Tree Without Roots Key facts and Summary

Key Information

Writer: Syed Waliullah (1922 – 1971) 

Published: 1948 Lal Ahalu, 1967 in Translation name, Tree Without Roots

Setting:     Time setting:  1948s                 Place setting: Mohabbatnagar 

Genre: Social Satire, Novel. 

Themes: terror , anxiety, frustration , guilt , limitation, loneliness, freedom, subordination, love , shame , hatred, fear , jealousy , malice , alienation , deviation, death


” Tree Without Roots” Characters at a Glance:

1. Majid

2. Khalek is a businessman

3. Government official

4. Rahima – Majid’s 1st wife

5. Jamila – Majid’s 2nd wife

6. Hasuni’s mother – Taher Kader’s sister

7. Taher, Kader and Ratan – three brothers

8. Akkas – son of Modabber

9. Modabber – old farmer

10. Taher and Kader’s elderly father and mother

11. Amena Bibi – Khalek Bepari’s elder wife

12. Tanu Bibi – Khalek Bepari’s younger wife

13. Pir of Awalpur

14. Kulsoom – Rahima’s helper

15. Matlub Kha – President of Awalpur Union Board

16. Dhala Mia – Khalek Bepari’s younger wife’s brother


The novel Tree Without Roots was published in 1948. In this novel, Syed Waliullah criticizes those who were religious at that time through various characters. The very title of the novel reveals an idea which has no basis i.e. blind religious belief.

The main character of the novel is Majid. To fully understand the summary of the novel, it is important to know about its characters.

Majid is the central character of this novel.

Rahima and Jamila are Majid’s first and second wives respectively.

Khalek Mohammad is the chairman of the union council of the city.

Amena and Tanu are the first and second wives of Bibi Khalek Chairman. Amin Na Khalek Chairman’s wife is fine but she has no children.

Dholamia is Tanu’s elder brother.

At the same time there will be another family where an old man and his wife have four children including Taher Kader Ratan and Hasuni’s mother. Hasuni’s mother used to help Majid’s first wife Rahima in various tasks. Another important character is the Pir of Awal Pur who was rumored to stop the sun with his hand. Moreover Kulsoom and another old lady were in this novel. The novel begins in a flood-prone area of Noakhali where floods occur most of the year. There is no school-college in this area only madrassas. Most of the people in the village are religious and all wear hats. That is why it is said at one point in the novel that there are more hats than there are crops in this village.

Being a wild area, food shortages occur during floods. At that time all the murubbis wearing village hats go to rich people and loot their wealth and sometimes even kill them. Most of the turban-wearing Huzur in the village memorized the Qur’an before growing their beards and moustaches. During floods they used to leave their own areas and move to other areas and the only means of transportation was train. When the train stopped at the village railway station in the middle of the night, everyone would rush inside the train. People boarded the train in such a hurry that they did not have time to check whether all the family members of the same family had boarded the train.

Later in the context it is seen that a government official went hunting in the forest of Madhupur. He went to the forest and heard that someone was giving the Azan in a very beautiful tone in a nearby mosque. He was surprised to hear the Azaan because it was almost impossible to give the Azaan with such a beautiful melody in such a place because there were very few people there. Then he walked slowly to the mosque and asked the man what he was doing here. The man replied to him that the people here are completely ignorant of Islam and that is why he has come here to teach people about Islam.

But this was a completely fabricated statement by the man who gave the adhan. In hindsight, when he asks the government official why he is here, he replies that he does a government job in the city and has come here to confess. His ancestors lived in the village of Mohabbat Nagar. There are still some graves of his ancestors in that village. Hearing this, the man who gave the call to prayer kept the matter in his mind for a while.

In the next scene it was seen that Kader and Taher were returning home from their land when they saw a man praying at the junction of four roads in the village. They were quite surprised to see this. The village that is being talked about now has no flood problem and like ten other normal villages, this village is called Mohabbat Nagar. When Quader and Taher returned home in the evening, they found that the biggest house in the village, the chairman’s house, was in a state of commotion.

There they went and saw the man who was praying at the head of the four roads of the village shouting what he was saying among the people. Approaching they saw the man telling everyone that there is a grave of Pir of Modachche in this village and everyone in the village was ignoring the grave instead of caring for it. He asked the chairman’s father, the oldest man in the village, if he knew anything about it. When he said he did not know, everyone in the village asked him how he knew about this.

He then told everyone that the Pir of Modachch had shown him in a dream that he should come to this village to take care of his grave and teach Islam among the Muslims of the village. Then the man led all the others of the village to a grave as directed by the chairman and cleared the place to see that there was indeed a grave. Then everyone in the village cleans the grave and wraps sticks around it and puts a red cloth over it called Lalsalu.

From that day Majid gradually became an influential person in the village and continued his religious business without hesitation. He became so influential that all the village majlis and even the chairman accepted his decisions and listened to him. One of the reasons for this is that when Majid gave a judgment, he used to recite the Qur’an first and give an explanation from there. Although he does not know the correct interpretation of the Qur’an properly, but the people of the village were ignorant of it, so they could not understand anything. We will find some anecdotes in this novel. One of them is the story of Hasoni’s mother and the old man.

Hasuni’s mother used to help Rahima in everything and she used to tell Rahima that the mosque should pray for her death. When Rahima asks why, she replies that she has her old father and her mother at home. The mother lies paralyzed all day and talks back and forth to the father. Sometimes even talking about father’s masculinity makes father want to beat mother.

Seeing them makes him feel bad and he wants to die. After hearing this incident, Majid met the old man one day and told the old man that what is happening in your family is very bad.

Hearing this, the old man got angry and replied to Majid that there is no need for you to worry about whatever happens to my family. Then the old man began to wonder who could say these words of my family to Majid. After thinking, she realized that since her daughter works with Rahima, she told Rahima and Rahima told Majid. Thinking this, the old man severely beat his daughter i.e. Hasuni’s mother. After being beaten, his daughter went to Majid and told everything, then Majid called everyone in the village and sat in judgment.

Khalek Bepari i.e. village chairman was telling this to the old man and angrily asking him why he did this. Stopping everyone, Majid asked the old man that you are behaving so badly, can you say with your hands on your chest that you are innocent?

Hearing this hypocritical speech of Majid, the old man stopped because we more or less know that no one can say with his hand on his chest that we are completely innocent. Then Majeed narrated a story of Prophet Muhammad SAW and started blaming the man again. The old man sat there thinking for a while, got up and left the room for two days without eating or drinking. After two days suddenly there was a storm and Hasuni’s mother had a bad habit of shouting and shouting and calling everyone during storms. When he went to his father’s house and saw that his father was lying in the room without eating for two days, his father called him and said, “Give me a little tea, mother?”

Hearing such passionate words, the old man’s daughter teased him, and later went again and teased him some more. After the storm was over the old man left the house and went to the river and to the river he went he never came back. This was the plot of Majid and he realized that this old man had struck upon his existence which was terrible for him. So he banished the old man forever. We will see another story where the Pir of Awal Pur is mentioned. Majid was carrying on his religious business well and one day he came to know that there was a man in the neighboring village named Pir of Awal Pur who was called Dak Charidi by his very name.

People from Mohabbat Nagar used to go to the Pir of Awal Pur to draw water. Hearing this, Majid left for the Pir of Awalpur one day and he got some idea about the Pir from the Chief Murid Matlab Kha i.e. Chairman of the Pir of Awalpur. This Pir can fly in the sky and stop the sun. Majeed went there during Zohar prayer and started shouting and shouting about what is going on and what is going on. Then the people who were standing there in prayer were saying that why is he here shouting and shouting during Zohr prayer.

Majeed said that the time for Zuhr prayer had already passed. Arguing with them like this, Majeed said that it is fine, let us measure and see if there is time for Zuhr prayer. While beating, it was found that a little mine had gone during Zohr prayer and Majeed saw it and said to them that behold my words have come true. Then the worshipers there replied to him that when they started measuring, the time for prayer had been fixed. Hearing this, Majeed replied that why did you not stop the Sun if your Pir could stop it.

By this he proved the pir of Awalpur to be false and from there returned to Mohabbat Nagar. Back in the village, Masjid formed a team and sent a team led by Kalu Mia to chastise the Pir of Awalpur saying that he was preaching false religion. They could not go and say anything but came back beaten and admitted to the hospital. After going to the hospital, the doctor recognized Majeed who was the doctor’s assistant and talked to him and returned to the village. Kalu goes to Mia’s family and says that Kalu Mia is fine and the doctor who is treating her there is a murid of the mosque. By saying this he tried to show his little dominance in the village where his followers are scattered everywhere.

Here we will see another story of Khalek Bepari. Khalek Bepari’s elder wife Amena Bibi was married at the age of 13. But even after 17 years of marriage, he did not have a child, instead Tanu Bibi, the younger wife of Khalek Bepari, has a baby every year. Seeing this, Amena asked Bibi Khalek to fetch water from the Pir of Awal Pur so that she could have a baby.

Khalek Bepari gives this responsibility to Tanu Bibi’s elder brother. Her name is Dhalamia. Dhala Mia thought that to go from Mohabbat Nagar to Awalpur one has to pass a tamarind tree which is inhabited by ghosts. So instead of going there he went to Majid and told everything and said that he would give the money given to him to Majid. The mosque should not say this to the shopkeeper. Hearing this, Majid was again reminded of the threat to his existence and became dignified. Then when he met the Khalek merchant, he was surprised about Khalek when he asked about the Pir of Awal Pur. However, after a couple of words, Majid said that Amena Bibi will not have a baby because she has a woman’s vagina inside her womb.

When asked about the solution, Majeed said that in order to have a baby, Amena Bibi should fast without eating Sehri, and then recite the Qur’an throughout the day. Then you should drink the water given by the Majid and walk around the shrine. That is the work. Amena Bibi kept fasting all day and recited the Quran and started drinking water during Sehri. When he fainted after two and a half turns, Khalek Bepari thought that he had fainted because of not eating or drinking all day.

But the mosque said that was not the case. There was so much sin in his mind that he could not bear the water of Majid. Now if the adulterer does not divorce his elder wife, he himself may perish because of his sin. Under the grip of Majid, Khalek Bepari divorced his elder wife Amena Bibi. There is another legend which shows the story of the construction of the school of Akkas. Akkas is an educated boy of the village and he wants to build a school in the village. Hearing this, Majid thought that if there is a school in the village and everyone learns, then his religious business will stop very soon.

So one day he called a meeting to talk about the school and without talking about the school told everyone that Majeed wanted to build a mosque in the village. Everyone in the village responded to the message of the mosque, and when Akkas spoke about the school, Akkas’s father stopped him by scolding him. In this novel we will see a protesting character named Jamila. Jamila is Majid’s younger wife. A surprising fact is that when Majid went to marry Jamila, Jamila thought that Majid was the groom’s father and Rahima was the groom’s mother.

Jamila was a different kind of girl who spent the whole day eating and drinking and sleeping and did no work. One day, Majid left Jamila in the prayer room and went out and found Jamila asleep in the prayer room. Seeing this, he severely beat Jamila and dragged her to the hijra and tied her outside, to which Jamila spat in Majid’s face.

Then Majid kept telling everyone that it was not Jamila’s fault but the genes that filled Jamila. Then once a storm came and Majid asked Rahima to go and pick paddy and Rahima replied that if there is no life then what is the point of picking paddy. Then Rahima went outside and saw Jamila lying like that against the tree.

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

Articles: 233

Leave a Reply