NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Sheikh Muhammad Nazim Adil al-Qubrusi al-Haqqani, a leading figure of Sufism, the mystical branch of the Islamic faith, died Wednesday at the age of 92 in the north of ethnically-divided Cyprus.
Imam Shakir Alemdar, the vice grand mufti of Cyprus, confirmed the death. The imam hailed the Cypriot-born Sheikh Nazim as one of the world's great Islamic scholars and a spiritual leader to followers of Sufism, which traces its origins to the roots of Islam itself about 1,500 years ago.
Sheikh Nazim was leader of the Naqshbandi-Haqqani Sufi order.
According to Sheikh Nazim's website, his maternal line goes back to the 13th-century founder of the Mawlawiya Sufi order.
Born in Larnaca, Cyprus, on April 23rd 1922, Sheikh Nazim received his first religious instruction from his grandfather, an Islamic scholar.
He went on to study chemical engineering in 1940 at Istanbul University. In 1944, he visited Lebanon where he received further religious instruction from prominent Islamic scholars at the time.
Sheikh Nazim travelled to Europe in the 1970s and to the U.S. in the 1990s where he gained many followers. His sojourns also included trips to such countries as Malaysia, Singapore, India and Pakistan. He also opened a study center in Fenton, Missouri.
Known for his modesty, patience and cheerful demeanor, Sheikh Nazim teachings focused on Islamic moral values, according to his website.
Later in life, Sheikh Nazim would receive guests at his home in Lefke, Cyprus. He briefly met former Pope Benedict XVI during the pontiff's 2010 visit to Cyprus. The encounter came as the pope was walking in a procession to a Mass at a Nicosia church near the U.N.-controlled buffer zone that divides the east Mediterranean island into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south.
Sheikh Nazim married in 1941 and had four children.
The Sheikh's funeral was held in the northern part of Nicosia.