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Indian court upholds appointment of Dawoodi Bohra leader

Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, the leader of the Dawoodi Bohra Community. (Photo: Getty Images)

Vivek MishraBy: Vivek Mishra

An Indian court has has dismissed a suit from 2014 challenging the appointment of Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin as the leader of the Dawoodi Bohra Community.

Justice Gautam Patel, presiding over a single Bombay high court bench, clarified that the court’s decision solely pertained to matters of proof rather than faith.

The suit, originally filed by Khuzaima Qutbuddin soon after the passing of his brother and the then Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin in January 2014, sought to contest Saifuddin’s ascension to the position of Syedna.

Following Burhanuddin’s demise, his second son Mufaddal Saifuddin succeeded him as the Syedna. After Qutbuddin’s passing in 2016, his son Taher Fakhruddin continued the legal battle, asserting his father had granted him the authority.

The heart of the matter revolved around conflicting claims regarding the appointment process. Qutbuddin contended that his brother Burhanuddin had privately designated him as his successor through a secret “nass” prior to announcing him as the mazoon in 1965. Fakhruddin maintained that his father had similarly conferred the position upon him before his demise.

Justice Patel emphasized the need for stability, stating, “I don’t want any upheavals. I have kept the judgment as neutral as possible. I have only decided on the issue of proof and not faith.”

The Dawoodi Bohras, a religious sect within Shia Islam, traditionally appoint their leader through divine inspiration, with the position known as the Dai-al-Mutlaq. While the suit aimed to restrain Saifuddin from acting as the Dai-al-Mutlaq, it also raised concerns about the legitimacy of his leadership.

Saifuddin defended his position by asserting that the nass of 1965 lacked witnesses and therefore could not be considered valid. He further argued that nass, according to Dawoodi Bohra doctrine, could be altered or revoked. Saifuddin claimed that in 2011, the 52nd Dai conferred nass upon him in the presence of witnesses, following his hospitalization due to a stroke.

The dismissal of the suit brings a legal conclusion to a contentious dispute within the Dawoodi Bohra community, which boasts a significant presence both in India and globally.

(PTI)

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