A man who led Preston’s first purpose built mosque for two decades has died aged 70.Advertisement
Family, friends and community leaders have paid tribute to Zulfiqar Ahmed.
Known affectionately as Uncle Zulfiqar and Sadar Saab he was well-known and widely respected in the city, and Lancashire’s, community.
Mr Ahmed served as President of Raza Mosque in St Paul’s Road, Deepdale, for 20 years.
Hundreds of people turned out for the funeral service, at Pleasington Cemetery in Blackburn, to pay tribute to Mr Ahmed following his death on Monday 9 April.
Born in Jhelum, Pakistan, in September 1947, he came to the UK at the age of 14 and lived most of his life in Deepdale.
He started his working life at Courtaulds at Red Scar and then became a bus driver for the remainder of his career.
Read more: Special events to help Courtaulds workers re-connect
His family say his ‘loving bubbly character’ meant he was well-known on the buses and he won numerous awards for his attendance record and punctuality.
Outside of work he spent two decades working in the city’s community, attending functions, helping put on events and ensuring Preston’s Muslim community is one of the most well-integrated in the North West.
A statement from Mr Ahmed’s family said: “It was beautiful to see different communities coming together to attend our fathers funeral and support us in this difficult time.
“It was a comfort to the family to listen to everyone’s personal experiences with our father in regards to his character and the support he provided people in their time of need. As a result he touched a lot of hearts in the community and therefore the whole community is in grief and still in shock.
“He was a lovable father and he was a caring friend to all of us but we know he also gave his all to other people too as the recurring statements that we heard from people was that our father was ‘irreplaceable’, ‘one in a million’, ‘he always made us laugh and left us with a smile on our face’, ‘he has left a big void in the community that can’t be filled’.‘A father figure who was selfless.”
Chairman of the Raza mosque and friend of 38 years Mohammed Shafait Khan said: “He was a dear friend who touched the hearts of many people. A man of honour, respect and beautiful character. Zulfiqar was a committed family man. He showed great devotion and passion to the up keep of the mosque.
“I will dearly miss his sense of humour, smile, and words of inspiration. The passing of Zulfiqar has left a deep void in my heart, however his legacy will remain with us. May God have mercy on his soul.”
Preston MP Sir Mark Hendrick said: “I had known Zulfiqar for many years since I became a Member of Parliament for Preston. He was always warm, caring and extremely passionate about helping the people in his community, often asking me for my assistance on behalf of other people.
“Zulfiqar was a community leader in the truest sense; he was very proactive and practical in leading his community on matters that affected them and also encouraged the younger generation to take more of an active role in community issues. I had and still have a huge amount of respect for him and I was very sad to hear of his passing. It is certainly a great loss to the local community in Preston and my deepest condolences to all family members and friends.”
Mr Ahmed also worked closely with Lancashire Police and police link worker Nagina Ali paid tribute saying: “For me uncle Zulfiqar was the true ambassador for the Pakistani community in Preston.
“I remember the first day I met uncle at the Community Centre, he made feel so welcome and said “I am always here for you”.
“Whenever he invited Zahid for any sessions he made sure that I also had the opportunity to attend the women’s sessions.
“He truly believed in diversity and provided services that were inclusive for all. Uncle Zulfiqar through community centre and the mosque allowed women to be empowered and have a true voice that was heard.
“Uncle will be truly missed – St Pauls Road looks so empty.”
His funeral was also attended by many of those who worked with him.
Former colleague and Deepdale resident George Pinnock said: “We worked together in the late 60’s in the Courtaulds. Whenever we would see each other we would always have something to say and laugh about. He was a true human and he was liked by all. His funeral proves that as that amount of people don’t attend for someone that is not loved by all.”
And Mr Ahmed was well-known outside of Preston, working with the Lancashire Council of Mosques on a number of initiatives.
Read more: What it was like inside one of Preston’s mosques for Visit My Mosque day
Chief executive of the mosques council Abdul Hamid Qureshi said: “It is with great sorrow to hear about the passing away of one of our highly respected community leader Haji Zulfiqar Ahmed Sahib.
“He was hard working and dedicated to the well being of his community. He served his community for a long time. He held the responsibility to lead Raza Masjid Preston for number of years. His absence will be strongly felt by everyone whose life was touched by him.
“We pray to our creator to forgive his weaknesses, accept his good deeds, bestow mercy upon him and grant him the best of place in his new life.”
Mr Ahmed leaves behind his wife Shahida, six adult children and six grandchildren.
Did you know Zulfiqar Ahmed? You can leave your tributes in the comments below