A prominent leader and spiritual figure in India’s southern Kerala state died on Sunday after a long illness.
Panakkad Sayed Hyderali Shihab Thangal was the chairman of the Indian Union Muslim League, the second largest ally of the Congress-led United Democratic Front in the state. He was 74.
Mr Thangal was having treatment for cancer at a private hospital in Ernakulam.
Last week, his condition deteriorated and he was put on a ventilator but his body had stopped responding to medicines, his office told local media.
Mr Thangal was widely respected by the people — with his popularity cutting across religions — for his strict political stances and secular credentials.
Politicians and leaders from various parties, including Keralan Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, mourned his death.
“He always stood for communal harmony … His approach emphasised secular ideals, and despite political differences, he maintained cordial personal relations,” Mr Vijayan said.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi expressed his condolences and called Mr Thangal a “strong secular voice“.
“He was a strong secular voice of the UDF, supporting brotherhood, respect and progress for all,” Mr Gandhi said.
Mr Thangal belonged to the Panakkad Thangal family, which is said to have its lineage linked to the Prophet Mohammed, and is traditionally considered a source of religious and political leadership by a large section of state’s Muslim community.
His death brought the city of Malappuram to a standstill as followers thronged to pay their final respects.
Mr Thangal started his career as a qazi in Malappuram and became the president of the Indian Union Muslim League in 2009. Before that, he served as the league's Malappuram district president for 18 years.
The suave politician also headed several religious establishments and orphanages in Kerala.
Mr Thangal was very welcoming to people, keeping the doors of his house open for hundreds of his followers who reached his residence every morning seeking solutions to their concerns and problems.
The IUML was founded in 1948 in Madras in Tamil Nadu after partition by the Indian members of All India Muslim League to advance the interests of Muslims. Over the years, it gained a strong foothold in Kerala.