Ponnani, a township on the West coast of Malabar, has been a centre of Islamic learning since 16th century AD. It attracted students from Indonesia and the then Malaya besides those from places within Kerala and the adjoining districts of Tamil Nadu.
William Logan says in ‘Malabar Manual’ that in 1887, there were 400 students in the ‘Juma-masjid’ madrasa in Ponnani. Kunjai musaliar, the philosophical poet, umar Khazi – the sufi and freedom fighter, Sheikh sayed Hassan Jifri the renowned scholar who fought the British, Ali Musaliar who was martyred in 1921 while fighting with British – were some of the products of Ponnani Madrasa of Juma Masjid.
The world famous Islamic scholar, historian and author, Sheikh Ahmad Zainuddin (R.) lived in Ponnani. His ‘ Fathul Mu’een’, an authoritative work of ‘Fiqh’ is famous throughout the Muslim world and many arabic scholars have written annotations to it.”Tuhfathul Mujaahideen’ is another work of his which is internationally acclaimed as an authoritative historical account of Kerala and of the Portuguese wars in that area . Both these works have been translated into many languages , Indian and foreign.. Certain quarters hesitated to believe that he was a Malabar Muslim!