‘Country means the people of the country. People are the factual power of the country. You have kept these people dead weight. The people of our country have a special ability with which they can compete internationally with the people of any country”- Professor Abdur Razzak.
Professor Abdur Razzak was originally a man of Political Science. But he took the studies of state and science in the milieu of History. Razzak sir had very diversified types of interest, but there was some common resemblance also. If we skim through his life-long studies, we will find people in the core of his interest, and these people are mainly the people of history. Basically, he studied people throughout his life. All aspects of “people/human-related studies’ ‘always confronted him with history. And who does not know that the history of people is the history of the world itself?
Ahmed Sofa once wrote, ‘The most distinguishing characteristics of Professor Razzak’s that I have always observed with reverential surprise is his unconditional commitment to his own country and society. And this sensibility towards commitment is the major characteristic that sets Professor Razzak apart from everyone else. ”
It seems to me that this sense of commitment had always fueled him indirectly to analyze any topic in his life. Professor Razzak did not distinctively famous for his lectures in his classrooms but showed his eminence sagacity in his personal chitchat and conversation, at the same time from his any conversed topic the skeleton of histories came out easily. In his numerous conversations, reminisces and speeches Professor Razzak revealed issues that not only enlightened the cognition of history but also elucidated simple natural and philosophical interpretations of the complex and intricate topics of history. From the history of Bengal to the history of Europe, from the Russian Revolution to the imperialist economy, from politics to the arts- there is no branch that Professor Razzak did not verify by his philosopher’s stone. That’s the reason his audience always felt enlivened out of the lifeless words of academic texts.
In the light of history, a wonderfully simple explanation of any event was emerged by him and was able to enliven any incidence, person, and society to us from any period of time- And all of these are undeniable evidence of his extraordinary erudition.
The contribution of Professor Razzak in the intellectual advancement of Bengali Muslim society is incomparable to any other in Bengal. It cannot be denied that the Dhaka University-centered free-intellect movement played a major role in the practice of free thought in Muslim society. And most of the contributors to this movement were older than Razzak Sir, even some of them were from his teachers’ group. Qazi Motahar Hossain was one of the forerunners of this movement. There were also Kazi Imdadul Haque, Abdul Wadud, Abul Hussain, Abul Fazl, and others. Razzak Sir was an admirer of Qazi Motahar and also loved by him. But it seems, the spirit of such free-think movement did not touch him that much. In contact and communication with western civilization, the nineteenth-century Hindu middle class started a kind of reformation movement within their religious and social organizations. Which lead them to the formation of new and separate social philosophy called ‘Brahma Samaj’ in combination with all religion.
The members of the Muslim Literary Society of Dhaka University also tried to direct the thinking of the Bengali Muslim community in the line of the Brahmo Samaj. Especially the forms of Brahmo Samaj have thrived in the minds of many but Razzaq Sir did not attract to this.
Razzak Sir always believed that the awakening of the Hindu middle class in the nineteenth century was the transformation of a section of the upper castes of Hindu society. And he understood, without the advancement of Bengali language and literature, none of these transformations could be auspicious and exemplary for the Muslim community. Ideas came out from the Hindu society always revolved around them. Like many other renowned people of Muslim society, Razzak Sir also believed that such a narrow and shrunken sphere of thoughts would never liberate Muslim society.
The politics and politicians of this Pak-India subcontinent were of special interest to Professor Razzak. Even at the London School of Economics, Razzak Sir’s did his research on ‘Political Parties in India’. He never deceived himself in expressing his political beliefs, trust, and choice.
Professor Abdur Razzak actively associated himself with the movement for Pakistan. The Muslim League raised the demand for the establishment of Pakistan. And Razzaq Sir was an active member of the Muslim League and supported the demand for Pakistan. Although in different times he explained the reasons behind his support for the demand of Pakistan. During that circumstance and social environment, he thought that the establishment of Pakistan would benefit the Muslim community of Bengal. There may have been a way to solve the Hindu-Muslim problem without dividing India, but no one followed it. History could not be constructed by the word like ‘if’ and ‘but’, but what had happened is the ‘history’.
In his numerous discussions, Razzaq Sir gave his own logics on Jinnah’s Two-nation theory and Pakistan movement. Many may not accept that, but no one can deny the capital truth behind it. As he mentioned in one discussion – ‘You are now saying that it was a religion-based country. But the situation was completely different at that time. One thing you should keep in mind that the novels are the Modern Social Discourses. For hundreds of years, Bengali Hindus and Muslims were living side by side. But in the time of writing novels, they ignored the Muslim community deliberately. There may be few exceptions. But think about the great Hindu authors/writers. They wrote very obviously –“Banglar Bayu-Banglar Jol,” But when the issue of Muslim community representation was raised, everyone was silent. There was no other way to remedy the stubborn attitude of depriving the Muslim community of their cultural rights.”
Again, many people thought that the idea of separating Bangladesh from Pakistan and building it as a separate state also came from Mr. Razzak’s mind. Establishment of Pakistan, parting India was the triumphant inception of the two-nation theory ensuring the annulment of One Nation. Again, with the partition of Pakistan, the Two-nation theory ended instantly. The position of Razzak Sir that he had to take within such historic changes is still ambiguous- whether it was correct or incorrect, maybe we have to wait a long for such declaration by history. But his expression in favor of his personal opinion was obvious and clear.
Renowned Sikh writer Khushwant Singh was the editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India that was published from Delhi. In that weekly, Professor Abdur Razzak was mentioned as the main architect of historic six points. And one of his notable students, Professor Raunak Jahan, in his book “Pakistan National Integration” revealed that the chances of Pakistan’s integrity were slim comparing the economies of the two parts of Pakistan.
Renowned political scientist Sir Harold Lasky was Razzak Sir’s Ph.D. supervisor. He was an admirer of Jawaharlal Nehru and very often he used to compare Razzak Sir with Jawaharlal Nehru. One day he said to Abdur Razzak- “If you try, you can be like Nehru.” The second time when he said the same, Razzak Sir thought it would not be right to let this attitude grow more. He told Harold Lasky directly grabbing his all attention- ‘Mr. Lasky, I do not wish to be mentioned with Nehru, I am a member of the Muslim League and a follower of Mr. Jinnah’!
Razzaq Sir did not like Mr. Jinnah only as a supporter of the Muslim League, but many political and moral reasons behind his support were cited by him many times. He once said, ‘let see by comparing the two people. During Barin Ghosh’s Maniktala bombing case, Chittaranjan used to take 2,000 takas as his per day fees. And He had to pay the money before he going to court. Jinnah Saheb defended the case filed against Tilak for a month. But when the question of fees raised, he said, “I can’t claim fees from a person who is not fighting for his individual interest.”
Referring to Lord Reading, once Razzak said, “After Lord Reading’s death, his son published a biography. As long as he was in India, he used to write a letter to his son every week. In his letter, he expressed his primary thinking/idea about the dignitaries, all whom he met in India. When Lord Reading met Mr. Gandhi, he wrote-‘our business with this person have a very good prospect!’
In such a way Lord Reading categorized all the leaders he met in India, but the letter just after meeting Mr. Jinnah gave a completely different tone. He wrote to his son- ‘this guy is absolutely obstinate. We will have trouble in handling Mr. Jinnah.’
After the partition of 1947, Mr. Jinnah was being portrayed as the father of Two-Nation Theory, as well as Pakistan was being introduced as a communal state and India as a secular state. Razzak Sir mentioned this with fun in one of his reminiscences.
Referring to the cover story of Life Magazine published from America in 1947, he said, “in 1947 Life Magazine published a cover story on India’s Independence. The cover showed Nehru at the Agnihotra ritual reciting Mantras sitting on an altar on the bare body, the ministers were standing around him circling the altar. Only two people stood at a distance from the altar- Ambedkar and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. According to the rules of the Vedas, non-Hindus are not allowed to present there. Life magazine gave a very funny caption of that –‘birth of a secular state.’
‘You can write a quotation; you can use this water whenever you get a chance. There are periods in history when crawling is the best means of communication. And intellectuals are the foremost of all in such crawling. – Professor Abdur Razzak.
Professor Abdur Razzak had a habit of studying all subjects through their reflection on the mirror of history. Political science and economics were his own subjects, but he analyzed any subject of literature in a process from which a historical significance has emerged. His analysis and observation were so simple that his audience sometimes became surprised and thought- can it be thought in such a way? One of his statements about Shakespeare can be taken as an example here.
In one of his discussion, Professor Razzak said, ‘can you remember that famous quote of Shylock from the Merchant of Venice? When the court threatened Shylock for punishment, he replied, “A Jew’s blood is also red.” Here comes Shakespeare’s real genius. Shakespeare was the man of the sixteenth-century. Think about the situation and condition of the Jews in Europe at that time. During that time the persecution of Jews in different European countries was no less than that of Hitler. At such time, with the stroke of a pen, Shakespeare proved that all Jews are part of human society. Just think what an incredible act. That was possible for Shakespeare because he was an extraordinary genius for making the impossible possible. You will not find such a thunderbolt line even if you look at the whole of medieval ages.’
The thread of history that he drew from the world-famous writer like Shakespeare is able to elucidate different angles of European politics even to date. Such unexplored thoughts of Sir about Bengali language and literature amazes us, inspires, and drives us towards new reading.
Professor Razzak’s own ideas on the Bengal Renaissance and on the free-thinking practitioners are conflicting with the conventional ideas in many cases. In his own way, he criticized many great events and great people of history shattering their recognized images. In the same way, also given due recognition to all. He was completely secular in the case of studying history.
One day Razzak Sir was discussing nineteenth-century history with a renowned history professor. That guy was trying a lot to prove that the ‘Bengal Renaissance’ is a very big incident in the history of this region. In reply, Razzak Sir said, “No matter what you say to glorify the nineteenth century, it’s not possible for you to take it too far. When the more solid mutiny was going on, what role did they play- these so-called great men? Just compare and see on your own and you will find the answer.”
As Professor Razzak cited once ‘the development of modern Bengali prose is one of the most valuable contributions of the nineteenth century. You people have lifted Ram Mohan Roy up in the sky. If you compare him with Mir Sauda, you will understand the difference. Mir Sauda can be called the father of Urdu prose. Mir and Ram Mohan- both are contemporary. Once the Nawab of Ayodhya went to pay his visit to the market. All people in the market started showing their respect to the Nawab. At that time Sauda was smoking hookah in a shop. When he was informed that Nawab Sahab had come and he was told to go to show his respect, Sauda replied ‘I am too a Nawab of Urdu Language. But who cares?’ Just compare and see their personalities. When Ram Mohan was going to England, Bahadur Shah Jafar gave him the title -Raja (King). But Bahadur Shah Jafar did not have his kingdom at that time. And Ram Mohan reared that title for the rest of his life.”
In regard to the concept that the secular thinking of Hindu society started a long time ago and in this modern secular thinking the so-called Bengal Renaissance men had many contributions, Sir Razzak said, ‘this is correct and incorrect at the same time. I have an objection to accepting what you are trying to say. You are saying Ram Mohan a Renaissance Man, but what he did actually? Just like him, many people in India had preached religion in previous. Except for his contemplation for Bangla Language, I can’t find any of his work to read.’
Professor Abdur Razzak actually wanted to describe Ram Mohan Roy in such a way that- ‘Raja Ram Mohan Roy was mainly a ‘businessman’, a permitted hunter. Basically, it is that. He worked for a salary of 40 taka and from that job he acquired zamindari of 10 thousand taka. He was in his job for 7/8 years. In all of his life, he helped his father in conducting suits and bragged a lot.’
Razzak Sir’s analysis about Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay was also quite significant. ‘at the time when Bankim Chandra’s novels were started to be published, the booklets of Muslim authors were also being printing out from Battle. Bankim’s novels had not been published for more than two hundred and half in number. Because of that time, the readers of modern literature were very limited. But you could see that these Muslim booklets were being printed in a thousand numbers. You can easily understand the difference if you compare the content of these booklets with the content of Bankim books. The content of these booklets was very secular but their way of thinking was middle-aged. And Bankim’s thinking was modern but his content was religious.’
In the words of Abdur Razzak Sir- ‘one should understand the word modernism very clearly. The concept of modernism came into the world at the same time, maybe ten years ago or ten years later. Tolstoy lived longer than Bankim, in that sense Tolstoy is Bankim’s contemporary. Compare the content of their writings and see the views of Tolstoy to the Common people and the views of Bankim towards them. Bankim had an inferiority complex. He had studied with the financial support of a Muslim. He studied with the money of Mohsin Fund and he repaid the loan by writing against Muslims.’
According to Razzak Sir- ‘the only lion-hearted man in the nineteenth century was Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.’ He was not even willing to compare Rabindranath Tagore with Vidyasagar. He said, ‘except Vidyasagar, Debendra Nath, Bankim, Keshab -all had flourished revivalism anew. Other than literary talent, if Rabindranath had to compare with the people like Vidyasagar in further aspects, He comes nowhere near to them’.
Then, wasn’t Rabindranath Tagore a great person? According to Razzak Sir- ‘Rabindranath is a great writer, but as a human being, he cannot come close in comparison to people like Vidyasagar. Great writers and a great person -two are not the same. Great writers have the shadows of a great person, and a great person is really a great person, he need not behave like a king, poet, or writer even if he is that.’
Isn’t Rabindranath an exception? Didn’t Rabindranath take the people of Bengali to a distinct level of excellence?
Razzak Sir’s statement is very clear this time, “how Rabindranath is an exception, even he does not belong to that category. The Bengali language is being survived by the peasants, the mute, the laborers. They are talking so the Poet can write poems. Since no one is speaking in Sanskrit or Latin now, literature is not being written in Sanskrit and Latin.”
But Razzak Sir had eloquently praised Rabindranath’s essays. In his words- ‘The empirical discussions in Rabindranath’s essays are very valuable. You can’t see more people talking about this. I wished to prepare a list of all the social issues that Rabindranath placed in his essays.’
Not only the Bengal Renaissance but also the European Renaissance, the changes of the Christian world and their difference with Islam have been analyzed by Razzak Sir in a very simple way. I sometimes become astonished, how much knowledge a person needs to be to have such a clear vision after a cross-checking of history. Sir was completely a secular person by his heart. But he believed by his heart that the process of development of secularism in Bengali Muslim society should be initiated within the society and from the level of the social experience of Bengali Muslims.
But about the transformation of the Christian world due to the European Renaissance, he informed us – ‘Before the European Renaissance, Christian world believed that the eternal life that is awaiting after death is real life. Life on this world is only its appendage. In the art and literature of Christians, the after-life grandeur was being promoted everywhere. Even, Jesus Christ declared this mortal world as the Vale of tears. This attitude has not been changed in a day, month, or even in a year, it has taken a long time. During the time Renaissance, when a definition of life was gradually being shaped, the entire outlook was changed. Before the renaissance, the afterlife was everything and after the renaissance, this world is being everything and the afterlife is nothing.’
And the spread of Islam in this subcontinent, not only emerged a new religion in this area but also ensured great cultural change. And Razzak Sir told in this regard –‘The big difference between Islam and other religion is Islam too gives importance to the after death life but it never denied the importance of this present life. No other religion speaks about “Fidduniy Awal Akhirat” as Islam speaks.’
In his words -‘Think about India, all architecture and sculptures made here, were made with the aim to satisfy the gods. Although the pleasures and enjoyment of people were mentioned eventually in different contexts, its main course was to please the gods. You can find this in Bangla literature also. In the Eighteenth-Century, Bharat Chandra started writing Annadamangal for the purpose of introducing the worship of the Goddess, at the behest of the goddess. It is true that when Muslims came to this country, they not only built mosques and other places of worship beautifully but also not forgot to build beautiful houses for their living. You would not find this in Ancient India. The secularization effect of Islam in India was really enormous. Most of the people do not want to accept this now’.
About the reincarnation of Hindu society, Razzak Sir gave a completely different statement. Which will be difficult for many to accept now. Sir said, ‘the belief in reincarnation among the Hindus is being observed right now but this was not the belief of the ancient Aryans. If the Aryans believed in reincarnation, it would have been mentioned in the Vedas. There is absolutely nothing about reincarnation in the Vedas. They inherited this later from the Dravidians’.
‘The language in which today’s educated people of India are communicating with each other is actually not an Indian language. They communicate with each other through English. Even fifty years after the British left the power, they were not able to develop a lingua franca, how they will live together, I can’t even imagine. ‘- Professor Abdur Razzak.
Razzak Sir’s observations about the renowned and important political figures of this subcontinent were very significant. As these observations reveal their personalities, their types of personalities, also do help to find the ‘human beings’ of living blood and flesh, beyond the character of history.
Professor Razzak’s remarks about Maulana Abul Kalam Azad were very interesting. He told -‘Maulana had very little habit of speaking the truth. And he was a congenital liar. ‘Tarjumanul Quran’ – the book that Maulana wrote in India, publicized as a great work of Moulana, but not mentioned in nowhere in the Arab world, not valued. Arabs emphasize the book that written in India is ‘Fatwa Alamgiri’.
Sir gave a special reaction about the eminent historian Jadunath Sarkar. ‘History of Aurangzeb’ written by Sir Jadunath Sarkar is a famous book. Sir said – ‘I read the book while I was in school. Sir Jadunath Sarker was a great scholar. He mentioned many virtues of Aurangzeb. After a long discussion, he wrote with a sigh that because of his extreme devotion to Islam, such qualities of an emperor like him did not come to fruition. After reading this line my mouth became bitter.’
Once he mentioned an incident of eminent physician and Congress leader Bidhan Chandra Roy in one of his discussions. The faces and masks of the political leaders are being visible in such discussions. In the opinion of Professor Razzak, ‘Dinesh Sen was really a great man. Although he had some issues. When he was ill, he called doctor Bidhan Roy for his treatment. Bidhan Roy charged two thousand takas for his fees. His family members informed Dr. Roy that they could not afford the treatment with a fee of two thousand takas. Then Sir Nilratan was called to visit. He was asked how much fee they had to pay. And Sir Nilratan replied, “The Bengali nation has some debts to Dinesh Sen. Why the question of fees is coming?’
Razzak Sir’s opinion and analysis of Sher-e-Bangla Abul Qasim Fazlul Huq are quite controversial. Ahmed Shofa once proposed Professor Abdur Razzak for writing his biography. Then Sir mentioned an incident with a laugh. “once I told AK Fazlul Haq that I want to write your biography if you please give me permission, I can start the work. That time Mr. Haq was the Governor of East Pakistan. On listening to me he just became furious and said –‘you want to write my biography, you must have some intension. I told- yes, obviously I have an intention.
Mr. Haq told ‘tell me that first.’
I told when you go to the village, you treat the people in such a way that they think you want to live in the village for the rest of your life being a part of their joys and sorrows. Then when you come to Dhaka city from the villages and enjoying kite flying along with Nawab Habibullah on the rooftop of Ahsan Manzil, people think you are the Descendant of Nawab family. Then again when you go to Kolkata and addressed Shyamaprasad as a brother in great harmony, the people of Kolkata think you are a brother of Shyamaprasad. And outside of Bengal, when you go to Lucknow or Allahabad, sits with the Muslim Knight Nawab, it seems you are one of them. How can you play such a beautiful and successful role in all these characters, it is really a great ability. Even Sir Oliver Lawrence did not have this ability. I want to make an inquiry into this acting ability, otherwise, it is not unknown to us where your real qualities are.
Mr. Haq Shouted -what do you know about me?
I told you I can tell attractive believable lies.
Hearing my reply, Mr. Haq started laughing loudly.’
Although Sir criticized Sher-e- Bangla but praised him without hesitation. He said, ‘Maulvi Fazlul Haque might have many other faults but he didn’t be accused of ignorance. He was a deliberate sinner. What he had done should be judged by different considerations. He thought that the Center of the Earth was Maulvi Abul Kasem Fazlul Haq and any good of Abul Kasem would be better for everything. This could be considered as nepotism, but this was very well-reasoned, absolutely reasonable.’
There was an interesting incident about Maulana Bhashani. In the words of Professor Razzak, ‘Once Maulana Bhashani was admitted to the Medical College for his illness. Usually, he had two types of illnesses. This time it seemed as a real illness. I went to the hospital to see him. Maulana Bhashani was happy to see me and started talking about lots of things. Normally when Maulana started talking, his audience didn’t have any other option but to listen. At one-point, Maulana told, ‘I have set up a college, a madrasa. Then he said I have started two high schools, one for boys and one for girls. I said this is really being good work. Maulana was lying down and talking. He sat up after listening me. He looked to my eyes and asked -what do you want to say? I replied- you did really good by establishing two schools. Maulana’s intellect was very keen. He could understand the meaning of words from the hints and gestures.’
Razzak Sir was acquainted with Bangabandhu-the architect of independence of Bangladesh for a very long time. Bangabandhu had great respect and esteem for Sir. He was seeking Sir’s valuable opinion on various matters on any occasion. Many of the elected representatives of the 1970s Election were the direct students of Razzak Sir. In a memoir about Bangabandhu, he said, “From 1969 to 1971, Sheikh Saheb ignited the spirit of all whoever came close to him. I cannot say anything after that. I do not meet anyone in the government.
Once in 1972, I went to meet him for the purpose of the university. Sheikh Saheb interacted with many people in his life, his manners and demeanors were very good. He showed great amity and attention. In the context of some discussion, I asked him -now you have the responsibility of running the country, what will you do with the opposition? How you run the country without them? When Jawaharlal Nehru took power, he told to Jayaprakash Narayan to form an opposition party.
Sheikh Saheb replied the opposition parties will not get more than five seats in the next election.
I was disappointed. Asked -wouldn’t you offer the opposition more than a hundred seats?
Sheikh Saheb laughed. I turned my face and came back’.
Professor Abdur Razzak commented about the famous leftist theorist Badruddin Umar, “If Umar had written the book ‘Language Movement of East Bengal and Contemporary Politics ‘only–it would have been enough for remembering his name. He did a lot more work. Umar has a very strict character, trying to do what he believes. How many such people are there in our society?’
In the discussion about Badruddin Umar, Professor Razzak mentioned an incident of Nawab Abdul Jabbar, the ancestor of Umar. The Nawab had a very good relationship with Lord Canning. Once Mr. Canning went to the Nawab’s house for a dinner invitation and said-” you people do not have any gratitude”. And the Nawab replied, “Since we do not have any gratitude, you are able to rule us”.
From Razzaq Sir, we also get an unimaginable quote about Maulvi Abul Kashem, the grandfather of Badruddin Umar. ‘Maulvi Abul Kashem was not an easygoing person. He always spoke the truth, which even his greatest enemy could not tell. But his English was excellent. He always wore very fine cotton traditional cloths -dhuti and Punjabi and a Kisti Topi on his head. When he spoke standing on Dais, every word of his speech came out as valuable as like pearl”.
“In our country, people become more jackanapes’ as they getting older. Very few people know how to grow old artistically. To me, Razzak Sir was the only person who knew how to grow old perfectly. Those who never be closed to Razzak sir would not understand what is the intellectual beauty or cognitive beauty of man’. Upolokkher Lekha / Ahmad Sofa
Professor Abdur Razzak was the blessed-child of the world of knowledge. All the great teachers of the world transferring knowledge always attract him. The reminiscences of them were the major topics of his interviews. I want to mention some of them here.
Mr. Harold Lasky who was the Ph.D. guide of Razzak Sir at the London School of Economics is considered as a pillar of modern political science. Razzak Sir went to Harvard from London for a one-year study. Except for Professor Lasky, he praised Professor Mason of Harvard for his erudition.
Dr. Ahmed Hossain Dani, an early time history teacher of Dhaka University and one of the best historians of the subcontinent was also mentioned by Sir in a very respectful manner. “Dr. Ahmed Hossain Dani knew the history of this region as immensely, I won’t know that much even in my three times life.”
Professor Abdur Razzak stated about the early legendary teachers of Dhaka University in his various discussions. Of whom he was a direct student and became a colleague later in the job. Among them Prof. Gyan Ghosh, Prof. Ashutosh Mukherjee, Prof. Naresh Sen, Prof. Satyen Bose were noteworthy. He specially mentioned about Ramzan Ali, a professor of mathematics who later became a teacher at Cambridge University.
Regarding Satyen Bose, Razzak Sir told ‘Satyen Bose was a teacher of our time. He was a man of physics. But his erudition in other matters was immense. He had extensive studies in any other subject. Such people are no longer seen. He also had a great grasp on literature’.
Razzak Sir also discussed Hariprasad Shastri. Said, ‘Hariprasad Shastri retired at the time when we admitted. We got Mohitlal Majumdar. Mohitlal Babu was a great scholar. But he has a very incisive tongue. He used to scorn people for no reason’.
Professor Sushil Kumar Dey (SKDey) he said, ‘Sushil Kumar was a very upper-class person, both as an individual and as a scholar’. Razzak Sir especially praised his direct teacher Amiya Dasgupta. He later shifted to Delhi University. Professor Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate in economics, was one of the students of Professor Dasgupta’s at Delhi University.
Professor Razzak was particularly affectionate to Haridas Bhattacharya, the professor of philosophy. He once said ‘Haridas Babu was a master of philosophy. A profound scholar. He did not think about money. When Humayun Kabir came to take Viva-voce, he used to stay at his house. Once Haridas Babu was called to give the lecture on George the fifth. Aldous Huxley gave this lecture before him. People are talking about Huxley, but how many can remember Haridas Babu’?
Munir Chowdhury was most favorite of Razzak Sir among the teachers of Dhaka University. He stated about him-“I rarely see people like Munir. I never saw any jealousy and animosity in him. Munir was a very noble-minded person’. Regarding the martyrdom of Professor Munir Chowdhury and Professor Mortaza during the liberation war, he said- ‘They died for a principal. They could have survived if they wanted to!’
Razzak Sir had a very respectful and loving relationship with Professor Qazi Motahar Hossain. He said, ‘he was not paid more than three hundred takas even when he was working as a reader, but no one ever heard him talk about money. He was an expert in teaching both in English and Bengali languages.’
Razzak Sir’s opinion about Professor Kshitimohan Sen was, “I have never seen as many non-communal people in my life as Kshitimohan Babu and his son-in-law was.”
Evaluating Dr. Ahmed Sharif he told –‘Sharif sometime talk harsh and rude, but he did his job properly once. He did many things.’ About Professor Abdul Hai Professor Razzak told -‘ Mr. Hai was my teacher. I have many loving memories of him. As a teacher he was magnificent. ‘
Razzak Sir did not perceive very positive thinking regarding Professor Syed Ali Ahsan. He said-‘Ali Ahsan got second class in both Honors and Masters. But his concept was clear. He has a very keen aesthetic sense. He can write very easily on any subject. But one thing about Ali Ahsan was that he could hardly tell the truth. Once I suggested he to write his autobiography. I told him that you cannot tell all the truth right now, but you can write it in your bio and after your death, all these will be revealed. About Professor Anisuzzaman Razzak Sir told- “Very few people can do such absolute research as can Anis do.”
Razzak Sir had a very close relationship with Professor Rehman Sobhan. His comment on him was- ‘As a person, I have never heard Rehman Sobhan to make any bad remarks against anyone.’
Samar Sen was an especially favorite of Razzak Sir amongst the modern poets. Samar Sen gained fame when he was young but desisted from writing poetry declaring in newspapers at an early age. Razzak Sir said -‘after the age of 28/29, this person did not write anything in Bengali. If you compare the writing of Samar Sen at the age when he gave up writing in Bengali and the writing of Rabindranath at this age- it’s just incomparable. From the age of thirty, he did not write anything in Bengali. Whatever he wrote, it was in English. This is a great loss for the Bengali language. He is the person who had a very wide range of thinking.’
Bengali language and language-centric politics pervaded a major part of Razzak Sir’s thinking. These also came up in detail in his many interviews. He was born in Keraniganj Thana of Dhaka district. Speaking in Dhakaiya language (local dialect) was his habit and he could express all of his thoughts in that language, and that expression had a very unique quality. Razzak Sir believed that the standardized form of present Bangla language was the intended tool of the British to spread communalism. He told –
‘It is in doubt that such an elite- mass gap may not be found in any other language in the world except Bengali. The scholars of Fort William College had created this modern Bengali language following the Sanskrit dictionary. The original Bengali language was not like this. The mingling of the Arabic-Persian words in the Bengali language had formed a structure of the language. Many examples of this can be found in the works of the poet Bharat Chandra during the battle of Palashi. After the inception of British rule, the scholars of Fort William College replaced the Arabic and Persian words with the Sanskrit words exhaustively. You will find some evidence of features of Bengali language if you look at the ancient documents.”
Sir also explained how this change took place- ‘The scholars of Fort William College created the structure of linguistics. The modern Bengali language has been formed from the mixture of this language with the dialect of the people by the riverside Bhagirathi. Modern Bengali is not exactly the native language of Bengal. After one being well-educated, it can be vocalized by him ‘
He further said, “The relationship of Muslims with the Bengali language was much closer than that of ‘caste Hindus’. My anger sometimes falls upon the clergies because they are very much responsible for this. To push the Bengali Muslims away from Bangla they didn’t have no-less responsibility. The clergies made people understand that Bangla is the ‘Daughter of Sanskrit’. Samachar Darpan had an editorial, ‘Why do we support the Bengali language? Because Muslims do not like it. They will never be able to learn Bengali.’
Such a strategy of diving the society through language by the clergies was served at the end as a “blueprint’ for the pathetic story of partition. It was easy for the Christian clergy to make close the Hindus effortlessly. But with the Muslims, just the opposite has happened. Professor Razzak gave a historic explanation of why this happened.
“These people like Kerry Marshman came to this country from 3,000 miles away to save the souls of the people. What were their techniques? According to them, the base of the religion of this country is polytheistic. When they told this in front of the Hindus, the Hindus was saying, ‘Yes, they are saying a noble thing’. If he told this to the Muslims, the Muslims were making fun of this. The Muslims used to make fun of “Trinity” of Christianity. This particular fun made the clergies exasperated.
Anger or physical offense can be tolerated, but it’s intolerable if anyone makes jokes out of this. When the clergies came to talk about monotheism, they used to make fun of their “Trinity’. This is why the clergies were infuriated with the Muslims than the people of any other religion. At the season of converting religion, many young Hindus became Christians. But very few Muslims became Christians at that time. There may be one or two who have converted but not in a large number. When they were saying -‘Polytheism is awful’. Hindus used to be agreed, maybe there is something like that in Hinduism. But if this was told to the Muslims, they didn’t pay any heed to this.’
Razzak Sir discerned the soul of the so-called nineteenth-century Renaissance within the progress and transformation of the native languages of this country. He said, “Whatever else you say, to me, understanding the significance or characteristics of the nineteenth century needs to grasp that the nineteenth century’s importance lay in the rise of the vernaculars.” The practices of all native languages were the features of the nineteenth century. Absolutely all the vernaculars, claim to maturity during the nineteenth century, except for a some in Southern India. Why that happened, that is a more involved question. That is a different question. To understand Ram Mohan Roy, this answer isn’t required. All that I need note is, he swam with the tied. Who contributed what in this rising tide which gives character to the entire nineteenth century is a big question here. And what is significant in this contribution.
Those who have practiced native languages are important. No matter how many they were in numbers. Some of them at the initial period had not understood the significance of their own work. Bankim Chandra, Michael Madhusudan started writing in English. But just in time they back to Bengali and therefore they became Bankim Chandra and Michael. Just think what would be their condition If they only wrote in English. This change was not their deliberate intention. They did not start writing in Bengali with the perception that the future of Bengali language is depending upon the writing of them and if they do not write in Bengali the future of Bangla language will be ruined. They came to Bengali because they failed to find self-expression in English. Again, before all of them, Ram Mohan Roy started writing in Bangla. I think Bengali grammar is the claim to his fame.
The similarity of Sir Syed Ahmed and Ram Mohan Roy lies here. Sir Syed Ahmed wrote only in Urdu throughout his life. What are you writing is not important but in what language you are writing is an important thing. This practice of Urdu is his monument, his pillar of fame, it will remain forever. So far I understand this. May be it’s different for you. You can give lots of imaginary explanations about their greatness, generosity, etc.
Many scholars assume the propagation of Brahmanism is one of the attractions of the nineteenth century but Razzaq Sir considered this as less important in the case of the Bengal Renaissance. Professor Razzak thought-, ‘That’s not the point. They were talking about Brahmo Samaj. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, all the scholars had a fashion for religious reform. What is the specific bravery of Ram Mohan here? At that time everyone was talking about all-religion harmony. Ram Mohan’s first writings were on religion, in Persian. It is one of his listable. In this writing, no identification of his features or abilities were revealed. Many other people also wrote about the harmonization of all religions. Their writings were stronger than Ram Mohan. Ram Mohan’s writings were insignificant if it be compared with their writings. What will it be if these are not compared with it? Moreover, that time Ram Mohan was not accepted by his society. By the time he went to establish a Hindu school, a long representation of the Hindus was stood against him.
The Hindus demanded –‘If Ram Mohan Roy is with us, we will not be with any matter of this school. ‘The allegation of the Hindus against Ram Mohan was he married and lived with a Muslim Woman. I will not bother with what Ram Mohan told about religion; I will say that he had been an unrighteous all his life. There is no fabrication in this. Everyone during that time knew this. Regarding the mentioned representation, the Maharaja of Burdwan, the Maharaja of Shovabazar all declared in unison, “If Ram Mohan is in the school committee, they will not be there.” Ram Mohan was discreet. He withdrew. He moved away from himself. Therefore, it can be said in this regard, ‘He was not a founder of the Hindu school’.
So, it can be said, though Raja Ram Mohan Roy preached the religion consciously he did not realize that it was not his great work. According to Razzak Sir, the great work of Ram Mohan Roy or the steersmen of the nineteenth century Renaissance was their practice of the native language. In Sir’s words, ‘Some times you do something which is not that important as you think. Even Sir Isaac Newton considered that his ‘lifework’ – was not the theory of gravitation, but his attempt to prove the age of the earth as it was mentioned in the Bible. Its Newton’s misfortune that we never considered his great work as great, his subsidiary work is primary to us. The same thing happened with Raja Ram Mohan. He never understood the importance of his own work. ”
While discussing the importance of practicing the native languages Razzak Sir also stated about the political leaders. Motilal knew Urdu and Persian very well. But Jawaharlal did not know any Indian language. He could only speak Hindi but could not read. Razzak Sir said- ‘among Nehru and Gandhi who will remain alive among the people, I will say Gandhi but not Nehru. Though Nehru had created more scientific socialism in history than Gandhi. Jawaharlal or Jinnah will not survive in history, as much as they remain, that will only as of the curiosity of the people, as the source of human curiosity.’
To this context, Razzak Sir informing us, there was no lack of powerful thinkers in Europe in the Middle Ages. They might be English, French, or German in the nation, but they wrote in Latin. No one can say their names today. But those who started writing in Vernacular, in their native languages are still alive. According to Sir, ‘it is inescapable’, inevitable. The real shortcoming of the Bengali Muslims was that the Bengali Muslims took the modern Bengali much later. Why this has happened could be judged later but this broad fact is indisputable.
Regarding social history and social structure, Razzak Sir’s interest was always at its peak. In this context, he had a great interest in socialism. Mainly because of his interest in socialism he always thought about the structure of society. He had seen from the inside and realized the forms of the social structure of the Indian subcontinent and its internal causes. In a long discussion with Ahmed Sofa on Manabendra Nath Roy’s book ‘India in Translation’, Razzak Sir said- ‘in the strictest sense, there was no term feudalism in India. Bengal is totally different in this case. Before coming to Bengal, know the news of the Rest of India. Feudalism is a closed system. For generations, a family will live permanently in one place. His washerman, barber, blacksmith, potter all are separate. People in one place cannot go to another place. Like jackfruit pods, everyone under the feudal system is attached to the feudal landowners. The feudal lords are the all in all at their estate. If you can attend properly and send troops properly during the war, you will be forgiven by any punishment.
For example, think about the Mughal period in India, zamindari was not hereditary here. If the emperor wished, the son of zamindar might not be zamindar. Come to the case of Bengal, we have to say something different. The ancient Bengali scriptures showed that the trade fleet of Bengal regularly traveled to the region of Java and Sumatra regularly. You can’t say it’s a feudal society where trade and commerce were so active, except that, whatever else you want to say you can. Wittfogel’s hydraulic theory is not applicable to Bengal.’
Regarding zamindari, Professor Razzak further said, ‘Not only in Dhaka, but there were also very few zamindars in whole Dhaka district. The main zamindars of Bengal were not from Dhaka district, because during the Mughal period zamindari arose at the places where the Mughal governor or Subedar could not rule directly. Dhaka was the capital, so there was no chance to establish zamindari close to Dhaka. There were zamindars in Rajshahi, Mymensingh, and Bakharganj, but not in Dhaka.
Went to further back to history, Professor Razzak said in this context- ‘As we understand by zamindari is the owner of the land, it is a matter of the British. There was no such zamindari before 1793. The Mughals entered Bangladesh in the seventeenth century, not before that time. In 1590, Emperor Jahangir occupied Bangladesh. Before that Bangladesh was out of the Mughal rule. Therefore, the Bengal conquest of the Mughals was in 1590, i.e. at the end of the sixteenth century. The Mughals ruled Bangladesh for one hundred years. Not more than that. After this, the infiltration and harassment of the Marathas in the Mughal kingdom started. Simultaneously, the Mughal subedars in different places started declaring themselves independent. This trend was seen everywhere in the Mughal Empire- such as SujaUddaula in the Ayodhya, Nizamul Mulk of Deccan, Murshid Quli Khan in Bangladesh. This was a period of unsettlement and time of instability.’
Professor Razzak had a special attraction for socialism. During the Pakistan period, he was constantly monitored for allegedly helping the leftist teachers in various ways. Also faced various harassment and interrogation. During the Pakistan period, when the Communist Party was banned Professor Razzaq was not only suspected of being a communist but was also considered as the supporter of all other leftist teachers by the intelligence agencies. Even in such an environment, when he was interrogated by the then head of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, he explained in very simple words why the left movement is not possible here and what is the real background of it. Razzak Sir thought that in this new university, where almost all the early-stage Muslim teachers came from the villages, who had been declassed after arriving in this city, where they had to spend their monthly salary calculating everything, where he had the responsibility of maintaining relations with his roots, no revolutionary thinking could be formed there.’
What do you like most about socialism? He replied to such a question- ‘How can I say what I like most, but I can share an experience of mine. A Russian came to Dhaka after the Indo-Pakistan war. That was the time when too much relation with a Russian can hold accountable to the intelligence agency. No one was being close to him for fear of that. Right now, I can’t remember his name. I became very close to the guy. Once he came to stay with us. At that time I was staying at Shantinagar. One afternoon when I was returning home from university, that guy came with me. It was a scorching afternoon and shifting time for the rickshaws, so rickshaws were not easily available. When I was about to ride a rickshaw, the guy pulled me by arms and said – can’t ride in this rickshaw, don’t you see how scrawny the person is! As many rickshaws I was going to take, he canceled all of them showing different reasons. To me, this awakened empathy for people is the greatest contribution of socialism.’
Razzak Sir gave us some atypical information on the contribution of the Nawabs of Dhaka in the establishment of Dhaka University. Razzak Sir completely denied the direct contribution of the Nawabs of old Dhaka in the establishment of this University. According to him, the Nawabs of old Dhaka had no relation with the common Muslims of Dhaka.
He informed the contribution of a man who is unknown to many behind the establishment of this university.
This person’s name is Abdullah Suhrawardy. Abdullah’s father Maulvi Obaidullah was the superintendent of Dhaka Alia Madrasa. After the death of this financially indigent Maulvi, Nawab Salimullah gave special financial help to his family.
Abdullah Saheb studied with the financial help of Ahsan Manzil. They celebrated the death anniversary of Nawab Salimullah with great honor. Ten years after the establishment of Dhaka University Abdullah Suhrawardy proposed to build a dormitory in the name of Nawab Salimullah for observing one of his death anniversaries. According to Razzak Sir, Dhaka University did not receive any direct financial help from any rich Muslim. It was proposed that the Government of India would establish Dhaka University. For that, the Indian government used to save some money from 1910. During the time 1920-21, the total amount of this saved money arose to 60 lakhs. But the Bengal Government did not give this 60 lakh taka to the university. They hold up the total amount. The dormitory was built with that money after ten years of its establishment.
In the words of Razzak Sir, ‘Salimullah Hall was built entirely with government money. Not with the money of the Nawab family, not even in the land of the Nawab family. The place of Ramna where today’s Dhaka University is situated was the government’s land entirely, government demesne. As mentioned in the settlement report. The lands of the Nawabs of Dhaka came mainly from a different source. At the time of death, some local Muslims of Dhaka used to waqf some of their properties to Nawab Abdul Ghani and Nawab Ahsanullah. This is the source of the land of the Nawabs of Dhaka.’
Professor Abdur Razzak said ‘during the first few years of advancement of Dhaka university, the role and contribution of any other Muslims was not been observed. The active movement of Muslims started when Mr. Fazlur Rahman came to the university. He began to take action. In fact, he was the first. In the first 12/14 years of Dhaka University, no Muslim has checked up any issue. Sir F. Rahman was there for three years, but in his activity and participation, no particular interest for Muslims was found. However, he got the job as one of the Muslims. But the Muslims had problems in matters of education, and Dhaka University was designed to do something about it. In that regard, there was no concerted action from the part of Muslims. Before Fazlur Rahman, there was no such precedent. Although later, Fazlul Rahman gained his reputation as Pakistan’s education minister for opposing the Bengali language.”
Professor Razzak mentioned the names of some notable dignitaries of old Dhaka at that time. He always mentioned the name of Hekim Habibur Rahman. Hekim Habibur Rahman’s father came to Dhaka from Delhi. He was an extraordinary man, well-educated, and a very high-rank physician/Hekim. With the change of political plot, the previous situation of old Dhaka changed completely. How the aristocratic Muslim families were shattered, Razzak Sir told about that- ‘who were there from the past failed to accumulate themselves with the new changes. As a result, they sold everything that they had. This Armanitola House, now the girls’ school was a Muslim Zamindar’s house. The Anand Roy family bought it from the zamindar. The Roys’ were the lawyers. For mentioning the old families, we have to mention some houses behind ‘Hasina Manzil’ on jail road that is still existed there. The houses had roofs twenty feet high. During the time of 1930, we saw these families as ancient and aristocratic families. They had their properties. But they were not able to realize how everything has gone to auction.’
Professor Abdur Razzak’s opined that after 1857, the British were suspicious to the Muslims and excluded them from all arenas and that was the reason of Muslims remaining left behind is not correct. It is also not true that educated Muslims had non-cooperation with the British government and regime. According to him, in the last century (nineteenth century), even at the end of the century, the number of high-ranking Muslim employees in English companies and government offices was not few. He said- “The list of lawyers in Calcutta 1814 showed that 14 out of 16 lawyers were Muslims. Even in 1865, 50% of the lawyers were Muslims. But after that time the number started declining and the main reason for that was the educated Muslims had not leaned towards English education at all. Speaking about the modern schools run in the English curriculum, Sir Razzak said, “It was more interesting than almost all the governing bodies of the schools were Muslim.’
Razzak Sir identified the cost of education as one of the reasons for the descendants of such educated Muslim families not coming to English education. But according to him, this cannot be the sole reason. He further informing- ‘when the first recruitment was done for the post of deputy magistrate in 1831, that time most of the people who were appointed as deputy magistrates were Muslims. We have to keep this in mind that Calcutta University was not established then. So, it was impossible to have an English educated magistrate. And the official language was Persian. The deputies at subordinate positions were Hindus.
“According to Professor Abdur Razzak- the British government formed the IB Department in 1912. It was a complex department because it was one of the ways for suppressing the nationalist movement. Its initial budget was 12 lakh taka and of which ten and half lakh had consumed by Hindu police personnel. In this regard, he further said, “Once Gokhale in the assembly addressed the British, said- ‘Educated Indians are against you’. The British Home Member laughed and replied, ‘Those who are most educated come to me for jobs. Only those whom I reject go with you’. In fact, the administration cannot be run by romanticism and romantic ideas are not history.”
The end part
“It would not be an exaggeration to say Mr. Razzak a symbol of the historical egoism of the Bengali Muslim community.” – Ahmed Sofa
Shakespeare wrote, ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ – a beautiful relationship may fade up in regular touch. Ahmed Sofa, who spent a long time with Professor Abdur Razzak, stated that Shakespeare’s statement is bound to prove wrong if one be with Razzak Sir for a long time. Professor Abdur Razzak is such a Taj Mahal of knowledge that has no windows or doors, at least no latches. The wind from one side goes to the other effortlessly. So, the relationship never is filthy. It seems to me that his simple and effortless way of observing life and the world, which he adopted in his life too was the main reason for that. Razzak Sir usually used to wear Genji (undervest) and keep Gamcha (local cotton towel) with him in the house. The gamcha hung on both sides of his neck in such a way that at first sight, he looked like a farmer of traditional Bengal. This lookalike is important and historic.
Professor Abdur Razzak was a student in the second decade of the establishment of Dhaka University and joined Dhaka University as a teacher in its third decade. The Dhaka University is profoundly involved with three very important events of the people of this region: Pakistan movement, language movement, and the freedom fight of Bangladesh. Razzak Sir’s life is gone through these three events. The people of this region had revealed themselves differently in these three historic events. In the external aspects, each of these three events is different from another but there is no way to deny the root-level harmonization of these three. Although Razzaq Sir is not been called the historian of the Bengali Muslim society, he was one of the foremost intellectuals who became the bearer of the hopes and aspirations of the Muslims of Bengal after 1930.
Ahmed Sofa in his book ‘Joddopi Amar Guru’ wrote- ‘after the establishment of Pakistan, all the intellectuals who led the birth process of Bangladesh among them Razzak Sir played a very profound role. The undeviating features of his character, uncompromising attitude and a tendency that can be easily noticed even within the ideas of solely Muslim based society, are not only the result of the studies of histories impartially but also the from the reactionary expression against Hindu society.
Professor Abdur Razzak had seen and judged the world through the eyes of Bengali Muslims. Again, he analyzed and judged Bengali Muslim society with the eyes of the world, from its own social position, and proudly obtaining the original features of its social identities. Having such a worldview is rare for any nation in the world.
The author is thankful to Chhanda Mahbub for translating the original Bangla article into English
1. Joddopi Amar Guru, Ahmed Sofa
2. Dhaka Bisshobiddalay and Purbo-Bongyio Somaj,Sardar Fazlul Karim
3. Professor Abdur Razzak souvenirs
All the protrait and arts are colletced from internet.
1. Joddopi Amar Guru, Ahmed Sofa
2. Dhaka Bisshobiddalay and Purbo-Bongyio Somaj,Sardar Fazlul Karim
3. Professor Abdur Razzak souvenirs
All the protrait and arts are colletced from internet.
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