Khanbahadur Ahsanullah (R)
Childhood & Education
Khanbahadur Ahsanullah was his grandfather’s only son’s eldest issue. Therefore, from his very childhood, both his father and grandfather were very keen on providing him with a good education. He started studying before he crossed the age of five. After completion of education in the elementary school, he was admitted to the Middle English School at Nalta.
After a while, he was admitted in Class IV (present equivalent of Class VII) at the Takee Government High School. In the annual examination of Class III (presently, Class VIII) at this school, he stood first and was promoted to class II (now Class IX). At the end of the year, he got himself admitted to the LMS Institution (London Missionary School) in Calcutta in Class II. In 1890, Khanbahadur Ahsanullah passed the Entrance (now the S.S.C) examination with distinction and was awarded a scholarship. He passed F.A (now the H.S.C) from Hoogli College in 1892 and the B.A examination from the Presidency College in Calcutta in 1894. He obtained Master of Arts (M.A) degree in Philosophy from Calcutta University in 1895.
After having had some experiences in working as the Additional Deputy Inspector, he served as the Sub-inspector of Schools for six months. During this period, he had to inspect many schools.
On April 1, 1898, he gave up the job of the temporary Sub-inspector and joined the service permanently as Deputy Inspector. After that, he was posted as the Deputy Inspector in the relatively larger district of Bakherganj. He was appointed to the post by Director Martin. His office was in Barisal.
Khanbahadur Ahsanullah spent the next seven years of his service life working in the post of Deputy Inspector. At this time, Director Martin recommended the names of 12 officials to the Government of Bengal for being absorbed from the Subordinate Education Service into the Provincial Education Service. The name of Khanbahadur Ahsanullah was also among them and he was considered eligible by the Director. As a result, he became the first person to be absorbed from the inspecting line to the teaching line in the Provincial Service and was, consequently, appointed the Head Master of Rajshahi Collegiate School in 1904. During his working tenure there, he created a congenial atmosphere for the education of Muslim students and removed the age-old hurdles that impaired their growth.
During one of his inspections to the Rajshahi Collegiate School, the then Director of the Department of Education for East Bengal and Assam, H Sharp expressed his total satisfaction at the work carried out by Khanbahadur Ahsanullah. As a recognition of his accomplishment, in 1907, he was appointed the Divisional Inspector for the Chittagong region. For long 17 years, he stayed in Chittagong and made considerable improvements in the field of education in this division.
Following some recommendations from H Sharp, huge financial allocations were made by the government for the advancement of education in East Bengal and Assam during this time. H Sharp was always confident about the competence, honesty and professional integrity of Khanbahadur Ahsanullah. So, he was never miserly in sanctioning the financial budgets proposed by Khanbahadur Ahsanullah for the development of education in the Chittagong division. Being sanctioned enough money, he could take many positive steps for the qualitative and quantitative improvements of many impoverished sub-divisional schools in the region. His persoal contribution in establishing and running the high-schools in Feni, Chandpur, Brahmanbaria, Chittagong and Noakhali was enormous. The huge school in Sheoratoli near Chittagong city was built at his initiative. Besides, in many areas of the Chittagong division, he built a number of hostels both for the Hindu and the Muslim students. He also built many schools in the abandoned houses of the Hindu zamindars or landlords. In the month of June, 1911, he was elected a Member of the Royal Society (MRSA) of London.
In 1912, the Delhi darbar or conference was held. In this conference, the King annulled the partition of East and West Bengal. As a result, for the next few years, he was appointed the Additional Inspector of Presidency. So, he left Chittagong for Calcutta. Dr Donne who became the Director Later, was the Inspector during this period.
When Khabahadur Ahsanullah was serving in the Chittagong division, he was absorbed into the Indian Education Service (IES). After that, he was appointed the “Assistant Director of Muslim Education in Bengal”. He continued his service as Assistant Director for the next five years.
In the undivided Bengal, no Indian had hitherto been appointed Assistant Director. And after his retirement, the post was filled by an Englishman by the name of Botmali as no Indian after him was considered eligible for the post. In those days, two Assistant Directors were appointed to help the Director. But both had the same official status and remuneration ceilings. When the Division of Bengal was called off, the post of the Assistant Director was transferred to Calcutta. So, Khanbahadur Ahsanullah also moved to Calcutta. For some time, he even held the current charge of Director of the Department of Education in undivided Bengal. In 1929, at the age of 55, he retired from the government service.
1. During that time, there was the tradition of writing the names of the students in the examination papers. Many people believed that this open-identity went against the interests of a section of the students. For this reason, Khanbahadur Ahsanullah went all out to introduce the system of writing the roll numbers of students instead of their names. This was first applied in the Honours and M.A examinations and later also followed in the I.A and B.A examinations of the time.
2. He elevated the standard of education in both the higher madrassah and secondary madrassah classes and created congenial atmosphere for the students to enter colleges and universities after completing the madrassah education.
3. During that time, he created posts for maulavis or Muslim religious teachers in all schools and colleges and eliminated the wage disparity between the Hindu pundits or priests and Muslim maulavis.
4. Urdu, during those days was not considered among the “classical languages”. This created problems for the Urdu-speaking students in West Bengal. It was through his initiative that Urdu occupied the place of Sanskrit.
5. It was by dint of his active initiative that the proposal for establishing a separate college exclusively for the Muslim students in Calcutta was approved. This gave birth to the Islamia College. Hurley, the principal of Calcutta Madrassah was appointed the first principal of the college.
6. He was instrumental in establishing many muktabs or elementary schools, Muslim high schools and it was for him that many Muslim teachers got their appointments. He also played a major role in stablishing many Muslim Hostels. The Baker Hostel, Taylor Hostel, Karmichael Hostel, Moslem Institute etc., situated at the heart of Calcutta, hold evidence to his contribution.
7. The Fuller Hostel of Rajshahi is a glowing witness to his immortal contributions.
During the construction of this hostel for the Muslim students, he faced multifaceted obstacles. In spite of continuos hurdles set by the opposition and their negative remarks, such as, “why waste so much money to build a hostel in an earthquake-prone area like Rajshahi .. what is the use”, he managed the required permission and funding from the British authorities to build the hostel.
8. He introduced an independent educational curriculum for the muktab students and made provisions so that Muslim students could study the books written by Muslim scholars. This created the opportunity for Muslim scholars to write textbooks and also improve the lot of the Muslim book-publishers. For the founding and survival of institutions like Makhdumi Library, Provincial Library and Islamia Library, he had enormous contributions. During that time, famous novels like “Bisad Sindhu”, “Anowara”, “Manowara” etc. were published by Makhdumi Library.
9. In the schools and colleges, he readjusted the ratio of stipends for the Muslim students and made provisions so that increasing number of poor but meritorious students could study free of cost. He also removed the hurdles faced by the Muslim students in receiving government fellowships to go for higher learning in foreign countries.
10. It was through his initiative that the representation and membership of the Muslim community was ensured in the Textbook Committee. He also made some readjustments in the volume of representation by the Muslim examiners, in the number of Muslim inspection officials in the Department of Education, in the volume of Muslim students studying at the training college and also in the number of representation by Muslims in the managing committees of schools and colleges.
11. It was through his efforts that the New Scheme Madrassah, which introduced education in English side by side Arabic, was established. He also played a pioneering role in consolidating the status of Arabic as the “second language” in the high schools.
12. Some specialised schools and colleges were founded for the female Muslim students as a result of his personal initiative. He prepared congenial atmosphere for them to receive education and become complete human beings.
13. Besides, the Governor of undivided Bengal on June 30, 1914, through Resolution No. 2474, formed a high-level committee to propose recommendations for the improvement of three distinct streams of Muslim education. The Director of the Provincial Assembly was appointed the chairman of the committee. Khanbahadur Ahsanullah was one of the leading members of the committee. The recommendations of this committee had a farreaching impact on the development and progress of Muslim education.
14. In those days, Khanbahadur Ahsanullah represented in all the committees and conferences relating to education in East Bengal either as member or in any other official capacities. When a furious debate took hold of the Legislative Assembly regarding the Medium of Education, the then Chief Secretary brought to the notice of the assembly, an article written in this regard by Khanbahadur Ahsanullah.
15. He also had active contributions in the formation of Dhaka University. A major hue and cry was raised when the draft bill on Dhaka University was placed before the Senate and a special committee was formed later on to recommend on the issue. As an outstanding member of the committee, highlighting the need for such an institution, he recommended that the bill be passed.
He is the renowned author of 81 books. All of his Books have been complied in 12 volumes. The name of the compilation of his entire writings is “Khanbahadur Ahsanullah Rachanabali” (Volume 01 to 12), edited by Gholam Moyenuddin PhD, a well known litterateur and the former Director of Bangla Academy, Dhaka. Some of his outstanding publications included: Teachers’ Manual (1952), Bangabhasha-O-Musalman Shahitya or Bengali language and Muslim literature (1918), History of the Muslim World (1931), Islam-O-Aadarsha Mahapurush or Islam and the ideal great man (1926), Tariqat Shiksha or learning the rules of spiritual attainment (1940), Shikshakhetre Bongio Mussalman or Muslims of Bengal in education (1931), Quran-O-Hadiser Aadeshaboli or the instructions of the holy Quran and Hadis (1931), Sufi (1947), Shristitatta or the origins of creation (1949), Islamer Mahaty Shiksha or the invaluable teachings of Islam (1949), Mahapurushder Amiyobani or the eternal messages of the great men (1950), Islamer Bani-O- Paramhangsher Ukti or the message of Islam and the sayings of Supreme Lord (1956) and Bibhinna Dharmer Upadeshaboli or the preachings of various religions (1965), etc.
The entire gamut of Khanbahadur Ahsanullah’s literary thoughts originated from his deep feelings for his country, his language and his desire to do good for the human kind.
He had declared in unequivocal terms: “Social welfare should ideally be the aim of literature.” He also said: “A nation which does not have its own literature, does not have self-esteem. The development of such a nation will always be a forlorn prospect. If one is to introduce oneself as a true Muslim and an equal to the rest of the world, then one has to uphold one’s mothertongue with a nationalistic fervour. For restoring the very existence of the nation, the development of the Bengali language is a must.”
Aiming at social welfare, national development and refinement of the individualistic characteristics of people, Khanbahadur Ahsanullah published a number of autobiographical books on great men. These included, the life of Prophet Mohammed (SM), life-sketches of a number of Sufi leaders, the lives of heads of states and a host of other historical personalities.
Along with reflecting on the instructions of Islam, he presented in his writings, the inherent loftiness and the very essence of such religious creeds which made them so unique. This trend can be well observed in the books like Sufi, Shristitatta, Islamer Mahati Shiksha and Tariqat Shiksha. He believed, “The educated people of the time has keen interest for the deep mysteries of Islam. But the stringent rules of the shariah (the traditions) refrained them from delving into such mysteries. Few people, however, could understand that by piercing the hard rules of the shariah, they could find a passage into the world of unknown knowledge and bliss.”
The very skill of his writing and the novelty in the presentation of the subject-matters which had an unmistakable individualistic touch, transcended them from the temporal to the eternal, eventually earning them the honour of creative literature. By involving himself with the activities of various literary organisations, he also made literary endeavours and practice easy for others.
Honours and Awards
In 1911, Khanbahadur Ahsanullah was elected a member of the Royal Society (MRSA) of London.
He was also elected a Senate and Syndicate Member of the Calcutta University. No Muslim before him was bestowed these honourable posts.
Khanbahadur Ahsanullah also had a direct link with the literary circles and the literary movements of the time. During the years 1917-1918, he was the Vice-President of the Literary Association of the Muslims in Bengal (Bangiya Musalman Sahitya Samiti).
“For his excellence in social work, his contribution in social and cultural fields – the Islamic Foundation, Bangladesh award was bestowed on him posthumously in 1405 Hizri”
In 1960, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, Bangladesh awarded him an honorary Fellowship for his “unique and versatile contribution in the field of Bengali Literature”.
The head office of Ahsania Mission (Central Ahsania Mission) is located at Nalta Sharif under Satkhira district, Bangladesh. There are about 117 branch missions of Ahsania Mission at home and abroad. Of these branch missions, the activities of Dhaka Ahsania Mission has made a great impact on the public mind.
Ahsania Mission is the outward manifestation of Khanbahadur Ahsanullah’s faith, ideals and mirrors the inherent beauty of his being. It was he who set the aims and objectives of the Mission: Praying for the grace of the Creator and serving those created by Him. Selfless service was one of the most distinct features of his life. He wrote in his autobiography on this: “I have set my life’s goal to serve people living far away from the cities. The pleasure that offering of service gives, cannot be found in personal aggrandizement. Boundless love will not come unless the element of ‘self’ is negated. If there is no love for the creation, there cannot be any love for the Creator. The only aims of my life are to extend brotherhood, fraternity and spread the message of peace.”
He gave his admirers, followers and well-wishers the status of friends. His natural humility and spiritual radiance gave many people a new direction for leading a worthy and beautiful life. The remark of Khanbahadur Ahsanullah stated below on the mutual relation between the saint and his followers, bears testimony to the clarity, wiseness and humbleness of his character:
“The responsibility of the peer or the saint is to flourish and nurture the spiritual power of his followers. No saint can create spiritual power. He can only bring to surface, the power already bestowed on one by the Almighty. As friction on any iron substances could create fire, the Almighty has given in all human beings, a secret source of His own power. That power has to be attained through love and prayers. And, for this reason, there is the need for good teachers.”
Immediately after his death The Daily Azad (Magh 28, 1371 Bangla/February 10, 1965) wrote in its editorial: “Many creations of Khanbahadur Ahsanullah’s action-packed life, will remain ever alive to the nation.
…… the impact of the Muslim Education Movement had lived with him as the biggest inspiration till the last days of his life. This inspiration had developed in him, a serious interest to do good for the development of education, for the quest of religion and above all, for selflessly serving the Muslim population of the country. …… With his death, an irredeemable void has been created in the society.”
Abul Fazal stated in the commemorative publication on Khanbahadur Ahsanullah: “He was a thoroughly religious man. But by no means, he was a fanatic. He had deep erudition as far as theological subjects were concerned and his erudition has lent our literature richness and variety.”
According to Professor Md. Mansuruddin: “He was courageous and a well-wisher of the society. Like the illiterate and fanatic mullahs or priests, he was never unkind and rough. He was always engrossed in the ecstatic love of the Almighty.
In assessing this saintly personality, Dr. Waqil Ahmed, said: “It is my belief that the huge volume of writings left behind by Khanbahadur Ahsanullah never fell short of sensible thoughts and deep insights into subject-matters. On the contrary, his thought-provoking essays were always in keeping with the intellectual and the idealistic demands of the time.”
The comments presented below from an essay by the noted literary critic Dr. Abdul Mannan Syed can be considered as the most contemporary assessment on the man: “In the awakening of Bengal and the rejuvenation of the Bengali Muslims, Khanbahadur Ahsanullah emerged as a true renaissance-man who had reconciled the worldly and the spiritual on the palm of a single hand; succeeded to strike a balance between the worldly brilliance and the divine brilliance; ultimately gaining the eligibility to start his proud journey to receive the honour of the successful human being or Insan-ul-Quamel.”
Excerpts from the books authored by Khanbahadur Ahsanullah
2. “The follower (of a saint) who can surrender himself to the Almighty, can establish himself in a more elevated position than the saint. Therefore, to look down on one’s follower and take undue privilege from him, is an act of folishness. The relation between the two is a divine one, not a worldly one. A follower takes the aid of a peer or a saint only to reach the Almighty. The saint, therefore, should always keep in mind that he is an emissary only, not the provider. He is an intermediary, not an authority.” — Amar Shiksha-O-Diksha
3. “Where ever we look at nature, we notice the enormous benevolence and the gifts of the Creator. The more science will go on unfolding the mysteries of nature, the more we will become aware about this gift and benevolence of the Creator. The creative process reflects the great kindness, power and enormity of the Almighty.” — Islamer Daan
4. “It is essential for one to follow the rules of religion to achieve refinement of the soul. For someone who wants to find out the relation between the immediate spirit and the eternal soul, who wants to feel the presence of the Almighty in all His creations, who wants to have a taste of the eternal life in this temporal world, who wants to engross into prayers wholeheartedly — abiding by the principles of religion is essential for him.”– Tariqat Shiksha
5. “The soul is like a shining mirror. Acts of sin robs the natural clarity of the soul and adds stigma to it. So, the Divine-ray does not reflect on that mirror. Remorse, shame and repentance or tauba are the only remedies for the soul.” — Sufi
6. “It is a mark of greatness to be humble and show humility during exchange of words with others. The softer one’s heart is, the less harsh one’s words will be. Harsh words are the signs of arrogance. It is, therefore, a matter of great shame and ignominy when a truly religious person speaks to others harshly, looks down on others with disdain and resorts to cruelty and lies. A person who cannot lower his head in respect to other human beings, also cannot offer his heart in the court of the Almighty.” — Bhakter Patra
7. “Each one of you is like a ruler and one day each one of you will have to account for your actions as a ruler. The monarch is a ruler and he shoulders the responsibility of his subjects. In the real life drama of the family, the person who lords over his family, will also be held accountable and made to answer on how well he looked after his family members. In the husband’s house, sometimes the wife is seen to emerge as the ruler and this will make her account for her deeds. Even the servant can sometimes become a ruler and he also has to account for the responsibilities that are vested on hirn.” — Bangla Hadis Sharif
8. “Maya or longing is the main hindrance to reaching the source of the hidden power. Occasional longings put a tab on the regular source of power and strength. The Almighty has given all human being the essential hidden power. He wants that by exercising that hidden power given by Him, human beings come out victorious against the forces of worldly desires and longings. The creation of human desires and longings also testifies to the benevolence of the Almighty. If there were no tests or trials, then there would not have been any justification for crime and punishment, hell and heaven and the aim of creation would have remained incomplete. Every reward, therefore, entails a hard test. On the Day of Judgement, the Almighty will be present as the examiner to judge the rewards and the punishments, it is His wish.” — Aamar Shiksha-O-Diksha
For further information regarding Pak Rawja Sharif please contact Ansar Uddin Ahmed, who has dedicated his life to establish and fulfil the ceremonial of Pak Rawja Sharif.
Nalta Central Ahsania Mission
Aim and objects
1. It (Mission) shall develop social and spiritual life of entire human community.
2. It (Mission) shall also annihilate the distinction between man and man and
3. It (Mission) will cultivate unity and brotherhood and inspire divine love.
4. It (Mission) shall teach one one’s insignificance and shun one’s pride.
5. It (Mission) shall enable one to recognize and realize the relation between the creator and creation and
6. The duty of man to his creator and to his fellow beings and
7. To render all possible help to the suffering humanity at large.
THE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF THE AHSANIA MISSION (Defined by the founder of the Mission, published by the Chittagong Ahsania Mission 1959)
2. Shariat is the foundation on which Tariqat is built up.
3. The Tariqat, Haqiqat and Mar’afat are the three stages of the spiritual development, Mar’afat being the highest of them.
4. KalimaNamaj, Roza, Zakat and Hajj are the five obligatory forms of Shariat. The first three are obligatory on the general public, the last two are incumbent on the rich alone.
5. Kalima teaches us the unity of Godhead, Namaz brings us into communion with Allah and Roza teaches us to control our Nafs and increase the power of soul.
6. The essence of character is control our self. One who has no control over Nafs, can not attain spiritual advancement. One seeking communion with Allah and Roza must have full control over one’s passions.
7. The first lesson of Tariqat is the denial of pride jealousy and envy, annihilation of self, patience in the midst of all trials and allurements.
8. The second lesson is meditation on the grace of Allah. The object of prayer should be to bring the prayee into communion with Allah. No prayer is effective, which does not take cognizance of the presence of Allah before the prayee.
9. The duty of a devotee is to cast off all mundane thoughts and to concentrate on the attributes of Allah, the Grate. The deeper the concentration, the nearer is the recognizance of the presence of Allah.
10. Mar’fat which is the highest form of Tarikat means the total abnegation of self and complete absorption in the thoughts of Allah.
2. To extend love to all creatures of Allah regardless of cast or creed.
3. To abstain from looking down upon the brethren of Islam.
4. To observe the principals of Islam and to practice equality, fraternity and brotherhood in society.
5. To avoid too much of eating, too much of talking and too much of sleeping- this are the essential practices of a Salek.
6. To lay stress of ‘Amal’ and to avoid lecture which are without ‘Amal’.
7. To agrue without practice is meaningless and ineffective.
8. To extend service to all the creatures of Allah irrespective of any distinctive between them.
9. Not to speak ill of anybody, nor to hurt of feelings of any brethren of Islam.
10. To please the creator by serving His Creatures.
11. To nurse the sick, feed the poor and help those in distress.
12. To show respects to the dead and to supply coffin to the indigent.
13. To help the people in acquisition of knowledge.
14. To extend help to the sick in the hospital.
15. To give up show of pride.
16. To love Allah far more than His Creatures.
17. To practice sacrifice among the inmate of the society.
18. To exercise control over passions and to cast off all feelings undue superiority over the weak and those in distress.
19. To practice ‘Zakat’ and to perform Hajj, when funds permit.
20. To practice Reza and Taslim in all untoward circumstances of life.