ISLAM and MUSLIMS IN BANGLADESH

      

General Information

People's Republic of Bangladesh

Land area: 51,703 sq mi (133,911 sq km); total area: 55,598 sq mi (144,000 sq km)

Population (2008 est.): 153,546,901

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Dhaka, 12,560,000 (metro.area), 5,378,023 (city proper)

Other large cities: Chittagong, 2,592,400; Khulna, 1,211,500

Monetary unit: Taka

Principal languages: Bangla (official), English

Ethnicity/race: Bengali 98%, tribal groups, non-Bengali Muslims (1998)

Religions: Islam 83%, Hindu 16%, other 1% (1998)

National Holiday: Independence Day, March 26

Literacy rate: 43% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2005 est.): $301.4 billion; per capita $2,100. Real growth rate: 5.4%. Inflation: 6.7%.

Bangladesh, on the northern coast of the Bay of Bengal, is surrounded by India, with a small common border with Myanmar in the southeast. The country is low-lying riverine land traversed by the many branches and tributaries of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. Tropical monsoons and frequent floods and cyclones inflict heavy damage in the delta region.

What is now called Bangladesh is part of the historic region of Bengal, the northeast portion of the Indian subcontinent. Bangladesh consists primarily of East Bengal (West Bengal is part of India and its people are primarily Hindu) plus the Sylhet district of the Indian state of Assam.

The earliest reference to the region was to a kingdom called Vanga, or Banga (c. 1000 B.C.). Buddhists ruled for centuries, but by the 10th century Bengal was primarily Hindu. In 1576, Bengal became part of the Mogul Empire, and the majority of East Bengalis converted to Islam. Bengal was ruled by British India from 1757 until Britain withdrew in 1947, and Pakistan was founded out of the two predominantly Muslim regions of the Indian subcontinent. For almost 25 years after independence from Britain, its history was part of Pakistan's.

West Pakistan and East Pakistan were united by religion (Islam), but their peoples were separated by culture, physical features, and 1,000 miles of Indian territory.

Tension between East and West Pakistan developed from the outset because of their vast geographic, economic, and cultural differences. East Pakistan's Awami League, a political party founded by the Bengali nationalist Sheik Mujibur Rahman in 1949, sought independence from West Pakistan. Although 56% of the population resided in East Pakistan, the West held the lion's share of political and economic power. In 1970 East Pakistanis secured a majority of the seats in the national assembly. President Yahya Khan postponed the opening of the national assembly in an attempt to circumvent East Pakistan's demand for greater autonomy. As a consequence East Pakistan seceded, and the independent state of Bangladesh, or Bengali nation, was proclaimed on March 26, 1971. Civil war broke out, and with the help of Indian troops in the last few weeks of the war, East Pakistan defeated West Pakistan on Dec. 16, 1971. An estimated one million Bengalis were killed in the fighting or later slaughtered. Ten million more took refuge in India. In Feb. 1974, Pakistan agreed to recognize the independent state of Bangladesh.

Islamic History and Muslims

Baitul Mukarram National Mosque of Bangladesh in Dhaka, was built in 1962.

Baitul Mukarram National Mosque of Bangladesh in Dhaka, was built in 1962.

 

Islam is the largest religion of Bangladesh, Muslims constitute 90 percent of the population. The remainder of the population follow Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity. Religion has always been a strong part of identity, but this has varied at different times. A survey in late 2003 confirmed that religion is the first choice by a citizen for self-identification; atheism is extremely rare.
Most Muslims in Bangladesh are Sunnis, but there is a small Shia community. Most of those who are Shia reside in urban areas. Although these Shias are few in number, Shia observance commemorating the martyrdom of Ali's sons, Hasan and Husayn, is widely observed by the nation's Sunnis.

 

History

The Muslim conquest of Bengal took place in the opening years of the thirteenth century, mainly as a sequel to Muhammad Ghori's expedition late in the 6th hijrah century in northern India. Long before that, however, early Arab Muslims had established commercial as well as religious contact with Bengal, particularly in its coastal region. One immediate result of the establishment of Muslim power over the Indus delta, commanding the mouth of the Arabian Sea and the vast west Indian coast generally, was that it secured Arab navigation in the region.

The 15th century old Sixty Pillar Mosque in Bagerhat.

The 15th century old Sixty Pillar Mosque in Bagerhat.


In the course of time the Arabs extended these activities along the entire coast of South Asia including the coasts of Bengal. Islam entered Bengal through three channels--the Arab traders, the Turkish conquest and the missionary activities of the Muslim Sufis. The writings of Arab geographers reveal that Arab traders had frequented the Bengal coast long before the Turkish conquest. The location bordering Bengal that finds prominence in the Arab accounts is Samandar, identified with a place in the mouth of the Meghna river near Sandip islands on the Bay of Bengal. The Arab writers also knew about Samrup and the kingdom of Ruhmi, the latter being identified with the kingdom of Dharmapal of the Pala empire. It is not certain whether the Arab contacts led to any Muslim settlement in Bengal; some coins of the Caliphs have been discovered from ancient sites of Paharpur in Rajshahi and Mainamati near Comilla. On the basis of the word Thuratana in the Arakanese tradition, some scholars have concluded that the Arabs founded a Muslim Kingdom in Chittagong.
When the latter two groups of people were treated in this manner, Islam came into Bengal. Muslim saints began to teach the Islamic principles of equality while the rulers took steps to build up Muslim culture on the basis of a casteless society. Many Buddhists and Hindus chose to identify themselves with the Muslims in order to be free from social injustice and to gain equality and good position in society. As a result of large-scale conversion, many local beliefs, not allowed by the Islamic dogma but useful in achieving compromise, found their ways into the Muslim society of Bengal.
From 8th to 12th century, Buddhist dynasty called Pala empire ruled Bengal. During that time, majority of the population in Bengal were thought to be Buddhists. After Pala dynasty fell, Sena Dynasty came to power. Sena rulers were considered "militant" Hindus that imposed Hinduism and the caste system rigidly. When the Muslim rulers came, many Buddhists and lower caste Hindus welcomed them and accepted Islam.
The large scale conversion to Islam of the population of what was to become Bangladesh began in the thirteenth century and continued for hundreds of years. Conversion was generally collective rather than individual. Islam, attracted numerous Buddhists, and Hindus. Muslim "Sufi"s were responsible for most conversions.


Shah Jalal

Before the conquest by the Muslims, it was ruled by local chieftains. In 1303, the great Saint Hazrat Shah Jalal came to Sylhet from Delhi with a band of 360 disciples to preach Islam and defeated the Raja Gour Gobinda. Sylhet thus became a district of saints, shrines and daring but virile people.

The tomb of Hazrat Shah Jalal in Sylhet.

The tomb of Hazrat Shah Jalal in Sylhet.

His uncle, Sheikh Kabir, one day gave Shah Jalal a handful of earth (soil) and asked him to travel to Hindustan with the instruction that he should settle down at whichever place in Hindustan whose earth matched completely in smell and color the earth he was given, and he should devote his life for the propagation and establishment of Islam there.Shah Jalal journeyed eastward and reached India in c. 1300, where he met with many great scholars and mystics. He arrived at Ajmer, where he met the great Sufi mystic and scholar, Pir Khawaja Gharibnawaz Muinuddin Hasan Chisty, who is credited with the spread of Islam in India. In Delhi, he met with Nizam Uddin Aulia, another major Sufi mystic and scholar.

During the later stages of his life, Shah Jalal devoted himself to propagating Islam to the masses. Under his guidance, many thousands of Hindus and Buddhists converted to Islam. Shah Jalal become so renowned that even the world famous Ibn Battuta, whilst in Chittagong, was asked to change his plans and go to Sylhet to meet this special man. On his way to Sylhet, Ibn Batuta was greeted by several of Shah Jalal's disciples who had come to assist him on his journey many days before he had arrived. Once in the presence of Shah Jalal, Ibn Batuta noted that Shah Jalal was tall and lean, fair in complexion and lived by the masjed in a cave, where his only item of value was a goat from which he extracted milk, butter, and yogurt. He observed that the companions of the sheikh were foreign and known for their strength and bravery. He also mentions that many people would visit the sheikh and seek guidance. Shah Jalal is therefore instrumental in the spread of Islam throughout north east India including Assam.


The tradition of Islamic mysticism known as Sufism appeared very early in Islam and became essentially a popular movement emphasizing love of God rather than fear of God. Sufism stresses a direct, unstructured, personal devotion to God in place of the ritualistic, outward observance of the faith. An important belief in the Sufi tradition is that the average believer may use spiritual guides in his pursuit of the truth. In Islam there has been a perennial tension between the ulama--Muslim scholars--and the Sufis; each group advocates its method as the preferred path to salvation. There also have been periodic efforts to reconcile the two approaches. Throughout the centuries many gifted scholars and numerous poets have been inspired by Sufi ideas even though they were not actually adherents.
Sufi masters were the single most important factor in South Asian conversions to Islam, particularly in what is now Bangladesh. Most Bangladeshi Muslims are influenced to some degree by Sufism, although this influence often involves only occasional consultation or celebration rather than formal affiliation. The influence of Ulema who were stressing upon strict observance of Sharia and Muslim rituals according to tenets of Qur'an revived in India after the defeat of the Sepoy Mutiny in the form of political movements having influences of Hanafi, Wahabi or Salafi movements.
The Qadiri, Naqshbandi, and Chishti orders were among the most widespread Sufi orders in Bangladesh in the late 1980s. The beliefs and practices of the first two are quite close to those of orthodox Islam; the third, founded in Ajmer, India, is peculiar to the subcontinent and has a number of unorthodox practices, such as the use of music in its liturgy. Its ranks have included many musicians and poets.
Although a formal organization of ordained priests has no basis in Islam, a variety of functionaries perform many of the duties conventionally associated with a clergy and serve, in effect, as priests. One group, known collectively as the Ulama, has traditionally provided the orthodox leadership of the community. The Ulama unofficially interpret and administer religious law. Their authority rests on their knowledge of Sharia (Islamic Law), the corpus of Islamic jurisprudence that grew up in the centuries following the Prophet's death.

 

Role of Sufism

The Star Mosque in Dhaka.

The Star Mosque in Dhaka.


The members of the Ulama include Maulvis, Imams, and Mullahs. The first two titles are accorded to those who have received special training in Islamic theology and law. A maulvi has pursued higher studies in a madrassa, a school of religious education attached to a mosque. Additional study on the graduate level leads to the title maulana. The madrassas are also ideologically divided in two mainstreams. The Ali'a Madrassa which has its roots in Aligarh movement of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan Bahadur and the other one is Quomi Madarassa which is very close to Deobandi schools in India and Pakistan founded by Haji Muhammad Abid of Deoband, India. This means the Ulamas are also not in full agreement about their interpretation of Islam, of its theology and law.
In Bangladesh, where a modified Anglo-Indian civil and criminal legal system operates, there are no official sharia courts. Most Muslim marriages, however, are presided over by the qazi, a traditional Muslim judge whose advice is also sought on matters of personal law, such as inheritance, divorce, and the administration of religious endowments (waqfs).
In the late 1980s, the ulama of Bangladesh still perceived their function as that of teaching and preserving the Islamic way of life in the face of outside challenges, especially from modern sociopolitical ideas based on Christianity or communism. Any effort at modernization was perceived as a threat to core religious values and institutions; therefore, the ulama as a class was opposed to any compromise in matters of sharia. Many members of the ulama favored the establishment of an Islamic theocracy in Bangladesh and were deeply involved in political activism through several political parties.Muslim Population by District

Muslim Population across Bangladesh

District

Percentage (%)

Barisal

88%

Chittagong

84%

Dhaka

90%

Khulna

82.87%

Rajshahi

86.84%

Sylhet

81.16%

Source: Banglapedia

Status of Religious Freedom


The Constitution establishes Islam as the state religion but provides for the right to practice--subject to law, public order, and morality--the religion of one's choice. The Government generally respects this provision in practice; however, some members of the Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, and Ahmadiya communities experience discrimination. The Government (2001–2006) led by an alliance of four parties Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, Islami Oikya Jote and Bangladesh Jatiyo Party banned the Ahmadiya literatures by an executive order.
Common people of Bangladesh are perhaps most friendly and maintain great inter-community relation. Bangladesh has national holidays in the Muslim festivals like Eids, in Hindu festivals like Durga Puja, Swarashwati Puja, in Christian Festivals like Easter & Borodin (Christmas) which is unique in any country of the world. And Buddhist festivals like Buddha Purima.
Family laws concerning marriage, divorce, and adoption differ depending on the religion of the person involved. There is also, Anglo-Indian Civil Law in some of these regards in parallel. There are no legal restrictions on marriage between members of different faiths but to get marriage registered under Muslim religious laws, the bride and the bride-groom must be Muslims by birth or by conversion.
Under the Muslim Family Ordinance, female heirs inherit usually half of that inherited by male relatives, and wives have fewer divorce rights than husbands. Men are permitted to have up to four wives, although society strongly discourages polygamy, and it is practiced rarely. Laws provide some protection for women against arbitrary divorce and the taking of additional wives by husbands without the first wife's consent, but the protections generally apply only to registered marriages. Marriage is governed by family law of the respective religions. In rural areas, marriages sometimes are not registered because of ignorance of the law. Under the law, a Muslim husband is required to pay his former wife a lump sum alimony fixed at the time of registraton of marriage and further variable amount of alimony for 3 months for maintenance, but this law is not always enforced in the rural areas.

Politicized Islam

Muslim students rally in Dhaka, protesting closures of radical madrasas

Muslim students rally in Dhaka, protesting closures of radical madrasas

Post-1971 regimes sought to increase the role of the government in the religious life of the people. The Ministry of Religious Affairs provided support, financial assistance, and endowments to religious institutions, including mosques and community prayer grounds (idgahs). The organization of annual pilgrimages to Mecca also came under the auspices of the ministry because of limits on the number of pilgrims admitted by the government of Saudi Arabia and the restrictive foreign exchange regulations of the government of Bangladesh. The ministry also directed the policy and the program of the Islamic Foundation Bangladesh, which was responsible for organizing and supporting research and publications on Islamic subjects. The foundation also maintained the Baitul Mukarram (National Mosque), and organized the training of imams. Some 18,000 imams were scheduled for training once the government completed establishment of a national network of Islamic cultural centers and mosque libraries. Under the patronage of the Islamic Foundation, an encyclopedia of Islam in the Bangla language was being compiled in the late 1980s.
Another step toward further government involvement in religious life was taken in 1984 when the semiofficial Zakat Fund Committee was established under the chairmanship of the president of Bangladesh. The committee solicited annual zakat contributions on a voluntary basis. The revenue so generated was to be spent on orphanages, schools, children's hospitals, and other charitable institutions and projects. Commercial banks and other financial institutions were encouraged to contribute to the fund. Through these measures the government sought closer ties with religious establishments within the country and with Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
Islam being the central component of national identity plays a significant role in the politics, life and culture of the people. Secular parties such as Awami League also mention "Allah is Great" as a slogan in their banners. When in September 1988 an "Islamic way of life" was proclaimed for Bangladesh by constitutional amendment, very little attention was paid outside the intellectual class to the meaning and impact of such an important national commitment. Most observers believed that the declaration of Islam as the state religion might have a significant impact on national life, however. Aside from arousing the suspicion of the non-Islamic minorities, it could accelerate the proliferation of religious parties at both the national and the local levels, thereby exacerbating tension and conflict between secular and religious politicians. Unrest of this nature was reported on some college campuses soon after the amendment was promulgated.
Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh (a.k.a 'Jamaat') is the largest Islamist political party in Bangladesh. This is one of the leading political party in Bangladesh and largest islamic party in subcontinent. The party joined in Bangladesh Nationalist Party lead government and hold two key Ministries with Khaleda Zia's government. This party played a questionable role in freedom fight of Bangladesh. Still now some war criminals are the main leaders of this party.
 

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  Islamic Centers and Organizations

Al Markaz (Dawa-e-Tabligh), Dacca, Dhaka
Phone: 880-2-9559457

ICS, BUET Branch, Dacca, Bangladesh
Phone: 880-8646140-44 Ext:

AHMED TRADING CORPORATION, Dacca, DHAKA
Phone: 88-02-7316351

Dr. Khan, Tariq Masood Ali, Dhaka


M/S TRANSLINKS, Dhaka
Phone: +88029557873,9552599

Al Markaz (Dawa-e-Tabligh), Tangail
Phone: 0171901048 (Cell)

Bangladesh Institute of Islam, Dhaka
Phone: 0880-2-406234-832625

Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Shibir, Dhaka, Dhaka
URL: www.shibir.org.bd   Phone: 1-880-02-8123998

AL-IJTEHAD ISLAMIC KNOWLEDGE RESEARCH CENTER, Chittagong


DESTITUTE CHILD & HUMAN DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZAT ION, Dhaka
Phone: 0880-2-413404

3 Jame Masjid in the locality, Baghalpur
  Al Markaz (Dawa-e-Tabligh), Tangail
  Al Markaz (Dawa-e-Tabligh), Dacca
  Amirbag Jameh Masjid, Chittagong
  Bagdahar South Para Baitus Salat Jame Mosque, Bagdahar
  BAGIR GHAT MAZOR MOHALLA MOSQUE, Sylhet District
  Bagirghat Boro Masjid, Dhakadakshin
  Bagmara Bazar Jame Masjid,, Comilla
  Baitul Aman Mosque, Dhaka
  Baitul Taqwa, Dhaka
  BAITUR RAHMAN MOSQUE, Joypara
  Bakhshi Bari Jamey Masjid, Baliadi
  Banani Masjid, Dhaka
  Begumgonj Islamic Centre, Noakhali District
  Bonosree Central Jamey Mosque, Dacca
  Central Mosque Of Nator, Nator District
  Chandanpura Boro Masjid, Chittagong
  Darul Kerath of NAL BOHAR, Sylhet
  DAULATPUR MIAHBARI MOSJID, Doulatpur
  Daulatpur Muhsin Jaam E Masjid, Khulna
  Dewanpara jamae masjid, Jamalpur
  Dhamura saudi mosque, Dhamura
  DUET,Central Jame Masjid, Gazipur District
  Eidgah Abashik Elaka Jame\\\' Masjid, Dinajpur
  Feni Boro Jame Mosjid, Feni District
  Goran Bazar Jame Moszid, Goran
  Gulshan Central Masjid & Iddgah Society, Dhaka
  Hatpara Masjid, Godagari
  ISLAMIC CENTRE, Barisal
  ISLAMIC MISSIONERY CENTRE, Ghazipur
  Islamic University Central Mosque, Kushtia District
  Jame Masjid, Rajshahi District
  Jame-aa Madania Darul uloom Al-arabia Biswanath, Biswanath
  Jamiatul Falah Mosque, Chittagong
  Jangirai Jamey masjid, Moulavibazar District
  Kalikshar Madrasha Mosjid, Comilla
  Kashinagar Zamey Masjid, Comilla
  Keramotia Mosque, Rangpur
  Khan Bahadur Jame Mosque, Chittagong
  Kheora Purbo para Jame Mosque, Brahmanbaria District
  Lakshimipur Chakbazar Mosque, Lakhipur
  Lal Khan Bazar Jameh Mosque, Chittagong
  Lalbagh Shahi Mosque, Dhaka
  Mahmudia Madrasah, Barisal
  MASJID-AL-NUR, Dhaka
  MasterPara Jame Masque, Naogaon
  Matikata Jame Masjid, Dhaka
  MIA BARI JAME MASJID, Laksham
  MKSM MOSQUE, Jhenida
  Mohammadpur Jam-e-Masjid, Dhaka  AL-IJTEHAD ISLAMIC KNOWLEDGE RESEARCH CENTER, Chittagong
  ALIF LAAM MEEM FOUNDATION, Dhaka
  Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Shibir, Dhaka
  Banglaislam.com, Dhaka
  Baoisona Khademul Ulum Islamia Madrasa&Central Masjid., Kalia
  Child, Women & Labor Development Organisation, Sirajgonj
  DESTITUTE CHILD & HUMAN DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZAT ION, Dhaka
  FAITH - An good Islamic Organization for the Youth, Dhaka
  Hilful Fuzul Islamic Library & Social Welfare Society, Bathandanga, Kasiani
  ICS, BUET Branch, Dacca
  Ikra jakat fund, Dhaka
  Integrated Education & Research Foundation (IERF), Dhaka
  ISLAMIC CULTURAL CENTRE, Dhaka
  ISLAMIC ECONOMICS RESEARCH BUREAU, Dhaka
  Islamic information center, Sylhet District
  Islamic Movment of Bangladesh, Dhaka
  ISLAMIC SOCIAL WELFARE ASSOCIATION, Chittagong
  ISLAMIC SOCIAL WELFARE COUNCIL, Chittagong
  ISLAMIC SOCIAL WELFARE ORGANISATION, Dhaka
  ISLAMIC WORLD COMMITTEE, Chittagong
  Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, Dhaka
  Kalihata Yateem Khana and Madrassa, East Kalihata
  Liberated Youth, Dhaka
  Madrasha board dhaka, Sylhet Bazar
  Mahfil-e-Taleem, Dhaka
  Masjidcouncil, Dhaka
  MOHAMMADIA DARUL ITATM, Dhaka
  MUSLIM WORLD LEAGUE, Dhaka
  NURUL ULOOM TRUST, Barisal
  University Students Study Forum, Dhaka
  WAMY OFFICE, Dhaka
 
Youth Wave Students' Society, Dhaka

Abdul Ghofur Islamic Adarsha Bidaloy, Sylhet
  Adarsha School, Narayanganj, Narayanganj District
  Al-Amin Acadamy, Chandpur
  Baghalpur Ektadia Madrasha, Baghalpur
  Baghalpur Hafizia Madrasha, Baghalpur
  Bangladesh Institute of International & Strategic Studies, Jessore
  Bangladesh Institute of Islam, Dhaka
  Blue Bird High School, Sylhet
  Darularqam, Comilla
  Dhamti Alia Madrasa, Comilla
  dhamura mahmudia madrasa, Dhamura
  Holy Crescent International School Uttara, Dhaka
  ISLAMIC EDUCATION SOCIETY, Chittagong
  KUTI UTTAR BAZAR MOSQUE, Kuti
  MC College, Sylhet
  Ramiza Ashraf Islamic Academy, Dhaka
 
Uttomnogor Islamia Madrasa, Barisal

   Muslim Owned Business

Adarsha Homoeo Pharmacy, Barisal
  AHMED TRADING CORPORATION, Dacca
  AL SAFA, Dhaka
  ALAFAQ COMPUTERS & PRINTERS, Chittagong
  Chittagong Jame Mosque, Chittagong
  Delhi Restaurant, Sylhet District
  Dr. Khan, Tariq Masood Ali, Dhaka
  Islamia Library, Gafargaon
  M/S TRANSLINKS, Dhaka
  M/S. Hafiz Trading Centre, Dhaka
  Marble Di Carrara (Pvt.) Ltd., Dhaka
  Metropolitan Dental, Dhaka
  new auto land, Chittagong District
  ONYX ENTERPRISE, Dhaka
  Ruhama Islamic Co-operative Society (RICS), Moulavibazar District
  Shahid Trading, Dhaka
  SHAHO Trading International, Dhaka
  Shohel homeo hall, Barisal
  Sonar Courier Service Ltd., Dhaka
  The Motoring School, Dhaka
  The Toha Laboratory, Jessore
 
WITS Bangladesh, Dhaka

References
Islam in Bangladesh ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Bangladesh  , September, 2008).
Info please ( http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107317.html ,  September, 2008).
Islam Finder ( http://www.islamicfinder.org/cityPrayerNew.php?country=bangladesh  , September, 2008).
Anonymous, Documents from Representatives of Islamic Organizations in Bangladesh, September 2008.