THE family of a Bradford man described as the "backbone" of his community has paid an emotional tribute following his death.

Mohammad Riaz - popularly known as 'Lala Riaz of Bradford', 'Ray' and 'the King of Hull' - died peacefully in hospital with coronavirus symptoms last Tuesday.

His passing has left a mark on people in Bradford, Yorkshire and beyond with his daughter, Ansha Riaz, explaining how people across the world have "blessed" him with their prayers.

Mr Riaz, 66, moved from Mirpur to Manningham aged eight with his father.

He studied at Belle Vue Boys School before joining his father at a Keighley mill which made textiles.

He married the love of his life, Shaheen Akhtar, when the pair were aged just 15 and 21.

"He was in love with her, he always wanted to marry her", his daughter said.

He looked after his siblings, mother, wife and children all under one roof.

His life found a new direction when his lifelong friend handed him the keys to an empty unit in Hull in 1981.

It later became the iconic Kashmiri restaurant Ray's Place, now in the care of his relatives.

Driving from Manningham to Hull every day, he helped teenagers off the streets and gave them a purpose.

In his retirement he went on a round the world trip with his friend, Uncle Frank - from Morocco to Turkey to Greece.

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He leaves behind six children and eight grandchildren.

At least, that's the 'Ray' everyone knew. It was only in the days following his death that the family found out about his illustrious charity work around the globe.

He has helped many residents in his home town start up a business and give them the means to live.

Ansha told the Telegraph & Argus: "Our one mobile and landline is going crazy.

"He never forgot his home town. He used to do charity work that we didn't know about. He always believed as a Muslim, we're not supposed to tell anyone (about charity work).

"We've had calls from all over the world.

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"If somebody passes away in the Asian community we sit down for four days and on the fourth day we sit down and do a big prayer. Every family has sat down and prayed for him.

"He's going to be missed. He was the backbone of his family. He's gone very soon. He always said 'I will go in the click of a finger' and that's exactly what happened.

"We got to see him on video call twice. Around 9 o' clock, he was asking for something on the call - zamzam water (holy water from a special well in Saudi Arabia). He kept touching his chest and heart. He was touching his lips and I said 'He always does that when he wants a glass of water'."

The nurse handed over zamzam water at 1.10am in the morning and 20 minutes later he passed away.

"We were very lucky. Bless that nurse in there who made the video call for us. He went in with the full kit on. Dad used to struggle with phones", Ansha added.

Days before his death, Mr Riaz handed his daughter the money to build a well, which will now be named in his memory.

"He always wanted to be the first one to help, to be there. He always used to say to me 'We work in the community, always remember you're my daughter'. He said 'Look after my name'.

"He was very charitable, very caring", Ansha said.

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Councillor Shabir Hussain (Labour, Manningham) is just one of those in the area mourning his loss.

He first met Mr Riaz as a young child after becoming friends with his younger brother and lived "100 metres apart" from one another.

Mr Riaz would take the pair out for a ride in his car.

Councillor Hussain, who was fighting off tears, said: "I knew his dad, his brothers, I knew everybody. I've met a lot of people in my time and he was very special.

"He was always teaching, like a mentor. A wonderful man, really gifted with those special words.

"I couldn't believe it when I heard."

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While Azad Rashid, Lala's restaurant owner and son of the man who passed over the keys to Ray's Place, said he can only be described as a "great guy".

Asad said: "My father saw that quality. Mohammad was my father's friend's son. He said 'Here's the keys'."

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