Girish Chandra Sen

Published:  03:33 AM, 13 May 2017

The first translator of the Quran into Bangla

The first translator of the Quran into Bangla

Girish Chandra Sen (1835-1910) was a Bengali religious scholar and translator. He was a Brahmo Samaj missionary and known for being the first translator of the Qur'an into Bengali language in 1886. Sen was born in the village of Panchdona in Narayanganj District in Bengal (now part of Narsingdi District in Bangladesh). He studied in Pogose School in Dhaka.

Sen taught for a short while at Mymensingh Zilla School before engaging in journalism and literary activities. He learned Persian and Sanskrit in early life and started working as a copywriter in the court of the deputy magistrate in Mymensingh. He was attracted to the Brahmo Samaj under the influence of Keshub Chunder Sen and Bijoy Krishna Goswami and joined it as a missionary in 1871. He traveled through India and Burma to propagate his new faith.

In 1869, Keshub Chunder Sen chose from amongst his missionaries, four persons and ordained them as professors of four old religions of the world. He was selected to study Islam. Others selected to study different religions were Gour Govinda Ray for Hinduism, Protap Chandra Mozoomdar for Christianity, and Aghore Nath Gupta for Buddhism. A firm believer in the basic unity of all religions, he immersed himself in his studies and later went to Lucknow in 1876 to study Arabic, Islamic literature and the Islamic religious texts.

On completion of his studies, he returned to Kolkata and engaged in the translation of Islamic scriptures. After five years of studies, he produced the first Bengali translation of the Quran. Sen wrote and published a total of 42 books in Bengali. He published the Bengali translation of almost half of Mishkat al-Masabih under the title Hadith-Purba Bibhag (1892). Another important work of his was Tattvaratnamala (1907), which contains moral lessons and words of wisdom in the form of short tales from two famous Persian books. He translated from original Persian religious books such as Gulistan, Bostan, and Diwan-e-Hafiz. He also translated the sayings of the Hadith. These books were greatly appreciated by the Muslim community which referred to him as 'Bhai Girish Chandra'.

Sen wrote several biographies of Muslim personalities, including the Prophet Muhammad (Sm), the Prophet's grandsons Imam Hasan and Imam Hussain, the four Khalifas, etc. Sen translated Ram Mohan Roy's Tuhfat-ul-Muwahhidin (1878), a book in Persian on Islam, into Bengali and published it in Dharmatattwa. He wrote Ramkrishna Paramhamser Ukti O Jiboni.

Sen is also the first known translator of the works of Shakespeare in Bengali. His autobiography, Atmajivani, was published in 1906. Initially, Sen worked at the Dhaka Prakash and later as an assistant editor at the Sulava Samachar and Bangabandhu and as editor and publisher of the monthly Mahila. While still at school he wrote a book, Banitabinodan, on the importance of women's education.

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