Karim, Rezaul

Karim, Rezaul (1902-1993) educationist, journalist, litterateur, translator. His full name is Rezaul Karim Muhammad Jawad. He was born on 1 July 1902 at village Shaspur in Rampurhat thana of Birbhum district. His father was Haji Abdul Hamid and mother was Zaria Khatun.

Rezaul Karim got his primary education from his village pathshala and Anglo Oriental Middle School. He did his Matriculation from Calcutta Madrasa (1920), IA from Krishnanath College (1928) and BA with honours in English from the same college (1930). He obtained his MA degree (1934) and law degree (1936) from Calcutta University.

After completing his law degree, he started his career as a lawyer at courts in Bankshal, Alipur and Bahrampur. He left bar in 1947 to join Bahrampur Girls College as a professor. From he retired in 1982. Meanwhile, Rezaul Karim joined politics and from 1930 to 1947 he campaigned against communalism. The issue of elections of 1937 on communal basis made the political atmosphere in India vitiated with communalism. Rezaul Karim opposed elections on communal basis. As a move against politics on communal line, he and his elder brother Moeenuddin Husein joined hands to establish 'Anti-Separate Electorate League'. Its president was Rezaul Karim's maternal uncle Abdus Samad, a lawyer at Bahrampur court, and its secretary was Moeenuddin Husein. He was associated with politics for a long time but its mud did not touch him. He avoided politics of comunalism. On the one hand, he praised the politics of Gandhi and Abul Kalam Azad and on the other, he deeply admired the leadership of Lenin. His politics was inspired with the motto of uplifting the fate of the exploited, deprived and neglected humanity. With this aim he wrote Turki- Bir Kamal Pasha. Noncommunalism was an important aspect of his politics. In 1938 he edited a journal Durbeen to promote growth of nationalism in Indian politics. At this time he wrote an essay entitled 'Indebtedness of the Muslims to Bankimchandra'.

Rezaul Karim's interest in literature grew from his family atmosphere when he was a teenager. His family had interest in the writings of the best-known Persian poets and litterateurs such as Rumi, Sa'di, Hafez and Omar Khaiyyam. In 1925 he edited a monthly journal Saurav. In this phase he was deeply impressed with the past glory of Islam as seen from some of his poems and prose writings of the time. But after reading Thomas Paine's (1737-1809) Age of Reason (1794-96), The Right of Man (1791-92) and other writings there was a revolutionary change in him. Rezaul Karim was attracted by his thoughts on human rights free from considerations of communities, his revolutionary ideas and his love for truth and rationalism. In his two subsequent essays Rezaul Karim mentions Thomas Paine as a 'friend of man'. His attitude becomes clear in his three books Farasi Biplov(1933), Naya Bharater Vitti (1935) and For India and Islam (1937).

The 'Congress Sahitya Sangha' was founded in 1944 and he was one of its main organisers. Its first branch outside Calcutta was established at his initiative at Bahrampur in 1945. He was its president. The same year he and Abdul Qadir edited and published Kabya-Malavcha, a collection of poems by Muslim poets from the Middle Ages to the modern time. Rezaul Karim's Nirbachito Kavita was published in 2002, after his death.

Rezaul Karim's other books include Punyabani (1921), Anecdotes of Hazrat Muhammad (1939), Turkibir Kamal Pasha (1941), Monishi Abul Kalam Azad (1942), Sadhok Dara Shikoh (1944), Bonkimchandra O Musalman Samaj (1944), Jagrihi (1944), and Shikkha O Sabhyata (1382 BS).

Rezaul Karim was greatly inspired by the Italian renaissance, lessons of the French Revolution, Europe's liberal humanism and by the rationality and humanism of the nineteenth century Bengal. On the other hand, he had admiration for the revolutionary activities of Kamal Pasha in bringing about political changes in the east. He was opposed to using religion in politics and also opposed to stagnant religious practices in social arena. He favoured modernism and a reflection of secular outlook in education. He devoted all his learning, intellect and thoughts in promoting spread of scientific knowledge and rationality in society not in mere theory but through sincere love to fellow human beings.

In recognition of his thoughts on cultural integration and dedication to literature, Calcutta University conferred upon Rezaul Karim the honorary degree of DLitt in 1984. The West Bengal government awarded him the Vidyasagar Memorial prize in 1991. He died on 5 November 1993. [Muhammad Saiful Islam]