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MY EARLY LIFE

Thus it happened that in Calcutta, in a street from which though it retains its old name, Kolootola, even the traces of its old dwelling places and lanes have disappeared. I was born in 1897, and was called by a holy man Fazlur Rahman, the "Grace of the Merciful." My parents gave me another name, besides, "Abdus-Subhan," the Servant of the Holy One, and preferred to call me by the name of their choice.

It was under the tender care of a very affectionate mother, and receiving every attention from a loving father and a good elder brother, that I was brought up. I grew up under the simple, puritanic influence of my parents. Before I had passed the age of childhood, two younger brothers were added to the small circle of the family, and thus it consisted now of four brothers but no sister. The good influence of our mother, who was chiefly responsible for the education of the children, first at home and then in maktabs, taught us to hate doing anything or uttering any word which was not regarded as good and honourable. Smoking, chewing betel and using strong and abusive language which were common among the Muslim children in the neighbourhood were regarded as utterly hateful by my brothers and myself. The shocking habits and the filthy language of other children kept us completely aloof from them, my mother taking great care that we did not mix with an outside child. My father, who was liberal in his religious views and


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believed in the moral aspect of his religion more than in its legal formalities, was very fond of religious studies. He studied everything on religion and of every faith that he could find. Later I found some pages of his Bible, which he had studied, among his books with his notes written on their margins. A silent man at home, he was accustomed to give long and loud discourses on religious subjects while among his friends.

Thus while my father earned his living and, at his leisure gave religious discourses, my mother, a strict pardah woman, ruled the house and managed the household affairs. She inculcated good habits in her children, and directed their education even to the extent of selecting Maulvis and maktabs or schools. Besides doing all household duties which included the family sewing, she supplemented the ordinary income by doing gold embroidery. In disciplining the children few were the occasions when she would resort to corporal punishment. One such occasion has left a lasting impression upon my mind, not because the punishment was severe, but because of the lesson it taught me and which I would never like to forget. It must have happened when I was very young, that a gentleman outside the door of our house, giving me a handkerchief and pointing to a betel shop at the end of the lane, asked me to go and give it to the shop-keeper. A simple request, but as I had a horror for betel shops I refused to obey him, and all his entreaties could not prevail upon me to do his bidding. My mother behind the door had listened to the whole conversation and was so exasperated at my obstinacy that she was obliged to punish me; but after the punishment,


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she, taking me upon her knees, taught me to be always courteous and polite to others.

When I had learnt Urdu sufficiently, she encouraged me to read books on religious subjects, and often it was my practice to read out of such books to her while she worked at her karchobi, the gold embroidery. My admiration for her workmanship roused my interest in the art of gold embroidery, and I often would interrupt my reading to her to try my hand at it, and in course of time I was able to exercise my talent in that direction with some success.

From the religious point of view my mother was a true Muslim. Ever regular in the performance of the obligatory prayers, she never missed offering free prayers, which were mostly directed to God on behalf of her children, which in the case of their illness took the form of earnest entreaties. When after prayers I returned from the Mosque she always made some remarks to encourage me in the habit. After a good long life devoted unselfishly to the good of her children, and after she had looked after them as a widow, (my father having died in 1924), for fifteen years, she died on 19th of May in 1939. I did not have the privilege of being present at her death-bed, but I received a long letter from my younger brother describing the last scene, which told me that her closing thoughts were directed to me, her absent child, and that her last words were those of admonition to her children asking them not to disturb the close fellowship and harmony which she had succeeded in creating during her lifetime in the family. Then, turning to others who were present, she asked their forgiveness for any injury she might have done or any offence


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which she might have committed intentionally or unintentionally, and finally, asking God's forgiveness and repeating the creed, "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His Apostle," she breathed her last.


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