New Delhi, India – Prominent Indian Shia scholar, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, who advocated for Shia-Sunni unity, has died of prolonged illness, prompting an outpouring of tributes from his followers and politicians. He was 83.
Sadiq died at about 10pm local time in a private hospital in Lucknow, the capital of the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, his son told Al Jazeera.
“My father breathed his last [breath] at 10pm on Tuesday,” his son Kalbe Sibtain Noori said. “He was very unwell and his condition deteriorated over the past few days.”
Sadiq was an international Muslim scholar, reformer, educationist and preacher and also vice president of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) – a powerful NGO that oversees the personal rights of Muslims.
AIMPLB said Sadiq’s loss is a “big tragedy”. “With his demise, the country has lost a great personality, and the board has lost one of it’s main and true servants. His educational, and social services will always be remembered,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.
He was born in Lucknow to a Shia family on June 22, 1939.
Sadiq had been undergoing treatment at the Era Medical College where he was admitted on November 17. Doctors said he was suffering from colorectal cancer with severe pneumonia and urinary tract infection.
As the news of Sadiq’s death broke, condolences poured in from various people, including the chief minister of the Uttar Pradesh state, Yogi Adityanath.
Former Chief Minister of the state Akhilesh Yadav tweeted: “Extremely sad to hear that Janab Kalbe Sadiq Sb has passed away … My sincere condolences to the family and all his well wishers.”
“This is a huge loss to not only the Shia community but to humanity,” writer and historian Rana Safvi wrote on Twitter. “We are bereaved today.”
Despite his illness, Maulana [Muslim scholar] Sadiq earlier in January visited the Clock Tower in Lucknow and extended his support to the women who were peacefully protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register for Citizens (NRC). He addressed the gathering from a wheelchair.
The Shia leader advocated for religious harmony and called on Muslims to respect the Supreme Court verdict on the Babri Mosque-Ram temple case. Last year, the top court gave the land where a medieval-era mosque once stood to Hindu petitioners.
Maulana Sadiq was the founder of the Tauheedul Muslimeen Trust, which worked for the educational uplift of poor students.
“Since 1984, the organisations and trusts set up by Maulana Sadiq has helped thousands of students irrespective of their religion,” said Dr Faiz Abbas Abidi, a close associate of Maulana Sadiq.
“Every year in Lucknow he would participate in Eid-ul-Adha prayers with Sunni Muslims to promote Shia-Sunni unity and would visit even Hindu temples to promote communal harmony,” Dr Abbas said.
Worked for communal harmony
He worked tirelessly for the unity between Shia and Sunni Muslims and also between Hindus and Muslims in India amid rising sectarianism and religious polarisation.
“Maulana Sadiq worked tirelessly not only for the Shai-Sunni unity but also for Hindu-Muslim unity as well. He worked for communal harmony across the country. He made it his mission,” Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahali of the Islamic Center India told Al Jazeera. “It’s a huge loss to the Indian Muslims.”
“His contribution in the field of education is immense,” he said.
Zaheer Abbas Rizvi, senior vice president of the All India Shia Personal Law Board, said Sadiq’s death is a huge loss to the entire nation.
“His death is indeed a loss to Shias and Sunnis but to the entire nation because his mission was to educate people, minimise the differences between religions and was always trying to bridge the gap between people.
“His life was for humanity. His death is a loss not only to Shia or Muslims but to the humanity. He never spoke any controversial thing which created any differences between Hindus and Muslims or any other religious group.”