Rafiqul Islam was born on July 16, 1950 at Rajbari Compound in Comilla city, Bangladesh to Late Janab Abdul Ghani and Mrs. Karimun Nessa. His father was related to the law profession and mother was a home maker. He was the eigth child amongst the ten siblings. After studying in the local primary school and secondary level in Comilla Zilla School he got his admission in the Comilla Victoria College in 1967. He passed his Intermediate in Commerce (I.Com) in 1969 from the same college. During the 1970 college year he was elected as the literary secretary of the Students Union of Victoria College.
When the Bangladesh liberation war broke out in 1971 he went to Dehra Dun in India for training and there after joined the Mujib Bahini as a Freedom fighter. He lost his younger brother Saiful Islam Shafu in the war who was in the same company as he was and which was commanded by Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni.
After the war, he finished his graduation from Victoria College and completed his Masters(M.Com) in Marketing from Dhaka University. After completing his Master she went to Germany for livelihood and stayed there for about 5 years. He then went to Malaysia and tried his hand in business. Mean while he got married to Dilras Buli Islam on January 27, 1980. Rafiqul joined an NGO named 'Proshika' in Bangladesh and worked there as a development officer for eight years. After that he migrated to Vancouver, Canada in late 1995 with his wife and two sons Jyoti and Joyonto.
From his then residence at 113-9071 Richmond; Greater Vancouver he wrote a letter to Mr. Kofi Anan, the then Secretary General of the UN on Jan 09, 1998. In that letter he argued and appealed that many languages of this world have become extinct, many are on the vergeof extinction and hence it is imperative that a day be declared as 'International Mother Language Day' to celebrate and protect ALL the mother languages of the world. He additionally proposed that Feb 21st would be the appropriate day for this as the Bangali people had in 1952 on this day successfully defended their mother language Bangla which was under threat by paying the ultimate sacrifice.
Based on the reply from UN hed is cussed his concept with another friend of his Abdus Salam. With his friend Abdus Salam, Rafiqul set up an organization called 'The Mother Language Lovers of the World' and they both started to work jointly to realise the dream of Rafiqul Islam. There were a total of ten language speaking people havings even different languages who were later on brought in as members besides the mother language Bangla belonging to Rafiqul Islam and Abdus Salam.
All these members were the signatories on the petition to UN and UNESCO in 1999 to declare Feb 21st as International Mother Language Day. Rafiqul Islam constantly kept in touch with the Bangladeshi UNESCO officials and the Education ministry over telephone during that time. He also contacted the UNESCO Paris office for updates and information. Due to the timely and decisive action of the then Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, diplomatic endeavour of Bangladesh's Paris embassy and the tire less effort of the Bangladeshi delegation to Paris and above all the support of 28 other countries to adopt Bangladesh's proposal and co propose it as their own propelled the declaration of the historical declaration of Nov 17, 1999. This was the day International Mother Language Day was declared by UNESCO at the 152 plenary session of the 30th General Conference in Paris.
Rafiqul Islam worked in Vancouver in the health sector. He passed away due to Blood cancer on Nov 20, 2013 at Vancouver General Hospital and is buried in Chilliwack with full state honour from Bangladesh deserving of all freedom fighters.
He was the Founder President of 'The Mother Language Lovers of the World' Vancouver and up until his death held this position. He was an ex-president of the Bongobondhu Porishod of BC and after ward she also acted as an advisor of the Bongobondhu Porishod BC. He was awarded the highest civilian award 'Swadhinota Podok' in 2016 post humously by the Government of Bangladesh for his pioneering contribution in the declaration of IMLD. His wife Buli Islam received it on his behalf in March 24, 2016 from the Prime Minister of Bangladesh at Dhaka. Before this he received honorary recognition from the Government of Bangladesh, signed by the then Prime Minister in 2000. The prestigious 'Ekushe Podok' was also conferred to the organization 'Mother Language Lovers of the World' in 2001 by the Government of Bangladesh. He left behind his wife and two sons who live in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.