Dr. Ahmed Sharif: A Tribute

By Dr. Nehal Karim


Late Dr. Ahmed Sharif

[Feb 13, 1921 to Feb 24, 1999]

[ A Tribute from Mukto-mona : A consummate rational humanist, prominent freethinker and an outspoken scholar Dr. Sharif has left behind a legacy for all "Mukto-monas" who still fighting fascist ideas, autocratic views, communalism and superstitions in our country and abroad. Uncompromising till death, Dr. Sharif rose above all religious and parochial outlooks towards life. For his brave utterances against communalism and superstitions, autocracy and fascism, his life came under threat many times. But He did not care. Dr. Sharif influenced many youths during his life-time, and his residence in Dhaka University area was always a favorite place for the youths for weekly discussions on issues ranging from the ideal way of child rearing to modern theories of literature and philosophy through a rational outlook.  Dr. Sharif donated his  corneas to two blind men - Hafez Khairul Alam Khokan from Madaripur and Sakir Hossain of Dhaka. His body was handed over to the Bangladesh Medical College authorities for dissection and study by the students. This was done in accordance with his last wishes. ]

Dr. Ahmed Sharif, the prominent figure of free thought country died just a year back. The scholarly life of Dr. Ahmed Sharif, a retired professor of Bengali literature of the University of Dhaka, came to an end on his way to hospital at 1.40 a.m. on February 24, 1999. A massive heart attack brought the end to the life which begun on February 13, 1921.

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 furore 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 programmes. 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.

Dr Ahmed Sharif who came from Patiya, Chittagong, did his Masters and Ph. D degrees in Bangla literature from the University of Dhaka, in 1944 and 1967 respectively. 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 Programme 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.

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.

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.

The author is an Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Dhaka.

 published at : Daily star, 2000
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A Note from  Professor Ajoy K. Roy :

I remember still clearly the name of the following teachers of Dhaka University who spearheaded the movement for Autonomy for University and other educational institutions during sixties before 6-point demand of Sheikh Mujib and 11-pont demands of the students. The object of our movement, later came to be known as “Drohi” was to establish an atmosphere of free thinking where we, the teachers and students can cultivate free intellectual pursuit in a liberal atmosphere. Our movement reached its peak during 1969 and coincided with national movement for autonomy. The teachers who led the movement are:

Professor (late) A. B. M. Habibullah
Professor (late) Ahmad Sharif
Dr. Latif Choudhury(now in USA)
Dr. Sirajul Islam Choudhury
Dr. Anisuzzaman
Dr. Ajoy Roy
Dr. Belayet Hoasin (now in USA)
Mr. Nur Mohammad Mian
Mr. Ahsanul Haque

Many opined our movement was much greater in dimension and impact compared to Sheikh movement of 30’s. During this movement I came very close to Dr. Shariff and this intimacy continued till his death. I salute his courage and human values. 

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