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Karim, Abdul2

Karim, Abdul2 (1928-2007) was one of the most eminent historians of Bangladesh, who devoted his entire life in research on the medieval period of the history of Bengal. He was one of the few historians of our country who was well equipped with good knowledge of classical Persian and Arabic languages and as such could go deep into the original sources and add to the knowledge of our medieval history. At the same time he picked up the knowledge of working with coins and inscriptions and mastered both Muslim epigraphy and numismatics. In both these fields he made original contributions and thereby opened up the fields for further research in the medieval history of Bengal.

Abdul Karim

Born on 1 June 1928, Karim had his early education in his village Madrasa and passed his High Madrasa Examination in 1944 and then switched over to the general education to pass the Intermediate Arts Examination in 1946. He entered the University of Dhaka the same year and passed the BA Honours (1949) and MA (1950) Examinations in History. He joined the Department of History of Dhaka University as a Lecturer in 1951. He was initiated into research work by his mentor Dr. Ahmad Hasan dani and under his supervision completed his PhD in 1958; the title of his dissertation was ‘Social History of the Muslims in Bengal’, which was later published by the Asiatic Society of Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

He spent the years 1960-1961 in the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and earned a second PhD degree by writing his thesis on 'Murshid Quli Khan and his times', which was also later published by the Asiatic Society of Pakistan. He left the University of Dhaka in 1966 to join the newly established University of Chittagong, where he spent rest of his life. During the period 1975-1981 he held the post of the Vice Chancellor of that University. He retired from the University of Chittagong in 1984. Later he joined the Institute for Bangladesh Studies of the University of Rajshahi as a Senior Fellow and during his stay there for two years (1989-1990) he produced two volumes on the history of the Mughals in Bengal (History of Bengal, Mughal Period), published by the University of Rajshahi. In recognition of his scholarship and services in building up the University of Chittagong, Karim was made a Professor Emeritus there in 2001, an honour which he held till his death on 24 July 2007.

Karim's scholarship in the field of medieval numismatics earned him the 'Akbar's Silver Medal' from the Numismatic Society of India in 1961. The Bangladesh Itihas Samiti, of which he was one of the founder members and which he served in various capacities throughout his life, awarded him a Gold Medal in recognition of his contributions to historical research. The Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, which he served at its initial stage as the General Secretary, awarded Karim its Fellowship in 1995; and in 2005 Karim was awarded by the Society the 'President's Gold Medal'. The International Society for Religious Freedom honoured him with its Peace Award in 1995 and in the same year he was honoured with the 'Ekushe Padak'.

Karim, as a scholar, is mainly recognized for his contributions to the enrichment of the medieval history of Bengal. He, through his proficiencies in Persian and Arabic languages, could go deep into the original sources of medieval history and at the same time could easily master the arts of reading and interpreting the Muslim coins and inscriptions. Throughout his life he devoted himself to the study of coins and inscriptions and produced two voluminous collections: Corpus of the Muslim Coins of Bengal (published by the Asiatic Society of Pakistan) and Corpus of the Arabic and Persian Inscriptions of Bengal (published by the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh).

Karim has been very productive; though primarily known for his Social History, he produced as many as 10 books in English, most notable among them are his two volumes of the History of Bengal, Mughal Period; Murshid Quli Khan and His Times; Dhaka the Mughal Capital and The Rohingya Muslims: Their History and Culture. Among his publications in Bangla the most notable is his Banglar Itihas (Sultani Amal). The two volumes on Mughal Bengal have also been rendered into Bangla by himself. He contributed more than one hundred entries to the first edition of the Banglapedia: A National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (2003). Besides he contributed numerous seminal articles in reputed journals. Many of his articles raised new questions for the new generation of scholars. Abdul Karim died in Chittagong on 24 July 2007. [AM Chowdhury]