpur was very smooth. He used to complete all his tasks with a smile. One can never repay the contribution of such a sincere individual with money. He stayed with me until I left Rangpur in 1955. Even after that he used to come and see me whenever I visited Rangpur for an organisational trip of Jamaat.

My Wife’s Paternal Grandmother

Although my wife’s paternal grandmother was quite old, she was a very influential figure due to her robust personality and strong voice. My father-in-law had lost his father during his boyhood and since then his mother gave him the love and care of both parents. She was a towering figure in the house and my father-in-law showed deep respect for his mother, considering her Allah’s greatest blessing. He remained an obedient son till his mother’s death.

However, I could see a different side of this imposing personality in my house. I could never forget the warmth of her affection towards me as the husband of her beloved granddaughter, and her sincere love brought immense pleasure in our newly wedded life. She used to live in the room next to ours from where the beautiful fragrance of her zarda[2] reached our room. The fragrance followed her wherever she walked. She had her own equipment to soften the zarda as she had lost all her teeth. I asked her where she found such fragrant zarda and was told that her son-in-law, Mawlana Abdullail Baqi Al Qureishi, who was then a leader of the Muslim League and a member of the Pakistan Parliament, used to bring this special zarda from Lucknow in India for his mother-in-law. Mr Baqi was the father of Professor Dr M A Bari, the former Vice Chancellor of National University[3], so my beloved grandmother-in-law was Professor Bari’s nani (maternal grandmother).

I wasn’t in the habit of chewing paan[4], but my grandmother-in-law taught me in a very beautiful and sweet manner. She used to prepare two paans herself and used to give one to me and the other to her beloved granddaughter. She would make us sit together in front of her and ask me to put the paan into my wife’s mouth and asked my wife to do the same to me. We felt very happy doing it. She used to chew paan in such majestic style that we used to perform as if we were her obedient actor and actress. This continued every day for almost two weeks. We would have paan together once or twice a day and she used to tell us different stories. We had to finish every paan in front of her. After a couple of days she gave me silver coloured zarda to have with paan. It wasn’t very tasty, but I liked its fragrance, so I started having it too. She knew that her granddaughter couldn’t tolerate its taste, so she asked me to join her in chewing zarda and paan together, and soon I became rather addicted to this bad habit, which took a while to shake off.

The time of year was the end of February and beginning of March. The Language Movement of 1952 was in full flow at that time. I was active with the movement outside, but at home I was enjoying a happy married life along with my paternal grandmother-in-law. On 6th March I was arrested and sent to jail when I was on my way from the city to the college campus. There was no other male member in my house at that time other than my domestic help Abdul Jalil. When my father-in-law came to see me at 10 am on the third day of my arrest, I came to know that one of my students had informed my father-in-law by telegram of my arrest, so he had come to take his mother and daughter back to Naogaon.

In this way instead of enjoying my newly married life, I had to spend my days alone in a prison cell. I spent the first spring of my married life in jail for the ‘crime’ of being involved in the Language Movement.

One Month in Rangpur Jail

The Language Movement before and after 21st February spread all over East Pakistan, and in Rangpur three college teachers were in the leadership of the movement. Incidentally all three of them joined Rangpur Carmichael College together on 3rd December 1950. Apart from myself, the other two were Professor Zamiruddin Ahmed of Bangla and Professor Kalim Uddin of Philosophy. As Professor Kalim Uddin was not in Rangpur at that time, he avoided being imprisoned, so Professor Zamiruddin and I passed our time in prison together. I mentioned in a previous chapter that the Jailer of Rangpur, Mr Wahiduzzaman, was a friend of Professor Zamiruddin, and he ensured that we were given Division in jail[5]. It was because of him that we were treated very well in the prison. The staff and other prisoners respected us a lot. I used to spend time reading books borrowed from the jail library. There was an arrangement for Friday prayers as well, which was led by someone from outside. I asked the Jailer if I could speak before or after the prayer to inspire the prisoners towards Islam, but he said he couldn’t allow me to do so without permission from his superiors. After the prayer I started supplicating to Allah aloud and said all those things in the supplication that I would have said if I was allowed to speak. I pleaded Allah to help the prisoners describing the difficult life they were having and seeking His blessings for them, and realised that everyone was crying and feeling content with the dua. Subsequently, however, orders from above,prohibited me from attending the Friday prayers any more.

I was arrested and sent to jail in the third week after bringing my wife to Rangpur and beginning our new married life together. The effect of this separation was very painful to me. I was not there for any crime, but under a so-called ‘Special Security Act’. After joining the Islamic movement I went to jail in 1955, 1964 and 1992 and took some pleasure in my stays in jail, but that mentality hadn’t developed in 1952, meaning that it was a difficult time for me. Prison life in later years was for me a blessing from Allah. The opportunities I had  for studying the tafseer[6] of the Qur’an, the hadith, and Islamic literature; memorising many chapters of the Qur’an; reciting the memorised chapters during the tahajjud prayer; enjoying the moments when I could spend a long time supplicating and pleading to Allah; and memorising many duas from the Qur’an and hadith could never be availed outside the prison life.  During many of the Jamaat Central Council meetings, District President meetings, and at many training sessions of Jamaat and Shibir, I would often joke that if I had the power of sending people to prison then I would send them to jail for six months to develop the highest level of spiritual training.

However, jail life in 1952 was not that pleasant as I hadn’t developed that mentality at that time, so I often felt restless and wanted to leave prison life. I never felt like this after joining Jamaat-e-Islami.

[1] The marriage banquet, is the second of the two traditional parts of an Islamic wedding. The walima is performed after the nikah, or marriage ceremony. The word walima is derived from awlam, meaning to gather or assemble. It designates a feast in Arabic.

[2] Indian chewing tobacco flavoured with spices

[3] The largest university in Bangladesh with more than two million students studying in 2154 colleges/institutions affiliated to this university.

[4] A preparation combining betel leaf with areca nut and sometimes also with tobacco. It is chewed for its stimulant and psychoactive effects. After chewing it is either spat out or swallowed.

[5] Special provision in jail in Bangladesh, particularly for political prisoners where they are treated well and given better quality food and service.

[6] Translation with detailed explanation

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



(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



(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





(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)