Early Life of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

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Published on June 15, 2021
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Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born in a renowned family in Tungipara of Gopalganj on 17 March 1920. He was the third child of Sheikh Lutfur Rahman and Sayera Khatun whose ancestry is traced back to Baghdad, Iraq. From the family history, it is estimated that around 400 years ago, Sheikh Awwal came from Iraq to preach Islam in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent. Part of the family may have settled in Sonargaon near Dhaka, and another part settled in Gopalganj. Mujib was part of the seventh generation in the Sheikh family, the eldest son of Sheikh Lutfur Rahman and Sayera Khatun. His parents were paternal cousin. His maternal grandfather Sheikh Abdul Majid was the elder brother of his paternal grandfather, Sheikh Abdul Hamid. His grandfathers also had a young brother, Sheikh Abdul Rashid who was popularly known as ‘Khan Saheb’ by both the locals and the ruling British Empire.

The childhood of Sheikh Mujib is portrayed in the words of Sheikh Hasina, his eldest daughter and Prime Minister of Bangladesh. She said: “My father [Sheikh Mujib] grew up rural - amid rivers, trees, birdsong. He flourished in the free atmosphere inspired by his grandparents. He swam in the river, played in the fields, bathed in the rains, caught fish and watched out for birds' nests. He was lanky, yet played football. He liked to eat plain rice, fish, vegetables, milk, bananas and sweets. His care and concern for classmates, friends and others were well-known. He gave away his tiffin to the hungry, clothes to the naked, books to the needy and other personal belongings to the poor. One day, my grandfather told me, he gave his clothes to a poor boy and came home in his shawl.”

His maternal grandfather had no son but four daughters. That is why he married off his youngest daughter Sayera Khatun to the son of his brother Sheikh Lutfur Rahman and gave her all the property. But during that period, the Muslim had very difficult times in getting jobs. Lutfar Rahman left education to earn bread and butter for the wider family. He, however, managed to get a position in Gopalganj civil court where he eventually became a sherestedar (an officer responsible for record-keeping). He himself built the house where Sheikh Mujib grew up.

Sheikh Mujibur had one brother Sheikh Naser and four sisters - Sheikh Fatema Begum, Sheikh Asia Begum, Sheikh Amena Begum and Khadijah Hossain Lily. His parents used to call him ‘Khoka’ out of affection. Born in a large family, young Mujib was raised with love and affection, moving from one lap to the other as the apple of his family's eye. According to his daughter Sheikh Rehana, “He [Sheikh Mujib] was the gem that everyone loved to see. His two elder sisters cuddled him almost around the clock. He grew up little by little and started learning Bangla, English, Persian, and Mathematics. His initiation in education was through my grandfather.”

However, Sheikh Mujib’s marriage was fixed when he was 13. As his fiancé Begum Fazilatunnesa, also his paternal cousin, lost her father at the age of three, her (and Sheikh Mujib's) paternal grandfather Sheikh Abdul Hamid had commanded his son Sheikh Lutfur Rahman to marry his son Sheikh Mujib to her. In 1938, Sheikh Mujib tied the knot with Fazilatunnesa, fondly called Renu by the family with family rituals. The pair subsequently became the happy parents of two daughters, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, and three sons, Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russel. Renu was the best friend of Sheikh Mujib. There was nothing in this world that these two friends could not share.