The narrow streets around Delhi’s Jama Masjid was milling with people on Wednesday evening.
Thousands turned up in droves to bid a final goodbye to Syed Abdullah Bukhari, the 12th Shahi Imam of the Capital’s Jama Masjid.
He had survived the Partition, 18-month-long Emergency from 1975 till 1977 and the numerous alleged attempts on his life.
On Wednesday, he succumbed to prolonged illness at the age of 87 years. He passed away at 9 am.
The father of Jama Masjid's present Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari, he was one of the most prominent religious figures since Independence.
He had been ill for some weeks. “He had been suffering for more than two months. His deteriorating health did not allow him to even go for evening walks in his garden or meet visitors,” said Irfan Khan (22), a resident of Chawri Bazar.
A distant relative of the Bukhari family who did not wish to be named said: “It was as if some supernatural power had alerted him of the fact that the end was near. He had selected a grave for himself near the entrance to his house. Except for the last few weeks, he regularly read or write there every morning and evening after the prayer.”
Mourners from all over India and from neighbouring countries came.
For many, it was like losing the eldest member in the family. “He was close to everyone. No matter how poor or rich, he was accessible to all. With his death, many homes have lost their eldest member,” said Adil Malik (20), a property dealer from Chandni Chowk.
Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, state minister Haroon Yousuf and former Union minister Buta Singh among others came to pay their last respect.