Syed Ahmadul Huq: Banglar Rumi and the eclectic traditions of South Asia
In the creative writings of eminent author Ahmedul Huq, popularly known as “Banglar Rumi” throughout Bangladesh, is a perfect blending of erudition, historical consciousness, philosophical insight and poetic brilliance. His worthy son Mahmudul Huq is a noted industrialist whose sphere of interest spills over to the worlds of literature, history and research. Incidentally, Huq is also the son in law of celebrated social historian Abdul Karim. Inheriting this family tradition, Mahmudul has taken painstaking but praiseworthy initiative to systematically publish the collected works of his brilliant father.
This also ensures the preservation of Banglar Rumi's creative experimentations in the domain of Bengali literature at a historical juncture when the world is apparently sliding towards the abyss of intolerance and exclusivism culminating in periodical outbursts of violence. Needless to say that such a tendency is hardly entertained in the mystical and humane world of the sufis who are scarcely immune from the assaults launched by the representatives of hegemonic orthodoxy in the subcontinent and beyond. Indeed! The collected works of Banglar Rumi is a timely publication in this larger context. He was genuinely motivated by the urge to promote inter-faith dialogue and transnational goodwill which is resonated in his creative ventures relating to the world of Muslim mystics particularly when he escorts the active and imaginative readers through the improvising literary productions of the illustrious Persian poet Jalaluddin Rumi.
The world is replete with literature on Rumi and Sufism in English, German, French, Persian, Arabic and Urdu. But when it comes to Bengali, there is scope for massive multiplication of this genre. This is a painful experience because the Bengali speaking people constitute one of the largest linguistic groups of the subcontinent. Even the great Enamul Huq produced his magnum opus entitled A History of Sufism in Bengal in English. This is true about the other greats such as Abdul Karim, Abdur Rahim and Tapan Raychaudhuri. Though Professors Karim and Huq left some works on the sufis in Bengali, those were not regarded as their major works. Seen from this angle, Banglar Rumi's vernacularizing ventures in the genre are significantly praiseworthy as it enables the commoners to access mystical poetry which spearheaded Persian Renaissance in the pre-modern period. It goes without saying that this Persian Renaissance created ripples in the sub-continental intellectual world spanning up to the era of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and the great Tagores. In this larger perspective, Ahmedul Huq's writings truly unveil the human face of Eastern South Asia's (which no doubt incorporates Bangladesh) socio-cultural world.
Long before the advent of Gandhi on the political map of the subcontinent, eclectic spiritual leader Kesab Chandra Sen realised the significance of comparative theology in the embryonic form of nation building process which involved intercommunity goodwill. He deputised his disciple Bhai Girish Chandra Sen to dedicate his entire life to Islamic studies which the latter did with remarkable successfully. Bhai Girish Chandra Sen is credited with the successful translation of the entire Quran from the original Arabic to Bengali. He extensively wrote on the sufis and Persian literary personalities. When he died in the early twentieth century both Hindus and Muslims had joined that funeral procession defying the communal disharmony that characterised the decade. Unfortunately, many valuable works produced by this prolific Arabic and Persian knowing Bengali scholar have been lost since posterity did not realise the significance of preserving them. Thanks to the noble initiative of Mahmudul Huq, a similar fate would not be embraced by Banglar Rumi's prolificity.
The birth centenary of Syed Ahmedul Haq falls on the first day of September, 2018. This is also a time when the world is facing humanitarian and economic crisis, erosion of value systems, and lack of creative communication between groups, communities and individuals. Under such constraints and challenges, let our humble endeavour transform the forthcoming centenary celebration of the humanitarian Bengali Poet into a humanitarian Urs aiming at offering solace and sustenance to the struggling mankind.
We may wind up by citing one couplet from Maulana Rumi which ignited the humanitarian spirit of Syed Ahmedul Huq:
Jomla Maashuk Ast Wa Asek Pardai
Zinda Maashuk Ast Wa Asek Murdai
“Everything in this Universe is worthy to be loved, the lover is only a veil. Love-worthy creatures are living, leaving the lover dead.”
Dr Amit Dey is professor, department of history, Calcutta University.