When politics and religion mixed to secular effect


These attributes came in handy for him in averting communal trouble in a highly sensitive state like Kerala, following the Babri Masjid demolition.

At a time when politicians looked up to power and position as their ultimate goal, the soft-spoken Thangal chose not to accept positions and continued as the IUML president for 34 long years.

When religion was being used to foment anti-national interests, Thangal used his wide-reaching influence as a spiritual leader to blunt voices of extremism.

There are still sections in the community which poke fun at his politics of moderation and term it as meek surrender.  However, he was in the truly Islamic sense a peacekeeper to his people in trying times. After completing his schooling in Malappuram and Kozhikode, Shihab Thangal went to Egypt and earned a doctorate in religion from Cairo’s Al Azhar University.

But his success with his religion depended mainly on the spiritual aura that goes with the “Thangal” title, of being descendants of the Prophet’s family.  Even as Thangal was busy sorting out differences in the Congress-led UDF coalition at his ancestral Kodappanakkal house, hundreds of ordinary Muslims would be waiting patiently outside to pour their woes and hear a soothing word or a pat that would bring them cheer.

Malappuram virtually came to a standstill on Sunday as tens of thousands of people “flowed” into Thangal’s  ancestral house at Panakkad and later at the Malappuram Town Hall where the body was kept for the public to pay their respects.

Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan, Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy, Union Ministers Vayalar Ravi, and Ghulam Nabi Azad were among those who visited Malappuram.

The body was buried on Sunday afternoon with state honours at the Khabaristan of the Panakkad masjid.

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