A tribute to Pir Alauddin Siddiqui
Thursday, April 30th, 2020
On the third of February 2017, the Sufi scholar and spiritual guide Pir Muhammad Alauddin Siddiqui departed this world following a short illness. He left behind a huge wealth of spiritual teachings, educational institutes and charitable organisations. Softly-spoken, highly educated, humble and always inspirational, Pir Muhammad Alauddin Siddiqui has been deeply missed by Muslims in the United Kingdom. As one of the most senior spiritual guides serving the British Pakistani community since the sixties, his impact has been considerable. He was recently included in the list of The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims.
Shaykh Muhammad Alauddin Siddiqui was born on the first of January 1938 in Kashmir. His father was an esteemed scholar in his own right, Khwaja Pir Ghulam Mohiuddin Ghaznavi (may Allah bless him). He played an instrumental role in his early education in Nerian Sharif, Kashmir. Shaykh Muhammad Alauddin Siddiqui then travelled extensively to further his education. He was taught by scholars such as Allama Abd al-Ghafur Hazarvi and Muhaddith Azam Allama Sardar Ahmad (Faisalabad), as well as countless other shaykhs, muftis and Sufi masters.
In his early days as an Imam and preacher, Shaykh Alauddin Siddiqui showed promising signs of vigour, passion and insight. He quickly gained a reputation as a skilled orator and a kind, approachable Imam. Importantly, these things were cemented by two qualities: a rigid academic backbone and a tender Sufi heart. In short, he was an excellent reflection of his father’s personality.
Shaykh Alauddin Siddiqui was thirty-eight years old when his father passed away. As a result, he became the spiritual heir of his father in the Naqshbandi Tariqa. He also inherited his father’s love for Islamic education and love for serving humanity, two things that played a pivotal role for the rest of his own life.
It was in the late sixties that Shaykh Alauddin Siddiqui first visited the United Kingdom. During his early visits, he was impressed with how Muslims had settled into their new home. He actively encouraged the construction of mosques throughout the country, in particular in London, Birmingham & Peterborough. His ever-increasing disciples and supporters began laying the foundations of Sufi Islam in the United Kingdom. The flagship centre was Aston Park Mosque (Birmingham), which became his base and where he also led Friday prayers.
The advent of Islamic TV channels meant that Muslims could now learn about their religion from the comforts of their own homes. Shaykh Alauddin Siddiqui launched an appeal, asking Muslims to support him in creating a channel that could provide a sound and accurate depiction of Islam. In 2006, he launched Noor TV, a satellite TV channel dedicated to promoting Sufism. He invited Islamic scholars of all backgrounds to preach Islam on this platform. He himself taught the Dars Mathnavi on the channel in what became memorable lessons.
The success of Noor TV is perhaps small in comparison to the large network of educational institutes, seminaries, universities and centres that Shaykh Alauddin Siddiqui established during his lifetime. The most prominent is Mohiuddin Islamic University situated in the picturesque settings of Kashmir. This complex educates and houses thousands of students from all over the world. The site also hosts a medical college and a hospital.
Shaykh Alauddin Siddiqui’s adherence to Sufism was apparent in everything he did. In a country void of spirituality, he was an early pioneer of Zikr gatherings. He was one of the first to begin public Mawlid processions (Julus) through the streets of Birmingham, as early as the 1960s. The arrangement for daily non-stop food (Langhar) for all at Jamia Masjid (Birmingham) continues to this day. Importantly, he supplemented this with the more intimate and human aspects of Tasawwuf. For instance, he offered constant advice and counseling to individuals and families at all hours of the day. He promoted an understanding to bridge the generational gap between today’s youth and parents. From this care rose several educational institutions, from Dars-e-Nizami classes in Birmingham to the Mohiuddin Girls College in Burnley. His Sufism was certainly evident in his relationship with fellow Shaykhs and scholars; he treated all with respect and always applauded their endeavours.
Shaykh Muhammad Alauddin Siddiqui met his Lord on Friday the third of February 2017. The following day, an estimated twenty thousand Muslims attended his Salah al-Janaza in one of the biggest funerals ever held in Birmingham. His body was then flown to Pakistan for the burial.
My only real encounter with Shaykh Alauddin Siddiqui was in Cairo. He had come for two purposes. Firstly, to visit his son Sultan al-Arifin, who was my class-fellow in my final year at al-Azhar University. Sultan al-Arifin was a privilege to be with, a gentleman with jaw-dropping intelligence, unparalleled warmth and utmost humility, qualities he obviously inherited from his father. The other reason Shaykh Alauddin Siddiqui came to Cairo was to purchase books for Mohiuddin Islamic University. He bought so many books that it had to be transported back in a trailer on a cargo ship.
I can still remember everything about that wonderful encounter. The tender tone of his voice, the grandeur of his presence, his radiant smile and his microscopic attention to the Sunna in appearance and conduct; all have never left my mind after all this time even though this was over twenty years ago.