The orator has gained notoriety for his provocative remarks
Rafiqul Islam Madani, popularly known as "shishu bokta" (child preacher), has recently come into the spotlight following his arrest in a case filed under the Digital Security Act.
The orator gained exposure by delivering speeches against the state, government, prime minister, several ministers and noted personalities at his sermons in several places across the country. His speeches, which became viral on YouTube and other platforms, earned him widespread recognition within a short period of time.
Hailing from a small village in Netrokona, Rafiqul Islam got his Dawra-e-Hadith degree (equivalent to a master’s degree) from Jamia Madani Madrasa located in Dhaka’s Baridhara area and opted to pursue the profession of an orator.
The now contentious preacher was born into a poor family at Ledirkanda village at the district’s Purbadhala Upazila. He is the youngest among his parents’ eight children, according to Maulana Gazi Abdur Rahim, a leader of Hefazat-e-Islam’s Netrokona unit.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Abdur Rahim, a close friend of Rafiqul’s family, said Rafiqul’s father and brothers are involved in farming and the family is dependent on Rafiqul’s income.
“The photo of Rafiqul’s childhood on social media is authentic. Their financial condition was dreadful in the past,” Rahim stated.
According to multiple sources, the once poor village boy is now operating two madrasas in Netrokona and Gazipur.
Alluding to Rafiqul’s small stature, Rahim said: “It is true that he is not very tall, but he holds a big influence when it comes to waz mehfils (gatherings where sermons are given).”
“There was a time when he was not that popular. He has become a familiar face among waz mahfil lovers with the internet and smartphones becoming more and more accessible,” he added.
Born in 1995, Rafiqul started his studies at a local primary school and later got admitted to Jamia Hussainia Malni Madrasa. After studying there for three years, he shifted to a madrasa in Gazipur. Later, in 2019, he completed his Dawra-e-Hadith degree at Jamia Madani Madrasa in Dhaka.
The orator’s namesake and former madrasa mate Rafiqul Islam told Dhaka Tribune: “I was close to Nur Hossain Kasemi, former secretary general of Hefazat-e-Islam. I also hail from Netrokona and I was the one who brought Rafiqul to the madrasa in Baridhara, which was founded by Nur Hossain Kasemi.”
Asked about the preacher’s honorarium, Rafiqul said: “It is not fixed. As far as I know, it ranges from Tk2,000 to Tk50,000. It depends on the people who invite him [to speak].”
Regarding the speaker’s Madani title, Rafiqul said: “He got his Dawra-e-Hadith degree from a Madani madrasa which is why some people call him Madani. He was recently served a legal notice to stop using the title as he was not a graduate from Islamic University of Madinah in Saudi Arabia.
“As far as I am aware, Rafiqul himself did not use the Madani title. He is better known as ‘shishu bokta’ for his height, even though he is 26 years old.”
Earlier, on March 26, police detained Rafiqul from Motijheel during a demonstration protesting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Dhaka visit, but he was released a couple of hours later.
Rafiqul, a preacher whose comments often land him in controversy, had his latest encounter with law enforcers when the Rapid Action Battalion arrested him on Wednesday for anti-state remarks. He is now in jail in a digital security case started by the elite police unit.