POST TIME: 10 October, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 10 October, 2019 12:09:36 AM
Qazi Motahar Hossain: A man of unparalleled dexterity
This struggling life taught him to be stronger. He was influenced by his teachers, Jyotindranath Roy and Jatindra Mohan Biswas for his interest in science

Qazi Motahar Hossain: A man of  unparalleled dexterity

While learning subtraction and multiplication methods, a boy surprised his uncle Kazi Abul Hossain discovering the rules of division in advance. Later, this young boy gained fame in his life as the first statistician, scientist, educator, chess player and prominent literary figure of Bangladesh. He is none other than Professor Qazi Motahar Hussain.

He was called by different names by different prominent figures. Our national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam used to call him "Motihar", and in the words of Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah, he was "an upbringing humble person and a man of wisdom and virtue". Everyone close to him used to call this brilliant mind "Qazi Shaheb". With science and research, he was a rational, religious and outspoken man with dynamic talent in the fields of literature, culture, music, sports, etc. Let’s look at his versatility of knowledge.

The writings of Bangkim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Rabindranath Tagore, and Pramoth Chowdhury created a novel dimension in Bengal that we consider of thoughtful or literary essays. Although the style was of Kazi Motahar Hossain was not completely similar to those, we still can easily put him in this category. Because, he didn’t write exactly philosophical essays, nor systematic works, but research projects. He and his contemporary friend writers were trying to turn the "essays" into "literature". In this case, the collective success of that generation has never come back again in Bangladesh.

Let me remind you how this pioneer started his journey. Qazi Motahar Hossain was born on July 5, 1949, at Lakshmipur village of Valuka (now Kumarkhali in Kushtia district) of Nadia district, in Matulala. The ancestral residence was in Bagmara village of Pangsha Upazila in the Rajbari district. During the reign of Mughal Emperor Jahangir, the ancestors of Motahar Hossain were appointed as religious advisers and judges in the Delhi court. It was the source that he was designated “Qazi”.

His father Kazi Gowharuddin was a government service holder and his family was always an ally where he was the eldest of eight siblings. That is why it was not possible for his family to fully pay for their children’s education. He received scholarships from the beginning of his education. He used to teach in various educational institutes, sometimes on tuition or long-term off to run his own expenditure on scholarship money. He struggled with poverty but did not give up on his studying.

This struggling life taught him to be stronger. He was influenced by his teachers, Jyotindranath Roy and Jatindra Mohan Biswas for his interest in science. Jitinbabu was a secular, liberal teacher, but his ideology has inspired Kazi Motahar Hossain throughout his life. Even in his literary journey had been influenced by Jatinababu. There was a competition held on the occasion of "the chariot journey of Kushtia". That was the first time he wrote an essay with the support of Jitinababu.

His literary journey was glorified with his wonderful works. Some of them are Shancharan (1937), Nazrul Kabya Porichiti (Introduction to Nazrul's Poetry) (1955), Gonit Shastrer Itihas (History of Mathematics) (1970), Alok Bigyan (Optics) (1974), Nirbachito Probondho (Collected Essays) (1976), and many others. When his first essay book was published, it caught the attention of many readers. Rabindranath Tagore, among many others, praised the book for its "conspicuous language, the boldness of speaking and for its mastery of thought".

Kazi Nazrul Islam was a close friend to him. The friendship between the two of them was intense. In various letters, Kazi Nazrul Islam used to call him "Motihar". Their relationship was so deep that Nazrul wrote a long poem called "Dari-Bilap" on Motahar Hossain's beard. Motahar Hossain also had a special interaction with Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay. Even Sharat Chandra's story "Mahesh" was a crop of conversation with Motahar Hossain.

His professional career was filled up with flying colors. He had a doctorate (Ph.D.) degree from the University of Dhaka for his study of "Design of Experiments". One of the examiners of his thesis was Sir Ronald Fisher, a renowned statistician. He was also highly praised for this paper. Later, one of the methods invented by Motahar Hossain was known as "Hossain's Chain Rule" in Statistics. And, one of his biographers, Abdullah Al-Mutti, called him "truly Renaissance man".

On 3 January 1920, a progressive literary organization "Muslim Sahitya Samaj" was established in Dhaka and he was deeply involved in this movement. The annual pageantry of the "Muslim Sahitya Samaj" was "Shikha". Qazi Motahar Hossain was the editor in the second and third years of "Shikha", where he dreamed of creating a progressive social structure that would provide them the opportunity to practice independent thinking.

Qazi Motahar Hossain was a devout man, not a fanatic. He wanted to experience real life with his eyes. He had no place for religious fanaticism or superstition in his writings. When Kazi Abdul Oud or Abul Hossain made a comment about the fanatics of Kazi Motahar Hossain, he still said, "We do not want to fight against Islam - we want to eliminate the superstition and the accumulated rubbish of the current Muslim society."

Qazi Motahar Hossain became the voice against language reforms, change of letters (writing the Bengali language in Urdu), and the irrational Rabindra antagonism of capitalism. He also showed dissatisfaction with the attempt to impose Urdu as a state language which was likely to end the East-West affiliation. Later, his prophecy came true.

He came forward to celebrate the birth anniversary of Rabindranath in various adversities. For the first time in Dhaka, he presided over the death anniversary of renowned author Maxim Gorky. He protested whenever the language, literary works, culture, or science study were hit. This is why Annadashankar Roy commented about him, "a liberal Muslim as well as a patriotic Bengali and an honest man overall."

Another reason Kazi Motahar Hossain was famous for was "chess". His interest in sports was immense, and if it was chess, then he was profoundly involved. His chess companions were well-known people like Sharatchandra Chattopadhyay, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Kisanlal, Satish Chandra Addi (All-India Champion), and others. He became the first to compete in "All India Chess Brilliancy" in 1925. Grandmaster Kazi Motahar Hossain was the founder and lifetime president of the "Bangladesh Chess Federation". He also had skills in football, tennis, high jump, swimming, and badminton. He became the champion in lawn tennis competition in Dhaka in 1951.

Many from this generation don't know about him really. People know the popular detective series "Masud Rana" of Kazi Anwar Hossain. Kazi Anwar Hossain is a worthy son of this great man who encouraged him to write the thriller. However, being a progressive and pioneer educator, literary person, mathematician, scientist, musician - he became one of the guardians of the intellectuals, progressive, and open-minded people of Bangladesh. Today, Bangladesh stands on the foundation that people like Kazi Motahar Hossain created. On October 9, 1981, this man passed away. We ought to commemorate him as this legendary versatile figure departed for his final journey on this day every year.

The writer was a Fulbright TEA Fellow, Fall 2018, Montana State University,

USA. He writes on contemporary issues, education, and literature.