Syed Sajjad Husain was born on 14 January in 1920 at Alukdia, a village in Magura District in Bangladesh. When he was four, his parents moved to Dhaka District.
Dr Husain received his secondary education at the Dhaka High Madrassah and graduated from Dhaka University with Honours in English in 1941. He took a first class in the M A examination in the same subject in 1942.
When Mr M. A. Jinnah visited Dhaka in the winter of 1936 on his mission to reorganise the Muslim League, Dr Husain had his first opportunity of hearing the leader and was immediately won over to the cause of Muslim nationalism. He was one of the first to welcome the Pakistan scheme in a letter to the Statesman of Calcutta in June 1941.
In 1942 with him as president, the Muslim students of Dhaka University founded the East Pakistan Literary Society whose purpose was to disseminate the message of Pakistan. The society held a conference in January 1943 which proved a huge success.
About this time Muslim students had established a fortnightly in Bengali which was called Pakistan. Dr Husain was regular contributor. The fortnightly was run by a promising Muslim student Nazir Ahmad, who was stabbed to death on 31 January 1943 by Hindu hoodlums on the University premises, the first martyr in the cause of Pakistan.
Syed Sajjad Husain and his friends brought out in 1943-44 a memorial volume on Nazir Ahmad which in spite of all its immaturity, provides a glimpse into the idealism of Muslim youth in the 40s.
Syed Sajjad Husain was invited to preside over the Literary Section of the East Pakistan Renaissance Society Conference held in July in 1944 Calcutta. He was then only 24.
In the same month (July 1944) he joined the Islamia College as a lecturer in English. He was invited at the same time by (now deceased) Mr Abul Kalam Shamsuddin, editor of the leading Muslim daily, the Azad, to write editorials for the paper regularly, Dr Husain continued to do so until the achievement of Pakistan in 1947.
In addition to his work as a free lancer on the Azad, Dr Husain used to contribute articles on Muslim nationalism to the Morning News and the Star of India and write editorials for the weekly Comrade.
Upon the establishment of Pakistan Dr Husain was transferred from the Islamia College to Sylhet M.C. College where he spent one year from September 1947 to September 1948.
But as soon as a vacancy was advertised in Dhaka University in 1948. Dr Husain applied for the job, and it was here that the greater part of his working life was spent. From lecturer he rose to Professor in 1962.
The only time when he was absent from the University on leave was from 1950 to 1952 when he was working at Nottingham University (U.K.) for his Ph.D. degree. His thesis: Kipling and India, was published in book form by Dhaka University and is mentioned as an authoritative interpretation of Kipling in the Concise Cambridge History of English Literature, edited by Richard Churchill.
In 1969 Dr Husain was appointed Vice-Chancellor of Rajshahi University and at the height of the crisis of 1971 he was asked to take over at his own alma mater at Dhaka.
Despite threats, Dr Husain refused to resile from the conviction that the dismemberment of Pakistan would spell the ruin of the Muslims of East Pakistan.
Three days after the fall of Dhaka, he was seized by the guerrillas from his residence on December 19 in the afternoon, subjected to physical tortures throughout the night and 'executed' in the morning of December 20. The assailants had planned to kill him by crushing his spinal cord, but the blow aimed at him having missed its target by a fraction of an inch he survived. He was also given stab wounds in six places to add to his agony before his 'death'.
When he recovered his senses Dr Husain found himself completely paralysed from the waist down. He was brought home by a passer-by and admitted to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital for treatment under orders from the Indian army. It was not until the middle of month of January 1972 that he could use his legs again to walk with the aid of a walking stick.
On January 30, he was transferred to the Dhaka Central jail on charges of 'collaboration' with the Pakistan army and released under a general amnesty on December 5, 1973. In the meanwhile he had been dismissed from the university formally.
In 1975 he was appointed a Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge University as a stop-gap while waiting to join Ummul-Qura University in Mecca as a Professor of English.
The paralysis of his legs was never completely healed; his left knee dislocated, and other effects of the spinal injury he suffered began to trouble him seriously by the beginning of 1985. He was forced to resign his job in May 1985 and returned home permanently.
Dr Husain travelled in Europe, America and Asia. He visited the USA in 1956 on a leadership grant, China as a member of a Pakistani delegation to the October Day Celebrations in. 1910; Japan to attend a conference on Religion in 1970; Iran twice in 1970 as the leader of the RCD team and in 1971 to attend the monarchy anniversary; Burma in 1954 as the leader of a student delegation; India in 1962 as a member of the Pakistan Delegation to the Commonwealth Educational Conference in 1962; Manila in the Philippines as a delegate to a PEN conference; Poland in 1917 as a delegate to the Professors of English conference in Pozniak. In 1977 Dr Husain participated in the conference on education in Mecca.
At Dhaka he was one of the founding members of the Asiatic Society of Pakistan; he served a term as its Secretary. He organised a PEN conference at Dhaka in 1955 after himself attending a PEN conference in Holland in 1954.
He also visited France, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy. His publications in English include the following:
- Kipling and India
- Mixed Grill (collection of essays)
- Dhaka University Seminars on Contemporary Bengali Literature, ed.
- Homage to Shakespeare, ed.
- Crisis in Muslim Education (joint author)
- A Young Muslim’s Guide to Religions in the World
- Islam in Bengali Verse
- Civilization and Society
- Descriptive Catalogue of Bengali Manuscripts
- Annotated Anthology of English Poetry for Arab Students
- A Guide to Literary Criticism
Dr Hussain is also the author of the following:
- Article on Bangladesh in the Encyclopaedia Brittanica
- Chapter on Pakistani writing in English in the Commonwealth Pen (published in the USA)
- East Pakistan, editor
- Pakistan: An anthology, ed.
In his retirement, Dr Husain wrote regularly for both English and Bengali newspapers in Dhaka and also reviewed books for the Muslim WorId Book Review published from Leicester (U.K.) During the period from 1975 to 1985 Dr Husain collaborated anonymously with the late Dr Matiur Rahman in the writing of a series of books and booklets on the tragedy of 1971. These are:
Dr Husain wrote in prison an account of the decline and fall of East Pakistan to which he gave the title of The Wastes of Time. His Memoirs of 1971 in Bengali was published in Dhaka in 1993.
- Bangladesh Today: A Lament and an Indictment
- Second Thoughts on Bangladesh
- Iron Bars of Freedom
- Two dialogues ala Plato on the Hindu-Muslim problem.
- The Role of India and Big Powers in the East Pakistan Crisis of 1971
He responded to the final call of the Almighty Allah on 12th January, 1995 while he was busy writing on the life of the holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).