Born on Friday, June 1, 1928, in Banshkhali, Chattogram, to father Syed Wise Uddin and mother Syeda Rashida Khatun, Prof. Dr Abdul Karim was a distinguished person. He was an academician, an education administrator and the former Vice-Chancellor of Chattagram University.
Professor Karim was widely prominent in the field of international history, epigraphy, numismatics and medieval Bengali literature. He completed his Primary education in Madrasa, where he got distinction in Dakhil Examination. Then he passed the IA exam from Chattagram Islamic Intermediate College with a merit scholarship showcasing his brilliance.
His academic results prompted him to eventually grab the opportunity to study at Dhaka University. There, he obtained a bachelor's honours degree in history and secured a first-class masters degree consecutively in 1949 and 1950.
Later, he embarked on his teaching career in 1951 as a lecturer in the Department of History at Dhaka University. During his tenure at the University of Dhaka from 1951 to 1966, he received two PhD degrees from the University of Dhaka as well as the University of London for his fundamental research.
In 1958, the University of Dhaka awarded him a PhD degree for his research-based ground-breaking work on 'Social History of the Muslims in Bengal' with the then legendary historian Professor Ahmed Hossain Dani (1920-2009) as supervisor.
While studying for a Commonwealth Scholarship at the School of Oriental and African Studies, at the University of London from 1960 to 1962, he received 'a second doctorate' for his research work, 'Murshid Quli Khan and His Times', under the supervision of Professor JB Harrison. These two mammoth manuscripts were published by the Asiatic Society.
He left a lasting footprint in diverse positions from 1962 to 1992. Professor Karim was a Life Member, General Secretary and Honorary Fellow of the Asiatic Society. The Asiatic Society honoured him in 1996 as an Elected Fellow of the Society.
In recognition of his service to the cause of history, he received two gallantry awards: one was the 'Akbar Silver Medal' given by The Indian Numismatic Society and the other one was 'Ekushey Padak' by the Government of Bangladesh in 1995.
He published numerous research works most notable of which are - Dhakai Muslin (Bangla Academy, 1965); History of Bengal: Sultanate period, (Bangla Academy 1978), Sufi Society of Bengal (Dhaka 1980); History and Tradition of Muslim Bangla (Bangla Academy, 1994); Futuhat-E-Firoz Shahi (translation from the original Persian), Chronology of Bengali Literature (Middle Ages) (Bangla Academy, 1994); Hazrat Amanat Shah (1969), Molla Miskin Shah (1987), Bengali Madrasa in Makkah Sharif (1987) History of Chittagong, (1975), Abdul Haq Chowdhury and his research work' (Bangla Academy), 'Society and Life' (2003).
Apart from these, he published 61 English research articles and 75 Bengali research articles in international and domestic research journals. Before his death, he completed the manuscript of two books entitled 'Islam: Undoubtedly the only chosen religion of Allah' and 'The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)'.
Professor Abdul Karim accentuated the study of history in medieval Bengali History. At the outset of his research work, the history of Bengali Muslims was intensely engulfed by dimness and darkness.
With utmost devotion, he shed light on the dark history of Bengali Muslims. In the face of the paucity of the source material of medieval history, he began obtaining Sultanat period coins, readings and inscriptions.
With his relentless passion, diligent research as well as countless researchers who followed in his footsteps, the Bengal Muslim history witnessed a paradigm shift thanks to Dr Karim.
He unveiled the heritage, society, and civilisation of the Muslim period from darkness to dazzling. He showed his knack for history and turned to be a signatory of Medieval History. He was a man of history from beginning to end.
The journey of history was not confined to the frame of politics and monarchies or the expansion and toppling of kingdoms. He as a pathfinder also brought 'human history' to the light in the context of socio-cultural and economic standards of living across the border.
Accountability and sincerity drive him to play a pivotal role in the formation of Bangladesh Itihas Samiti with a view to sharpening and shaping the history and transform it into a modern form in independent sovereign Bangladesh.
The field of the research subject he opted for was quite difficult due to the severe scarcity of data. In lieu of secondary sources, he had taken the challenging options of coinage and engraving as first-hand primary sources.
His devotion to work exhibited how religiously he took research as he developed and diversified his linguistic portfolio learning Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Charyapad, Sanskrit, and even French and Dutch to carry forward the research work.
His avid thirst for history, noteworthy contribution, and unique characteristics were highly acclaimed by Professor JB Harrison, his research supervisor at the University of London.
Professor Abdul Karim's dynamic approach of hypothecating and diagnosing articles for presenting the research result possessed unique attributes. He served as an honorary member of the editorial board of the Asiatic Society for the publication of the three volumes of 'History of Bangladesh 1804-1971'.
The first volume (Political History) comprised of 'Subah Bangla: Government and Politics' followed by the second volume (Economic History) depicted 'Mughal Royal Management'. Before walking to the main article of Subah Bangla essay, the rationality of findings are explained, a sample of few lines are appended below:
"After The Mughal emperor Akbar conquered over a part of Bengal, Subah Bangla emerged as a centralised administrative unit in the regime of Mughal imperialism and flourished in full shape by the end of the 18th century. During this period, incredible changes were seen between the geographical location of Subah Bangla and its internal administration system and relationship with the centre. Before discussing Subah Bangla's functions as a centralised administrative unit in the regime of Mughal imperialism, it is imperative to explain the changes in geographical boundaries. Since an endemic change has an intense impact on internal administration and Subha's relation with the centre."
The author is a former Secretary to the GoB and Chairman of the NBR.