MY JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
PROFESSOR GHULAM AZAM
(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
Contributions of Two Great Scholars
Mawlana Shamsul Haque Faridpuri
As mentioned in the previous chapter, I used to visit the office of Monthly Neyamot regularly after starting my education in Dhaka and developed a special rapport with its editor Mr Abdus Salam. Mr Salam informed me that Mawlana Shamsul Haque Fardipuri was a teacher at the Boro Katra Mosque in Dhaka and suggested that I could meet him following the afternoon prayer at Chakbazar Mosque any day. I went to see him accordingly and found him surrounded by some people who were asking him questions on Islamic jurisprudence and he was replying to them briefly with a constant smile in his face. Some people were also asking his advice on their personal problems. I realised that people loved and respected him like a sufi leader.
I was sitting quietly amidst older and knowledgeable people and felt a bit overwhelmed as I was only a teenager in front of a great Islamic scholar. I kept looking at him and wondering how to approach him, and noticed that he was also staring at me while answering other peoples’ questions. After he dealt with all the questions that day he signalled me to go near him. He shook my hands and asked me the reason for my visit. I was waiting for this opportunity and kept talking to him for a few minutes while the elders around me looked surprised at how a scholar like him was listening to a young boy with such interest. I told him how I was introduced to Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanvi’s works in the Neyamot magazine through his translations and asked him where I could find his books and whether I could visit him sometimes. He affectionately stroke my back and told me that I was always welcome to visit him and that his books could be found in the library below the mosque.
I became a regular visitor of the Chakbazar Mosque to listen to Mawlana Faridpuri. It was difficult to find him alone; there would always be 15/20 people around him who used to ask questions about different issues of Islamic jurisprudence and other religious advice and I would learn valuable things from his answers. I didn’t ask too many questions, but would only listen to his conversations with others. After the question and answer sessions finished he would inquire about my well-being and ask which books I was reading and recommend which ones to read next. He later left Boro Katra Madrasah and began a new madrasah at Lalbagh Shahi Mosque.
My communication with Mawlana Faridpuri became infrequent while I was in university. I met him several times after I joined Tabligh Jamaat and attended monthly meetings of Tabligh at Lalbagh Shahi Mosque. Our meetings occurred even less often after I started teaching at Rangpur Carmichael College, though I met him several times for Tabligh programmes. When I used to speak at the monthly meetings of Lalbagh Shahi Mosque I heard that he listened to my speeches with interest. When I went to see Mawlana Fardipuri in 1954 after joining Jamaat-e-Islami, he became very happy and hugged me. Finding everyone surprised he said, “I knew from his speeches in Tabligh Jamaat programmes that the programmes of Tabligh can’t keep him for long.” He asked the people around him, “Didn’t I tell you this?” A number of them said, “Yes, you had said that several times”.
My close relationship with Mawlana Faridpuri contributed immensely towards my development as a Muslim. What I admired most about him was his big heart. The general trend is when people are involved with a type of religious organisation, they usually don’t regard other similar organisations very highly, but Mawlana Faridpuri was an exception who always acknowledged contributions of everyone who served Islam. He used to encourage me while I was in Tabligh, and the encouragement even intensified when I joined Jamaat-e-Islami. When Ayub Khan banned politics in 1959, Jamaat organised Islamic seminars around the country and Mawlana Faridpuri attended several of them as the chief guest. His health was in poor condition, but he still attended some seminars outside Dhaka. His attitude of acknowledging everyone’s contribution towards Islam influenced me greatly and I tried to do the same when I returned to Bangladesh in 1978 after my exiled life. I wrote a book called Islami Oikko Islami Andolon (Islamic Unity and Islamic Movement), the philosophy behind which was the contribution of Mawlana Faridpuri. The most important teaching I received from him was to respect all Islamic scholars. There can be differences of opinions, but one can learn many things from a scholar because of the qualities they possess. That is why I respect all scholars and try to build good relationships with them, even with those who oppose and condemn Mawlana Maududi.
Mawlana Faridpuri took me to speak at different programmes. His concerns for me was at a personal level as well. He once told me, “I can clearly see exhaustion in your face. When I was young like you I was not at all health conscious and due to my negligence towards eating and sleeping I am now suffering from chronic illnesses. I have not been able to fully utilise whatever ability Allah has given me due to my poor health and am wondering how I will answer Allah when He will ask me why I failed to look after the good health He had bestowed on me. You should learn from this bitter experience of mine. Always keep some dry food or fruits with you when you are travelling. Remember to take rest whenever you feel tired. Try to be regular in meals, rest and shower. Always remember that good health is Allah’s blessing and it is your responsibility to look after yourself.” Later in 1957, when political activities were banned during the rule of Ayub Khan, I fell ill and had to be hospitalised. Mawlana Faridpuri came to see me in hospital and said, “I advised you a few years ago about taking care of your health, but you probably didn’t pay much attention to it, and consequently you are in hospital.” I promised him that I would not forget his advice in future, and thankfully, I was able to maintain my health much better after that.
If we had more scholars like Mawlana Faridpuri who could show magnanimity like him then there would have been no problem in unifying all Islamic organisations. Unfortunately, despite having so many Islamic scholars and organisations it is the anti-Islamic forces that are governing the country. That is why I miss a scholar like Mawlana Faridpuri dearly.
Mawlana Noor Muhammad Azmi
It was Mawlana Shamsul Haque Faridpuri who introduced me to Mawlana Noor Muhammad Azmi. When Awami League formed government in East Pakistan in 1956 with Ataur Rahman as Prime Minister and in charge of the Education Ministry, he created an education commission and declared the madrasah education system as useless and a complete waste. I wrote a big article entitled, “A Framework of Islamic Education” to explain the importance of madrasah education. I met Mawlana Akram Khan, the founder of Daily Azad with the article who liked it very much and published it in his newspaper, and later the then editor of the newspaper, Abul Kalam Shamsuddin, wrote a post-editorial on the article appreciating it. It was this article that ultimately led to my close relationship with Mawlana Azmi.
I had been previously introduced with Mawlana Azmi at Mawlana Faridpuri’s office at Lalbagh Madrasah, but did not have the opportunity to be close to him. After the publication of my article Mawlana Akram Khan organised a meeting at his residence and invited Mawlana Faridpuri, Mawlana Azmi, Mawlana Abdur Rahim and others and asked me to join as well. As soon as I arrived Mawlana Azmi hugged me with deep affection and congratulated me for the article. I was really moved by the way he showed his love towards me and gradually our relationship became more and more close.
A ten member ‘Islamic Education Commission’ was formed in that meeting with Mawlana Akram Khan its chair and me its secretary. The committee made some recommendations to the government to Islamise the education system and create a link between the general and the madrasah education. Mawlana Azmi made the biggest contribution to the preparation of these recommendations with Mawlana Faridpuri also contributing well. During that process I had the opportunity to work closely with Mawlana Azmi. I met him many times after that and would often see him for his advice. He loved Jamaat-e-Islami so much that he would be keen to advise Jamaat about different Islamic issues from time to time.
I was always impressed by Mawlana Azmi’s vast knowledge and thoughtful opinions on different aspects of Islam. I found few Bengali scholars at that time of his calibre. His translation and explanation of Mishkat Sharif  was of high literary standard. However, for the majority of the time he suffered from ill health and I used to feel bad that he could not contribute as much as he was qualified to due to poor health. When I expressed my frustration to him he said, “I received the impression from the doctor that my illness has no cure, but what is the use of having a long life in this condition? I am, therefore, praying to Allah that He gives Mawlana Mawdudi my part of life as he is serving Islam in such a large scale.” I was not aware before then how much he loved Mawlana Mawdudi and after that then my respect for him increased even more.
Among other Islamic scholars I was close to and always received affectionate love from were the legendary journalist of Muslim Bengal Mawlana Akram Khan and the founder of Nizam-e-Islam Party Mawlana Athar Ali. Other prominent scholars for whom I have deep respect include Mawlana Abdul Aziz (Khulnavi), Mawlana Ziauddin Aligarhi, Mawlana Mufti Deen Muhammad, Mawlana Mufti Amimul Ihsan, Mawlana Abdullahil Baki Al Quraishi, Mawlana Siddiq Ahmed, Mawlana Syed Muslehuddin, Mawlana Syed Mustafa Al-Madani, Mawlana Syed Abdul Ahad Al-Madani and Mawlana Tajul Islam (may Allah be pleased with all of them).
The close bond I had with Mawlana Shamsul Haque Faridpuri and Mawlana Nur Muhammad Azmi (may Allah be pleased with them) and the love and affection I received from these two great scholars have contributed hugely towards my work and development in the cause of Islam. I have come across many scholars of Islam in my life, but I remember these two individuals with special love and respect. They had the magnanimity of acknowledging the contribution of any person who had served Islam. I never heard them talk ill of others. They sincerely wanted the movement for the establishment of Allah’s Deen to be on the right path and would always give me valuable advice. I have always felt that their thoughts on Islam were exactly in the same line.
 President of Pakistan in 1950s and 1960s
 Another prominent Islamic scholar of that time, contemporary to Mawlana Faridpuri
 Former President of Jamaat-e-Islami of the then East Pakistan
 A revered book of hadith compilation
 The path along which righteous Muslims travel in order to comply with divine law