Hasan Zaman: My Guide

To be able to write a piece in remembrance of Dr. Hasan Zaman who has guided me in my youth is something great. I feel honored on being requested to write a few words about Dr. Zaman.  I know him as I was his student. I also know him as I was a cultural worker during the student days. I have not maintained any diary of my student life in the Dhaka University and indeed now it is difficult to recollect memories after 34 years. 

I did my Masters in Political Science from Dhaka University in 1970 and the last time I saw Dr. Zaman was possibly in late July or early August 1971 when I returned to Dhaka after staying four-five months in my village home at Kishorgonj. I cannot however recollect, after so many years, when I first mat Dr. Hasan Zaman, was it in the University as a student or outside the University as a cultural worker.  

I still remember that we- A. W. M. Sanaullah. Muhammad Mahbubul Huq and Shamsud Dowla - used to meet Dr. Zaman and exchanged views on the cultural conflicts in our national life and the impending responsibility we have to shoulder. We formed a cultural organization- Muktabuddhi Shahittya Sangha- to work in the cultural arena. Dr. Zaman was its Chief Advisor. Other members of the Council of Advisors were Prof. Matiur Rahman, Syed Ahmad and Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin. I was its Director. Members of the Executive Committee inter alia include Shamsud Dowla, Sk. Enamul Haque, M. A. Azam, A. W. M. Sanaullah, Muhammad Mahbubul Huq and   Muhammad Ehsanul Huq We brought out a literary magazine- Kalakantha- that was jointly edited by A. W. M. Sanaullah and Shamsud Dowla. Dr. Hasan Zaman was very happy to see the quality of the magazine that was printed from Alexandra Press at 244 Nawabpur Road, Dhaka. Dr. Zaman had a superb aesthetic sense of beauty and he always liked quality production.  

Dr. Zaman had a very charismatic character, an amiable and impressive person. He used to influence anybody who would meet him. He had a broad heart and would help anybody who would approach him. I still vividly recollect that such people visited him in the office of the Bureau of National Reconstruction of which he was Director, who had been poles apart from him, held views ideologically different from him, but Dr. Zaman would not mind to render all kinds of assistance. I myself could visit the then West Pakistan on student exchange program due to his kind help.     

Indeed he was a good speaker and of all the teachers at the Dhaka University he impressed and influenced me most. He used to teach Plato and would tell us to follow his teaching method so that in the same way we can study Aristotle and Socrates. He used to take the class of the Islamic Political Theory even when he was employed in a job outside the University on lean. He was very popular among the students. The class of Islamic Political Theory was open to all; any student of the University could attend. The class of this paper he used to take in room number 1022, the biggest room in the ground floor of Dhaka University and the room always remained packed up with students when he took class of this paper and was even attended by such students who used to differ with him on many counts. He advised me to write a book on Islamic Political Theory. I thought I am not competent for the job but he insisted that I should write a text book on Islamic Political Theory which for various reasons I could not write until today.  

He was a progressive thinker and a scholar. As early as sixties he emphasized the significance women’s empowerment and vocal about the importance of women’s participation in the public life. In December 1969 he gave me a book ‘Women in Islamic Society’ by Dr. Umar Baron Ehrenfels. This book while discussing the status of women in the Muslim countries emphasized in making clear distinction between the pristine doctrine of Islam and the legacy of jahiliyya, the cultural practice of the pre-Islamic period that still persists in Muslim lands and later penetration of alien cultural influence in the Muslim societies.  As back as 1969 he could visualize the future issues that the Muslim world would confront, issues which we are discussing now and trying to resolve. He had deep understanding of the crisis of the Muslim world and was keen to make his pupils aware of the social ills. Indeed he was a great visionary.  

His apprehension that a ‘sovereign’ Bangladesh might become an Indian market has proved true. To day we have a trade deficit with India of three billion US Dollars [A. K. Faezul Huq. India-Bangladesh ties should be more friendly and cordial, The New Nation, Bangladesh, 18 October 2004, p 5] and smuggling is widespread. Indian goods have flooded Bangladesh market, the country’s industry is in disarray and unemployment is rampant.