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
Life as an Academic
Rangpur Carmichael College
During British rule, five colleges in undivided Bengal were known as premier colleges. Four of the colleges, apart from the Presidency College in Kolkata, are in Bangladesh, with Carmichael College being one of them. Situated two miles away from Rangpur city, the college is on a huge stretch of land encompassing nine acres. I used to love the college campus for its beautiful serene environment.
Teaching Journey Begins
My visit to Rangpur for the interview made me aware of how cold it could become there during December and January. I had no winter clothes and spent my student life wearing cotton clothing. I would at best wear a woollen shawl during the cold season. After being advised by some colleagues at the college, I got myself some flannel shirts and a sherwani for the winter in Rangpur. I joined the college on 3rd December 1950. The principal introduced me to Professor Gopal, an elderly person who was in charge of the college timetable. He cordially invited me to his room and asked the typist to prepare my timetable from a piece of paper on which he had noted it down from a master timetable at his desk. When it was ready, he gave me the paper and said, “I wish you all the success, welcome!”
I got a bit worried looking at the timetable as I was given 24 lectures over six days a week for first and second year BA students. Professor Gopal explained that I was the only lecturer in my subject and needed to take all the lectures on Political Science and Civics. I was also told that Professor Abdul Mannan of the Economics department used to take these lectures before. I went to the principal and requested him to relieve me from such a high teaching load. He called Professor Gopal and they both requested Professor Mannan to take six of my 24 lectures, which he kindly agreed. I eventually got 18 hours of teaching a week.
My first lecture was on 5th December with the intermediate1 students. At that time, lecturers had to take the female students with them to class who would then go to the girls’ common room after the lecture. After taking the attendance register I looked at my students. It was a huge classroom with almost 200 students. Some of them didn’t even have a place to sit. I decided to give my students some important pieces of advice at the beginning. All the lectures at that time were in English and teacher-student communication outside the classroom was also in English. I said the following:
“You are the future of the nation. It is you who will lead this country towards development, so you need to equip yourselves with different types of skills to face the challenges ahead. You need to be sincere towards your academic matters, but at the same time you should indulge in activities that will help you grow as good human beings.”
I then told them about five things that would help them do well in studies and two habits that would build them as good human beings. The points I gave for doing well in exams are:
Be regular in class
Go through the topic to be discussed in a lecture beforehand
Listen to the lectures carefully and note down important points
Discuss topics covered in class with friends
Always ask questions if something is not clear
I reminded them that only good students have the courage to ask questions as their inquisitive minds would like to understand things clearly. I also told them that I would like to help them learn and whoever has this attitude would find me beside them.
My suggestions for being a good person were:
Read biographies of noble men and women in history
Read books as much as you can both in Bangla and in English
Their expressions told me that the students were encouraged by my words and looked happy when they left class at the end of the lecture. In the corridor outside the classroom, around eight to ten students surrounded me and said, “We have never heard such beautiful advice.” I saw quite a few students behind them nodding in agreement.
I felt content after my first lecture. I took up teaching not only as my profession, but also as a passion. My mission was to help my students develop as good human beings. I always believe that this should be the only reason for taking up teaching as a profession. Those who do this only as a job will fail to make this contribution as they spend every day as monotonous routine work and are not lucky enough to have the pleasure of developing good human individuals.
My salary was only 180 taka, which was much less than one could get in a government job. As a result meritorious students who possessed the qualities of good academics joined the civil service to earn better livelihood. However, my motivation to become a teacher was entirely missionary, so my pay scale was never a priority for me. I used to encourage my students to take up this profession saying that this is the only profession which expects one to maintain good moral character. This profession enables people to keep themselves away from bribery and corruption and encourages them to build future citizens who have good moral character.
I was a teacher at Rangpur Carmichael College for only a few years. I would have spent my whole life in this profession had I not felt compelled to leave it for the sake of the Islamic movement. I loved the profession so much that I would often dream that I was giving lectures at my college or walking towards college. Another advantage of teaching as a profession is the respect one gets throughout one’s life. During my organisational visits to greater Rangpur and Bogra districts, I would often find my former students, many of whom were teachers themselves. Is it possible to measure the love and respect they showed towards me? This is much more precious for me than any material goods in this life.
My father used to say that no one wants to see others more successful than themselves other than parents and teachers. Genuine good teachers get respect from their students as parents get from their children. That is why for me it is the best profession and one that builds humanity.
The Prophet (PBUH) said, “I have been sent as a teacher.” However, he didn’t say that to mean a profession, but as the teacher of mankind, because he is the ideal teacher for every aspect of our lives.
Prayer Arrangement in College
There was a break of 45 minutes for Zuhr (noon) prayer and most teachers who used to pray would go back to their campus accommodation to pray. Students would pray at the Lalbagh Bazar Mosque nearby. Some of them could be seen praying on the grass inside the campus. I felt that there should be prayer arrangement in the college building, which would make it easier for everyone to pray and encourage more people to perform their prayers. With this in mind I convinced the principal to allocate a room for prayer in the main college building. Among the lecturers, I was the one always present during the prayer and I would spend 20 minutes each day to discuss about different aspects of Islam. I would pray there every day even when I didn’t have a lecture.
I observed that due to my discussions on Islam the attendees in the prayer room started to increase. I would use a blackboard to explain things on Islam, and despite having teachers of Arabic and Persian attending prayers, who were also Islamic scholars, students considered me their teacher on Islam and would often come to me with questions.
1 Higher secondary level