Muhammad Shahidullah & His Contribution To Bengali Linguistics
Chapter 2 : A Brief Biographical Sketch (1885-1969)

Birth, Parentage and Early Education
University Education
In Search of a Career
As a University Teacher
Honours and Rewards


Muhammad Shahidullah was born in a devoutly religious family with a long history and noble tradition. The forefathers of Shahidullah were in charge of the Shrine (i.e., Khadim) of Sayed Abbas Ali Makki who, according to tradition, came from Macca to India to preach Islam in the early decades of the fourteenth century. In Bengal Abbas Ali Makki came to be known as Pir Gorachand. Pir Gorachand1 was revered both by the Hindus and the Muslims, particularly in the districts of Burdwan and the 24 Parganas. The changing socio-economic conditions in Bengal forced this Khadim family of Sayed Abbas Ali Makki to look forward to other ways of subsistence. Golam Abed joined the Vice-regal Secretariat as the Mir Munsi the Chief Secretary. From that time the family was known as the Mir family. Golam Abed was the uncle of Munsi Mafijuddin Ahmed.2


Shahidullah, the sixth child of Munsi Mafijuddin Ahmed and Hurunnessa, was born on July 10.1885 at the village Peyara near Basirhat in the district of North 24 Paraganas in West Bengal. His early boyhood was an uneventful life. At the age often, young Shahidullah left his village and moved to Howrah where his father had settled. His father was a clerk in the office of the Howrah District Board. Shahidullah was first admitted to the Belileous ME School and passed his Middle English School Examination. Here he was offered Sanskrit as the third or classical language. He learnt Sanskrit so well that throughout his school life he never stood second in the subject.3 At a very early age Shahidullah developed an interest in languages. While still in school he started to learn Persian, Urdu, Hindi and Oriya on his own.


In 1904 Shahidullah passed the University Entrance Examination from the Howrah District School in the first division. He had been admitted to the Calcutta Madrasa. There was no college department in the Madrasa. The students had to attend the Presidency College for their studies. In 1906 Shahidullah passed the First Arts Examination with Sanskrit as one of his subjects. Subsequently he joined the Hoogwly College as a B.A. student with double Honours in Sanskrit and English. At the advice of Harinath De, the then Principal of the College, Shahidullah gave up English and concentrated only on Sanskrit.


Throughout his two-year stay there Shahidullah was afflicted with malaria. He could not qualify in the B. A. Examination in 1908. He went to Jessore accepting the position of an Assistant Teacher in the Jessore District School. In 1909 Shahidullah appeared at the B.A. Examination as a private candidate from Jessore. This time, even though he secured pass mark in all the subjects, he fell short of the aggregate required to be declared pass by only one mark. He returned to Calcutta. He was admitted to the City College. In 1910 he graduated B.A. with Honours in Sanskrit. He was placed in the second class securing the highest mark in the Vedic paper.4 Incidentally, Shahidullah was the first Muslim student to have graduated B.A. with Honours in Sanskrit.






When the New Regulations were adopted under the Indian Universities Act of 1904, the University had felt greatly the lack of any facilities whatsoever for higher teaching of Sanskrit under its own auspices.5 First, the teaching of the Vedas had been sadly neglected so far and some arrangement for the revival of Vedic studies was very much necessary. Secondly, it was essential that the University should take the lead in teaching several branches of Sanskrit according to modern scientific methods. The Sanskrit department of the university was started with a view to fostering the Study of the Vedas, for which little opportunity was available elsewhere. In 1907 the University appointed Satyabrata Samasramy (1846-1911) who had devoted a life-time to the Vedic studies, to deliver lectures to advanced students on the Vedas and along with several other reputed scholars in Sanskrit for teaching in different branches of Sanskrit learning.6


After the graduation. Shahidullah duly enrolled himself in the Post-Graduate Department of Sanskrit. There he received a rude shock. The teacher who was teaching the Vedic paper refused to teach a Muslim student. Shahidullah prayed for permission from the University teachers to admit him to their Vedic lectures. The teachers concerned refused to listen and the Syndicate regretted its inability to take any action in this matter.7 After the intervention of Asutosh Mookherjee, Shahidullah changed his subject and joined the newly created Department of Comparative Philology. His change of subject got the approval of Harinath De. Shahidullah prosecuted his studies in Comparative Philology as a University Student (1910).8




Under the New Regulations of the Indian Universities Act of 1904 Linguistics was made an independent subject under the name of Comparative Philology for the M.A. Examination.9 The University could not make due arrangement for the teaching of different aspects of the subject even then. The Senate could not come to an agreement with the New Regulations during the two years tenure of Alexander Pedlar — a distinguished scholar and Vice-Chancellor of the University. After his retirement in March 1906, Asutosh Mookherjee succeeded him as Vice-Chancellor. It was during his tenure as Vice-Chancellor for four consecutive terms (1906 - 1914), commenced a new era in the history of higher education in Bengal.


Asutosh Mookherjee established a teaching University after his assumption of office within a year. The Post-Graduate Departments of Arts and Science were inaugurated. The Post-Graduate study and research were centralised under the University. He introduced University Lecturers to guide M.A. students under the Universities Act of 1904. Regular whole-time University Professors, Readers and Lecturers were appointed.


Harinath De received the appointment as a University Lecturer in the Department of Comparative Philology at the Senate meeting held on May 27. 1907.10 The meeting also approved the appointment of twenty-three other educationists as Lecturers in different subjects. The first Premchand Raychand Scholarship Examination in Comparative Philology was held in this year. Harinath De was the paper setter and examiner of the first, second and third papers while Haraprasad Sastri set questions and examined the fourth paper. Renowned Professor, Prafulla Chandra Ghosh of Presidency College, was a candidate as an examinee.11   In 1908 a candidate named Girish Chandra Sen wished to appear at the M.A. Examination in Comparative Philology. Four examiners were appointed at the Senate meeting held on July 25, 1908 to conduct the examination. Harinath De was one of the examiners.12 He was entrusted with the task of preparing the list of textbooks for the examinee at the Senate meeting. He resigned as University Lecturer Comparative Philology in 1910.l3


In 1910 Kabindranath Datta was appointed as a Lecturer in the Department of Comparative Philology for two years at an honorarium of Rs. 150/= per month.14  In an address to the Senate, the Vice-Chancellor said :


'...Rabindranath Dutt, M.A. who distinguished himself both in this University and in the University of Cambridge, I need not specially refer to his linguistic attainments which include a knowledge of Sanskrit and of some of the Classical and Modern languages of Europe,..'15


'Comparative Philology' as a subject included16 :


Section A : The General Principles of the Science of language. The Section A included:

1. Phonetics

2. Sematology

3. Morphology of Language

4. Families of speech with their sub-divisions, their geographical distribution and their inter-relations

5.  Laws of change in Language

6.  Evolution of Language in the Race and in the individual

7. The contributions of Anthropology. Comparative Mythology and Folklore to the Science of Language

8. History of philological speculation, with the chief speculative problems of present-day Philology : the origin of language, the prehistory of language or dialect, the course of morphological development, the origin of inflection and the relations of race and language.


Section B : The Comparative Grammar of a particular branch of the Indo-European or the Semitic family of languages. The Section B included :

1. Comparative Philology and Comparative sematology and (2) Comparative Morphology (including Comparative Syntax), of the branch of languages selected by the candidate.


Section C : The Historical Grammar—either of the candidate's vernacular, or of one of the following classical languages. T he Section C included : The history (1) of the sounds, words and significations and (2) of the forms and constructions, of the vernaculars of the candidadate or the classical language selected by him.


Section D : An Essay on a subject connected with Philology.


The papers were distributed as follows :


First Paper                    Section A                      (1) and (2)

Second Paper                Section A                      (3), (4) and (5)

Third Paper                    Section A                      (6), (7) and (8)

Fourth Paper                 Section B                      1)

Fifth Paper                    Section B                      2)

Sixth Paper                   Section C                      1)

Seventh Paper   Section C                      2)

Eighth Paper                 The Essay on a subject connected with philology


The delivery of lectures was usually on the basis of text-books, which formed a part of the core syllabus in the Post-Graduate course of the University. Rabindranath

Datta recommended a list of books for the M. A. course in Comparative Philology for the years 1911-1912-1913 17. The list of books was referred to H.M. Percival, E. D. Ross and G. Thibaut for opinion18. The recommendation was approved by Ross and Thibaut in 191219.


In every subject for the M A. degree the candidates had a certain number of papers (four or six) common to all, while in the remaining papers (four or two) individual choice was permitted among a group of alternative or mutually exclusive branches. In Comparative Philology the first, the second, the third and the eighth papers were the general papers. The text-books prescribed for the general papers were.20


1.      Principles of the History of Language 21 : Herbert A. Strong.

2.      Introduction to the Study of the History of Language: Herbert A. Strong (Professor of Latin in University College, Liverpool ; some-time Professor of Classics at Melbourne University) ; W.S. Logemann (Head master of Newton School, Rock Ferry, Chesire); and Benjamin Ide Wheeler (Professor of Greek in Cornell University, U.S.A.)

3.      Semantics22 : Mrs. Henry Cast.

4.      Principles of Comparative Philology: Rev. Archibald Henry Sayce (1845-1933)

5.      History of Language : Henry Sweet (1845 - 1912)

6.      Race and Language : Andre Paul Emile Lefevre (1834-1904)

7.      Introduction to the Study of Language : Humboldt (Translated from Delbruck).

8.      Lectures on the Study of Language : Oertcl.


There were two Groups : A and B. Indo-Germanic Group was in A while Semitic Group was in B. The candidates who opted for the Indo-Germanic group were offered one of the following groups for papers IV and V :

(1) Indic Group, consisting of Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit;

(2) Classical Group, consisting of Greek and Latin.

(3) Germanic Group, consisting of English and German.


For papers VI and VA, candidates who selected the Indic Group were offered either Sanskrit or Bengali. Candidates who selected the Classical Group were offered either Greek or Latin. Candidates who selected the Germanic Group were offered English for Papers VI and VA. Candidates for the Semitic Group were offered Hebrew and Arabic for Papers IV and V. For Papers VI and VA, they were offered either Hebrew or Arabic.


The number of students attending the lectures on Comparative Philology was limited. There were four hours lectures on Comparative Philology in a week. The two out of the four lectures were shared in common with the students of the Sanskrit Department. Some students of the Department of Comparative Philology complained of the existing arrangement as inadequate to cover the course and prayed for two hours more that could entirely be devoted to them.23 Additional lectures for two hours' a week exclusively for the students of Comparative Philology were granted by the Syndicate.24 Rabindranath Datta received an enhanced amount as honorarium for his extra labour.2'1 In an address to the Senate, the Vice-Chancellor said :


‘The University has arranged for lectures for M.A. and M.Sc. students in eleven different branches of study, namely, Pure Mathematics, Sanskrit, Pali. Persian, Arabic, English, Comparative Philology, Mental and Moral Philosophy, Political Economy and Political Philosophy, History and Botany... In Comparative Philology the arrangements hitherto made have been of a tentative character; Mr Rabindranath Dutt, M.A. Lecturer in English also undertook to deliver lectures to those students who wished to read comparative philology as a separate branch of study for the M.A. degree of Examination and also to those who had to study Comparative Philology as part of the courses in Sanskrit and Pali....'26


There was no provision for a systematic teaching of the subject covering the detailed syllabus as laid down in the University Regulations. In the Convocation address of the year 1912, the Vice-Chancellor said :


‘We should, in the first place, have not less than three professors at any rate to represent, not kidded with full adequacy but not quite unworthily, a group of subjects hitherto neglected by our Universities in a somewhat unaccountable way - I mean the ancient history, antiquaries, philology, literature, philosophy of our own country.... There further should be Professors for ... Comparative Philology...'27


In order to provide for the leaching of Comparative Philology, the Senate at their meeting held on July 19, 1913 unanimously accepted the recommendation of the Syndicate.28 The Vice-Chancellor addressed the Senate.


'There is a steadily growing demand for regular instruction in this subject, consequently, the provisional arrangement will be immediately discontinued... '29


A post of professorship in Comparative Philology was established and the first appointment was made for a term of three years on a salary of Rs. 600/= a month. In accordance with Sections 1 and 10, Chapter IX of the University Regulations, the proposal which was submitted to the Governor-General in Council, received the sanction of the Government of India on the 21st of August, 1913. The University provided Rs. 7200/= annually for the Chair of Comparative Philology. Otto Strauss of Kiel was appointed Professor of Comparative Philology. The Vice-Chancellor said :


'...the subject (Comparative Philology] will be placed in the hands of Dr Otto Strauss, Ph.D., a scholar of considerable reputation, who was recently appointed University Professor of Comparative Philology and will commence his lectures from November next. The importance of this subject will be fully appreciated when it is borne in mind that there is no provision for instruction in Comparative Philology up to the standard of the M.A. Examination in any college affiliated to the University.'30


Otto Strauss was recommended by some of the most eminent authorities among whom Professor Oldenberg was one. The appointment of Professor Strauss was much appreciated and G. Thibaut, the member of the Faculty of Arts, congratulated the Calcutta University on behalf of the Syndicate. Thibaut said :


'The appointment if made would fill a most important gap in the scheme of higher teaching recently undertaken by the University.. .Many years ago when the speaker first came to India, he was astonished to find that no provision was made for teaching a subject so specially Indian in any of the Indian Universities...That they [students] were fortunate in securing the services of so competent a Professor at a comparatively low salary due to the fact that Dr Otto Strauss was anxious to come to India not as a teacher only but also as a student...31


Otto Strauss applied for immediate leave after joining for a short while in 1914. He was under order to join the German army.32 While on parole in Calcutta, he was permitted by the Military authorities to continue his course of lectures in the M.A. classes. However, he was asked to give an undertaking to avoid discussion on the war or politics of" any kind with the students.33


The Chair remained vacant for sometime. In 1915 the Governing Body for Post-Graduate Teaching was requested to put forward proposals for the teaching of Comparative Philology.34 In 1916 in a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Education, Government of India, the Registrar of the University wrote :


'...the chair [of Comparative Philology] is now in abeyance, as the Professor, who is a German subject, has been interned...'35


The teaching work was continued by other members of the staff including Rabindranath Datta.36 In 1917 the Post-Graduate studies were placed on a new position. The Comparative Philology developed into a separate department under the control of the post-Graduate teaching in Arts.37  The vacant professorship was filled in by the appointment of I. J. S. Taraporewala. He was appointed professor of Comparative Philology for a term of three years from the 1st of July, 1917 on a salary of Rs. 500/= per month.38


M.A. Examination and the publication of results :


The M.A. Examination was held in June 1912.39 Shahidullah was the only examinee of the Department. The result was declared on December 30, 1912. There were 276 candidates for the degree of whom 165 were successful, 84 failed and 27 were absent.40


Shahidullah got 445 out of 800 mid was placed in the second class. G. Thibaut and Rabindranath Datta were the paper setters and examiners.41 The Vice-Chancellor addressed to the Senate as follows :


'...for the first time in the history of the University, one of our graduates, a Mohamedon, I am glad to say, took the M.A. degree in Comparative Philology in 1912 and he has been followed by other successful candidates this year...'42





In 1913 the Government of India offered a scholarship for the scientific study of Sanskrit in Europe. It was due to the initiation of Asutosh Mookherjee, Shahidullah won the scholarship and was formally admitted to the University of Freiburg, Germany. But he way disqualified in the medical test. The Principal of the Medical College refused to give him a certificate of physical fitness. Thus he missed the scholarship.


Shahidullah joined the Law classes following the general trend of the young graduates of his time. He passed the B. L. Examination in the second division in 1914.43 The number of candidates registered for the Examination was 201, of whom 137 passed, 30 failed and 34 were absent. Of the successful candidates 25 were placed in the first class and 112 in the second.44  Some of his illustrious class-fellows of his Law classes were Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, Sushil Kumar De, Sahed Sohrawardi, Muhammad Akram, etc.45


Shahidullah started legal practice in the Basirhat Court. But he was a complete misfit there. Fully realizing the sad predicament of Sahidullah, Asutosh offered him ‘Sarat Kumar Lahiri Research Assistantship' at Rs. 200/= per month.46 Asutosh moved on behalf of the syndicate that the appointment of Shahidullah 'as whole time Research Assistant [the special subject of his investigation to be Bengali Philology]' was sanctioned on the following conditions :47


I           that the appointment was made in the first instance for a term of two years from 1st June 1919, on a remuneration of Rs. 200/= a month ;


A          that the remuneration was paid out of the 'Lahiri Fund1 and the Assistant was designated 'Sarat Kumar Lahiri Research Assistant in Bengali Philology.1 The mover said:


'Bengali Philology now occupies a very prominent position in the higher studies of this University. It occupies a place in the Department of Comparative Philology as also in the newly established Department of Indian Vernaculars. Shahidullah was the first amongst our graduates to take the Degree of Master of Arts in Comparative Philology. Since then he has been engaged in original research in Bengali Philology and has published a number of very important papers. To me personally it is very gratifying that for a work of this description we have been able to secure the services of a competent Mohamedan gentleman. Maulavi Muhammad Shahidullah took Honours in Sanskrit at the B.A. Examination and he was most anxious to proceed to the Degree of Master of Arts in Sanskrit but our orthodox Pundits did not agree to deliver lectures to him on the Vedas. He, therefore, took Comparative Philology. He is acquainted with a number of languages, among which are Pali, Sanskrit and Persian. ! recommend that the appointment be sanctioned.'48


In 1920 Shahidullah published an article entitled 'Outlines of the Historical Grammar of the Bengali Language' in the Journal of the Department of Letters of the University of Calcutta. This paper was written as a part of his assignment as 'Sarat Kumar Lahiri Research Assistant in Bengali Philology' attached to the Department of Bengali of the University.49





The University of Dhaka formally opened its doors on July 1, 1921 with three Faculties of Arts, Science and Law and twelve teaching departments: English, Sanskrit and Bengali. Arabic and Islamic Studies, Persian and Urdu, History, Economics and Politics, Philosophy, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Law and Education. The University began functioning with a teaching staff of sixty members. Among the members twenty-eight were in Arts, seventeen in Science and fifteen in Law. Three years Honours course in both Arts and Science as recommended by the Calcutta University Commission was introduced in the University of Dhaka. Under the terms of the Dhaka University Act of 1920, the Governor General of India, appointed P.J. Hartog, the first Vice-Chancellor of the University from December 1, 1920.50


The Department of Sanskrit and Bengali developed and enriched after the induction of distinguished scholars. Haraprasad Sastri was appointed Professor and acting Head, Srisha Chandra Chakrabarty was appointed as Reader and Radha Gobinda Basak and Muhammad Shahidullah as Lecturers in the Department.51 Officially Shahidullah assumed responsibility from July 1,1921 but unofficially at the

request of Haraprasad Sastri he had assumed his duties in the Department on the 2nd  of June.52


In 1921 when the University opened there were eight Muslim teachers.53 The two Muslim teachers outside the Department of Islamic Studies were the Oxford graduate. A.F. Rahman (who became the first Muslim Vice-Chancellor in 1934) and Shahidullah.


Sastri had entrusted Shahidullah with the drafting of the syllabus for the M.A. course in Bengali. This gave Shahidullah the opportunity to show the range and depth of his scholarship. Shahidullah understood that if Bengali studies had to mature as an academic discipline in the European sense of the term proper, an adequate weightage should be given to both the linguistic and the literary aspects.54 Thus the study of Bengali literature must begin from the oldest period of the Bengali language, i.e.. the Carya songs. The language of these songs structurally differs significantly from that of Modern Bengali. Hence philological study should form an important component as literary criticisms or aesthetics. The clarity of the academic vision as reflected in the syllabus was approved by Sastri and it was adopted without any appreciable change.15 The syllabus continued unchanged for many years.56


Sastri had been the Head of the Department from 1921 to 1924. Shahidullah worked for four years as the only Lecturer in the Bengali language. In 1924 Charu Chandra Banerjee joined as the second lecturer in Bengali. Srisha Chandra Chakraborty succeeded Sastri as the Head of the Department, though temporary, for a year or so (from 1924 to 1925). Then came Sushil Kumar De who joined as the Head of the Department. He had been in the Department for long twelve years (from 1925 10 1937).


The University of Dhaka was intended to serve two purposes - both to act as a teaching-cum-residential University on the model of Oxford and Cambridge as well as to promote higher education among the Muslims of East Bengal. It was the Muslim Hall which became, as was the intention, the centre of organised corporate activities for Muslim students all of whom were either residents of the Hall or attached to it. A.F. Rahman, the first Provost of the Hall, set out, along with his two junior colleagues, Fakhruddin Ahmed and Shahidullah to build up a distinctive tradition with a strong Muslim favour.57


In the year 1926 Shahidullah was granted a sabbatical by the Dhaka University authority to study in Europe. He went to Paris (September 1926). He enrolled himself in the University of Sorbonne. There he attended courses in Vedic Sanskrit, Old Persian, Tibetan and in Comparative Philology. Among his teachers were Jules Bloch, Anloine Mcillet, Benveniste, Jean Pruzuluski, Bacot, Renou,58 Simultaneously he joined Archive de la Parole for special training in Phonetics, under H.Pernot.59 Eventually he settled down to work on his thesis. His thesis was the first full-length comprehensive linguistic study of the Dohas of Kanha and Saraha. For the preparation of his thesis he had to study modern languages like Maithili, Panjabi, Gujarati, Sindhi, Marathi, Lahnda. Kashmiri. Nepali, Sinhalese and old languages like Avestan and the Prakrits.60


In 1928 Shahidullah submitted his thesis entitled 'Les Chants Mystiques de Kanha et de Saraha'. The thesis was accepted by the University of Sorbonne and the degree of D.Litt. was conferred on him. He also submitted a research paper in Phonetics on the sound system of Bengali. He received a Diploma in Phonetics from the University of Paris. Shahidullah has the rare privilege to prepare his thesis under Jules Bloch - the greatest scholar of Indo-Aryan linguistics of the time.


After successfully completing his study in Paris, Shahidullah moved to Freiburg, Germany, to study Vedic Sanskrit and the Prakrits. Professor Leumann was his teacher.61 After his sabbatical term was over he returned to his University town (August 1928). During 1934-1935 Batakrishna Ghosh was appointed a temporary lecturer in the University.62  Incidentally, this vacancy was created mainly due to the fact that Sushil Kumar De had taken leave for the rest of the session. He was then working on a critical edition of the Mahabharata at the invitation of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. Shahidullah acted in De's place in his absence.63


In 1937 when the Department of Bengali had been separated from the Sanskrit Department. Sushil Kumar De was assigned the responsibility of the newly created Sanskrit Department. Shahidullah was asked to chair the Bengali Department. The year 1937 saw the introduction of Bengali as a subject in the Honours course as well as in the M.A. Course.64 The introduction of Bengali in the Honours Course had been started at the Calcutta University much later.


Shahidullah retired as Reader and Head of the Department of Bengali in 1944 and joined the Bogura Azizul Haq College as the Principal. Manamohan Ghosh succeeded Shahidullah as the Head of the Department of the University. Ghosh, who came from the university of Calcutta, worked only for three years. Ganesh Chandra Bose was appointed as his successor. Shahidullah was again restored as an additional teacher in the Department when Bose resigned from his post. After the creation of Pakistan many Hindu teachers left Dhaka. There was dearth of experienced and qualified teachers.


In 1945 he applied for the post of Professor of Veda and Avesta in the University of Kabul. In the application form, he wrote :


'I have the honour to offer myself a candidate for the post of Professor of Veda and Avesta in the Kabul University.... As regards my qualifications 1 beg to stale that.....I obtained the Doctorate of the University of Paris with the mention Ties Honourable' in 1928......I have acquaintance with a number of languages : ancient and modern Persian, Hebrew, Urdu, Hindi, English, French and German. I have also an elementary knowledge of Pashto........'65


In 1948 Shahidullah was appointed a Professor in the Bengali Department of the Dhaka University and served the Department till 1954. He retired for the second time on November 15, 1954 and Muhammad Abdul Hai succeeded him. But his connection with the University did not cease. Till 1956 he had been a part-time Lecturer in French in the Department of International Relations. Earlier he was for sometime a part-time Lecturer in the Law Faculty of the University (1922-1924). In 1954 the Rajshahi University was set up. The Vice-Chancellor, I. H. Juberi, appointed him Professor and Head of the Department of Bengali in 1955 and requested him to organise the Department. He discharged his responsibility to the satisfaction of all concerned and held the position till 1958.





During this long period he received academic honours from every quarter of the Indo-Pak sub-continent. In 1952 the title Vidya Vacaspati was conferred on him by the Dhaka Sallitya Parishad, The President of Pakistan honoured him in 1958 in recognition of his 'Pride of Performance'. He had been to Karachi in April 1959. He received an offer to join the Urdu Development Board there. He was entrusted with the intricate work of editing the Urdu dictionary to be published by the Board as one of the editors. He carried out an etymological study of Indo-Aryan and Non-Aryan words in Urdu for nearly a year or so. In such a short period he had been able to compile up to the letter 'be' of 1500 words. Towards the end of February, 1960 the Bangla Academy, Dhaka, appointed him Editor-in-chief of the Regional Dialect Dictionary of East Pakistan. He joined the Bangla Academy on April 27, 1960. In 1965 he was appointed at the Bangla Academy, Dhaka, for the work of editing the Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam.


On his eightieth birthday in 1965. a special number of the Sahitya Patrika - a bulletin of the Bengali Department of the Dhaka University (edited by Muhammad Abdul Hai) and a special number of the Sanityika Patrika - a bulletin of the Bengali Department of the Rajshahi University (edited by Majharul Islam) were published. The Asiatic Society of Pakistan felicitated him in 1966. The Felicitation volume was edited by Muhammad Enamul Haq. In the 'Editor's Note' he wrote:


‘This special volume of dissertations is published from the Asiatic Society of Pakistan, Dacca, to felicitate Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah......a founder-member and an eminent Ex-president of the society, on completion of the eightieth year of his life on the 10 th July 1965. Perhaps no other occasion would have been more suitable for this purpose.


Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah is well known in the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent, nay, much beyond its limit, as an eminent oriental scholar, whose intellectual activities spreading over three successive generations of our people, have been a constant source of inspiration to us. In fact, we regard him as a living symbol of scholarship and research. By honouring him, the Asiatic Society of Pakistan, Dacca, desires to honour scholarship in general and oriental lore in particular....'66


The Linguistic Research Group of Pakistan was founded in 1961 as a private, international organisation of scholars interested in promoting linguistic studies and research. The Linguistic Research Group of Pakistan also honoured him with the publication of Shahidullah Presentation Volume (1967) at Lahore edited by Anwar S.Dil. In 1967 the Government of France awarded him the prestigious Chevalier en order des arts el des letters.


When Pakistan Renaissance Society was established in Calcutta through the efforts of Sayed Ali Ahsan 'East Pakistan Writers Guild' was formed in Dhaka. Sayed Ali Ahsan became the Secretary of this organisation. The primary aim of this organisation was to create new literature in the tradition of Islamic ways of life and social pattern. Shahidullah was also honoured by the 'East Pakistan Writers' Guild' in 1967.


His work is both voluminous and great. It is a testimony to his patience and devotion, for intelligence alone cannot go a long way without their accompaniments.




1.         Muhammad Shahidullah : Subhadni Kumar Sen; Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 1998; p.4.

2.         Ibid. p.

3.         Ibid, p. 9.

4.         Ibid. p. 10.

5.         Hundred years of the University of Calcutta; Vol. 2. University of Calcutta, 1957, p. 167.

6.         Ibid.

7.         Calcutta University Minutes of the Syndicate 1910, p. 922.

8.         C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate 1911, p. 1516.

9.         Calcutta University Development of Post-Graduate Studies in Arts and Letters in The University of Calcutta (1907-1948); Calcutta University Press.

10.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate 1907, p. 1575-1576.

11.        C.U. Calendar 1908, Part AI, pp. 227-233.

12.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate, 1908.

13.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate, 1910, p. 528.

14.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate,    1911, pp. 490-491.

15.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate, 1913, p. 2360.

16.        C.U. Calendar 1911 pp. 192-193.

17.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate, 1911, p. 845.

18.        Ibid

19.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate, 1912, p. 1062.

20.        C.U. Calendar 1912, p. 1119.

21.        Hermann Paul {1846-1921) is best known for his Prinzipien der spraehgeschichte first published in 1880. The book, in its successive editions, became the standard work on the methods of historical linguistics. It had five editions, two English translations and one English adaptation during his life-time. Pauf s book illustrates, with a wealth of examples, the process of linguistic change which had been revealed by Indo-European studies. Though 'not so well written as Whitney's’. Bloomfield comments 'but more detailed and methodical, this book exercised a great influence on linguistic studies; students of a more recent generation are neglecting it, to their disadvantage. Aside from its very dry style, Pauf s Principles suffers from faults that seem obvious today, because they are significant of the limitations of nineteenth century linguistics; [Language : Bloomfield, 1933 p. 16]. The second edition of Pauf s Principles (1886) served as the basis for the excellent English adaptation by Strong-Logeman-Wheeler. The authors in their English adaptation of Pauf s great book, have shown how far Pauf s observations hold good in English and other languages (1891). The English translation of the second edition (1886) by Strong was published from London in 1890.

22.        The Science of Meaning or Semantics was formally introduced and expounded by the French scholar. Michel Breal (1832-1915), Professor of Comparative Grammar at the College de France, in his Essai tie semantique (1 897). The English translation was published by Mrs. Henry Cast in 1900.

23.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate 1911, p. 1355 .

24.        Ibid.

25.        Ibid. p. 1462.

26.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate, 1913 p. 2360.

27.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate 1912, p. 494.

28.        C.U. Calendar, 1913. p. 117.

29.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate 1913, p. 2360.

30.        Ibid, p. 2611.

31.        Ibid, p. 1667.

32.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate 1914, p. 1862.

33.        Ibid. p. 2382.

34.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate 1915, p. 2199.

35.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate, 1916, p. 525.

36.        Hundred Years of the University of Calcutta. Vol.2, p. 165.

37.        Ibid.

38.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate 1917, p. 887.

39.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate 1912.

40.        Ibid.

41.        Ibid.

42.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate 1913, p. 2360.

43.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate 1914.

44.        Ibid.

45.        Bānglā Sāhitye Muhammad Shahidultuh (in Bengali): Azharuddin Khan, Calcutta 1968, p. 24.

46.        C.U. Minutes of the Syndicate 1919, p. 246.

47.        Ibid.

48.        Ibid pp. 246-247.

49.        Sarat Kumar Lahiri, one of the most enterprising publishers of his time in Calcutta, instituted two annual gold medals out of the sale of the publication of his 'Select Poems'. The awards are given to the two best graduates in Mental and Moral Philosophy at the B.A. Examination of the University in memory of his father Ramtanu Lahiri and his mother Gangsmani Devi. He was also the founder of the Research Fellowship-named after his father-to promote investigation into the history of Bengali Language and Literature. Dinesh Chandra Sen (1866-1939) was appointed Ramtanu Lahiri Research Fellow in the History of Bengali Language and Literature for a term of five years on a salary of Rs. 250/- a month. After the death of Sarat Kumar Lahiri (1914), Asutosh Mookherjee created a post for a Research Assistantship in Bengali Philology. The remuneration was paid out of Lahiri Fund and the Assistant was designated 'Sarat Kumar Lahiri Research Assistant in Bengali Philology'. Shahidullah was an assistant to Dinesh Chandra Sen.


Dinesh Chandra Sen had been the Ramtanu Lahiri Research Fellow from 1913 to 1932. He was the first and the last fellow of this endowment. Immediately after his retirement, the fellowship was converted into the post of a professor. The proceedings of the University of Calcutta stated :


'In accordance with the recommendation of the University Organisation Committee as adopted by the Senate in 1930, the Ramtanu Lahiri Fellowship was raised to professorship, the cost of the new chair being met from the Ramtanu Lahiri Research Fund'.


The post of Ramtanu Lahiri Professor was created in 1932. There were several aspirants to this post. The persons applied for the post were: I) Sushil Kumar De, 2) Hemendra Prasad Ghosh, 3) Muhammad Shahidullah, 4) Khagendranath Mitra, 5) Lalit Kumar Pal Ray and 6) Priyaranjan Sen. There was a screening committee comprised of 1) Hasan Sohrawardi, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, 2) Pramathanath Banerjee, 3) Charuchandra Biswas, 4) Shyamaprasad Mookherjee, 5) Hirendranath Datta. 6) Pramathanath Tarkabhushan, 7) Debaprasad Sarvadhikari and 8) Dinesh Chandra Sen. The Committee unanimously made the following recommendation:


'We beg to recommend that Rai Bahadur Khagendranath Mitra, M.A., be appointed Ramtanu Lahiri Professor of Bengali for a period of five years with effect from the 1st November 1932 or any later date in course of the present session on which he may join.'


50.        The History of the University of Dacca : Md. Abdur Rahim; University of Dacca, 1981; p. 28.

51.        Ibid, p. 68.

52.        Muhammad Shahidullah : Subhadra Kumar Sen; Op. cit,p. 24.

53.        History of Bangladesh (1704-1971): Social and Cultural History: Sirajul Islam (ed.); Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, 1992; p. 136.

54.        Muhammad Shahidullah : Subhadra Kumar Sen, Op. cit, p. 24.

55.        Ibid.

56.        Bānglādeśe Caryāpada Carcā (in Bengali): Sipra Dastidar: Sahitya Parishad Patrika, Vol;103, Nos.1-4, July 1998, p. 136.

57.        History of Bangladesh (1704-1971): Social and Cultural History : Sirajul Islam (ed): Op.cit, p. 137.

58.        Bānglā Sāhitya Muhammad Shahidullah: Azharuddin Khan; Op.cit, p. 37

59.        Ibid, p. 38.

61.        Ibid.

62.        'Batakrishna Ghosh was in charge of Vedic Sanskrit and Comparative Philology and also took classes on grammar (Siddhanta Kaumudi), history of literature and advanced Sanskrit' A Survey of Indo-European Languages: Batakrishna Ghosh. Compiled and Edited by Sunil Bandyapadhyay, Calcutta 1979, Introduction, p.xxvi.

63.        Annual Report of the University of Dacca, 1934-1935, p. 8.

65.        Muhammad Shahidullah Racanābalī: Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 1994.

66.        Muhammad Shahidullah Felicitation Volume : Muhammad Enakul Haq (ed): Asiatic Society of Pakistan, Dacca, 1966, Editor's Note.