Kendriyo Muslim Sahitya Sangsad

Kendriyo Muslim Sahitya Sangsad one of the oldest literary societies of Bangladesh. A few litterateurs assembled at a meeting at the Sareqaum House of Hazrat Shahjalal Dargah in Sylhet on 16 September 1936 in order to form a literary society. The meeting, presided over by Assam's MLA Ashraf Uddin Muhammad Choudhury, decided to establish the Sylhet Muslim Sahitya Sangsad. Khan Bahadur Dewan Eklimur Raja Choudhury was made its first president and AZ Abdullah its first secretary. Its objective is 'to promote extensively literary culture in the Muslim society, to collect literary works of the less-known Bengali poets and writers of greater Sylhet, collect old manuscripts, and to facilitate literary activities for the Muslims'. Poet Jasimuddin was the chief guest at a special meeting of the sangsad on 4 October 1937. Its second annual conference held on 14 May 1939 was presided over by Syed Mujtaba Ali. At its second annual general meeting, Al-Islah editor Muhammad Nurul Huq was elected as the sangsad's secretary and treasurer. He shouldered this responsibility until his death in 1987. The Assam government used to pay an annual grant to the sangsad until 1947. The Shillong branch of the sangsad was established in 1939. Its Calcutta branch was established on 1 December 1940 at 24 Zakaria Street. This is why it was known as the Central Muslim Sahitya Sangsad. Although the branches were closed in 1947 and no other branches were opened its name remained unchanged.

In pursuance of a decision of the Sangsad on 28 June 1939, the Sangsad secretary Muhammad Nurul Huq integrated to it, subject to some conditions, his monthly journal Al-Islah. Since then this literary journal is being published, with occasional interruptions, as the sangsad's mouthpiece. Sangsad's own office was inaugurated on 9 November 1939. On 9 November 1947 the sangsad organized a discussion on Pakistan's state language. Here, Muhammad Muslim Choudhury of the Education Department boldly advocated the cause of Bengali as a state language of Pakistan. On 28 December 1947, Dewan Muhammad Azraf read a paper on the issue of the state language at a meeting of the sangsad.

It was through the efforts of Syed Abdul Majid CIE that the Muslim Hall was built in 1912 for the Anjuman-e-Islamia on the south of the main gate of Hazrat Shahjalal Dargah. The new building constructed for the Muslim Hall in 1949 was named Jinnah Hall. This hall was gifted to the Central Muslim Sahitya Sangsad in February 1960. In 1972, it was renamed Shaheed Suleman Hall. Currently, a four-storey building is being constructed at the site of the old single-storey hall while the activities of the sangsad are being conducted at a new three-storey building near by. The sangsad library that began with only 17 books has now a collection of more than 42,000 books. The sangsad has also a collection of more than 1,500 rare books, 50 manuscripts, old newspapers and periodicals, a copy of the holy Quran handwritten by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb as well as some ancient artefacts.

Between 1936 and 1987 the sangsad organized four literary conferences. Three of these conferences were held in 1936, 1938 and 1940. The Nazrul literary conference was held on July 28, 29 and 30 in 1961. Since 2001 the sangsad has been holding annual literary conferences and book fairs. Every Thursday it holds a literary meeting. It introduced in 2000 a biennial literary award that has so far honoured six eminent poets and litterateurs. The sangsad has also published several books. Currently, the sangsad has 137 patrons, 1,257 life members and 98 general members. Its annual general meeting elects for two years a 23-member executive committee. [Nandalal Sharma]