Islamic Foundation Bangladesh

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Islamic Foundation Bangladesh an autonomous organisation that works to disseminate Islamic ideals and values and carry out Islamic activities. An organisation called Baitul Mukarram Society was formed in 1959 to build a large mosque in dhaka. The same year, some Islamic scholars of Dhaka instituted Darul Ulum (house of learning) to popularise Islamic culture and to do research on the Islamic philosophy of life. A year later, it was renamed Islamic Academy and made a branch of the Karachi-based Central Islamic Research Institute.

On 22 March 1975, the Baitul Mukarram Society and the Islamic Academy were integrated into one organisation, the Islamic Foundation through an ordinance. The Islamic Foundation Act was promulgated on 28 March 1975. In 1978, Islamic Foundation Bangladesh drew the attention of the Muslim world when it organised a seminar on 20-22 March at Dhaka on Human and Natural Resources in the Islamic Countries under the sponsorship of the Organisation of Islamic Countries organised. Representatives of 16 countries including Bangladesh took part in the seminar. Development of the Islamic Foundation got a new momentum in 1979-80. The head office of the Foundation was located initially at a building adjacent to the baitul mukarram mosque and in 1999, it was shifted to its own premises in the Agargaon area of Dhaka.

Aims and objectives of the foundation according to the Islamic Foundation Act, the aims and objectives of the organisation: (a) to set up, manage and maintain mosques, Islamic centres, academies and institutes and to provide funds to them; (b) conduct research on the role of Islam in culture, science, and civilisation; (c) help disseminate Islamic ideals regarding world fraternity, tolerance and justice; (d) promote studies on Islamic history, philosophy, culture, laws and judiciary and through it, popularise the value system and the norms of Islam; (e) publish books and magazines on these subjects and organise conferences, lectures, debates, seminars and symposia; (f) introduce and award prizes and medals in recognition of outstanding contributions in different Islamic fields; (g) develop projects on subjects related to Islam and extend support to others who undertake such projects; (h) give scholarships to researchers for studies on Islam; (i) take care of management and development of the Baitul Mukarram Mosque; and (g) undertake any other activities that are in line with the above aims and objectives.

Management the Islamic Foundation was under the Education and Cultural Ministry since its establishment in 1975; later when a separate Ministry of Religious Affairs was formed, the Foundation was commissioned as an autonomous body under this ministry. The Foundation has a 17-member board of governors entrusted with the task of policy decisions, formulation of guidelines and programmes, and monitoring and supervision. The board has three types of members: ex-officio, nominated and elected. The minister/state minister for religious affairs, secretary to the ministry and the director general of the Foundation are respectively the ex-officio chairman, vice-chairman and member-secretary of the board. The director general is the Foundation's chief executive officer. He is appointed by the government. A full-time secretary, fifteen directors, and a project director (press) assist him in his day to day activities. In addition, there are three project directors who work in the development projects of the Foundation.

Sources of funding the Foundation gets funds from the following sources: (a) funds of the Islami Academy and of the Baitul Mukarram Mosque that have been handed over to the Foundation; (b) grants and loans from the government; (c) loans from other domestic sources; (d) grants and loans from foreign governments or organisations with prior permission of the government; (e) donations and contributions; (f) returns on investments, royalties, and incomes from the Foundation's own properties; and (f) miscellaneous sources.

Activities the Foundation implements its programmes and activities through its various divisions. It undertakes two types of programmes: revenue and development. The programmes are implemented through 13 departments, four divisional and 64 district-level offices, seven training academies for imams, 29 Islamic Mission Centres and eight development projects. Some departments have several branches. Some of the departments carry out either revenue or development programmes, while some others do both. The thirteen departments are: administration, co-ordination, finance and accounts, planning, Islamic mission, publication, research, translation and compilation, Islamic encyclopaedia compilation and publication, Dwini Dawat (invitation to religion) and culture, Islamic Foundation Library, Islamic Foundation Press and the Zakat Board.

Divisional/district-level offices the expansion of the Foundation's activities at the district levels started with opening offices in four divisional and three district headquarters in 1979-80. By 1989, it had offices at every district headquarters. These divisional and district-level offices implement functions in line with the Foundation's aims and objectives.

Publication activities the publication activities of the Foundation are done through the encyclopaedia department, translation and compilation department, publication department and research department. The Foundation has published a 27-volume Islami Bishwakos (Islamic Encyclopaedia) under the Islamic Encyclopaedia Project and has started working on compilation of Sirat Bishwakos, a 22-volume encyclopaedia on the Life of hazrat muhammad (Sm). The department publishes two monthly magazines named Agrapathik (Forerunner) and Sabuj Pata (Green Leaves). The research department publishes a research quarterly named Islamic Foundation Patrika (Islamic Foundation Journal). This department has also published over fifty scholarly books, including Islam O Muslim Ummar Itihas (Islam and the history of the Muslim society), Scientific Indications in the Holy Quran, Bijvan O Karigari Ksetre Musalmander Abadan (Contribution of Muslims to development of science and technology), Bidhibaddha Islami Ain, Fatwa O Masayel (Islamic laws, fatwa and precedents on record), Al-Quran-e Arthiniti (Economics in the Quran), Al-Quran-e Bijnan (Science in the Quran), Muslim Banglar Utpatti O Bikash (Origin and development of Muslim Bangla) etc.

Imam training activities as a predominantly Muslim country, Bangladesh has a large number of mosques and maktabs, and primary schools for imparting Islamic and Quranic teaching. The government undertook a project called Imam Training Project towards the close of 1978 to educate imams in principles of Islam, mass education, family welfare, agriculture, fisheries, first aid, tree plantation, a forestation, poultry and dairy farming, etc, to enhance their capability of contributing to the socio-economic development of the country. Up to 2012, seven academies of the Islamic Foundation have imparted training to more than 46,000 Imams. The project also has programmes to enhance the office management capabilities of the Foundation officials and employees and educate them in principles of Islam.

Library management the Islamic Foundation had an important objective to set up an Islamic library at the national level. The library of the Foundation is now housed on the premises of the Baitul Mukarram Mosque. It has a collection of over 100,000 books published both at home and abroad and it continues to add new titles. Some renowned journals and magazines also available here. The foundation is keen in increasing the physical facilities for the library as a continuous process. At present, the Islamic Foundation Library is the second largest library in the country. There are Islamic libraries in headquarters of every district and division.

The Foundation undertook a project in 1980-81 to set up mosque-based libraries to create the reading habit among the general populace. The main objective of the project was to educate people in the Islamic norms and value system. The Foundation organises seminars and workshops at divisional and district levels with the same objectives and is taking up plans for socio-economic development activities under the mosque-based libraries. Up to 2012, the Foundation has established over 18,900 libraries.

Islamic mission the Islamic Mission of the Foundation started functioning in July 1983. The mission has service-oriented programmes such as providing medical treatment, assistance to orphans and destitute women, imparting vocational training and training to unemployed youth, extending interest-free loans, supplying equipment for livelihood trades, organising literacy programmes, and imparting knowledge on the fundamentals of the Islamic way of life. The Foundation has established over 29 missions in different regions and has plans to set up a mission in every district. The Islamic Mission regularly gives training to volunteers and holds sessions to create awareness about the Islamic values.

muballigs (preachers) the teachers of the maktabs run by the mosques are trained in such a way that along with imparting Quranic education, they can also teach Bangla, mathematics, and hygiene and familiarise students with cultivation, animal farming, cleanliness, etc. People from other professions such as physicians, engineers, administrators, businessmen, teachers, etc, who wish to be preachers are also given muballig training.

Zakat Board the Foundation formed the Zakat Board on 5 January 1982 to collect zakat and distribute the money among the poor in an organised way. The board comprises 13 members with a renowned Muslim scholar as its chairman. With the money deposited with the Zakat Fund, the Foundation runs various programmes for rehabilitation of the destitute. Such programmes include (a) management of a free hospital in Tongi for children and 25 sewing training centres to help and rehabilitate the unemployed; (b) distribution of educational materials to poor students; (d) award of stipends to talented poor students; (e) rehabilitation of the the unemployed by giving them rickshaws or vans; and (f) financial assistance to destitute widows in their income generating projects of poultry and dairy farming.

Invitation to religious practices and culture The Foundation has a special department that disseminates Islamic education, ideals and values. The department is engaged in celebration and observance of important religious and national days; organisation of discussions, seminars and symposia on the life of the companions of the Prophet (Sm), Islamic scholars and national leaders; organisation of religious sessions on the holy quran and the hadith at the Baitul Mukarram Mosque; formulation of programmes to observe eid-ul fitr, eid-ul azha, shab-e-qadr, shab-e-barat, Miladunnabi, etc; and arrangement of competition on qirat (recitation of the holy Quran) and hefz (committing the holy Quran to memory) at local, national and international levels. Such competitions are organised every year.

Mosque-based education programmes the Foundation has a big project called Child and Mass Education under its mosque-based programmes. The project was launched in 1992 with the following objectives: (a) organising mosque-based pre-primary schooling for children aged between four and five years and through it, increasing the rate of enrolment in primary schools; (b) imparting preparatory education to children aged between six and ten years who do not go to school and prepare them for enrolment in primary schools; (c) offering non-formal education to young boys and girls aged between 11 and 14 years who have dropped out or have never taken schooling; (d) strengthening and expanding the on-going mosque-based non-formal education and imparting literacy to the adult population aged between 15 and 35 years; and (e) helping the literate or semi-literate keep up the reading habit and learning process throughout life. By 2012, more than' 9,80,000 people were made literate under the project.

Islamic Foundation Award in 1982, the Foundation introduced the Islamic Foundation Award for persons having outstanding contributions in various fields of Islam, such as principles of Islam, preaching and spread of Islam and biography of Prophet Muhammad (Sm), as well as in social science, natural science, creative literature, history, translation, education, journalism, arts, and social service. The award has, however, remained suspended for some time.

Other activities in addition to these activities, the Islamic Foundation takes up programmes on socio-economic development, social awareness building and education. For example, it has started a mosque-based vocational training for the educated, especially madrasah-educated, unemployed youth so that they can earn a living. The Foundation offers courses on arabic, which was introduced by the Islamic Academy in a revised form. It also provides employment opportunities to rehabilitate the destitute and the homeless under a special service-oriented programme called 'Huqqul Ibad'. [Syed Mohammed Shah Amran and Syed Ashraf Ali]

Bibliography The Islamic Foundation Act 1975 (Act XVII of 1975); Zakat Board Act 1982; Sankhipta Islami Biswakosh (Abridged Islamic Encyclopaedia), Vol 1, 1986.