TRIBUTES have been paid to a Southampton grandfather described as a pillar of his community.
Hundreds of people travelled from across the country to pay their respects to Haji Abdul Hannan Khan, who died this week.
The respected Abu Bakr Jamia Masjid elder, known to most as Babar Lala, was laid to rest in the city’s Hollybrook Cemetery after a service at the mosque he helped to build four decades ago.
When the 86-year-old from Portswood arrived in Southampton from Pakhtun, in Pakistan, in the 1960s, the city had no mosques and the growing Muslim community was forced to worship in churches and at markets.
He organised a team of people, sourced materials and helped build the city’s biggest and second oldest mosque.
Today, around 1,000 people of all nationalities pray at the building every week, and even more come for celebrations such as Eid.
The father-of-11 continued his strong involvement with the Argyle Road mosque and continued to attend Friday prayers until just two weeks ago.
Since his death at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth, on Wednesday, where he was being treated for kidney failure, people have come from across the UK to attend memorial services and support his wife.
Mosque secretary Mohammed Khanjee said: “It’s because of him that we have this mosque and we no longer have to pray in churches and markets.
“He would help everyone from every faith. He was a strong believer and practising Muslim, and now one of his sons is in the mosque committee.
“He was very helpful. He was right in the middle of the community and if anything needed doing he would be the first to volunteer.
“He will be missed by hundreds of people.”