Muhammad Shahidullah

Muhammad Shahidullah

Shahidullah in a literary conference in Curzon Hall, Dhaka (April 1954)
Native name মুহম্মদ শহীদুল্লাহ
Born (1885-07-10)10 July 1885
Peyara village, 24 Parganas, Bengal Presidency, British India
Died 13 July 1969(1969-07-13) (aged 84)
Dhaka, East Pakistan, Pakistan
Education Ph.D.
Alma mater
Occupation educationist, writer, philologist and linguist
Spouse(s) Marguba Khatun
Children Murtaja Baseer
Awards Chevalier De L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1967)
Independence Day Award (1980)

Muhammad Shahidullah (10 July 1885 – 13 July 1969)[1] was a Bengali educationist, writer, philologist and linguist.[2][3] In 2004, BBC Bengali Language Service placed him at number 16 on its list of "The Greatest Bengalis of All Time".[4]

Early life and education

Young Shahidullah

Shahidullah was born in Peyara village, 24 Pargana, West Bengal (now in India). His father, Mafizuddin Ahmed, was a warden of a shrine. Shahidullah passed his school final Entrance exam in 1904 from Howrah Zila School. In 1906 he passed the FA exam from Presidency College in Kolkata. He received the Bachelor of Arts degree with Honors in Sanskrit in 1910 from City College, Kolkata, and Master of Arts in 1912 in Comparative Philology from the University of Calcutta. He earned his PhD degree from Sorbonne University in 1928 for his research on the dialects of the Charyapada.[1] He was the first Indian Muslim to receive this doctorate degree.


Shahidullah began teaching in Jessore Zila School in 1908. After working as the Headmaster of Sitakunda High School for some time in 1914, he started to practice law at Bashirhat in 24 Parganas. He was elected Vice-Chairman of the town's municipality. Later, he worked as Sharatchandra Lahiri Research Fellow (1919–21) under Dinesh Chandra Sen at the University of Calcutta and joined the University of Dhaka as a Lecturer in 1921 in Sanskrit and Bangla.

During his period at the University of Dhaka he did research on the origins of the Bengali language. In 1925, he presented his thesis that Bangla as a language originated from Gaudi or Magadhi Prakrit. He was a principal of Govt A. H. college, Bogra from July 1944 to October 1948.

Family and legacy

Shahidullah had seven sons and two daughters. His third son A.K.M. Zakiyullah established a school named Dr. Shahidullah Gyanpith in Old Dhaka and a research library named Dr. Shahidullah Memorial Library and Language Research Center in Mirpur, Dhaka. One of his sons, Abul Bayan M. Naqiyyullah, studied in George Washington University in Washington, DC. Another son Murtaja Baseer is a painter. A dormitory in University of Dhaka, Shahidullah Hall, was named after him. One of his sons-in-law, Serajul Huq, eventually became a Professor Emeritus at the University of Dhaka.


Shahidullah received the award of Pride of Performance by the Pakistan government. He was also awarded Chevalier De L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 1967 for his research on language and literature.[1]

Shahidullah's tomb in Dhaka University campus


  1. 1 2 3 Badiuzzaman (2012). "Shahidullah, Muhammad". In Sirajul Islam and Ahmed A. Jamal. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  2. University of Rajshahi
  3. "Remembering a luminary: Bangla Academy celebrates Shahidullah's birth anniversary". The Daily Star. July 2014.
  4. Reece Jones (June 2008). "Searching for the greatest Bengali: The BBC and shifting identity categories in South Asia" (PDF). National Identities. Routledge. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
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