Shah Ahmad Shafi, amir of Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh, who was on life support and was flown to Dhaka just hours back, passed away today at the age of 104 while undergoing treatment at Asgar Ali Hospital in Dhaka this evening.
General Secretary of Islami Oikyajote Mufti Faizullah confirmed the matter to The Daily Star.
Ahmad Shafi passed away around 6:30pm, he added.
His demise came a day after he resigned from the post of director general of Al Jameyatul Ahlia Darul Ulum Moinul Islam Madrasa, popularly known as Hathazari madrasa, following student unrest over the last two days.
Soon after his resignation yesterday, he was taken to Chattogram Medical College Hospital (CMCH) as his physical condition deteriorated.
He was put on life support at CMCH and was later flown to Dhaka today, and was admitted at Asgar Ali Hospital where he passed away this evening.
"Shafi was rushed to Chattogram Medical College Hospital (CMCH) on Thursday night and admitted to the ICU unit as his pressure and pulse rate decreased. A medical board was formed for his treatment who suggested he should be moved to Dhaka for better treatment," Dr Aftabul Islam, deputy director of CMCH told The Daily Star.
"A helicopter landed at CMCH hostel grounds around 4:27pm today to fly him to Dhaka's Asgar Ali Hospital," the doctor said.
On Thursday night, Ahmad Shafi resigned from the post of director general of Al Jameyatul Ahlia Darul Ulum Moinul Islam Madrasa, popularly known as Hathazari madrasa, following the student unrest over the last two days. Soon after his resignation, he was taken to CMCH as his physical condition deteriorated.
Quoting family members, Dr Aftabul said Shafi mentally broke down following the recent unrest at the madrasa.
Born in 1916 in Rangunia of Chattogram, Shah Ahmad Shafi studied at Al-Jamiatul Arabiatul Islamiah. Then he joined Hathazari madrasa in 1926. He went to India for higher education at the Islamic university Darul Uloom Deoband.
He started his career as a teacher at Al-Jamiatul Ahlia Darul Ulum Moinul Islam in Hathazari.
In 2010, Shafi came to the fore when he established Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh.
During his long stint as the Hefazat-e-Islami chief and Hathazari madrasa director general, Ahmad Shafi first made headlines following the rally of Hefazat-e Islam activists on May 5, 2013, that turned increasingly violent and kept Motijheel occupied for nearly 12 hours until the law enforcers swung into action after midnight and drove them away.
The capital's Paltan and Motijheel areas transformed into a scene of mayhem as the Hefazat men burned down and vandalised properties and clashed with law enforcers. At least 39 people were killed in the violence.
The Hefazat chief went on to make news now and then with his instigating comments during sermons, for which he often drew flak from different quarters, especially for his conservative remarks that belittled women.
He is known for his stance against women's education and employment. In 2013, during a sermon he made suggestive remarks, comparing women with tamarind.
"You women should stay within the four walls of your houses. Sitting inside your husband's home you should take care of your husband's furniture and raise your children, your male kids. These are your jobs. Why do you have to go outside?" he went on saying.
In 2019, during a sermon delivered to the parents of the students of Hathazari madrasa, Ahmad Shafi asked the parents not to send their daughters to school beyond grade four or five.
At a "Shokrana Mahfil" in 2019, Shafi, who also headed the Qawmi Madrasa Education Board, accorded Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina the title "Mother of the Qawmi" for recognising the highest Qawmi degree as equivalent to a post-graduate degree.
Namaz-e-Janaza to be held at Hathazari madrasa tomorrow
Speaking in front of Asgar Ali Hospital, Shafi's son Anas Madani said Shafi's namaz-e-janaza will be held at Hathazari madrasa ground at 2:00pm tomorrow.
After completing all the process, his body will be taken to Chattogram tonight by road, Madani added.
Ahmad Shafi will be buried at a graveyard in the madrasa after the janaza, he said, adding that no second janaza for his father will be held.
Anas Madani also sought prayers from everyone for the eternal peace of his father's departed soul.
An ambulance carrying Ahmed Shafi's body left the hospital around 10:20pm and is now on its way to Chattogram.
Thousands of Shafi's followers who had gathered in front of Asgar Ali Hospital as soon as news of his death broke out have also left the spot.
Earlier in the evening, the followers in Dhaka had demanded a namaz-e-janaza in Dhaka as well.
Meanwhile, the Chattogram district administration has appointed seven executive magistrates at Hathazari, Rangunia, Fatikchhari and Patiya upazilas in the district ahead of Shah Ahmad Shafi's namaz-e-janaza to prevent any untoward incident.
District Magistrate Yasmin Perves Tibriji appointed the seven officials as executive magistrates to maintain law and order situation in the four upazilas, according to a notification of the district administration.
Also, 10 platoons of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) personnel will be deployed in the upazilas from 8:00am on Saturday to maintain law and order situation, said Badiul Alam Pavel, additional district magistrate in Chattogram.