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
MA Exams and Seeking Employment
MA Final Exam
I was supposed to appear at my MA final exam in October 1948, but I decided to wait for another year. This was because I was not satisfied with my preparation due to my busy schedule as the General Secretary of Fazlul Haque Muslim Hall Union and for some other personal issues. However, I later realised that this was the wrong decision. I attended my classes regularly and always made a note of the lectures. It was a great mistake not to appear in that year’s exam for the sake of achieving a better mark. No good student would want to lose an academic year and my misjudgement cost me one and a half years. I do hope that no one makes this same mistake in their life. Due to the Hindu-Muslim riots, which happened twice in the latter half of 1949, I lost a further six months. I was supposed to obtain my MA degree in December 1948, but due to my erroneous decision I was unable to receive it any earlier than August 1950.
During the exam, by the grace of Allah, out of the four papers, there was only one question that I was not prepared for. No one received a first class in political science that year and I was one of four students who obtained a high second class. My classmate in my MA final year, named Kafiluddin Mahmud, with whom I would play carom and volleyball regularly, received a first class first in the MA exams of 1948 and immediately joined the university as a lecturer. Incidentally, he examined the paper that contained the one question I was unable to answer. He felt sympathetic towards me and asked why I didn’t do well in that question. I felt embarrassed that my classmate had become my examiner and regretted my decision not to appear in the exam in the same year with him. Kafiluddin Mahmud later joined the civil service and was one of the advisers of the 1991 Caretaker Government of Bangladesh.
I embarked on my spiritual journey with Tablighi Jamaat after appearing in my MA final exam in March 1950 and returned to Dhaka in July 1950 after completing three chillas (four months). Upon returning to university, I came to know that the date of my oral examination had been announced. At that time, the oral examinations would take place after the written examination results were ready, unlike now, when they take place immediately after the written exams. I came to know during my viva that I had done very well in three papers and was asked why the fourth paper, which cost me a first class mark, was not as good. The teachers seemed satisfied with my performances in the oral exams and, when the results were declared in the first week of August, I came to know that I was the second out of four that obtained a high second class.
Choosing a Profession
I had decided during my third Tablighi chilla that I would begin teaching as my profession. I met the head of the department who told me that I could not apply for lectureship at a university as I did not hold an honours undergraduate degree and the only way it could be compensated for was with a first class master’s degree. Hence, I missed that opportunity too, whereas one who had a third class undergraduate degree and fewer marks than me in their master’s degree was able to join the university.
My First Job
I sent applications to four famous university colleges with all my certificates, although I was unaware of whether any of the colleges had a vacancy. While I was looking for jobs after the MA final exams, I went to see the Accountant General Syed Mohammad Jamil who had met me in Tablighi Jamaat and had asked me to visit him after the completion of my third chilla. He was from Northern India and was very affectionate towards me in Tablighi Jamaat, and that relationship continued for many more years. During my exiled life, I met him once in Libya in 1973 at an international youth conference where he sincerely prayed for my life in exile to end. I realised at that time that when people develop a deep love for Allah, their hearts become very soft towards fellow human beings.
When I met Mr Jamil at his residence in Dhaka, he hugged me affectionately and asked me to join his office in the position of an upper division clerk until I obtained the job of my choice. He said, “Hundreds of people work in my office; all upper division clerks are graduates and the lower division clerks are not below matriculation. I have increased the prayer break for the noon prayer (zuhr) to 45 minutes so that someone capable of speaking about Islam can speak about 20/25 minutes after the prayer. However, I am not too happy with their speeches. I have heard you speak many times and would like you to expound Islam to our employees after joining here. I hope you will not decline in doing this service for Islam.” I had no intention whatsoever to do this kind of job, but could not refuse the affectionate demand of Mr Jamil. I thought that it was a good idea to be occupied until I found a proper job. I could get some experience and simultaneously provide some service to Islam and also receive enough money that I wouldn’t need to ask my father to cover my expenses. Hence, I agreed to join.
He asked me to apply that very day and gave me the form, telling me that interviews were held every week and that someone like me would get selected easily. I received a letter for an interview within four days of applying. I then attended the interview two days later and joined after three days. I was among 25/30 clerks under a senior superintendent. He was very caring and as I was new he would often come to my desk in order to help me understand the work. Most of the work was accounting, which I didn’t enjoy, but I continued to do it for the sake of completing a job.
The officers would deliver the speeches after prayer and one of them introduced me and asked me to speak a few days after I joined. It seemed that the audience liked it. However, some senior clerks did not like the fact that a junior clerk was delivering an officer’s job, and I could hear some mutterings around. With Allah’s mercy I saw my acceptability increase after speaking for a few days. If someone displayed an interest in the topics I discussed, I would send them to the Kakrail Mosque to attend Tablighi Jamaat programmes. I worked in that office for only forty days and I was able to encourage 8 to 10 people to join Tabligh during that time.
A Better Offer
After working as an upper division clerk for a month, Mr Jamil asked me to see him at his home. He had already heard that my MA final results had been published, so he asked me to take with me all my certificates and testimonials. He became very happy seeing my papers and said, “I love you for the sake of Islam. The superintendent of my office has praised you highly for your performance in his department and I have heard very satisfactory remarks about your speeches after prayers. I would like you to be permanent in this office, so I want to promote you to the position of an officer. Please sign this paper if you agree.” Saying this he gave me the form, which was 4 or 5 pages long. I was surprised to see that most of the columns had already been filled and realised that he did so by taking the particulars from my previous application. I only needed to complete a few areas. I was overwhelmed by his love and kept looking at the document without saying a word. He said again, “I will be here for at least two more years and will be able to promote you to higher positions. I will make such arrangements that you will continue to thrive in this job. You can sign this document without any worry.”
With a gentle and emotional voice, I expressed my deep gratitude towards him and said, “I know that you love me so much because of the deen (religion) and it is with this spirit of deen that I have decided to take up college teaching as my profession.”
I then explained to him the thoughts that led to the decision that I made whilst at a Mosque in Rangpur during my third chilla. Hearing this, he hugged me, kissed my forehead and said, “My love for you has grown even deeper after seeing your courage to reject such a big offer. May Allah accept you for His deen. Government jobs are not appropriate at all for a person like you. You have made the right decision.” When I returned and relayed this to my father, he said, “You have to make your own decision about these things, but always remember to take decisions with full confidence in Allah and with the spirit of Islam in mind”.
A Strange Telegram
I was asked to lead another Tablighi chilla to train some educated youths. When I informed them of my applications to colleges and the job I was working at the time, I was asked to apply for leave and was told that they would keep in contact with my father and inform me if I had an interview call. However, I could not get long-term leave due to working for only over a month, so after only forty days of serving in that office I resigned and went for the chilla.
After completing the chilla in October, I returned and continued to work for Tabligh in Dhaka and its adjacent areas as I didn’t have any job. In mid-November 1950, I got a telegram from a college to attend an interview, but was surprised to see that there was no mention of the name of the college or the district. The only name that was mentioned in the telegram was the telegram office, Alamnagar, from where it was sent. I was confused as to where the letter was from. I heard that there was a vacancy in the Political Science department at Pabna Edward College, so I went there for the interview only to find that they hadn’t sent me any telegram. I then went to the telephone office and was informed that Alamnagar was in Rangpur, so I decided to go there immediately.
I missed the interview date as I had been to Pabna, so I reached Rangpur the day after the interview and went straight to the residence of the principal. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the principal was none other than Mr Abdul Hakim Qureshi, who was my principal at Islamic Intermediate College for four years. He also taught me Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar during my intermediate class. I said, “Sir, if I knew you were here I would have come to see you a long time ago.” He received me with a cordial handshake and asked why I came a day after the interview. When I informed him the reason he got very annoyed and said, “That head clerk is a fool. How could he send a telegram like this? Please don’t mind this, as it was not your fault”.
I asked him in a low, worried and sad tone, “Sir, will I be given another chance to give an interview?” He replied, “There is no need for an interview. I have already decided to appoint you due to your qualifications being much better than those who came for the interview and my personal acquaintance with you. Return tomorrow to receive your appointment letter and join on the given date.” From the core of my heart came out the expression Alhamdulillah to express my gratitude towards the Lord and my whole existence felt a deep sense of satisfaction. This proves the power of Allah’s decisions, that I could be appointed even without an interview. On the other hand, if He doesn’t approve something, then no amount of effort can lead to success.
As mentioned before, it was during a late night in May 1950 while at the Keramotiya Mosque in Rangpur that I decided not to do any government job and take up teaching as a profession so that I could give more time to the cause of Allah. It was His wish that it was in Rangpur above all where I could start my teaching career. I had sent letters to three other university colleges, but none of them replied, whereas Rangpur Carmichael College appointed me without an interview. Two other colleagues received appointment letters the following day. They were Professor Zamir of Bangla and Professor Kalim of Philosophy. I joined the political science department. After receiving my appointment letter I returned to Dhaka that evening.
 A high official responsible for financial records during the British rule, also known as “Her Majesty’s Service”.