A young man from Barisal who was a student of mine received a scholarship for his higher studies from the University of Benares in India. He also had options to go to the Universities in the West on scholarships. On being asked for my advice, I asked him to go to the University of Benares and do a Ph. D. degree in Hindu Philosophy. My reason for the choice of his study of Hindu Philosophy at Benares University was that he would be the first Muslim to do a doctorate degree in Hinduism in the history of Islam, and the entire scholarly world would welcome it. I also thought that one day he would be able to open a department of World Religions at Dhaka University, again the first in the Islamic world. My student did exactly that. He completed a Ph. D. degree at Banaras and his wife, who was also my student, received a Ph. D. in Muslim Philosophy. Both came back to Dhaka and started working at the Department of Philosophy.
Soon another very successful student of mine became the Dean of the Faculty of Arts. At this time my student with a degree in Hindu Philosophy succeeded in establishing a Department of World Religions at Dhaka University. This gave him the distinction of having established the first academic institution to study religions other than Islam since the inception of the Islamic religion 1400 years ago. The reaction of the scholarly world to this institution was phenomenal. He became a familiar name in the circle of religious studies scholars all over the world. Over the years he was invited to attend numerous institutions in the world to give lectures and attend conferences and seminars. He was invited by the State Department of the US to come and stay in the US twice to study Islam in that country.
My student received two very special honours from two world leaders which no other Bangladeshi ever received. In 2016 President Obama invited 32 scholars from all over the word to celebrate an interfaith event at the White House, and my student had the distinction of being one of them. Then came the honour from the Pope of Catholic Christianity at the Vatican. To have an audience with the Pope is almost impossible. It is the same Pope who brought my student twice to the Vatican. In 1966 Pope John Paul invited him to attend a dialogue on Christian-Muslim understanding. 17 Christian leaders and 17 Muslim leaders attended the five-day dialogue sessions. My student was one of them. The Pope himself attended these meetings. At the end of the meetings the Pope entertained all the guests at his Summer Palace. Again in 1994 the Pope invited seven Muslim couples and seven Christian couples to attend a dialogue on how to Improve family values. This time my student’s wife was also invited. She brought a gift for the Pope which she personally delivered to him. Thus my students succeeded in establishing a good relationship between Bangladesh and the Pope.
Dr. Kazi Nurul Islam, now retired, is an Honourary Professor of the University of Dhaka. His wife Dr. Azizun Nahar who worked as the Head of the Department of Philosophy has also retired from her work recently.