M Azizul Huq, one of the pioneers in the development of Islamic banking sector in Bangladesh, passed away on 12 November, 2020 at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH), Dhaka. The eminent Islamic banker was born on 16 October, 1935 in Dhola village of Tarail upazila, Kishoreganj.
He passed his matriculation examination from Ashujia Joy Noth Chakraborty Institution, Netrokona, in 1952, intermediate from Gurudayal College, Kishoreganj in 1954, BA (honours) in 1956, and masters in economics from Dhaka University in 1958.
His professional life began with joining the Habib Bank as a probationary officer. Later, he joined the National Bank of Pakistan. After the independence of Bangladesh, he naturally became a part of Sonali Bank that was established by taking over the branches of National Bank of Pakistan, Bank of Bawalpur and Premier Bank. He was the Principal of Sonali Bank Staff College for six years, until 1983.
During his tenure as the principal of staff college, he organised a meeting in the college on how to introduce Islamic banking in Bangladesh in 1979. Executives from various banks participated in the meeting. The meeting was presided over by M Khaled, the then managing director of Pubali Bank and later deputy governor of the Bangladesh Bank.
In accordance with the decision taken at the meeting, an association called Bangladesh Association of Islamic Bankers (BIBA) was formed, headed by M Khaled as the chairman and M Azizul Huq as the secretary.
He participated in a one and half month-long seminar on Islamic banking and economics under direct supervision of the globally renowned Islamic scholar Dr Ahmed El-Najjar, held in the Al-Azhar University, Egypt in 1981. Returning home from Egypt, he organised a month-long training course on Islamic banking in August-September of the same year at the Sonali Bank Staff College. Mid-level officers of various banks took part in this fully residential-based course.
M Azizul Huq came to prominence in the 1980s when he first wrote on welfare banking to promote Islamic banking indirectly. Later, when the Ershad government announced its decision to give permission to open private banks, Mr Huq involved himself in the task of an application for a permission to open a full-fledged Islamic bank called International Islamic Bank of Dhaka Limited, under private initiative.
After securing the letter of intent, the bank's name was changed to Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL). In 1983, he got the rare opportunity of becoming the first acting executive president or managing director of IBBL, the first Islamic bank of the country.
He also joined the Social Investment Bank as the first managing director in April 1995 after successfully executing various important duties at IBBL for 12 years. Then he joined as the first managing director of the Islamic Finance and Investment Bank after successfully working for three years at SIBL.
He was an Islamic banking consultant for the Bank Asia, the City Bank and the AB Bank Limited. Besides, Mr Huq was involved with the shari'ah councils of various banks. Among them, he was the chairman of the Shari'ah council of the Dhaka Bank Limited and vice-chairman of the Shari'ah council of the AB Bank. He was also a member of shari'ah councils of the City Bank, Jamuna Bank and Islamic Finance & Investment Bank.
He performed his duty as the president of Bangladesh Institute of Islamic Thought (BIIT) and Islamic Economics Research Bureau (IERB), Dhaka. He had been unanimously elected chairman of the Board of the Governing Body of Muslim Aid Bangladesh (MAB) for three terms and also in the Board of Directors of Pubali Bank Ltd during the current term.
M Azizul Huq was much more than a distinguished Islamic banking practitioner. He was not only involved in developing Islamic financial intuitions, but also an outstanding thinker and an erudite intellectual, he trained a generation of Islamic bankers through his involvement in numerous public and private sector training programmes locally and globally.
He also taught Islamic banking as an adjunct faculty at the department of finance and banking at Dhaka University for 10 years and delivered lectures on Islamic economics, banking and finance in many countries. Thus, throughout his life and career, he inspired generations of students and bankers as their mentor, guide, philosopher, and friend.
I would like to end this tribute to him by saying that M Azizul Huq's life was a radiant gift to us he invested almost his entire professional life to the development of Islamic banking in Bangladesh. It is difficult to think of the Islamic banking movement in Bangladesh without him. The remarkable growth and reach of Islamic banks in the country owe in large measure to his colossal endeavors.
In 2005, he was awarded the prestigious annual Islamic Banking Award by the central Shari'ah Board of Islamic banks of Bangladesh as the first person to be honored for his outstanding contribution to Islamic banking. This is great! Yet, I believe, he had that capacity and calibre to receive global recognition. That did not happen in his lifetime.
I hope that the current and coming generations of Islamic bankers will carry on the legacy he left behind so that global Islamic banking community can acknowledge his work in this global journey of interest-free banking.
Foyasal Khan is an economist based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Email: [email protected].