MY JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
PROFESSOR GHULAM AZAM
(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
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.
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. 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 and Maw’ezatul Hasanah 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. 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 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.
 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.
 Another nearby district of northern Bangladesh.
 Best use of language while calling people to Allah’s cause as advised in the Qur’an.
 Late night prayer before dawn highly recommended to come closer to Allah.
 Call for prayer.
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
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.