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.