Syed Hyder Ali Shihab Thangal

Abdul Raheem Abdullah Hussein Al Khouri, the prominent Emirati businessman who praised Keralites for their nobility and loved them as his own brethren is no more.

Keralites have had centuries-old relationship with Arabs and Arab countries. Arabs became part of Kerala as traders, religious propagators and also by marital relations. As time progressed, the Arab countries turned out to be a major source of livelihood for the Keralites.

The generosity of Arabs has certainly caused a great impact on the economy of Kerala. However Abdul Raheem Khouri would be an outstanding figure in this regard for the Keralites in general and Kodepenekkal House in particular.

The demise of our beloved Syed Shihab, whom the common man greatly admired, left a great pain for many days on Al Khouri. In days following Syed’s demise,the very sight of Keralite’s face would move him into tears.

The relation between him and Syed Shihab is quarter century old. He heard about Syed Shihab from among his Keralite employees. Al Khouri was attracted by the deep knowledge Syed Shihab had gained from Egypt especially in the field of Arabic poetry. A friendship that began because of their mutual interest in poetry later resulted in an intimate relation between the two souls. Whenever Syed Shihab used to visit Abu Dhabi Al Khouri ensured his presence at the airport for welcoming his dear friend.

Al Khouri has also visited Kerala several times merely for meeting Syed Shihab and the latter would go to airport to welcome him, ignoring his poor health conditions. Al Khouri used to say ‘Our friendship is spiritual’ about his relation with my brother. They used to discuss mostly about profound religious issues and about the needy people in the society. Those discussions have resulted in the relief of many needy ones in our society.

When people from different parts of the state came to Syed Shihab for their needs of building mosques etc; he used to call on Al Khouri. Many a times Al Khouri himself would call and ask ‘Is there any body in need of our help?’ In this manner many mosques have been legally built in Kerala.

Many ladies who belonged to the deprived class got married with the benevolent contributions of this generous man. In the year 2008, 17 of them and this year another 12 also had the blessing to tie the knot. And several other individual cases besides these. It was his compulsion that Syed Shihab must preside over all the philanthropic activities patronized by him. The keys of the houses built for the poor must be handed over by his hands, the medical funds must be distributed by him and all other projects. And this year he compelled this author to preside over the mass Community Wedding. He was glad to know that among them there were also woman from other religions.

When Syed Shihab arrived from America after a major surgery and was bereaved by the death of his beloved wife Shareefa bivi, Al Khouri flew all the way from Emirates to Kerala to console his dear friend. But when in 2009 August, Syed Shihab passed away Al Khouri was deeply affected and he couldn’t come to Kerala. He said repeatedly to the media ‘I’m not coming there anymore. I can’t see that chair without him anymore’. He spent the following days of his friend’s demise in prayers and giving charities in his name. He provided Iftar for around 60,000 people in the month of Ramadan for two years, Mushasfs (copies of Holy Quran) to different parts of the world were sent, Ambulance services for the needy and many other charity activities were carried out ) in the name of his beloved Syed.

He had the same love and affection to Syed Shihab’s sons and brothers. The loss of Al Khouri is a loss of a great man of love, a relief for the poor and also a reliance of many. May Almighty forgive him and have mercy on him.

Translated by Abdul Haseeb