Professor Ghulam Azam

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My Journey Through Life Part 24: Taste of Fatherhood

MY JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE 

BY 

PROFESSOR GHULAM AZAM

Prof Azam Reading (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-four:

Taste of Fatherhood

My Wife’s Pregnancy

My wife became pregnant in the middle of 1952. The sense of impending fatherhood created tremendous excitement in me and I began researching and preparing a welcome for the new addition to my family. A few days later I went to my tailor, and while we were speaking, his two-year-old boy gave him a hug. I had witnessed this before, but at that moment, it seemed particularly special to me as a would-be father. I inquired after him, “How does it feel to be called abbu (dad)?” He replied, “Of course it is sweet, but he also is very naughty. See, he didn’t let me speak to you properly. At night he not only disturbs his mother but also doesn’t let me sleep sometimes”. Saying this he started kissing his little boy. I realised that no matter how naughty children are, a parent’s love for their child makes them forget everything.

In order to maintain the continuity of the human race, Allah created such love for children among parents so that they become keen to have children. If there are no children within a few years of marriage the couple and their extended family members become anxious. They see the doctor; if that doesn’t work they seek alternative means, in their desperation for a child. A mother happily goes through the adversities of pregnancy, delivery pain, breastfeeding, and looking after a child. Yet, they forget everything after seeing the face of their child. If they were unable to overlook such difficulties then no mother would want to bear a child again.  Allah talks about this suffering of a mother in the Qur’an: “His mother carried him with hardship and gave birth to him with hardship, and his gestation and weaning [period] is thirty months.” (46:15)

That is why Allah has given a mother a status that is three times higher than the father. A mother suffers exceedingly during the initial months of pregnancy, although the extent is not the same for all of them. Some continue to feel sick for up to five or six months of pregnancy and find it hard to eat and digest food due to a continuous tendency to vomit. Unfortunately, my wife was one of them. She had to stay under her mother’s care for the majority of her pregnancy, while I would visit her every week. I sympathised with her greatly, but it was beyond my power to help her in any way other than to pray for her. There were appointments with a doctor; however, their usefulness was limited. Finally, my father-in-law brought some herbal medicine that did some good. I didn’t dare bring her to stay with me in her frail condition.

The Birth of My First Child

As per the custom in our country, the first child is generally born in the maternal grandparent’s house. I was avidly waiting for the day when I would be able to taste fatherhood. A telegram came on 2nd February 1952. I found the postman waiting after I had signed the receipt of the telegram. He had read the telegram and so wanted a tip, which I obliged. I came to know that my wife gave birth to a baby boy.

A child is one of Allah’s biggest mercy whether it is a boy or a girl. However, I had been praying for a son as the first child of my next generation, and thanked Allah for granting my wish. As girls are married to another family, I wanted the first child to be a son so that he could be the leader of the generation and guide his younger siblings in the right direction. There is a tradition of the first child being a son in our family. My paternal grandfather, my father, and I are all the first children in our generation. The birth of my son maintained that tradition, which made me even happier. I immediately asked my father-in-law to arrange two goats to be sacrificed for the aqiqa[1] and sent money to my father to attend the aqiqa ceremony.

Naming the Child

My father was extremely happy to become a grandfather for the first time. My brothers and sisters were proud to become uncles and aunts respectively. My mother, despite being slightly introverted, also couldn’t resist showing her elation. My father was asked to name the child. He said that he had dreamt his father (my grandfather) reminded him that the Prophet (PBUH) recommended Abdullah and Abdur Rahman as the best names. Therefore, my father decided to name him Abdullah. When my siblings asked what should be his nickname, my father said that four names can be chosen from the Arabic word amn. They are Mamoon, Ameen, Momen and Amaan and they could choose any one of them. They all preferred Mamoon, which I also favoured. In this way before his aqiqa he was named Abdullahil Mamoon. Mamoon means ‘secure’ or ‘secured’ while Amn means ‘security’ or ‘peace’, so Mamoon also means ‘having peace’.

No matter how happy, emotional and proud I was to become a father, I was not aware of what the little baby needed and what to take for him, so I decided not to buy anything from Rangpur and  to choose whatever was necessary from Naogaon after discussing with my wife.

Meeting the New Guest

I started for Naogaon the day before the aqiqa, full of emotion and enthusiasm, but left empty-handed only taking the name of the child with me. My mind was entirely occupied by my unseen son; his appearance, who he resembled most etc. kept creeping into my mind. The train arrived on time, but I felt it took much longer than usual. My journey in the horse carriage from the station to home seemed even longer. I kept looking at my watch, but the road appeared awfully long. The human mind is very strange! It can’t always cope with the situation and the environment and decides to take its own path for which human beings suffer from mental anxiety and restlessness. There is a saying in Arabic, which translates to, “Waiting is even worse than death.”

When I reached my in-law’s house it was my wife’s paternal grandmother who congratulated me first. My brother-in-law embraced me to express their happiness. My mother-in-law asked that I first take a shower, pray and eat, but I said, “I want to see the new guest first”. My wife’s grandmother agreed and took me to my wife’s room. It was a very cold day, so she wrapped the baby in a beautiful big towel and put him on my lap. I kept looking at him for a long time. His eyes were first closed, but when they opened after a while, I felt like the happiest man in the world. My wife’s grandmother said to my wife, “See how he is looking at his father! He hardly kept his eyes open in the last few days.”

I saw a contended smile in my wife’s face. I had said nothing to her other than assalamu alaikum after entering the room. Everything was centred around the baby. I noticed how proud she was to become a mother and her satisfaction in being able to fulfill my desire of a son through the mercy of Allah. When I had the opportunity to speak to my wife in private I witnessed a significant change in my intimate life partner. There was a different manner in the way she walked and spoke. I had read in a book of philosophy that a woman does not feel fulfilled in her husband’s house until she becomes a mother. She probably feels that her position is consolidated after the birth of her child, which makes her feel more confident.

First Night with Wife and Son

When we went to sleep it was as before, both of us lying down beside each other; the only difference was that our new child accompanied us on the left side of my wife. It is natural that she needed to concentrate on the new baby as he was only a few days’ old. She had to change his nappies, feed him, discover what happened when he cried etc. On the other side of the mother the child’s father was comfortable, while the mother needed to be ever busy. There is no comparison to the care a mother gives to a child. This naturally makes the father of the child appreciative of his wife. I felt very grateful to my wife upon seeing her dedication and sacrifice for our son.

A Unique Sense of Pain

Despite feeling very happy and proud on becoming a father and appreciating the sacrifice and dedication of my wife towards the care of my son, I still felt a unique sense of pain in my heart. It is such a feeling that one can feel inside, but will find it difficult to explain to others. Those among the readers who have the experience of becoming a father may well have forgotten this pain, but should remember this pain after reading this. The inimitable love towards the child and the pride of being a father quickly makes this pain disappear from our memory, but no one can deny the existence of that temporary sense of misery. I should now explain which pain I am talking about rather than testing the readers’ patience further.

In a previous chapter I had written about the feeling I had after getting married that made me feel very content, which was the appearance of a person in my life who was entirely mine. She was only mine from the night till morning and it was only I who was the centre of all her attentiveness. No one else had any right over her at that time. After she became a mother I did sleep beside her, but her attentiveness towards me reduced to less than 10% compared to before. I felt that bitterness quite intensely on that first night. Where had my intimate life partner disappeared? How could another person take over her completely? How could I suddenly be deprived of my right? Can we describe this feeling with anything other than pain? This torment is not only subtle, but deep as well. One can share their different types of pain with others, which can be reduced and overcome by the support and help of others. This is one pain that can’t be shared with anyone. My wife will also know for the first time about my distress after reading this, and will realise the pain I felt all those years ago, but I did not confide these feelings even with her.

When one can’t share one’s pain with others then the pain becomes even deeper. After spending two such ‘painful’ nights with my life partner and after the aqiqa, the next day I returned to Rangpur. For one and a half months I continued to spend two nights with my family every week.

Today, I have expressed this feeling that no one else other than Allah had known before. The world is such a place that there is no happiness without pain. This is such a universal truth that no one can deny it. How much pain does a mother need to go through before having the pleasure of having a baby? Compared to what she went through my temporary anguish is nothing, especially in relation to the pleasure of becoming a father.

[1] A highly encouraged practice in Islam when an animal is sacrificed and the meat distributed among relatives, friends and the poor on the occasion of the birth of a child, generally after seven days of birth.

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My Journey Through Life Part 23 : Beginning Married Life

MY JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE

BY

PROFESSOR GHULAM AZAM

Prof Azam Reading

(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 23:

Beginning Married Life


I got married on 28th December, 1951. The ‘Bridegroom’s Party’ returned to Chandina with the new bride. My mother was very excited to have her first daughter-in-law in the house and kept reminding us how happy my grandmother would have been if she was alive to see that day. There is a tradition in Bangladesh that the bride is accompanied by some of her close relatives when she first comes to her in-laws’. My wife was accompanied by her younger brother Akram, her cousin Hena, who was just a child, and her maternal grandmother whose presence in our house delighted me as I found her extremely pleasant with a wonderful sense of humour during the rusumat after my wedding. Her presence made my post married life even more delightful.

My father was keen to arrange a walima[1], but could not do so due to some genuine problems. The bride generally returns to her father’s home after the walima, which is usually held within a couple of days of the wedding. As he couldn’t arrange the walima, my father asked my father-in-law to take his daughter back to her home after a week, which he did. I stayed at my in-laws in Naogaon for a couple of days before leaving for Rangpur promising my wife that I would take her there as soon as I sorted out my family accommodation.

Starting a New Family Life in Rangpur

I brought my wife from Naogaon to Rangpur in the middle of February 1952. I was given the house of the Vice Principal as my temporary accommodation as it was empty due to the absence of a Vice Principal at the college at that time. The house had several rooms, but there was no furniture, so I managed to get the minimum I needed to start my family life before bringing my wife. This time my wife’s paternal grandmother accompanied my wife to Rangpur.

A boy called Abdul Jalil worked as my domestic help and had been in my house since before my wedding. He was a simple, honest and active boy who learned cooking from me. I had a cooking badge when I was with the scout movement during my school years, which came in very handy in my professional life. I taught several of the domestic help boys I had to cook, and each of them left getting a better job. However, Abdul Jalil did not leave me. He used to call me Abba ‘father’ with such sincerity that I had to treat him as my own son. I give him the full credit of building that relationship and due to him my family life in Rangpur was very smooth. He used to complete all his tasks with a smile. One can never repay the contribution of such a sincere individual with money. He stayed with me until I left Rangpur in 1955. Even after that he used to come and see me whenever I visited Rangpur for an organisational trip of Jamaat.


My Wife’s Paternal Grandmother

Although my wife’s paternal grandmother was quite old, she was a very influential figure due to her robust personality and strong voice. My father-in-law had lost his father during his boyhood and since then his mother gave him the love and care of both parents. She was a towering figure in the house and my father-in-law showed deep respect for his mother, considering her Allah’s greatest blessing. He remained an obedient son till his mother’s death.

However, I could see a different side of this imposing personality in my house. I could never forget the warmth of her affection towards me as the husband of her beloved granddaughter, and her sincere love brought immense pleasure in our newly wedded life. She used to live in the room next to ours from where the beautiful fragrance of her zarda[2] reached our room. The fragrance followed her wherever she walked. She had her own equipment to soften the zarda as she had lost all her teeth. I asked her where she found such fragrant zarda and was told that her son-in-law, Mawlana Abdullail Baqi Al Qureishi, who was then a leader of the Muslim League and a member of the Pakistan Parliament, used to bring this special zarda from Lucknow in India for his mother-in-law. Mr Baqi was the father of Professor Dr M A Bari, the former Vice Chancellor of National University[3], so my beloved grandmother-in-law was Professor Bari’s nani (maternal grandmother).

I wasn’t in the habit of chewing paan[4], but my grandmother-in-law taught me in a very beautiful and sweet manner. She used to prepare two paans herself and used to give one to me and the other to her beloved granddaughter. She would make us sit together in front of her and ask me to put the paan into my wife’s mouth and asked my wife to do the same to me. We felt very happy doing it. She used to chew paan in such majestic style that we used to perform as if we were her obedient actor and actress. This continued every day for almost two weeks. We would have paan together once or twice a day and she used to tell us different stories. We had to finish every paan in front of her. After a couple of days she gave me silver coloured zarda to have with paan. It wasn’t very tasty, but I liked its fragrance, so I started having it too. She knew that her granddaughter couldn’t tolerate its taste, so she asked me to join her in chewing zarda and paan together, and soon I became rather addicted to this bad habit, which took a while to shake off.

The time of year was the end of February and beginning of March. The Language Movement of 1952 was in full flow at that time. I was active with the movement outside, but at home I was enjoying a happy married life along with my paternal grandmother-in-law. On 6th March I was arrested and sent to jail when I was on my way from the city to the college campus. There was no other male member in my house at that time other than my domestic help Abdul Jalil. When my father-in-law came to see me at 10 am on the third day of my arrest, I came to know that one of my students had informed my father-in-law by telegram of my arrest, so he had come to take his mother and daughter back to Naogaon.

In this way instead of enjoying my newly married life, I had to spend my days alone in a prison cell. I spent the first spring of my married life in jail for the ‘crime’ of being involved in the Language Movement.

One Month in Rangpur Jail

The Language Movement before and after 21st February spread all over East Pakistan, and in Rangpur three college teachers were in the leadership of the movement. Incidentally all three of them joined Rangpur Carmichael College together on 3rd December 1950. Apart from myself, the other two were Professor Zamiruddin Ahmed of Bangla and Professor Kalim Uddin of Philosophy. As Professor Kalim Uddin was not in Rangpur at that time, he avoided being imprisoned, so Professor Zamiruddin and I passed our time in prison together. I mentioned in a previous chapter that the Jailer of Rangpur, Mr Wahiduzzaman, was a friend of Professor Zamiruddin, and he ensured that we were given Division in jail[5]. It was because of him that we were treated very well in the prison. The staff and other prisoners respected us a lot. I used to spend time reading books borrowed from the jail library. There was an arrangement for Friday prayers as well, which was led by someone from outside. I asked the Jailer if I could speak before or after the prayer to inspire the prisoners towards Islam, but he said he couldn’t allow me to do so without permission from his superiors. After the prayer I started supplicating to Allah aloud and said all those things in the supplication that I would have said if I was allowed to speak. I pleaded Allah to help the prisoners describing the difficult life they were having and seeking His blessings for them, and realised that everyone was crying and feeling content with the dua. Subsequently, however, orders from above,prohibited me from attending the Friday prayers any more.

I was arrested and sent to jail in the third week after bringing my wife to Rangpur and beginning our new married life together. The effect of this separation was very painful to me. I was not there for any crime, but under a so-called ‘Special Security Act’. After joining the Islamic movement I went to jail in 1955, 1964 and 1992 and took some pleasure in my stays in jail, but that mentality hadn’t developed in 1952, meaning that it was a difficult time for me. Prison life in later years was for me a blessing from Allah. The opportunities I had  for studying the tafseer[6] of the Qur’an, the hadith, and Islamic literature; memorising many chapters of the Qur’an; reciting the memorised chapters during the tahajjud prayer; enjoying the moments when I could spend a long time supplicating and pleading to Allah; and memorising many duas from the Qur’an and hadith could never be availed outside the prison life.  During many of the Jamaat Central Council meetings, District President meetings, and at many training sessions of Jamaat and Shibir, I would often joke that if I had the power of sending people to prison then I would send them to jail for six months to develop the highest level of spiritual training.

However, jail life in 1952 was not that pleasant as I hadn’t developed that mentality at that time, so I often felt restless and wanted to leave prison life. I never felt like this after joining Jamaat-e-Islami.

[1] The marriage banquet, is the second of the two traditional parts of an Islamic wedding. The walima is performed after the nikah, or marriage ceremony. The word walima is derived from awlam, meaning to gather or assemble. It designates a feast in Arabic.

[2] Indian chewing tobacco flavoured with spices

[3] The largest university in Bangladesh with more than two million students studying in 2154 colleges/institutions affiliated to this university.

[4] A preparation combining betel leaf with areca nut and sometimes also with tobacco. It is chewed for its stimulant and psychoactive effects. After chewing it is either spat out or swallowed.

[5] Special provision in jail in Bangladesh, particularly for political prisoners where they are treated well and given better quality food and service.

[6] Translation with detailed explanation