Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah

  • Born: 10 July 1885, village of Peyara, 24 (Chobbish) Parganas, West Bengal, India
  • Died: 13 July 1969, Dhaka (aged 84)
  • Profession: Educationist, writer and philologist (linguist)
  • Recognition: Swadhinata Purushkar (1980); Shahidullah Hall dormitory in DU named after him
  • National contribution: Advanced the study of Bangla language and grammar. Established Pohela Baishakh festival
  • Hasani? Didn't know that! Spoke 18 languages!


  1. Early life of 'Gyantaposh', education
  2. Family life
  3. Career
  4. A leading figure during Bhasha Andolon
  5. Advancement of Bangla language, awards
  6. Passing & burial


  1. Shahidullah Hall dormitory in DU, Shahidullah scholarship at London Metropolitan University, 'Epitaph for the Martyrs' by son Murtaja Baseer
  2. What others say about Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah...

Timeline of few major events in Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah's life

  • 1880s - Family moved from village home in Peyara to Howrah (near Kolkata). Shahidullah broke away from family tradition of Khadim (warden) to Pir Gorachand shrine and studied language instead
  • 1899 - Passed school examination where he offered Sanskrit at third/classical language. Self-taught other languages including Persian, Urdu, Hindi, and Oriya
  • 1904 - Passed finals from Howraz Zila School in first division. Admitted to Calcutta Madrasah and attended Presidency College in Calcutta as madrasah had no college department
  • 1906 - Passed First Arts Examination (equivalent to HSC) with Sanskrit as a subject
  • 1908 - Dropped out of BA Honours in Sanskrit from Hoogly College as affected by malaria. Moved to Jessore (Bangladesh) and worked as assistant teacher for a year
  • 1910 - Graduated with BA Honours in Sanskrit from City College, Calcutta, becoming the first Muslim student to graduate in such subject
  • 1910 - Refused entry to Masters in Sanskrit by some teachers of University of Calcutta. Subsequent uproar, known as 'Shahidullah Affair', led to university opening a new departement of comparative philology where Shahidullah became first and only student
  • 1911 - Appointed secretary of 'Bangiya Mussalman Sahitya Samiti' (Bengal Muslim Literary Society) and co-edit and edit various publications and journals, including 'Angur' (1920), first children magazine of Muslim Bengal
  • 30 December 1912 - Passed Masters Examination and eventually became proficient in 18 languages, including English, Farsi, German, and French
  • 1913 - Missed out on state scholarship after formally being admitted to University of Freiburg, Germany, as disqualified in medical test
  • 1914 - Passed law (LLB) degree from University of Calcutta with second division
  • 1914 - Appointed Head Master of Sitakunda High School, Chittagong
  • 1915 - Returned to 24 (Chobbish) Parganas, West Bengal, and practised law. Elected Vice-Chairman of town's municipality
  • 1 June 1919 - Worked as Research Fellow under Dinesh Chandra Sen, the then Head of Department of Bengali, at University of Calcutta
  • 2 June 1921 - Join newly established Dhaka University as lecturer in Department of Bengali and Sanskirt. Sole lecturer in Bengali language for 4 years
  • September 1926 - Sail to Europe for higher studies, mainly in France and marginally in Germany
  • 1928 - 43-year-old Shahidullah became first Indian Muslim to receive doctorate degree, after University of Sorbonne conferred him a doctorate (PhD)
  • August 1928 - 1944 - Various roles with University of Dhaka including Head of Department of Bangla. Retired in 1944 as Reader and Head of Department of Bangla
  • 1944 - Appointed principal at Bogra Azizul Huq College
  • 1947 - 52 - Spoke in favour of Bangla, not Urdu, as state language of Pakistan during Bhasha Andolon (Language Movement). Spoke also againt Arabization of Bangla language. Presided over two days 'Purbo Pakistan Sahitya Shommelon' (East Pakistan Literary Conference), first of its kind in Pakistan
  • 1948 - Rejoined Dhaka University and taught 6 years as department head and dean of the faculty of arts
  • 1952 - Conferred 'Vidya Vacaspati' (Doctorate in Literature) honour by Bangiya Sahitya Parishat in Dhaka
  • 15 November 1954 - Retired second time. But remained part-time lecturer in French in Department of International Relation (1953 - 56)
  • 1955 - 58 - Appointed Professor and Head of Department of Bengali at Rajshahi University
  • 3 December 1955 - Part of committee which recommended Bangla Academy
  • 1958 - Awarded 'Tamga-e Husn-e Karkardagi' (Pride of Performance) by President of Pakistan
  • 1965 - Editor-in-chief of critically acclaimed "Purba Pakistani Ancalik Bhasar Abhidhan" (later "Bangladesher Ancalik Bhasar Abhidhan") dictionary
  • 1967 - Awarded 'Chevalier dans L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres' (Knight of the Order of Art and Letters) by Government of France for his research on language and literature
  • 13 July 1969 - Pass away. Buried on campus of Shahidullah Hall in University of Dhaka (named in his honour)
  • 1980 - Awarded Swadhinata Purushkar (Independence Award) posthumously by Government of Bangladesh)