Muhammad Shahidullah

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Muhammad Shahidullah
মুহম্মদ শহীদুল্লাহ
محمد شاہد اللہ
Mohammod Sohidullah.jpg
Shahidullah in a literary conference in Curzon Hall, Dhaka (April 1954)
Born(1885-07-10)10 July 1885
Died13 July 1969(1969-07-13) (aged 84)
SpouseMarguba Khatun
Children9, including Muhammad Takiullah and Murtaja Baseer
Alma mater
  • Linguist
  • philologist
  • writer
  • educationalist
Muslim leader
Disciple ofMohammad Abu Bakr Siddique
AwardsIndependence Day Award (1980)
HonoursChevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1967)

Muhammad Shahidullah (Bengali: মুহম্মদ শহীদুল্লাহ; Urdu: محمد شاہد اللہ; 10 July 1885 – 13 July 1969)[1] was a Bengali linguist, philologist, educationist, and writer.[2][3]

In 2004, he was ranked number 16 in BBC's poll of the Greatest Bengali of all time.[4][5][6]

Early life and education[edit]

Young Shahidullah

Shahidullah was born on 10 July 1885 to a Bengali Muslim family in the village of Peyara in the erstwhile Bengal Presidency's 24 Parganas district. His father, Mafizuddin Ahmed, was the guardian of a mazar, and his mother, Marguba Khatun, was a housewife.

Shahidullah passed his school final Entrance exam in 1904 from Howrah Zilla School. In 1906, he passed the FA exam from Presidency College in Kolkata. He received the Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours in Sanskrit in 1910 from City College, Kolkata, and Masters of Arts degree in 1912 in comparative philology from the University of Calcutta. He earned his PhD degree from Sorbonne University in 1928 for his research on the dialects of the Charyapada.[1] He was the first Bengali Muslim to receive this doctorate degree. He was also a murid (disciple) of Mohammad Abu Bakr Siddique, the inaugural Pir of Furfura, from whom he received mystic education and khilafah (spiritual succession).[7][8]


Shahidullah began his career by teaching in Jessore Zila School in 1908. After working as the headmaster of Sitakunda High School for some time in 1914, he practiced law at Bashirhat in 24 Parganas. In 1915 he was elected as vice-chairman of the town's municipality. He was Sharatchandra Lahiri Research Fellow (1919–21) under Dinesh Chandra Sen at the University of Calcutta and joined the University of Dhaka as a lecturer in 1921 in Sanskrit and Bangla. During his period at the University of Dhaka he did research on the origins of the Bengali language. In 1925, he presented his thesis that Bangla as a language originated from Gaudi or Magadhi Prakrit. He was principal of Bogra Azizul Huq College from 1944 to 1948. He then returned to the University of Dhaka, serving as head of the Bangla Department and dean of the Faculty of Arts. He taught part-time at the Law Department (1922–25) and the International Relations Department as a teacher of French (1953–55). He worked as head of the Bangla and Sanskrit Department of the University of Rajshahi (1955–58).[9]

He served as an editor for the Islami Bishwakosh project for a while.[10][11]

Muhammad Shahidullah's mastery of different languages was extraordinary and outstanding. He was fluent in 24 languages and had an outstanding knowledge of 18 languages. Some of the notable languages are Bengali, Urdu, Persian, Arabic, English, French, Assamese, Oriya, Maithili, Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, Kashmiri, Nepali, Sinhala, Tibetan, Sindhi, Sanskrit, Pali etc.[citation needed]

Noteworthy books[edit]

  • Sindabad Saodagarer Galpa (The Stories of the Merchant Sindbad, 1922)
  • Bhasa O Sahitya (Language and Literature, essays, 1931)
  • Bangala Byakaran (Bangla Grammar, 1936)
  • Diwan-i-Hafiz (Poems of Hafiz, translation, 1938)
  • Shikwah O Jawab-i-Shikwah (Questions and Their Answers, translation from Iqbal, 1942)
  • Rubaiyat-i-Omar Khaiyam (Quatrains of Omar Khayyam, translation, 1942)
  • Essays on Islam (1945)
  • Amader Samasya (Our Problems, essays, 1949)
  • Padmavati (Volume I ed, 1950)
  • Bangla Sahityer Katha (History of Bangla Literature, Volume I in 1953, Volume II in 1965)
  • Vidyapati Shatak (Collection of Vidyapati's Songs, text analysis, 1954)
  • Bangla Adab Ki Tarikh (History of Bangla Literature, essays, in Urdu, 1957)
  • Bangla Sahityer Itihas (History of Bangla Literature, 1957)
  • Bangala Bhasar Itibrtta (History of Bangla Language, 1959)
  • Amarkabya (Unforgettable Poetical Works, 1963)
  • Sekaler Rupkatha (Fairy Tales of Ancient Time), 1965[12]
  • Les Chants Mystiques de Kanha et de Saraha [The Mystic Songs], 1928, Adrien Maisonneuve.[13]


Shahidullah has seven sons and two daughters. Children: Mohammad Raziullah, Mohammad Safiyullah, Mohammad Waliullah, A K Mohammad Zakiyullah, Mohammad Taqiullah, Mohammad Naqiullah, Mohammad Bashirullah, Mohzuza Haque (born Khatun), Masrura Haque (born Khatun).

His third son A.K.M. Zakiyullah established a school named 'Dr. Shahidullah Gyanpith' in Hazi Osman Goni Road, Alu bazaar (Old Dhaka) and a research library named ’Dr. Shahidullah Memorial Library and Language Research Center’ in Senpara Parbata, Mirpur-10, Dhaka.

Another of his son Abul Bayan M. Naqiyyullah (M.S) studied in George Washington University in Washington DC, USA and settled in Cairo, Egypt after serving as a pathologist in Saudi Arabia. Another of Shahidullah's son, A.K.M. Bashirullah – known popularly by his alias Murtaja Baseer – is considered one of the most stylish and foremost painters in Bangladesh.[14]

Awards and honors[edit]

Shahidullah's tomb at the University of Dhaka campus

Shahidullah made Professor Emeritus by the University of Dhaka (1967) for his lifetime contribution in research on language and literature. He was also awarded the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 1967 for his academic contribution to language and literature.[1] In 1980, the Government of Bangladesh awarded him the Independence Award posthumously.



  1. ^ a b c Badiuzzaman (2012). "Shahidullah, Muhammad". In Sirajul Islam and Ahmed A. Jamal (ed.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  2. ^ University of Rajshahi
  3. ^ "Remembering a luminary: Bangla Academy celebrates Shahidullah's birth anniversary". The Daily Star. July 2014.
  4. ^ "Listeners name 'greatest Bengali'". BBC News. 14 April 2004. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  5. ^ "BBC Listeners' Poll – Bangabandhu judged greatest Bangali of all time". The Daily Star (Vol. 4 Num 313 ed.). Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  6. ^ "Mujib, Tagore, Bose among 'greatest Bengalis of all time'". The Hindu. 17 April 2004. Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  7. ^ Abdul Qayyum, Hasan (15 March 2019). "ফুরফুরা শরীফের যুব সংস্কারক". Janakantha (in Bengali). Retrieved 14 April 2022.
  8. ^ Abdul Qayyum, Hasan (15 March 2019). "যুগসংস্কারক মওলানা আবু বকর সিদ্দিকী (রহ)". The Daily Ittefaq. Archived from the original on 3 December 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2022.
  9. ^ "Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah: Exploring the roots of Language". The Daily Star. 11 July 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  10. ^ Muhammad Zafar Ali (10 July 2020). ড. মুহম্মদ শহীদুল্লাহ্‌র কৃতিত্ব ভোলার মতো নয়. Prothom Alo (in Bengali).
  11. ^ Sharif Uddin Peshawar (13 July 2018). জ্ঞানতাপস ড. মুহম্মদ শহীদুল্লাহ অকাতরে বিদ্যা বিলিয়েছেন. Jugantor (in Bengali).
  12. ^ "Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah - advancement of Bangla language, awards, passing & burial - biography of Muslim and Bengali". Londoni.
  13. ^ Shahidullah, Muhammad (1928). Les chants mystiques de Kāṇha et de Saraha [The Mystic Songs of Kanha and Saraha] (in French). Retrieved 25 October 2022.
  14. ^ "Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah - early life of Gyantaposh, education, family life, career - biography of Muslim and Bengali". Londoni.

External links[edit]