Professor Ghulam Azam

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My Journey Through Life Part 23 : Beginning Married Life


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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

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