Mahbubul Alam (author)

Mahbubul Alam (author)

Mahbubul Alam, also spelled Mahbub-ul, (1898–1981), was a renowned Bengali author. He was born in Fatehpur, Chittagong, Bangladesh on May 1, 1898. His father was Moulavi Nasih Uddin and mother was Azimunnessa Begum. He was the second son of his parents. While he was pursuing his studies at Chittagong college, following the family tradition of early marriage, he married Julekha, who was a distant relative of his. On returning home Mahbub secured a job with the Government Registration Department and served until retirement in 1955 as an Inspector of Registrations. Mahbub's first wife died leaving seven children behind (three of whom died as infants), and Mahbub then married Rahela Khatoon, who gave birth to eleven children, and survived him by 26 years. On retirement, Mahbub took interest in social welfare and published a weekly newspaper, titled "Zamana" (meaning the current days), which he later on converted into a daily. Mahbub died in his own house at Kazir Dewry, Chittagong on 7 August 1981.


First World War

In 1917 he recruited himself in the 49th Bengali Paltan, (which the British Raj in India raised on an emergency basis to send reinforcements to the allied forces fighting in the Middle East) of British Indian Army, thereby becoming one of the two Muslims who joined the First World War and then became famous as writer. The other person was the famous Bengali poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, later on to become the national poet of Bangladesh. Though Kazi Nazrul Islam didn't go beyond Karachi during the wartime, Mahbub went to the warfront. He was a soldier of the Signal Corps and fought war at Kut Ul Amara, Iraq, in the British's attempt to recover it back which they initially lost to the Turkish force. Mahbub spent more than three years in the front being placed at different stations in Mesopotomia (present day Iraq) and was finally released in 1920, when the Paltan was broken up at the end of the war.

Family Background

Mahbubul Alam was born in Khandaker family in Fatehpur, Chittagong. His father Moulavi Nasih Uddin was the youngest of three brothers (Sabih Uddin and Mali Uddin) was widely known as "Sodo Moulavi" (which means Youngest Moulavi in Chatgaya). Even though Moulavi Nasih Uddin was a Imam of a mosque, his progressive thinking and ultra moderate views were stunningly advanced for his era.


In Bangla prose, Mahbubul Alam is a writer of fiction and historian. His literary works were included in the curriculum of school level, secondary, higher secondary and graduation level Bengali Literature in Bangladesh.

Novels: 'Mofizon'(after the name of the heroin): Mahbub Ul Alam can be said to have written one novella, titled Mofizon,and one novel, Momener Jabanbondi' Mofizon is on a theme of the suppressed libidinal instinct in human nature. This short fiction provides a bold treatment of feminine sexual arousal and suppression working simultaneously at a time when Bengali society was not ready for it. It was, therefore, criticized by the conservative section of the Muslim society, but Poet Sufia Kamal, a noted female contemporary writer of Mahbub's wrote very succinctly that everybody blamed "Mofizon"but nobody understood Mofizon's pains. The superstitious male attitude towards marriage and women is also criticized in this novella. Momener JabanbandiMahbub's most well-known work, translated into English by Lila Roy as The Confession of a Believer is a novel—as the title suggests, on autobiographical elements—that portrays the central character as having gone through the continuous biting of the conscience mainly on moral grounds. As is Mahbub's habit to approach critical issues, the beginning of the novel contains a fictional discourse run by the child-protagonist about the existence of God. The later part of the novel shows the adult-protagonist as having overcome the temptation of seductive attractions from a married woman. This novel is rich in Mahbub's style of writing in bold, clear and precise sentences.

Short story collections

Tajia:(the name for the replica of Prophet's two grandsons' graves carried on vans in the streets by the mourning Muslims on the Ashura, 10th Muharram)is a collection of short-stories, which mainly deals with religious bigotry, whilePancha Anna(meaning a co-mixture of themes), another volume, which has short stories dealing with supernaturalism, famine, domestic affairs and marriage. After his death, four volumes of humorous short stories were published, which are: 'Pradhan Otithi and Taza Singhi Macher Jhol (The chief guest and the gravy of the freshly cooked catfish), Rongberong (Varieties, "Paltan," (Warfront), and Sat Satero (multiplicities).

Other works

'Paltan Jiboner Smriti'(Memories of the War Front) is the book with the publication of which in 1935 Mahbub arrived on the literary scene of the undivided Bengal. The book was first serialized in the monthly Mohammadi published from Kolkata, and it at once caught the attention of the readers for Mahbub's extraordinary verve in story-telling. Recollecting his days of war in Mesopotamia, Mahbub brings to life in bold humorous strokes his encounters with people in the kind of his Scottish boss, a lieutenant general, who presented him with a Robert Burns volume for his honesty, his co-mates and their pranks, cooks and guards of the camp, his sickness, the malaria epidemic in the quarters, and Iraqi date-tree gardens and their women. Gomf Sandesh (news about mustache)is a delightful reading, as all the stories in this book throw a mocking but serene blow at the complicated relationship between Muslims and Hindus in the Bengal society. This book proves that Mahbub's major forte as writer lies in creating humor at the most unsuspecting moment.

Bangalir Muktijudhdher Itibritta (the complete history of the Liberation War of the Bangalees)is a mammoth task drawing up a documentary history of the Liberation War that ended in the creation of Bangladesh. A 670-page long 4-volume history, this book, compiled over two years by an elderly Mahbub at the age of 73 to 75, is often considered as the first documented history on the subject. Mahbub visited hundreds of villages all over Bangladesh and interviewed several hundred people in order to collect information about the guerrilla warfare as well as the conventional war. Another book along this line, titled Bangaleer Samorik Oitijhya (The Military Tradition of the Bangalees), published recently contains unpublished writings of Mahbub as well as old entries from Paltan Jiboner Smriti.

Besides, under a UNESCO project, Mahbub produced a number of books describing the flora and fauna of the then East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh) and their habitat. These picturesque books on plants, birds and animals of Bangladesh are, unfortunately, not available now.


"Adamjee Award for Literature (1963) Bangla Academy Award(1964) President's Pride of Performance (1965) "Ekushey Padak" for literature (1978)

Tours Mahbub Ul Alam visited the United States of America for eight weeks as a state guest in 1959. While returning from there he also performed the Holy Hajj.

His American writer-friend Robert C. Hammock wrote a chapter on Mahbub in his book Below the Llano Estakado.


  • Golpo Songroho (Collected Stories), the national text book of B.A. (pass and subsidiary) course of Bangladesh, published by University of Dhaka in 1979 (reprint in 1986).
  • Bangla Sahitya (Bengali Literature), the national text book of intermediate (college) level of Bangladesh published in 1996 by all educational boards.

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