Mujeeb Jaihoon’s eulogy for late Shaykh Mohiyuddin Musliyar Athipatta (1936-2018), the under-explored goldmine of modern Muslim Kerala.
A Mega Maestro of Ruthless Self-Appraisal
Modern Muslim Kerala is known for their loquacious firebrand critics. It would be extremely difficult to find a public figure who would be free from hostile accusations by the Other. Shaykh Mohiyuddin Musliyar Athipatta, or better known as Athipatta Ustad, too, was wounded with the blame-fingers: not from others, but himself. Self-criticism was his tool for the spiritual aura he enjoyed till his death. He was a master of incredible introspection— of his self and those die-hard disciples, who gathered around him to collect gems of spiritual import.
Born in 1936 to a scholarly family, Sheikh Mohiyuddin received spiritual training from a prominent saint of the Naqshabandi Sufi Order. Interestingly, when he asked permission for performing the Hajj pilgrimage, he was told to do it after the demise of his teacher. Sheikh Mohiyuddin chose to utilize the pilgrimage for further learning in religious disciplines than to be fully engrossed in devotional ecstasy. He also happened to meet with the Syria-based Shaykh Abdul Qadir Isa al Halabi, a world class Sufi mentor of the Shadhilli order. Later, Shaykh Mohiyuddin was appointed the Khalifa, or representative, of this Order and he soon gained acceptance among South Asian disciples, particularly in Kerala and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Historically, the Shadhulli Order, founded by Abul Hasan Ali ash-Shadhili of Morocco, has significantly contributed to the literary and spiritual legacy of Islam. Ibn Ata Allah, renowned author of Hikam, Ahmad Zarruq, well-known writer of several treatises, Muhammad al-jazuli, of the evergreen spiritual text – Dalailul Khairat, and the most popular Imam Al Busiri, author of the eternal testament of Prophetic Love, Burdah— were all subscribers of this Sufi Tariqa.
Shaykh Mohiyuddin was a resident of Al Ain, a green suburb of UAE, for nearly three decades, after which he migrated back to his home village in Kerala and continued his spiritual struggle. He has traveled extensively to other lands of Islamic spirituality, including Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Palestine.
Education First. Education Last
Shaykh Mohiyuddin was an unapologetic educationist, be it of the religious or secular realm. Though a deeply spiritual personality, he had no time or taste in exploiting his spiritual aura for personal or factional interests. Instead, he devoted his spiritual influence to promote education of boys and girls, which he believed, was a prerequisite for the spiritual health of the Community. He headed the Darul Huda School, a co-ed secondary educational institution, during his stay in Al Ain. In Kerala, he chaired the Grace Valley Public School, located near the historic Kadampuzha Temple in Malappuram district.
Resurrecting the Soul of Prophetic Sunna
There is nothing called coincidence in the Glorious God’s perdurable plan. He was Mohyuddin, or the reviver of the Creed, both in name and action. Tales of Prophetic love by saints of yore seemed unbelievable until I sat in the presence of Ustad Athipatta. He had only one mission: revive the practices of the Beloved of God. It was the only matter he spoke profusely about. Though he used to voraciously read newspapers, he never unnecessarily commented on current affairs, a trait uncommon among the political high-voltage of conventional Keralites.
Even during his critical cancer treatment days, the radiologists who supervised Shaykh Mohiyuddin were overwhelmed by his unyielding resolve to emulate and imitate the practices of Holy Prophet to highest human precision possible. He translated to action the maxim that Sufism is nothing but the superimposing of Sunna in the most subtle matters of human existence.
The Spiritual Democrat
He freely shared his love and affection to whomever he met, irrespective of their little age or inferior rank. Once during a dinner event in Al Ain, I happened to be sitting around his table. I offered him water to drink, which he initially refused. When I insisted, he drank few sips. I was later told that he was advised by the doctors to reduce the intake of water in his post surgery days. He only had those sips to appease my eager hospitality.
On another occasion, while we were having lunch together along with my father and brother, he began to pick bits and pieces of food from the sheet on the ground. He affectionately invited his grandsons to join him in ‘pecking’ the food particles. Notwithstanding his spiritual fame and command among countless devotees, children remained his constant companions to whom he was most kind.
My most memorable moment with him was during the occasion when I spent the Lailathul Qadr, popularly attributed to the 27night of Ramadan, along with him at his zawiya, or spiritual lodge, in Kerala. In the dimly-lit devotional night, his admonitions struck thunder of fear and lightning of hope in the believers. Finally, just before the Dawn prayer, angelic glowworms arrived from nowhere to console our eager hearts. The fairytales I heard as a child were no match with this spiritual fiesta.
In my last meet, he placed my hand under his— in the traditional pledge of alliance style— as he recited Chapter Fatiha in his unalloyed sincerity. He gifted me with a booklet of compilation of Shadhilli prayers.
The Fathahul Fathah Centre, founded by Shaykh Mohiyuddin
I believe Malayalees, despite their hyper religious zeal, failed to fully exploit the full potential of Shaykh Mohiyuddin while he was alive. With his demise, the partisan-torn Community has missed another titan of spiritual radiance, who could be justly called ‘Kerala’s Own Abdul Qadr Jilani’, the spiritual master of medieval Baghdad.
The creed of Islam does not openly grant its believers the freedom to declare who will definitely enter the eternal paradise. But we are forced to ask— if Shaykh Mohiyuddin won’t, what are our chances? Alternatively, are we aspiring for the same paradise where he would enter?
May Allah enroll him and his admirers among the inmates of Paradise.
Posted Dec 19 2018