Published:  12:01 AM, 23 November 2021

A Tribute to Dr Ahmed Sharif and His Contribution to Bengali Literature

A Tribute to Dr Ahmed Sharif and His Contribution to Bengali Literature
Great persons are a few in a crore. One such person was Dr. Ahmed Sharif (1921-1999), who left for us and posterity his numerous ever-bright achievements as philosophical lessons about the problems gripping our lives and the world. Today, he is alive for us not only as a historical figure but also for all his creative and thoughtful works.

Dr. Ahmed Sharif used his pen and rationality against fatalism, abstract ideas and emotion till the moment of his death. He was a free agent and bold writer who was conscious of self-dignity and freedom. The rebellious writer wrote many articles against fascism, martial rule, imperialism and class-disparity. Ahmed Sharif wrote innumerable articles on society, literature, culture, politics, philosophy and history. "Laily Majnu," written by Ahmed Sharif, was the first book published by Bangla Academy in 1957.

Ahmed Sharif was born at Shuchakri village of Chittagong in 1921. His father Abdul Aziz was a brother of the reputed literary genius Abdul Karim Sahittya Bisharad. Young Sharif was looked after and brought up by his uncle Abdul Karim. He grew up in the midst of an invaluable store of Punthi-Sahittya and contemporary magazines, periodicals and other literary works.

Dr. Ahmed Sharif drank deep and quenched his thirst for knowledge from Abdul Karim, and earned an astounding depth of erudition for which he became so noted and popular among the people of West-Bengal that the Rabindra Bharati Bishawbiddyalay honoured him with D. Lit degree in 1993.

Ahmed Sharif passed the M.A. Examination in 1944 from the Department of Bengali Language and Literature of Dhaka University, and earned the PhD in 1976. He started his professional career as a lecturer of a college. He joined the Bengali Department of Dhaka University in 1950, where he worked for 34 years.

During his longstanding service in Dhaka University he was honoured and entrusted with the responsibility of Chairman of the Bengali Department and as a member of the University Syndicate and Senate and President of the Teachers' Association. He was elected Dean of the Faculty of Arts for four terms. He was also honoured with the dignified post of "Kazi Nazrul Islam Professor" in Chittagong University.

Dr. Ahmed Sahrif was not only a teacher and researcher, he was also the pioneer of the progressive movement of Bangladesh. He was active in almost all the resistance and revolutionary movements that took place in the country. His contributions and achievements during the liberation movement are unforgettable.

He formed the Shadhin Bangla Biplobi Parishad. His article "Itihasher Dharay Bangalee" (Bangalees in the trend and course of history), for naming East Pakistan as Bangladesh, also referred to our national anthem --"Amar Sonar Bangla, Ami Tomai Bhalobashi." Dr. Ahmed Sharif was one of the organisers and speakers in the protest meet of the writers and artists in 1968 against the repression and interference of the Pakistani rulers.

Even after liberation Ahmed Sharif stood beside the people of this country against any undemocratic behaviour and defied all fascist laws forced upon by the rulers of Bangladesh. He was a real spokesman of the sentiment of the people. Ahmed Sharif formed a committee for seeking justice and protecting the basic rights of the people during the famine in 1974. He was at the vanguard in the resistance against Martial Law, and formed a committee for resistance.

His sympathy towards the exploited, oppressed people spread up to the furthest corners of the world. He expressed his hatred for aggressors in severe language. Dr. Ahmed Sharif boldly declared: "The American cult of imperialism is responsible for poverty and illiteracy of Africans, Asians and Latin Americans." He was the symbol of free thought. He wanted the rise of revolutionary forces in suppressed nations of the world.

Ahmed Sharif never used to bow his head to any power. He fired us with the lesson not to yield to any evil force. He taught us to hate injustice. He was uncompromising in his personal life and social activities.

Firm in his thoughts, words and actions, he shattered all chains of false traditions and culture. He donated his eyes and corpse for the benefit of mankind. It was mentioned in his will that the "eyes are chief organs and blood is the nucleus of life. It is wise to use the total dead body for human need than to let it be eaten by worms in the grave."

He was the recipient of many honours and awards for his outstanding contribution in the field of medieval Bengali literature and contemporary socio-cultural-political essays.

He was considered the lone authority on ancient and medieval Bengali literature. He authored more than 100 research publications - in the form of books - on history, philosophy, socio-cultural and contemporary political issues. He edited with long introductions of 46 manuscripts of ancient and medieval Bengali literature and many others were in joint collaboration. It is rated by the sub-continental scholars that two volumes of his Bangalee and Bangla Shahitya are masterpieces. It may be mentioned here that during his lifetime he wrote almost 34611 pages in total and all his hand written pages stand at 13844 pages in print. Never did he care for appreciation or publicity for his massive scholarly works.

He was a consummate rational humanist who left behind a legacy for those still fighting fascist ideas, autocratic views, communalism and superstition. Whatever he said or wrote during his lifetime caused a lot of furor in intellectual circles. Even till his last days, he had been living a secluded life to avoid the wrath of a section of the public who thought his views to be too dangerous for the establishment. During his lifetime, he was very much controversial and misunderstood personality among his contemporaries in the country. He was controversial because of his outspoken views against the establishment, so-called intellectuals and political leaders, and above all religious and parochial outlooks. He never attended any government-sponsored and elite programs. Therefore, his huge publications on different issues were not read. Because of professional jealousy, opportunists used to misinterpret him to the curious people, who wanted to know Dr Sharif's philosophy and works.

From 1945 to 1949, he taught at Laksham Nawab Faizunnessa College and later on at Feni College. From July 1949 to 17th December 1950 he worked as Program Assistant at the Dhaka Centre of the Radio Pakistan. Finally, on December 18, 1950 he joined as Research Assistant in the Bengali Department, University of Dhaka and retired as Chairman and Professor in 1983. During his time at the DU he was elected a member of the Senate, Syndicate, and the President of Teachers Association and the University Teachers Club. Dr. Sharif remained the only person who was elected the Dean of the Faculty of Arts for three consecutive terms. After his retirement from the Dhaka University, he was offered to join as first "Kazi Nazrul Islam Professor" at the University of Chittagong, where he served from 1984 to 1986.

However, many believe that one of his major achievements was that, he unlike many of his contemporary scholars and academicians, had been able to extract the hatred and enmity of reactionary forces by the bold expression of his own views. He was highly regarded for his ability to say "no" to various material temptations. His dignity and self-respect never permitted him to be submissive to any power. Among his Dhaka University colleagues he was just an impractical man, a cynic seized with radical ideas who was never "clever" enough to understand his own mundane interests as he never took any undue advantage of his position.

Unlike many, he rose above all religious and parochial outlooks towards life. For his brave utterances against communalism, superstitions, autocracy and fascism his life came under threat many times, but he never stopped.

He may not be with us today, but he will be remembered because of his ideas, secular thoughts, boldness and modern outlook.

Dr Jesmin Chowdhury is Editor-in-Chief of The Asian Age.

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