On the passing of Professor M Ataharul Islam – Some personal email and text messages

We are all saddened by the recent passing of Professor M Ataharul Islam.  He was one of the most outstanding statisticians of Bangladesh.  But he was, to me, a very great well-wisher of mine for over 35 years.  One of his classmates was my student at Ball State University in the early 1980s.  I also know few other classmates of Atahar who live in USA.  They all always eloquently spoke of Atahar.  I had many students at Ball State University from Dhaka University. I always heard high praise of his teaching and concern for his students. Atahar was not even born when I had joined the Statistics Department of Dhaka University as a student in the very early 1950s. He was always like my younger brother. I had tremendous respect for him as a scholar and also as someone who possessed tremendous moral values and was also a person of integrity.

I am quoting from few of his emails which show his high regard for me. He had been one of my great admirers and well-wishers.

Here I provide some emails and texts from him and his family to highlight our relation.

“Dear Ali Bhai, you have been always an inspiration to me as an outstanding educationist and a noble human being.  ….. Atahar” (Atahar)

Another in that sequel,

“Dear Masoom Ali Bhai, I am so sorry for missing the opportunity to see you this time, however, I have my highest respect to you for the dignified achievements you have earned throughout your life for all of us. In addition, I always like you for being one of the finest human beings of our time. …… I am sure that you will be contributing to the development of our statistical community for many years to come. Atahar” (Atahar)

This one shows that he was a human being who had emotions and sometimes needed a listener like me to vent his frustrations out after a meeting where he was very upset and wrote to me immediately after the meeting. I believe we all have such moments and that makes him human.

“Dear Ali Bhai, Many years ago, I read Bangalir Itihash by Nihar Ranjan Ray, the famous historical evidence of Bangali nature.  Since the beginning, some of the Bangalis remained enemy of their own people for even the most valuable contributions to themselves. Still we try to do something because most of the people are innocent and some opportunist people try to take advantage of their innocence.  I respect you more because I have not seen too many people like you who have kept faith ….. Both you and your brother had contributed so much to the development of statisticians from Bangladesh without expecting any return. …. Atahar” (Atahar)

During his illness I talked to him several times and exchanged many texts almost until the end. During my last telephone conversation before his last visit to hospital, we were talking about his writing poems and he wanted to write a poem for me.  He then texted me the following.

“I will write for you soon, Ali Bhai, Inshallah, it will be my best precious tribute to you as my best well wisher since we met. In fact, when I feel little better, mina [his wife] and Amiya [his younger daughter] want me to be involved with writing because they know I enjoy it from the core of my heart, it keeps me from anxieties. So if I feel better, irrespective of my health status, it is a gift from Allah.” (Atahar)

This one texted to me five weeks before his passing shows his real love for family. After all said and done, this is all about life.

“My wife and daughters are real gifts from Allah, I always remain grateful and thankful.” (Atahar)

During the last month of Atahar’s illness, I had lot of communications with his wife Tahmina and his daughters Jayati and Amiya. I will end with one text from Tahmina and last texts from Jayati and Amiya after his passing.

The texts of November and first week of December from Tahmina related to only Atahar’s day-to-day and sometime hour-to-hour health status updates. The following text was from Tahmina five months before Atahar’s death.

“….. Atahar is doing fine.  His next chemo will begin on the 18th of this month [May].  Plz do not get upset as everything is in the hand of Allah (SWT).  Atahar and I always pray for you so that you can live a healthy and a long life.  Atahar respects you very much as his elder brother and he considers you as a constant source of inspiration and role model for him.  …” (Tahmina)

This text is from Atahar’s eldest daughter Jayati.

“Thank you uncle. Baba went peacefully after spending his last days in excruciating pain. We are happy that he finally found peace and will always look out for us.  Keep us in your prayers always and take care always.  We will stay in touch InshaAllah..” (Jayati)

The last text is from his younger daughter Amiya.

“Uncle, thank you so much for the continuous support throughout this difficult journey.  We used to read out all your messages to him several times.  It gave us strength and made Abbu feel more loved than he had ever expected.” (Amiya)

Dear Atahar:
You have left us but we have not left you. You will always remain in our hearts. One day we will join you there. In the meantime, you discuss your new research projects with statisticians/biostatisticians who are already there with you in Heaven and have a great time. You have done a lot for the field of Statistics and for humanity while you were here but now it is time for you to relax and RIP in your eternal abode. We pray for you, my brother, my friend and my colleague. Au revoir!
In Grief and Sorrow
Ali Bhai
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
December 10, 2020

George and Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of Statistics Emeritus & Professor Emeritus of Mathematical Sciences

Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47306-0490 USA

Dr. Mir Masoom Ali

George and Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of Statistics Emeritus & Professor Emeritus of Mathematical Sciences Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47306-0490 USA