by Dr MK Muneer, Minister for Social Affairs, Kerala

There are some faces which Time cannot erase from our memories. They remain the brightest torchlight in many personal lives even as they continue to be the community’s legendary icons.

I grew up watching my father CH’s political and social life. He had always fascinated me with his courage to manage justice and love with equal sincerity. There was a pure and deep Lamp behind his stance which was none other than the luminous Sayyid Abdur Rahman Bafaqih. My father’s public life emerged from the vicinity of that magnificent light.

Sayyid Bafaqih entered my father’s life when he enrolled the young boy at a school in Koyilandi after winning the scholarship in his studies. But my father did not have a place to stay there. He had to cross the river in order to reach home. It was not easy to come and go every day. However even before the student made the request, the mentor arranged for his stay at a Mammu Haji’s residence close to school. From then on my father remained under the shade of the Sayyid.

Realizing the extraordinary oratory skill of the young CH, Sayyid Bafaqih would often shorten his own speech on the stages to favor his student for longer speeches. It was his habit to speak briefly but clearly and cautiosuly. Perhaps due to his philosophy of Less speech and more action.

He would himself introduce the young boy to the audience. He continued this practice for several years. The Sayyid fully enjoyed the young Koya’s electrifying speech in colloquial Malayalam which left the audience spell-bound. He had seen in the young boy a great leader of tomorrow. He also gave the young firebrand orator the title of ‘Gunfire Koya’ (Vedipottikoya).

CH Mohammed Koya

Their relationship grew strong untouched by time or power politics. My father climbed one step after other in positions. He became a popular minister. He was a regular visitor at our home in Trivandrum. It was his habit to always bring some gifts for the children when he visited us. Once he presented my elder sister with a eight string watch. Within a short time one of them went missing. He cheered her up by saying someone had robbed it and consoled at least seven remained on the watch.

We children did not realize the greatness of that celebrated leader who visited us often. But I was baffled when I saw the scene of the mammoth rally rejoicing the Sayyid’s nomination as the National president of Muslim League. There was a sea of people behind his vehicle who proclaimed their love and loyalty to his leadership. Only then did I come to know the true greatness of our guest.

It was Truth which Sayyid Bafaqih applied in his life and to remain by its side at all times. He would not tolerate any act from anyone which compromised his honesty.

His parting was in a blessed fashion. He breathed his last as he stood in prayer at Makkah only to be buried at Jannathul Mualla (beside his great grandmother Khadija).

His death meant a loss for both Kerala and the Party. Many internal differences arose within the Party after his demise. During his lifetime he was capable of conquering any dissent with love and unparalleled leadership. It is worth mentioning that the present UDF coalition of right-wing parties were a product of the meeting between Indira Gandhi and K Karunakaran, along with Sayyid Bafaqih. He respected the word Unity in all respects. Only few can lead a truly secular life while remaining actively in politics. Sayyid Bafaqih could. I was fortunate to realize and experience the spirituality and humanity of that wonderful man, which later proved beneficial in my life.

The light from the lives of luminaries such as Sayyid Bafaqih helps us to outlive crisis and trials in the journey of life. Some gift us even without our knowledge. It is those gifts which turn to be the invaluable wealth of our life.

(originally Malayalam article published in Chandrika Daily on Jan 19 2016. The translations contains minor changes)

Note: Sayyid AbdurRahman Bafaqih, fondly called as Bafaqi Thangal (19 February 1906 – 19 January 1973) belonged to the Bafaqih branch of the Ahl Bait, the descendants of Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) who migrated to Kerala from Yemen. A founding member of Indian Union Muslim League, Bafaqi was also revered as a spiritual and scholarly icon.

CH Mohammed Koya (15 July 1927 – 28 September 1983), his political student, became the Chief Minister of Kerala in 1979 and is credited for founding the University of Calicut which immensely benefited the educationally backward Malabar region, majority of whom are Muslims.