Shaikh Sayyid Muhammad Bukhari Tangal

August 18, 2013

The pole of the age [qutbu-z zaman] and possessor of charismatic exploits [sahibu-l karamatShaikh Sayyid Muḥammad Bukhārī Tangal was born in 1144 A.H. in Andrott (Androth) Island, part of present-day Lakshadweep archipelago, off the south-western coast of India. He is a scion of the Prophetic household [Sayyid] whose forefathers hailed from central Asia.

His Name

“Tangal” is a honorific bestowed upon descendants of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) in the southern state of Kerala in India. As for the family name “Bukhari”, there are two variations to its origin: (a) it indicates the affiliation to the place of origin of his ascendants, Bukhara, in present day Uzbekistan, (b) it relates to an incident involving his forefather, Sayyid Maḥmūd, who was confronted by a Rafidi ruler of a city near Khorasan in central Asia.

The ruler declared to Sayyid Maḥmūd, “If you are ahlu-l bayt as you claim, then fire will not harm you!” Saying this, he was put into a furnace. A kind of bukhār or smoke then emanated with the sweet scent of bukhūr or frankincense. He then emerged from the kiln unscathed, with neither his clothing nor skin burnt. It is said that by virtue of this miracle, he was anointed with the epithet “Bukhari”, which continues to honour his descendants to this day.

His Family Life

He was married to four women at various junctures of his life. Through two of them, he was blessed with four daughters. He did not have any male offspring.

His Notable Deputies

Luminous amongst his deputies and disciples is Shaikh ‘Umar al-Qahiri (d. 1216 A.H.), who is his foremost spiritual inheritor (see next chapter). Other notables include Shaikh ‘Abdu-l Qādir of Malacca (d. circa 1238 A.H.), and Sultan Hyder ‘Ali of Mysore (d. 1197 A.H.).

Shaikh ‘Abdu-l Qādir was the maternal grandfather of Imām al-‘Arūs Sayyid Muhammad ibn Ahmad Lebbai. He was a missionary in the East Indies and frequented the areas around the Straits of Malacca. He is buried in the city of Malacca and his tomb is in an area called Kampung Kling. He is renowned as Malacca Shaikh. (Note: there is a possibility that Shaikh Abdul Qadir is the same as Munshi ‘Abdullah’s father, Abdul Kadir. Further research needs to be undertaken.)

Sultan Hyder ‘Ali was a distinguished military statesman and the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in Southern India. His reign was marked by a revival of Islam in the Malabar region, and the Muslim rulers of Cannanore were some of his staunchest allies. It was in this climate that he became a devoted disciple of Bukhārī Tangal. It is said that the “Sultan” Hyder ‘Ali, with all the weapons and warfare at his disposal, was conquered by the “Sufi” Bukhārī Tangal with his spiritual supremacy.

His Rank

Once, a group of people who did not fully grasp the rank and virtue of Bukhārī Tangal, came to lodge a complaint against him about his peculiar ways to his elder brother, Sayyid Ibrāhīm, who was a scholar and saint himself. Sayyid Ibrāhīm sent a group of people to investigate the allegations.

After a lapse of time, when the delegation did not return, Sayyid Ibrāhīm went in search of them. He found them at a place lying paralysed. He raised them up with his blessed hands and cured them of their paralysis.

On being queried what had happened, the deputation said that they had met with Bukhārī Tangal, who told them: “Please wait here,” and left. Subsequently, they could not move their limbs. It then dawned upon them that they had made a mistake in doubting his rank and casting aspersions on his virtue.

His Encounter in Madina

After performing Hajj, he undertook the visitation to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). The Sharif of Madina, not convinced of Bukhārī Tangal’s Sayyid credentials, became uncomfortable with his presence and made a public declaration of his feelings.

After a confrontation, it was decided that both of them will go to the Holy Sepulchre, convey their greetings to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and await a reply. It was agreed that whosoever’s greeting was replied to, shall be deemed a Sayyid.

As it befits propriety, the Sharif was first to give salam. No reply came forth. After a short while, Bukhārī Tangal conveyed his salam. A reply was heard in the burial chamber. The Sharif was stunned and became saddened.

Bukhārī Tangal then told the Sharif: “Now greet the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). And you will get a reply.” The Sharif did as told and, to his pleasant surprise, received a reply from the blessed resting abode.

Bukhārī Tangal then said: “When you gave your first salam, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was praying. Hence, you did not receive a reply. Which was why I delayed till he (Allah bless him and give him peace) had completed his prayer before conveying my salam, and a reply came forth. Then you greeted again, and you too received a reply.”

The Sharif was speechless, acknowledged his imprudence with Bukhārī Tangal, and proceeded to honour his esteemed kin.

His Preaching to non-Muslims

He instituted a large mosque in the city of Cochi in Kerala. During its construction phase, he delivered religious discourse in the evening which were well attended by Muslims, as well as Christians, Jews and others.

Once, a Jewish leader named Sansur, together with his people, came to one of Bukhārī Tangal’s sermon with the thought: “If he is indeed a man of God, then he shall preach about (Prophet) Moses in his assembly tonight.”

On that particular evening, Bukhārī Tangal was talking about the prayer, when he abruptly changed track and began talking about Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) in detail. The congregation were bewildered and Sansur was stunned.

Thereafter, Sansur offered two precious stones to Bukhārī Tangal as a gift, which he politely refused. Instead, Bukhārī Tangal requested for a teak tree for the construction of the cross beam of the mosque. It is said that Sansur duly obliged.

His Instructing of the Jinn

He is said to have imparted religious instruction to Jinn, who came in droves to seek his blessing and association. It is further said that he conversed many times with Jinn that came in the form of snakes.

His State of Ecstasy

He was regularly in a state of being emancipated by the love of Allah. During such poignant moments, many have witnessed him with his limbs scattered all over.

His Miracles

Countless are the prodigies [karāmāt] that Allah revealed at his hands. Some of these include walking on the sea, making a woman into a man, raising the dead – all by the permission of Allah, Glorified is He and sanctified be His Names!

His Passing and Enduring Miracle

He passed away on Monday 3 Shawwal 1207 A.H. at the age of 63 and was laid to rest next to the  Cannore (Kannur) Main [jāmi’a] Mosque in Kerala, India. A mausoleum was subsequently raised. Imam al-‘Arus Sayyid Muḥammad b. Aḥmad Lebbai has composed a panegyric on him entitled: “minhatu-l bari fi midhati-l Bukhari”.

His resting abode is an important pious visitation [ziyara] point in South India and manifests an enduring miracle – the soil of his grave emanates an unexplainable, lingering sweet scent to this day. It is perhaps a testimony to the legacy of his blessed forefather, Sayyid Maḥmūd, who was anointed with the title: “Bukhari”.

May Allah be well pleased with Bukhari Tangal, and may He forgive and bless us for his sake.


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