Muslim Sahitya-Samaj a literary and cultural organisation founded by some free-thinking and progressive teachers and students of Dhaka University and Dhaka Intermediate College. It was established on 19 January 1926 at a meeting held at the Muslim Hall Union office under the chairmanship of Dr muhammad shahidullah, professor of the Department of Bengali and Sanskrit of the Dhaka University. The responsibility of running it was given to Prof Abul Husain Professor of the Department of Economics and Commerce Dhaka University, A F M Abdul Huq, a student of the Muslim Hall and Abdul Qadir, a student of Dhaka Intermediate College. They were members of its first executive committee. From behind the scene, all works were done by Prof Kazi Abdul Wadud of the Department of Bengali and Prof Anwarul Qadir of the Department of Logic of the Dhaka Intermediate College.
Freedom of intellect was the fundamental principle to be followed by the Muslim Sahitya-Samaj. To them the meaning of freedom of intellect was to release human wisdom from the blind faith and allegiance to sacred scriptures. The new awakening that inspired the members of the organisation to engage in social and literary work had its roots in the venture of Mustafa Kamal Pasha in founding the Turkish nation, endeavours of many pioneer thinkers of India and the collective wisdom of all ages in uplifting the human society. The writers of this organisation adopted three ways to disseminate their ideas among the members of the Bengali society. These were: publication of journals, holding of periodic and annual conferences and writing and publishing of books. About the objective of establishing the Muslim Sahitya-Samaj, its secretary Abul Husain said in the first annual report that they aimed at creating the desire to think freely and seek knowledge and establish linkage with the inherited thinking and knowledge of the human society.
The annual mouthpiece of the Muslim Sahitya-Samaj shikha was first published in the month of Chaitra of BS 1333 (April 1927). There were five issues of the journal. The first issue was edited by Abul Husain, the second and the third issues by Qazi motahar husain, the fourth issue by Muhammad Abdur Rashid and the fifth issue by Abul Fazl. Every issue of the journal used to contain reports on the organisation's periodic and annual conferences as well as the essays read at those conferences. The most of every issue of the journal carried this motto: 'Where knowledge is limited, intellect is inert, freedom is impossible.'
The Muslim Sahitya-Samaj continued to be active for about twelve years (1926-1936). According to the proceedings of the second session of the 12th year (29 December 1938), the first session of that year was held about 10/11 months ago at the Segun Bagicha house of Kazi Abdul Wadud under the chairmanship of Mahbub-ul Alam. The second session of that year was held under the chairmanship of the secretary Azharul Islam. This was the last session of the organisation. No proceeding of the 11th year has been found. It is assumed that the organisation was dormant during the 11th year. In January 1938 some enthusiastic members tried to revive the Samaj keeping Kazi Abdul Wadud and Kazi Motahar Husain in front, but the Samaj could no longer be made active.
The members of the Muslim Sahitya-Samaj were secular although the word 'Muslim' was part of their organisation's name. The chairman of the organisation's first session was Prof Charu Chandra Bandopaddhay of the Department of Bengali and Sanskrit of Dhaka University and literary critic. Its first annual session (27-28 February 1927) was presided over by Khan Bahadur Tasadduk Ahmed, headmaster of Dhaka Collegiate School. The agenda of the session included, in addition to the names of the organisation's founders, such names as Kazi Nazrul Islam, Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, Muhammad Qasem, Sushilkumar Dey, Syed Emdad Ali, Prof Charu Bandopaddhay, Khan Bahadur Abdur Rahman Khan and Birendranath Ganguly. The objective of the founders was to disseminate through literary activities their ideas among the Bengali society. Bengali society meant all Bengali speaking people irrespective of their religion. The Muslims of the time were far behind the Hindus in politics, economy and culture. The Sahitya-Samaj had therefore had to think particularly of the backward Muslims. They believed that without rectifying their social ills the Muslims could not be expected to move towards free thinking and go for literary culture. This is why they made efforts through reading out essays, discussions and addresses at various sessions to make the Muslims aware of their mother tongue, educational system, economic condition, political issues, culture of fine arts and elucidation of religious teachings.
The writers of the Muslim Sahitya-Samaj were not keen to associate themselves actively with politics. They used to express their views on politics, economy, education, fine arts and religion keeping in mind the eternal principles of literature, culture and humanism. These writers were devoted to a renaissance. It was no surprise then that their thinking and life's principles remained limited to a few. The success of the organisation was in the fact that following the path shown by it the Bengali Muslim society was able within a few decades to move forward on the road to progress. [Khondkar Serajul Huq]