Foundation Profile

Professor Abdur Razzaq was a legendary scholar, a nurturing mentor and a distinctive and inspiring presence in the intellectual and cultural landscape of the country for many decades. He was also a most extraordinary human being who touched everyone with his graciousness and humanity; humility and integrity; and his simple lifestyle and infectious laughter. Moreover, in his opposition to the military regimes that ruled Pakistan from 1958 in various guises, he became notable for his firm support of the movements and forces that demanded democracy, autonomy and social justice for the people. But beyond everything else, he was known for his fervent dedication to the cause of education in the country, and his abiding faith in critical thinking, moral clarity and academic excellence. He has left a legion of students in a variety of fields and professions who remember him with reverence, gratitude and joy.

Professor Razzaq was born in a middle class Muslim Bengali family in 1914 in Kalatia village, Keraniganj, under the Dhaka division. It was apparent from an early age that he was endowed with an intelligence that was as eager as it was keen. He passed his Matriculation and Intermediate examinations with high honours, earned merit scholarships in both and also secured a First Class in M.A. examinations in Political Science and Economics from Dhaka University (DU) in 1936.He was appointed as a Lecturer in the department the same year, and when the departments of Economics and Political Science were split in 1946, he chose to join the latter. While he had never sought any honours or awards in his life, and remained a Lecturer during his entire tenure at DU, he had been the Chairman of the Department and a member of the DU Syndicate. He was also an advisor to the East Pakistani members of the Constituent Assembly during the framing of the first constitution of Pakistan in 1956 and a member of the Planning Board of the Government of East Pakistan in the mid-50s. Prof. Razzaq was conferred a Ph. D. honoris causa by Delhi University in 1973 and was named a National Professor by the Government of Bangladesh in 1975.

His interest in education gradually became both a passion and a mission. When he received a scholarship to go for his Ph. the London School of Economics and Politics in 1945, he began his work under the famous and formidable scholar Professor Harold Laski. He worked diligently on his thesis on Political Parties in India. Upon Laski’s death in 1950, he lost his enthusiasm to provide the typical scaffolding that is required in a dissertation (e.g., references, footnotes, bibliography and so on), submitted his dissertation to his newly appointed supervisor Professor Morris Jones and when encouraged to present the thesis in a standard format with proper documentation, he chose, perhaps inexplicably to some, to return to DU. But during his stay in London, he actively participated in the intellectual life of the university and read voraciously, becoming a regular visitor at the used book market in the city. He purchased as many volumes as he could, later seeking and receiving a Diploma in Librarianship, and embarked upon his cherished dream of building a personal library upon his return. He had found his love; he had become a bibliophile, and he remained fully dedicated to that quest for the rest of his life.

Prof. Razzaq’s acquisition style was neither systematic nor agenda-driven. It reflected the imagination and inquisitiveness of a rich and restless mind with eclectic curiosities, aesthetic inclinations, cosmopolitan sensibilities, and the intellectual orientations provoked and sustained by the European Enlightenment project. Consequently, the book collection became a repository of knowledge of exceptional quality and diversity, covering a wide range of subjects in the social sciences, arts and the humanities, which essentially reflected his broad and ever-expanding scholarly interests and appetites.

Upon his passing in 1999, his dear nephew Mr. Abul Khair Litu, who had received the books as a gift from his uncle, took upon himself the responsibility of preserving the collection and making it gradually available to scholars and researchers who could benefit from this incredibly rich resource. He also wanted to ensure that the intellectual dreams and ideals of his uncle would continue to stimulate and enrich the minds of current generation of teachers and students, and be a continuing legacy to future ones. With both these over-riding interests in mind, the idea of the Abdur Razzaq Foundation (ARF) took shape. It was given institutional structure in 2002 with the forming of the Abdur Razzaq Trust under an illustrious Board of Trustees to provide leadership and guidance and enunciated some principles and commitments to help define its purpose and expectations. The following statement succinctly summarises the essential thinking behind the formation of the ARF.