Azizul Huq, who may be aptly described as the doyen of Islamic banking in Bangladesh, passed away on November 12, 2020 at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH), Dhaka. The Central Shariah Board of Islamic Banks of Bangladesh (CSBIB) announced the prestigious annual Islamic Banking Award for the first time in 2005 and he was the first person to be honored with it for his outstanding contribution to Islamic Banking. This may be cited as one example from many of his extraordinary presence in the Islamic banking sector of the country.
This eminent Islamic banker was born in October 1935 in Dhola Village of Tarail Upazila in Kishoreganj district. He passed his Matriculation Examination from Ashujia Joy Noth Chakraborty Institution, Kendua, 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 by 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 6 years until 1983.
During his tenure as the principal of the 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 Bangladesh Bank. In accordance with the decision taken in the meeting, an association called 'Bangladesh Association of Islamic Bankers (BIBA)" was established headed by M Khaled as Chairman and M. Azizul Huq as Secretary.
He participated in a one and half month-long training on Islamic banking and economics under direct supervision of the globally renowned Islamic scholar Dr. Ahmed El-Najjar at 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 gradually. Later, when the then Ershad government announced its decision to give permission to open private banks, Mr. Huq sought 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. In 1995, after successfully accomplishing various important duties at IBBL for 12 years, he joined the Social Investment Bank Limited (SIBL) as the first managing director. In 1998, after serving 3 years at SIBL, he joined as the first managing director of the Islamic Finance and Investment Bank.
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 shariah councils of various banks. Among them, he was the chairman of the Shariah council of the Dhaka Bank limited and vice-chairman of the Shari'ah council of the AB Bank limited. He was also a member of shariah councils of the City Bank, Jamuna Bank and Islamic Finance & Investment Bank. He was also 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.
M Azizul Huq was much more than a distinguished Islamic banking practitioner. He was not only involved in developing Islamic financial intuitions, but also as an outstanding thinker and an erudite intellectual, he trained a generation of bankers through his involvement in numerous public and private sector training programs locally and globally. He also taught Islamic Banking as an adjunct faculty at the department of finance and banking of Dhaka University for 10 years and delivered lectures on Islamic Economics, Banking and Finance in many countries. Thus, throughout his life and works, 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 who invested almost his entire professional life in the development of Islamic banking in Bangladesh. It is difficult to think of Islamic Banking in Bangladesh without him. The remarkable growth and reach of Islamic banks owe in large measure to his relentless endeavours. May Allah bless him for his truly extraordinary efforts in the development of Islamic Banking in Bangladesh.
Dr Foyasal Khan is an Economist based in Dhaka, Bangladesh and holds a Ph.D. in economics from International Islamic University Malaysia. [email protected]