Malappuram: Thousands of people from different walks of life thronged the Malappuram Town Hall on unday to pay their tributes to Panakkad Syed Mohammedali Shihab Thangal, the spiritual leader of a major section of Kerala Muslims and the unquestioned leader of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), who passed away Saturday night.
Thangal died following cardiac arrest at a private hospital near Malappuram. He was 73.
The funeral was held at Panakkad Juma Masjid on Sunday afternoon with state honours.
He is survived by his second wife Ayesha Beevi, two sons and three daughters. Thangal married Ayesha Beevi in 2006 after the passing away of his first wife Shareefa Fatima Beevi.
Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthananadan, Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and other senior ministers paid tributes to the departed leader at the Town Hall. Among union ministers to pay tributes were Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi and Minister of State for Railways E. Ahamed.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, too, has condoled the passing away of Thangal.
"I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing away of Panakkad Sayyid Muhammad Ali Shihab Thangal. He was one of Kerala's most prominent leaders and led the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) for many decades with great distinction. He was a nationalist who cherished secular values; and a social worker and a powerful orator."
Manmohan Singh described Thangal as a leader "who championed the propagation and importance of education. He had the strong following of his community but framed his politics in terms of larger national issues and aspirations."
Thangal always resisted pressures to take up plum postings in Muslim countries that had good relations with India and also preferred to keep away from the corridors of power.
For several decades he had been the fulcrum on which the IUML, the second most powerful ally of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala, stood steady.
Thangal, born May 4, 1936, was the eldest son of Panakkad Pookoya Thangal. The Thangal family claims to be descendents of the Prophet Mohammad.
After his schooling in Calicut, he went for higher studies on Islam in Tirur. In 1958, he went to Egypt for further studies and obtained a higher degree from Al Azhar University in 1961.
He continued his studies in Cairo University and pursued a doctorate in Arabic literature in 1966.
On the death of his father in 1975, he took over as president of the Kerala state committee of IUML, a post he held till his death.
After the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, Thangal made a passionate plea to all the Muslims in the state to remain calm.
Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan lauded the role played by Thangal in preserving social harmony in the state.
Bharatiya Janata Party state president P.K. Krishnadas said Thangal's contribution in preventing the spread of terrorism in the state would be remembered for long.
State Congress president Ramesh Chennithala said the state had lost a spokesperson of secular values.
Malappuram district, which has the highest concentration of the Muslim population in the state, owes much of its development to the visionary in Thangal. He was behind the proposal to start another campus of Aligarh Muslim University in Kerala.