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
My Father’s Reaction to my Joining Jamaat-e-Islami
I joined Jamaat-e-Islami in April 1954 and at the end of May, my father suddenly appeared in Rangpur without any prior notice. My previous attempts to bring him to Rangpur, even after sending transport cost, were unsuccessful, so I was surprised to suddenly see him in my house. Moreover, I knew that he was supposed to be in Lahore via Delhi for the three Tablighi Chillas, hence my astonishment was even greater. He reached my house at the college campus at 1.30 pm when I had just finished my prayer. As soon as he came inside he started speaking furiously without any greeting:
“You gave the Three Chillas before I did. I need to know why you decided to leave Tablighi Jamaat after becoming its leader. You are the eldest in the generation and we have lots of hope on you. I introduced you to Tabligh in order to have salvation in the hereafter. You must tell me why you decided to join another organisation after progressing so well in Tabligh.”
I politely asked my father to first have shower, pray and eat so that we could discuss this in a relaxed manner. His rage seemed to subside a little and we started to talk after lunch. I spoke first:
“My dear father, your son has not become derailed. You brought me up since my childhood. Whatever I learned from working with Tabligh will benefit me for the rest of my life. I joined Jamaat-e-Islami after thinking very deeply. I didn’t know about this organisation before and you too can decide whether it is the right path after knowing more about it.” He became even angrier and said, “I don’t want to know about them and I urge you to leave that organisation and resume your work with Tablighi Jamaat.”
I said, “I never had the audacity to argue with you in my life, and never disagreed with you looking in your eyes. However, what we are discussing now relates to taking decisions on the basis of Qur’an and Hadith. I have decided to join Jamaat-e-Islami for the same reason when I joined Tablighi Jamaat.
By this time he was enraged. He said, “Doesn’t Mawlana Abdul Aziz understand anything? Why did he write to me saying that my son has joined an organisation that is worse than the Qadianis? I immediately returned to the country after getting that letter. I left Dhaka the following day to see you. I can’t tell you how worried I am.”
I could not control my tears after hearing this. What father would not get worried if he hears from a trusted scholar that his son has become worse than the Qadianis? He was worried because he was my well-wisher. I felt so wretched seeing his downcast expression that I cried out loudly. My father thought that I was crying because of repentance and that I had realised my mistakes. He also started crying and hugging me. It was such an embarrassing moment! When both of us became calmer and sat down, my father looked at me with expectation that I would immediately renounce my association with Jamaat-e-Islami and re-join Tablighi Jamaat. I tried to console him by saying:
“Father, one needs to take decisions on the Deen after properly reflecting on things and after much contemplation. I want to give you some books about Jamaat-e-Islami so that you know about them well. Mawlana Abdul Aziz has written such letter to you because he doesn’t know much about the organisation.” He became angry again and said, “I know Mawlana Abdul Aziz very well and am confident that he couldn’t write such a letter without knowing about it. You have to return to Tablighi Jamaat”.
I had never been in such a difficult situation in my life. The father whom I love so much; whose orders I had always obeyed even when I didn’t agree; in front of whom I had never dared to justify my wrongdoings; in fear of whose disappointment I had never disobeyed any orders – I was extremely uneasy for not having any other alternative but to argue with such a great father! Realising that he was imposing a wrong choice on me without even realising it I kept helplessly staring at him without a word while tears kept rolling down my cheeks. He also felt uneasy seeing that the son who had never disobeyed him before was holding on to his decision so firmly. He probably felt pity on me and softly, in a broken voice, said:
“I am alive with the hope that you will be the leader among your siblings to the right path, and that through you I will be able to achieve success in the hereafter. I was contended that I would be meeting Allah seeing you progressed in the path of Allah. I had never imagined that you would choose an erroneous path. Your grandfather used to pray for you a lot and left the world with huge expectations about you. I can’t express how stressful I am feeling at the moment.” He stopped speaking, but kept crying. I sat down holding his two legs and said:
“Father, I did not make such a decision for worldly gains. I had never had such extensive knowledge about Islam before. I had never heard so heart-wrenching explanations of the Qur’an before. I am confident that you can make the right decision after reading only a few books. I am giving you some books to read. I will be coming to Dhaka for a long two-month Ramadan and summer holiday in a week’s time and can then discuss about these issues in detail there.”
Looking at him, I felt that my worries were over for the time being. He returned to Dhaka the next day. I gave him the same two books Mawlana Abdul Khaleque had given me before I joined Jamaat.
Encounter with Father in Dhaka
I had thought that I would find my father in a favourable mood going back to Dhaka, but I understood that my crisis was far from over as soon as I looked at his face. I knew that the path of the Islamic movement had obstacles, but had never thought that it would come from such a person. It seemed that there was no positive effect of the three books I had given him to read and soon realised my mistake in giving him the book written by Mr Islahi, in wich there was a harsh attack on the Tablighi movement in the very first chapter. My father was so annoyed with the first chapter that he didn’t continue reading the book. This made me understand that criticisms of a religious activity should be done in a pragmatic manner and compassionate style so that people can consider it rationally. Unfortunately, Mawlana Islahi’s criticisms had neither pragmatism nor compassion and the sarcastic tone in which he criticised Tablighi Jamaat hurt my father’s feelings for which the other two books failed to make any positive impression. He commented:
“You and Mawdudi understand everything, nobody else knows anything. Is Tablighi Jamaat so bad?”
I tried to sit down with my father along with my younger brother Dr Ghulam Muazzam. My father asked me some questions, which I answered satisfactorily through the logic of the Qur’an. He also criticised some political activities of Jamaat and the way I answered them attracted my younger brother as well. However, instead of being satisfied with my logical answers, my father got angry and said, “Does that mean that everyone apart from you is in the wrong path?”
The relationship between a father and a son is such that it sometimes becomes psychologically impossible for a father to concede defeat to a son. The respect a father deserves means that a child should always listen to him. It was difficult for a father at that time to accept that the son was right and he was wrong. My father had no arguments to prove that I was in the wrong path, but he insisted on the belief that I was derailed. I proved through logical evidence that I was right, but the more I tried to convince him in a polite manner, the more irritated he would become. It was a hugely embarrassing moment for me. Then my younger brother managed the uneasy situation with a wonderful comment:
“Father, what has pleased me most is that we are having debate about the Deen in our house, whereas in other houses arguments between a father and a son or among brothers and sisters are due to property disputes. I learned a lot of things from this discussion and if you two continue more discussions like this it will increase my knowledge further.”
After much thought I gave my father another Urdu book to read, but he criticised the book in our next meeting. I tried to prove why the writer was right and my brother also tried to support me. By then I realised that even the book of Allah can be misinterpreted if it is not read with a neutral mind, so I decided not to give any more books to my father for the time being.
Words of Consolation
I started working with the Dhaka city branch of Jamaat-e-Islami while on college holidays. In one such programme there was tafseer (Explanation of Quran) session by a scholar who was explaining the verses from Sura Luqman where the prophet Luqman was giving some advice to his sons. The part of I liked most is how to manage the situation when there is a conflict with parents about the Deen. It seemed to me that those verses were revealed to resolve my situation. I had read them many times before, but never before had they appeared so meaningful to me.
I started behaving with my father according to teachings of those verses. If there was a situation where my reply to his comments would lead to arguments, I would remain silent. On the other hand I tried to please my father as much as possible in other worldly affairs. I tried to spend time with him as much as possible and attend to look after him to the best of my ability. After discussing with my brother I decided that I should not give him any book to read myself as we needed him to read with a neutral mind-set. My brother used a pragmatic approach to convince my father and said:
“Father, the books that my brother has been reading to choose his current path are in Urdu, which I struggle to read. As a scholar I request that you read them and explain them to me. He is progressing through his knowledge and logic, and it is wise not to argue with him without reading these books. His character has always been good, and now it has become even better. His mannerism is also very attractive. I don’t think he is that kind of person who would blindly take up a path. I suggest that you read those books with patience.”
My brother was successful and my father started asking me for books. I felt much relieved for the improvement of the situation.
My Father’s Change of Heart about Jamaat-e-Islami
A few days after I returned to Rangpur after the holidays I received a letter from my father in which he asked me to go to Khulna where the Central president of Tablighi Jamaat Hazratji Mawlana Yusuf was supposed to attend a conference. I knew that my father had softened from his previous stance against Jamaat that he had developed through the wrong impression given to him about Jamaat by the then East Pakistan President of Tabligh. However, reading Mawlana Moududi’s books may have made his position softer, he still wanted to ensure that I was doing the right thing by making me have a face-to-face meeting with Tablighi leaders.
I reached Khulna as per my father’s instruction, while my father and brother Ghulam Muazzam arrived from Dhaka. There was no scope of meeting the Tablighi president in Khulna and we heard that Hazratji had assigned a leader of Tabligh Mr Faridi to talk to me. I took the reserved river boat along with Mr Faridi, my father and brother towards Dhaka so that the conversation could take place. However, my father was not at all satisfied with that conversation as Mr Faridi gave me little opportunity to talk and kept insisting that I should go for another Tablighi chilla.
Meanwhile I got arrested for my involvement in the language movement and also lost my job with the college due to that. After being released from jail, I joined Jamaat-e-Islami full time and in May 1955 I went to the then West Pakistan for some important political lobbying. Before starting for Karachi I left a shelf full of books related to the Islamic movement in my father’s bedroom, and asked my ever-helpful brother to convince my father to read as many of them as possible. When I returned in December, my father had read a number of those books and I learned from my brother that his attitude towards Jamaat was getting more and more positive.
Another Meeting with Tabligh Leaders
My father arranged another meeting between me and the Tabligh leaders. This time it was with Mawlana Ziauddin Aligarhi who was one of my teachers during my Chilla in India. We went to Kakrail Mosque for the meeting where I met both Mawlana Aligarhi and East Pakistan Tabligh President Mawlana Abdul Aziz. I could see almost 30/40 brothers of Tabligh sitting around me and praying. I realised that they were praying for my return to Tabligh.
Due to Mawlana Aligarhi our conversation was in Urdu. As with Mawlana Faridi, he too kept insisting that I should resume working for Tablighi Jamaat. When I requested them to give me some opportunity to say a few words, Mawlana Abdul Aziz said that we should talk exclusively about these matters instead of speaking in front of so many people. Only four of us went inside, the two Tablighi leaders, my father and I. I said to them:
“After reading the explanations of the Qur’an thoroughly I am convinced that the methodology and process of working for the Deen followed by our Prophet (PBUH) was much wider than the ones of Tablighi Jamaat.”
Mawlana Abdul Aziz tried to remind me that their methodology was right and was followed by many big scholars. When I tried to say that if those scholar read the full explanation of these Quranic verses, then they too would be convinced and many more people would get the real light of Islam, he became angry and said, “So you mean we have no knowledge about Islam? We don’t read any books if not suggested by our senior leaders.” Saying this he stood up while Mawlana Aligarhi remained silent. Soon, we returned home.
My Father’s Complete Change of Attitude
Coming back home after my meeting with the two Tablighi leaders, my father said to my younger brother in my presence, “They don’t have any ability to debate with your brother. They were not even prepared to discuss the matter. I took him to meet them for discussion, but they surrounded us with a group of Tablighi people and kept giving their own opinions in front of them. When he was about to speak, they moved him away from other people, probably in fear that others would be convinced by his words. They took him inside to talk in secret, but even there they stopped him and didn’t let him finish his side of the argument. What they said angrily when being asked to read the Tafseer of the Qur’an is completely illogical”.
I felt very relieved after this and felt happy that my father no longer accepted the accusation against Jamaat-e-Islami that Mawlana Abdul Aziz had made to him. A heavy weight was released from my chest. There was an effort to create an unfortunate conflict with my father by spreading fabricated accusations against Jamaat-e-Islami, whereas it was he who brought me up since my childhood in the way of Islam. This incident remains one of the saddest events of my life. Had they not given the fatwa “Jamaat-e-Islami is worse than the Qadianis” then I wouldn’t have endured that suffering and my father wouldn’t go through such stress for three years. How dangerous a fabricated fatwa can be!
Since that incident my father lost interest to go to Kakrail Mosque like before.
 The third largest city of Bangladesh
 Central Mosque for Tablighi jamaat in Bangladesh