The passing of Muzharul Islam
The passing of Muzharul Islam at the age of eighty nine a few days ago brings to an end a defining era in the history of architecture in Bangladesh. That is because Islam, throughout his illustrious career, not only experimented with modernity in terms of aesthetics but also put his ideas into practice. A measure of how he made his contributions to architecture comes through the structure of the Jatiyo Sangsad, raised in the 1960s through the pioneering efforts of his teacher Louis I. Kahn. That Islam was humble enough to suggest that Kahn be involved in the work does not detract from the fact that he and Kahn had a common vision where beauty in architecture was concerned.
Muzharul Islam's contributions were concrete and symbolic of the heritage of this country. More importantly, he sought to combine the global with national tradition, a task he did to his and our immense satisfaction. Proof of the imagination working in him and then going out to give itself a tangible form is to be had in the numerous structures, in terms of academia and fine arts, he has left behind. In essence, Islam was truly a pioneer in reshaping the nation's artistic ethos. That said, there was the fundamentally patriotic in him, a trait he demonstrated so intensely through his involvement in the War of Liberation in 1971. It was always the country that mattered to him, not through a commonplace mouthing of meaningless nationalism but through a core belief in the responsibility of the state to ensure the welfare of all citizens. The base of that welfare could only be an assurance of equality for all.
Muzharul Islam's secular politics, intertwined with his sense of architectural grandeur, went into an articulate reassertion of the splendour of Bangladesh's societal historicity. That is his legacy. And that is how he will be remembered.