THE family of a respected Islamic scholar said they have been ‘devastated’ by his death in a fire in Saudi Arabia.

Mufti Yusuf Bismillah, 61, from Blackburn, is understood to have suffocated on Saturday afternoon after a fire broke out in the Medina hotel he was staying in.

Hundreds of friends and well-wishers flocked to the dad-of-eight’s house in Ripon Street on Sunday to pay their respects.

Mufti Yousuf, who moved to Britain from India in 1991, taught at the Masjide Noorul Islam mosque in Audley Range, having previously been associated with the Lambeth Street and Cumberland Street mosque.

Blackburn with Darwen mayor Salim Mulla, who also lives in Ripon Street, said on behalf of the family: “We are obviously devastated and sad, but we thank the community and appreciate all the help and support we’ve been given.

“We are a very understanding and religious family and know that fate has taken place. We accept that this has happened.

“We have lost a shining star, who moved to Edinburgh from Dabnel in India in 1991, where he was an Islamic teacher.

“When he came to Blackburn in 2003 he quickly became part of the community. The whole street took to him and were delighted to have a mufti and someone of his stature living here.

“He was such a pious, down to earth and caring person, and was known in nearly every mosque.”

Mufti Yousuf was on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Medina with his wife Fatimah, who has now been joined in the city by two of her sons. His funeral and burial will take place in Medina.

The blaze at their hotel, in the east of the city, left 15 people dead and 130 injured. Preliminary indications suggested those who died did so of suffocation.

A report from Egypt's state television station said the blaze had been started by an electrical short circuit, although that is yet to be confirmed by authorities.

A number of Egyptians are believed to be among the dead.