Taher Saifuddin

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Taher Saifuddin
51st Da'i al-Mutlaq of the Dawoodi Bohra
Taher Saifuddin.jpg
Born (1888-08-04)4 August 1888
Surat, British Raj
Died 12 November 1965(1965-11-12) (aged 77)
Matheran, India
Resting place
Raudat Tahera, Mumbai
Organization Chancellor, Aligarh (1953-65)
Style His Holiness
Term 1915–1965
Predecessor Syedna Abdullah Badruddin
Successor Mohammed Burhanuddin
Religion Islam
Denomination Dawoodi Taiyabi Mustaali Ismaili Shia
Spouse(s) Aaisaheba Husaina
Children Mohammed (b. 1915)
Khuzaima (b. 1940)
Parent(s) Mohammad Burhanuddin
Aaisaheba Amatullah

Taher Saifuddin[1] (سيدنا طاهر سيف الين, 4 August 1888 – 12 November 1965) was an Indian-born leader, the 51st Da'i al-Mutlaq of the Dawoodi Bohra sect. He was the son of the 49th Da'i al-Mutlaq Mohammed Burhanuddin, whose family lineage can be traced back to Syedi Fakhruddin Shaheed.

During his reign, Saifuddin grew ever more interested with Western and modern ideas, and over the course of it, he established a far-reaching modernisation of the Bohra community. This sets him apart from both his predecessor and his son and successor, both of whom have pursued policies of Islamization and a strong focus on tradition rather than modernization.[2]

Early life[edit]

Saifuddin was born to the father Mohammed Burhanuddin and mother Aaisaheba Amatullah Aaisaheba on 4 August 1888 in Surat, British Raj (now in the Indian state of Gujarat).

Da'i al-Mutlaq[edit]

Taher Saifuddin name recorded at Aqsa Mosque tomb

Saifuddin became the 51st Da'i al-Mutlaq in the year 1915. He rebuilt or repaired many monuments of Fatemi Imams, Da'i al-Mutlaq and other prominent structures and artifacts.[3]

He was the chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University for four consecutive terms.[4] He was made honorary chancellor of this university, which had only few Bohra students, in 1953, after a series of "strategic donations" that bought him much goodwill in Congress circles, having earlier been accused of supporting the Muslim League before Partition.[5]

Contributions to Islamic Institutions[edit]

Sultan Saifuddin contributed vast sums of money to towards the refurbishment of mosques and shrines. He along with the Nizam of Hyderabad were among the few Indian Muslims to contribute towards the renovation of Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem:[6] Sultan Tahir Saif al-Din is said to have come from India with one hundred and fifty of his followers...At the Jerusalem station he was welcomed by the Mufti and other Sheikhs of the Supreme Moslem Council and a number of Arab notables including Ragheb Bey Nashashibi. A troop of Arab boy scouts paraded in his honour and there were two bands from Moslem institutions...The sultan was reputed to be a man of great wealth who had made substantial contributions to the religious and political funds of the Arabs of this country.[7] Sultan Saifuddin also gifted the internal curtains which were kept in the Kaaba for decades to King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia in 1354AH, with whom he kept warm relations.[8]


Taher Saifuddin drew harsh criticisms for claiming to be “Elahul-Ard” (God on this earth) in Bombay high court when a case was filed against him challenging his authority [1] he also claimed in the high court that he is accountable to no one and that he is master of the soul, mind, body and properties of his followers. He made it compulsory that every Bohra should call him/herself as “Slave of Sayedna” (Abd-e Sayedna(male) / Amat-e Syedna(female)) and perform “Sajda-e ‘Ubudiyat” (Prostration of Obedience) in front of him. He also claimed that he is “Qur’an-e Natiq (speaking Qur'an) and that the Quran in the present book form is a dead book.[9] Taher Saifuddin called himself “Da’i-ul-Mutlaq” (Absolute Da’i) and Sultan of the Bohras. He introduced an unconditional oath of allegiance (Misaq) which is compulsory for every Bohra to offer to the Da’i. The harsh conditions in Misaq made it an instrument of punishment. He started a practice of “Jama’at kharij” (excommunication).[9]

Counter Criticisms[edit]

Bohras and modern historians on the other hand claim that Saifuddin never claimed to be God on Earth.[10] This is verified by court transcripts which record that it was Saifuddin's lawyer who claimed to do so. The Dai subsequently reprimanded his lawyer for doing so. In a later poem Saifuddin composed, he clearly states "The man who demeans and the man who exaggerates, both have forged a lie" alluding to the fact that divinity belongs to God alone.[11] Saifuddin also did not start the practice of 'prostration.' The famous Fatimid Hujja and Chief Justice, al Qadi Nu'man, stated:...if someone prostrated himself before one the friends [awliya'] of God, [intending it to be a glorification of God, that would not be wrong [munkar].[12] Bohras also firmly hold that he never said the Qur'an is dead, rather maintaining that it is slander from reformist elements. While the Imam is considered to be the Qur'an, the Dai is considered to be a chapter of the Qur'an, a stark difference from the claim that reformists have made.[13] Saifuddin also did not give himself the titles of Dai ul Mutlaq, or Sultan. The former is a rank within the Ismaili hierarchy which while, the Ismaili Imam is in seclusion, is the highest manifest rank, which is defined as Missionary with Absolute Authority.[14] He was appointed by his uncle, the 50th Dai Abdullah Badruddin. The mīthāq text is a blueprint for the key doctrines and practices of the Bohra, and is rooted in the medieval Fā􏰂timid oath of allegiance.[15][16]

Personal life[edit]

Taher Saifuddin married Aaisaheba Husaina Aaisaheba, who was also from the family of Da'i al-Mutlaq. The couple had a son, Mohammed Burhanuddin who later became the 52nd Da'i al-Mutlaq of Dawoodi Bohra community.


Saifuddin died on 12 November 1965 in Matheran, Maharastra, India.[17] His mausoleum is known as Raudat Tahera located in Mumbai.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hozefa Mohiyuddin, Tufatuh ale Akhbaare Hudat, Al Jamea tus Saifiyah Publication, 1995, pg. 109
  2. ^ Jonah Blank (2001). Mullahs on the Mainframe: Islam and Modernity Among the Daudi Bohras. University of Chicago Press. p. 185. 
  3. ^ "Sheikh al Doat al Mutlaqeen: Syedna Taher Saifuddin (R.A) - Anjuman-e-Najmi". Sfjamaat.org. Retrieved 2014-03-12. 
  4. ^ (Dr. Rahat Abrar (PRO), Chancellors of AMU, www.amu.ac.in, 22 February reverted)
  5. ^ Hellen E. Ulrich, ed. (1975). Competition and Modernization in South Asia. Abhinav Publications. p. 158. 
  6. ^ http://twocircles.net/2010apr28/indian_muslims_and_palestine_waqfs.html#.VPDXP0J3bBI
  7. ^ http://www.business-standard.com/article/beyond-business/indian-oasis-114082201282_1.html
  8. ^ http://www.arabnews.com/news/494566
  9. ^ a b "bohra-an-islamic-sect-reduced-to-a-cult". Milli Gazette. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  10. ^ Blank, Jonah (2001). Mullahs on the Mainframe: Islam and Modernity Among the Daudi Bohras. University of Chicago Press. pg 123.
  11. ^ http://www.fatemidawat.com/assets/images/Qasidas,%20Marsiyas,%20Salaams/
  12. ^ https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9fnBFANHMn4C&pg=PA17&lpg=PA17&dq=qadi+numan+kissing+the+ground&source=bl&ots=Mng9pZd0UJ&sig=rAwbJTeXKhsFY_YBlE3Hs8tKTas&hl=en&sa=X&ei=X-LsVP36M4_vaJKggNgK&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=true
  13. ^ http://www.al-islam.org/shiism-imamate-and-wilayat-sayyid-muhammad-rizvi/knowledge-ahlul-bayt
  14. ^ https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=OZbyz_Hr-eIC&pg=PA111&lpg=PA111&dq=dai+al+mutlaq+ismaili&source=bl&ots=eXkpuHqYWd&sig=lRko5J0z8mYv_P3Q5crVgTGqKsA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=DubwVKT1KsPKaObSgogK&ved=0CEIQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=dai%20al%20mutlaq%20ismaili&f=false
  15. ^ http://www.fatemidawat.com/assets/images/Published%20Works/Academic%20Articles/EI3%202013-2%20-%20Qutbuddin%20copy.pdf
  16. ^ al-Maqrīzī, al-Khi􏰂at, Cairo 1853, 1:396–7; Halm, 91–115
  17. ^ (Webzone, H. H. Dr Syedna Taher Saifuddin Memorial Foundation, www.matheranmemorialhall.com, 22 February reverted)

Further reading[edit]

  • Abdul Qaiyum Mulla Habibullah, His Holiness Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb, Dai-ul-Mutlaq of Dawoodi Bohra, Dawoodi Bohra Book Depot Publications,1953.
  • Syedna Taher Saifuddin: A Philosophical Discourse, Al Jamea tus Saifiyah Publications 1963.
  • Life and Works of His Holiness Syedna Dr. Taher Saifuddin Saheb, Leader Press Pvt. Ltd. Publications.
  • Jafar us Sadiq Mufaddal Saifuddin, Al Aqmar: A Living Testimony to the Fatemiyeen, Al Jamea tus Saifiyah Publications, 2000.
  • Jafar us Sadiq Mufaddal Saifuddin, Al Juyushi: A Vision of the Fatemiyeen, Al Jamea tus Saifiyah Publications, 2002.
  • Mustafa Abdulhussein, Al-Dai Al-Fatimi Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin: An Illustrated Biography, Al Jamea tus Saifiyah Publications.
  • Jonah Blank, Mullahs on the Mainframe: Islam and Modernity among Daudi Bohras University of Chicago Press Publications, 2001.
Da'i al-Mutlaq of Dawoodi Bohra sect
Preceded by
Syedna Abdullah Badruddin
Da'i al-Mutlaq
Succeeded by
Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin