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53rd Syedna succession controversy (Dawoodi Bohra)

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The 52nd Da'i al-Mutlaq of the Dawoodi Bohras, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, died in January 2014.[1] As per the tenets of the sect[2] each predecessor is required to nominate his successor prior to his death.[3][4] His death sparked a succession crisis where two rival claimants emerged for the title of 53rd Dā'ī al-Mutlaq:[5] his son, Mufaddal Saifuddin, and his half-brother, Khuzaima Qutbuddin, who was previously Mazoon (first assistant to the Dā'ī)[6] of the Dawoodi Bohra.[7]

Prior to 2014, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin suffered a stroke in a London on 1 June 2011[8] and on 4 June 2011, Mufaddal Saifuddin was named his successor.[9] Following this, Mufaddal Saifuddin assumed this role as the successor and his appointment was welcomed by the Dawoodi Bohra community.[10] In the Dawoodi Bohra Mithaq (oath of allegiance), Mufaddal Saifuddin's name was taken alongside Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin's.[11] Together,[12][13] Mohammed Burhanuddin and Mufaddal Saifuddin traveled the globe[14][15] looking after the affairs[16] of the community[17][18] up until 2014.

Following the Syedna's death, Mufaddal took up the office of Da'i al-Mutlaq, as per the appointment by Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin.[19][20] Khuzaima Qutubuddin claiming to have been appointed heir 50 years earlier in secrecy,[5][21] challenged Mufaddal's right to be Dai in court.[22] He also took office as the 53rd Dā'ī of Dawoodi Bohras with two headquarters, the primary being in Darus Sakina in Thane and the other in Saifee Mahal where Mufaddal resides.[23]

The challenge created a divide in the community with the vast majority aligning with Mufaddal Saifuddin[24][25] whilst a small but not insignificant number aligned with Khuzaima Qutbuddin.[26] Mufaddal Saifuddin assumed control of the Dawoodi Bohra administration and infrastructure. He is largely accepted as the Bohras' leader[27] by government and other public bodies.[28] The UK Charity Commission[29] has stated in writing, that "our view is that His Holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin is the current incumbent of the office of Dai al-Mutlaq."[30]

Overview

Mufaddal Saifuddin's Position

Mufaddal Saifuddin states that he has been appointed a number of times in presence of multiple witnesses.[31] These incidences are:

  • On 27 January 1969 (corresponding to the night of 11th Zil Qa'dah 1388 H) – in the presence of Sh Ibrahim Yamani, Sh Abdulhusain Tambawala & Sh Abdulhusein Sh Ibrahim Abdul Qadir.[31][32] This appointment is noted in a diary entry that was shown to the public on 4 February 2014 (4 Rabi al Akhar 1435H) by Mufaddal Saifuddin.[33]
  • On 24 October 1994 (corresponding to 20 Jumada al Ula 1415H) in the presence of Sh Abdulhusain Yamani.[31]
  • In October/November 2005, during the month of Ramadan 1426H, in the presence of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin's eldest son Qaid Johar Ezzuddin and Malek al Ashtar Shujauddin.[31]
  • On 4 June 2011 (corresponding to 3 Rajab al-Asab 1432H) in Cromwell Hospital, London, in the presence of 6 witnesses.[31][34][35]
  • On 20 June 2011 (corresponding to 19th Rajab 1432H) in Raudat Tahera Mumbai, in the presence of the entire Dawoodi Bohra community.[36]

For three years from 2011 to 2014 Mufaddal Saifuddin assumed the role of Syedna's successor. In the Dawoodi Bohra Mithaq (oath of allegiance), Mufaddal Saifuddin's name was taken alongside Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin's as the successor.[11] Together,[12][13] Mohammed Burhanuddin and Mufaddal Saifuddin traveled the globe[14][15] looking after the affairs[16] of the community[17][18] up until Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin's death in 2014. Henceforth, he assumed the role of the 53rd Da'i al-Mutlaq.[37]

Khuzaima Qutbuddin's Claim

In 2011 upto 2014, Khuzaima Qutbuddin[38][39] and his family[40] had publicly declared and congratulated Mufaddal Saifuddin as the successor. On a few occasions, Khuzaima Qutbuddin was seen participating in public gatherings seated below[41][42] Mufaddal Saifuddin. Until the Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin's death, there wasn't any indication of objection from Khuzaima Qutbuddin.

Following the Syedna's death in January 2014, Khuzaima Qutbuddin, who was the second in command to Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, claimed the title of the 53rd Dā'ī l-Muṭlaq of the Dawoodi Bohras. Khuzaima Qutbuddin claims that Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin performed nass on him 49 years ago in 1965 a ritual during which he appointed him as his successor in private without any witneses.[43] Qutbuddin states that Syedna Burhanuddin told him that this was because otherwise, 'swords would be crossed'.

The rift between the two claimants started to appear even before the death of Burhanuddin, with followers of Khuzaima Qutbuddin rallying support for Khuzaima.[7] A group formed in 2013 in support of Burhanuddin's half-brother Khuzaima Qutbuddin, who was Mazoon, serving second under Dai al Mutlaq.[7] Khuzaima has denied formation of any separate sect by publishing a public affidavit.[citation needed]

Khuzaima Qutbuddin died on 30 March 2016. On 31 March 2016 the family of Khuzaima Qutbuddin released a statement that Khuzaima Qutbuddin had conferred nass (announcement of successor) on his son Taher Fakhruddin.[44]

Chronological Account of the events in 2011

The Events of 4 June 2011

On 4 June 2011 (corresponding to 3 Rajab al-Asab 1432H), His Holiness Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin gathered three of his sons (commonly referred to as Shehzadas), namely Qusai, Idris and Ammar; his daughter Husaina; son in law Dr Moiz, and grandson Abdul Qadir to his room at Cromwell Hospital. He made a declaration appointing his son Mufaddal Saifuddin as his successor, and instructed them to inform the Dawoodi Bohra community.[35][45] Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin then summoned Mufaddal Saifuddin and his eldest son Qaid Johar Ezzuddin to Cromwell Hospital,[45] where a short Majlis was held in Cromwell Hospital, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin was congratulated on his appointment, drank sherbet and everyone present performed salaam to Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin and Mufaddal Saifuddin.[35]

These sequence of events were cited in a Majlis[46] held by Qaid Johar Ezzuddin in in al Masjid ul Husseini[47] in Northolt; London on 5 June 2011. The video of this Majlis was recorded and was broadcast on the same day in Dawoodi Bohra community centers worldwide.[48][49] These events were also documented in an official report (Arabic: مثال) by the office of His Holiness,[35] Alvazaratus Saifiyah.[50] This document was published and distributed to entire Dawoodi Bohra community during the month of Radaman in 2011.

Khuzaima Qutbuddin denied these course of events, and claimed that Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin was too ill to have spoken coherently, and medically unfit to move or drink sherbet.[45][51]

In reply to these allegations, an audio recording of the appointment, and a video recording of the Majlis in Cromwell Hospital was shown to the entire Dawoodi Bohra community on 18 May 2014 (corresponding to 19 Rajab al Asab 1435H). This video confirmed Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin speaking coherently to his family, drinking sherbet and presiding over the Majlis,[52] therefore affirming the of events described by Qaid Johar Ezzuddin and the Alvazaratus Saifiyah document.[35] Qutbuddin has not responded to this video.[53]

Syedna's Medical Condition

At the time of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin's stroke his sons, attendant physician and son-in-law, Dr Moiz bhaisaheb and surviving daughter were present in London with him along with other close family members. Neither Qutbuddin nor his family were present before or subsequently.

The medical report presented by Khuzaima Qutbuddin[45] explicitly ruled out the possibility of the Syedna having any ability to coherently speak or move.[54][55][56] The review[55] was done by Dr Daniel Mankens,[57] chairman of Neurology Beaumont Hospital, Michigan. He writes, 'It is inconceivable that someone his age and with neurological deficits would have such a profound, yet transient recovery.' He goes on to say that 'family members usually report even the slightest improvement to medical staff. It surprises me that such an event would not be documented in the medical record, much less reported to the medical staff'. Based on this review report, Qutbuddin claimed that 'the succession was not done in London Hospital' as Mohammad Burhanuddin suffered from a 'full stroke at the age of 100 that made it difficult for him to write, speak, or move'.[55][58]

The doctors behind these reports had never met nor treated Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin at any time and gave their opinions based on medical reports and the explanations provided by Khuzaima Qutbuddin.

Meanwhile, the specialists who treated, attended to Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin and who actually wrote the medical reports do not agree with these opinions. Dr John Francis Costello;[59] Consultant in Respiratory Medicine, and Neurologist Dr Omar Malik,[60] both who had attended to Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin at Cromwell Hospital in London have stated, in writing, that His Holiness was capable of making the declaration and of conducting a ceremony, even though his speech was slurred.[61][62] Further, Dr Costello stated that he believes the report provided by the USA doctor Dr Daniel Menkes is incorrect.[61] He confirmed that his patient, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin indeed did communicate his wishes on a variety of issues during his admission.[61]

On 4 June, the day of the Nass in question, Dr Costello noted that there was evidence of continued improvement in Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin's health[61] He confirmed that although he did not witness the said Nass, there was no doubt that Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin was able to effectively communicate his wishes whilst at Cromwell Hospital, particularly in his mother toungue Lisan al-Dawat.[61]

In regards to His Holiness's intellective state, both Dr Costello and Dr Malik confirmed that he was of sound cognitive state, and that he was able to clearly communicate with his family and medical staff.[61][62] In regards to the reports by the USA doctors, Dr Omar denied there was any evidence of a receptive speech problem.[62] Dr Costello further expresses he felt a special connection with His Holiness as he often greet him with a smile of recognition, looked him in the eye, interacted in English, and even become lively at times.[61]

A year later in 2012, Dr Costello was invited on stage to meet Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. In his medical report[61] he notes that Syedna instantly smiled at him with recognition, and shook his hand for a lengthy time.[63][64]

These reports were submitted in court in the sworn affidavit submitted by Shehzada Qaidjohar Ezzuddin the eldest son of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin before the Bombay High Court.

The Raudat Tahera Ceremony

On 8 June 2011, Dr John Francis Costello noted improvements in His Holiness's health and there were discussions about his wishes to travel to Mumbai for to attend the death anniversary of his father Syedna Taher Saifuddin[61] which was to be held on 20 June 2011. By 15 June 2011, there was further improvement. Dr John Francis Costello approved of sending His Holiness to Mumbai in an air ambulance as it was deemed safe and appropriate.[61] On this day, Dr Costello recalls having a short coherent conversation in English with His Holiness about his journey to Mumbai.[61] On 17 June 2011, His Holiness was discharged from Cromwell Hospital and traveled to Mumbai, as planned, in an air ambulance.[61] These sequence of events, His Holiness's wishes to travel and the doctor's approval are of paramount significance because the group loyal to Qutbuddin allege that His Holiness was forced to travel against his own will despite suffering a stroke.[45] Dr Costello's letter proves otherwise.

A ceremony was arranged in Raudat Tahera Mumbai on 20 June 2011 (corresponding to 19th Rajab 1432H) to declare Mufaddal Saifuddin as the Dā'ī.[65] The entire ceremony was recorded and was broadcast on the same day to Dawoodi Bohra community centers worldwide. This video was posted by Qutbuddin's website and re-posted by another Youtube user.[36] Images of this ceremony are also available online.[66]

Events following the succession (2011-2014)

Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin's activities after the succession

From 2011 upto 2014, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, despite his stroke, went on pilgrimages, traveled across India, overseas, and presided over many community gatherings.

In 1432H, He presided over the Eid al-Fitr Majlis with Mufaddal Saifuddin seated besides him.[67] Following the Ramadan of 2011 (1432H), Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin went on a pilgrimage to Karbala, Najaf[68][69] and Cairo.[70]

In the Hijri year of 1433H (November 2011), Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin held the Muharram gatherings in Mumbai. On 2 Muharram Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin conducted the first sermon,[71] and presided over every Majlis at night until Ashura of 1432H. Following this, he traveled to Galiakot to the on a pilgrimage to the mausoleum of Syedi Fakhruddin Shaheed.[72] There he performed the opening of the new Mosque of Partapur, Rajasthan on 28 Muharram 1433.[73] In the month of Safar he went on a pilgrimage to Hasanpeer. There, on 4 Safar he performed the opening of the new Masjid in Rampura and named it Mohammedi Masjid.[74] He then traveled to Ahmedabad for Chehlum,[75] where Mufaddal Saifuddin presided over the sermons.[76] During this visit, his son Huzaifa Mohyuddin died in Ahmedabad, and the funneral rites were carried out by Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin and Mufaddal Saifuddin.[77] On 18 Jan 2012, Narendra Modi visited the Syedna in Ahmedabad to offer his condolences.[78] On 20 January 2012, (26 Safar 1433H), he laid the foundation of the Qutbi Mazaar Development Project in Ahmedabad.[79] He then visited Dongam on 27 Safar 1433H.[80]

On 6 Rabi' al-awwal 1433H, he traveled to Pune where he was welcomed by a large gathering.[81] On the 10th of Rabi' al-awwal the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Hon. Mr. Shivraj Singh Chouhan accompanied by other Govt Officials met the Syedna and expressed their condolences on the death of Shahzada Huzaifa Mohiyuddin.[82] On 4 February 2012, on Milad al-Nabi day in Pune, her presided over the Majlis seated above Mufaddal Saifuddin for 3 hours, listening to his entire sermon.[83][84] On 4 Rabi' al-thani, he presided over the Milad Majlis in Saifee Masjid Mumbai, as Mufaddal Saifuddin conducted the sermons seated besides him.[85]

On 12 March 2012, on the eve of Syedna's 101st birthday, he presided over the birthday celebrations and procession with Narendra Modi seated besides him.[86][87] The following day, he presided over the Majlis while Mufaddal Saifuddin conducted the sermons seated besides him.[13][88][89] In 1433H (August 2012) Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin presided over the Eid al-Fitr Majlis with Mufaddal Saifuddin seated besides him.[90]

On 19 June 2012 (30 Rajab 1433H), Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin traveled to London. On 11 Sha'ban 1433H (30 June 2012), Asif Ali Zardari called on the Syedna and visited him at Masjid ul Husseini[47]London.[91] In a public congregation at at Masjid ul Husseini[47] London on 14 July 2012, Dr Costello was invited on stage to meet Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. In his medical report[61] he notes that Syedna instantly smiled at him with recognition, and shook his hand for a lengthy time.[63][64]

In the Hijri year of 1434H (November 2012), Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin[92] held the Muharram gatherings in Surat.[93][94][95] On 27 November 2012 (14 Moharram 1434H), he held the Nikah ceremony of community members in the Rasme Saify[96] ceremony in Surat.[97] In Mumbai, on 27 May 2013 (18 Rajab 1434H) he presided over the death anniversary of Syedna Taher Saifuddin and the final day examinations of Al Jamea tus Saifiyah.[98]

In the Hijri year of 1435H (November 2013), Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin held the Muharram gatherings in Mumbai.[99] For 10 days, Mufaddal Saifuddin conducted the sermons during the day,[99] and the Syedna would preside over the Majlis at night.[100] On the day of Ashura the Syedna presided over the sermons conducted by Mufaddal Saifuddin.[101]

On 12 January 2014, he presided over the Majlis of Milad al-Nabi in Raudat Tahera, Mumbai.[102] This was the Syedna's last public gathering before his death five days later on 17 January 2014.

Mufaddal Saifuddin's activities after the succession

Mufaddal Saifuddin assumed this role as the successor of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin and his appointment was welcomed by the Dawoodi Bohra community.[10] Together, Mohammed Burhanuddin and Mufaddal Saifuddin undertook the leadership after the affairs of the community.

On 9 June 2011, then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi congratulated Mufaddal Saifuddin on his succession.[103] On 15 June 2011 the office of Syenda Mohammed Burhanuddin, The Alvazaratus Saifiyah[104] instructed Dawoodi Bohras to take Mufaddal Saifuddin's name alongside Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin's as the successor in their Mithaq (oath of allegiance).[11]

A month later, in Sha'ban, Mufaddal Saifuddin led the examinations of Al Jamea tus Saifiyah on behalf of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. During the month of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, Saifuddin led the community prayers[105] and Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin presided over the Eid al-Fitr Majlis with Mufaddal Saifuddin seated besides him.[105] Following the Ramadan of 2011 (1432H), Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin went on a pilgrimage to Karbala, Najaf[68][69] and Cairo.[106]

In the Hijri year of 1433H (November 2011), Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin held the Muharram gatherings in Mumbai. On 2 Muharram Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin conducted the first sermon[71] and instructed Mufaddal Saifuddin to conduct the remaining nine sermons until Ashura[107] seated besides him.[108]

On 4 January 2012, on Milad al-Nabi day in Pune, as his successor Mufaddal Saifuddin conducted the sermon on behalf of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. Syedna Burhanuddin sat besides him for 3 hours listening to Saifuddin's entire sermon.[83][84] On 12 March 2012, on the eve of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin's 101st birthday. Narendra Modi attended the birthday celebrations and procession besides Syedna Mohammed Burhanudin and Mufaddal Saifuddin.[87][109] The following day, as the successor, Mufaddal Saifuddin conducted the sermons with Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin seated on the stage besides him.[13][88][110] On 4 Rabi' al-thani, he conducted the sermons of the Milad Majlis in Saifee Masjid Mumbai, with Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin seated besides him.[85] On 1 April 2012, he conducted the sermon and Majlis of Fatima Al Zahra on 10 Jumada al-awwal 1433H in Surat.[111] On 9 Rajab1433H (29 May 2012), he led annual examinations of Al Jamea tus Saifiyah on behalf of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin in Saify Mahal,[112] Mumbai.[113] On 15 June 2012, Mufaddal Saifuddin traveled to Indore and was received with a rousing welcome as Syedna's successor.[114][115]

During the month of Ramadan 1433H (August 2012) and Eid al-Fitr, Saifuddin led the community prayers[116] and Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin presided over the Eid al-Fitr Majlis with Mufaddal Saifuddin seated besides him.[90] Following that, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin appointed Mufaddal Saifuddin as the Amir al-hajj for the Hajj pilgrimage [117] on 14 October 2012 (29 Zil Qadah 1433H).

In the Hijri year of 1434H (November 2012), Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin[118] held the Muharram gatherings in Surat.[93][94] Mufaddal Saifuddin to conducted ten sermons until Ashura with Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin seated besides him.[95]

Mufaddal Saifuddin then traveled to many cities within India [119][120] Yemen, Ethiopia,[121] South Africa,[121] Tanzania,[121][122] Kenya,[121] Pakistan,[123] Sri Lanka,[124] Kuwait, UAE[121][125] - where he was welcomed as the Syedna's successor by the community and Government officials. There he held numerous sermons, religious and community gatherings.

Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin's 102nd birthday celebrations were held in Mumbai. The Syedna presided over the Majlis on 1 March 2013, and Mufaddal Saifuddin conducted the sermon on 2 March 2013.[126] Mufaddal Saifuddin's first official correspondence as successor was in May 2013 during the celebration of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin's Golden Jubilee, in which he instructed the community to set out on religious pilgrimages.[127] In the month of Rajab of 2013, he conducted the annual examinations of Al Jamea tus Saifiyah on behalf of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin.[128]

In the Hijri year of 1435H (November 2013), Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin held the Muharram gatherings in Mumbai.[99] For 10 days, Mufaddal Saifuddin conducted the sermons during the day,[99] and Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin would preside over the Majlis at night.[100] On the day of Ashura Mufaddal Saifuddin conducted the Ashura sermon seated besides Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin.[101]

On 23 December 2013, Mufaddal Saifuddin traveled to Udaipur [18][18] to conduct the sermons of Chehlum 1435H.[16] A video recording of this sermons was broadcast in community centers world wide on 16 January 2014.

Khuzaima Qutbuddin[38][39] and his family[40] had even publicly declared and congratulated Mufaddal Saifuddin as the successor. On a few occasions, Khuzaima Qutbuddin was seen participating in public gatherings seated below[41][42] Mufaddal Saifuddin. Until the Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin's death, there wasn't any indication of objection from Khuzaima Qutbuddin.

Events following Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin's death

Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin died on 17 January 2014 [1] (corresponding to 16 Rabi al Awwal 1435H) in Mumbai, India.

Mufaddal Saifuddin, who had already been publicly appointed and accepted as the successor, assumed the position of the 53rd Da'i al-Mutlaq of the Dawoodi Bohra community.[129] Saifuddin was in Colombo at the time and immediately traveled to Mumbai via Chennai. He conducted his first Jumu'ah Salah in Sri Lanka and arrived in Saify Mahal,[112] Mumbai that evening to conduct and lead the Janaza and funeral rites. Khuzaima Qutbuddin, who at the time was already in Saify Mahal,[112] Mumbai, left for his residence in Thane prior to Mufaddal Saifuddin's arrival.[130] Mufaddal Saifuddin led the Janaza rites throughout the night.[130] and thousands of mourners attended the funeral on Saturday 18 January 2016 led by Mufaddal Saifuddin.[131][132][133]

On the morning of Saturday 18 January, as the Janaza left Saify Mahal en route to Raudat Tahera for burial, Khuzaima Qutbuddin sent out an email campaign to Dawoodi Bohra Community members attaching a PDF letter addressed to Mufaddal Saifuddin stating his claim.[134] That evening, around 36 hours after Syedna's death, Qutbuddin posted a YouTube video of himself on his website claiming that he was the 53rd Da'i al-Mutlaq, having been appointed in total secrecy in 1965.[135]

On 20 January 2016, Khuzaima Qutbuddin's name was removed Dawoodi Bohra from all official community records as the Mazoon.[136] Following that, on 24 January 2016, Khuzaima Qutbuddin issued a Public Notice[137] claiming that he was the sole Trustee of all the Wakfs/Trusts of the Dawoodi Bohra Community.[137][138]

On 30 January 2016, thousands[139] of Dawoodi Bohras gathered at Azad Maidan, Mumbai in support of Mufaddal Saifuddin as the 53rd Da'i al-Mutlaq, pledged their allegiance to him and dissociated from the breakaway faction formed by Khuzaima Qutbuddin.[32][140][141] Mufaddal's elder brother Qaid Johar Ezzuddin stated that "nass was performed on Mufaddal not once but a number of times".[140] Similarly peace marches were organised in community centers worldwide where resolutions[138] were signed[142][143] and handed over to Government officials.[144] A number of prominent personalities offered their condolences to Mufaddal Saifuddin as Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin's son and successor.[145] These personalities include Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Narendra Modi,[146] Mahinda Rajapaksa, Nawaz Sharif, Uhuru Kenyatta, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Salman Khurshid, Ministers, Members of Parliament, Consulates, representatives of religious communities, prominent citizens, professionals and intellectuals.[145][147]

In April 2014, Khuzaima Qutbuddin filed action in the Mumbai High Court against the succession of Mufaddal Saifuddin.[148]

Court cases

In January 2014, Qutbuddin published a public affidavit on his website declaring his position and legal status of properties, claiming to be the sole trustee of all the trusts in the Dawoodi Bohra community.[149] Qutbuddin filed petitions against Saiffudin concerning the succession controversy in Bombay High court and Gujrat High Court. Khuzaima published a public affidavit on his website declaring his position and legal status of properties[150][151]

Bombay High Court case

The late Syedna's half-brother Qutbuddin went to the High Court claiming the position of 53rd and to restrict Saifuddin from discharging the duties as the 53rd Dā'ī. The prime contention of the 700-page petition to the High Court was to have Qutbuddin, the half-brother, legally declared as the 53rd Dā'ī al-Mutlaq of the 1.2-million-strong Bohra community, while simultaneously preventing his nephew, Mufaddal Saifuddin, from acting as the Dā'ī.[58]

Justice SJ Kathawala of the Bombay High Court recused himself from hearing the suit filed by Qutbuddin as he had appeared for the late Syedna in the past, creating a conflict of interest. The Lawyers appearing for Saifuddin had no objection to Justice SJ Kathawala from hearing the suit, however Qutbuddin's lawyer Mr Kadam requested the judge to recuse himself from the case.[152] This delayed the suit before being placed before Justice Gautam Patel at the High Court.[152][153]

Qutbuddin sought relief including entry to Saify Mahal, the house of the community leader,filed a 700-page suit asking the court to restrain Mufaddal Saifuddin to act as the Da'i al-Mutlaq. In reply to the suit, defendant Mufaddal Saifuddin filed a detailed 494-page affidavit on April 23, 2014.[154] Justice Gautam Patel said it would be better to hold the trial rather than decide on interim relief.[154] The Bombay High Court later agreed that it is willing to conduct a speedy, day-to-day trial[154]

Framing of Issues

In September 2014, the court had framed issues in the matter, where each side will have to prove he was conferred valid nass, or the official declaration of succession.[155] The matter was then fixed for December 11, 2014, to determine the admissibility of the documents placed on record by both sides.[156] The issues framed on 15 September 2014 in Suit No. 336 of 2014 were:

  • What are the requirements of a valid Nass as per the tenets of the faith?[157]
  • Whether the Plaintiff proves that a valid Nass was conferred/pronounced on him as stated in the Plaint?
  • Whether a Nass once conferred cannot be retracted or revoked or changed or superseded?
  • Whether the Defendant proves that a valid Nass was conferred on him by the 52nd Dai: On 28 January 1969, in the year 2005, on 4 June 2011, On 20 June 2011 as stated in the written statement and if the answer is in the negative then whether any Nass proved on the Defendant as above consequently amounts to a retraction or revocation or change or supersession of any Nass previously conferred on the Plaintiff by the 52nd Dai?[157]

The case began with the new judge asking Qutbuddin, what requirements had to be fulfilled for "pronouncing a Syedna's successor", such as witnesses, publicity and acceptance by the community.[158] He also asked Qutbuddin to spell out what he did to establish his right as the spiritual head since 2011 when his nephew was publicly pronounced the successor by the late Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin.[158] This followed a reply from Saifuddin's attorney and the late Syedna's eldest son Qaidjohar Ezzuddin, which contested Qutbuddin's claim.[159][160] On behalf of Mufaddal Saifuddni, Ezzuddin stated that there was "overwhelming evidence" that Saifuddin was chosen by the late Dai to be his successor and between 2011 when he was appointed the successor and in January 2014 when the 52nd Dai passed away - Saifuddin "operated within the community as the successor designate". Also, after his father's demise, Saifuddin was given misaq (oath of allegiance) by 500 Jamaats all over the world and high dignitaries.[161]

As per court proceedings, Qutbuddin's lawyer pointed out that Saifuddin's earlier pleading of succession was only referring the pronouncement done in year 2011 at London hospital, but after demise of late Syedna, now the case is put up in different way and now it refers that pronouncements were 'made in 1969, 1994 and 2005 and only reconfirmation was done in 2011'."[159]

Qutbuddin alleged that "[s]ince 1980, defendant (Saifuddin) and his family implemented a devious scheme to malign him[162] Justice Patel declined Kadam's plea to pass an order for access to Qutbuddin to his office in Saify Mahal and his apartment at Al Azhar. "They say they are not preventing you," said Justice Patel.[163]

Cross Examintation of Khuzaima Qutbuddin (Plaintiff)

The cross examination of Qutbuddin commenced on 27 April 2015. with Qutbuddin taking to the witness box[164] eight times until his death.

1) 27 April 2015: Qutbuddin claimed that there were indications of support from his siblings, however none of his 20 siblings openly supported him, nor did they give their Mithaq to him.[165]

Saifuddin's counsel Iqbal Chagla questioned Qutbuddin on the meaning of various terminologies used in the community and degrees for knowledge of scriptures awarded by Al Jamea tus Saifiyah and conferred by the Dai. Qutbuddin admitted to being conferred the degree of Al Aleem Al Bare (The Outstanding Scholar) by his father, Syedna Taher Saifuddin but denied he was conferred any degree by his late brother Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin.[166] This was to bring forth his knowledge of Islamic studies and degrees being conferred by the principal of the Dawoodi Bohra community's educational institute.[167] Qutbuddin also told the court that the highest title is the Umdat al Ulama al Muwahhadeen (support of unparalleled scholar), which was given to Burhanuddin by the 51st dai.[168]

Qutbuddin claimed that he did not challenge Saifuddin's claims at the time because he (Qutbuddin) had been asked to maintain his appointment in confidence by Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. He prayed and hoped that "Syedna Burhanuddin Saheb would recover and set the position right in the manner he deemed appropriate".[168]

2) 28 April 2015: Qutbuddin admitted to being informed that a majlis was to be held on June 6, 2011 at Saifee Masjid and the reason for it. When asked what the reason for the majlis was, Qutbuddin replied,"The majlis was because His Holiness' health was not good and an announcement was to be made of the alleged nass conferred on the defendant (Saifuddin)." [169] He admitted to drinking the celebratory sherbat offered. "That was routine,'' said Qutbuddin. When asked if the majlis had been convened for condolence, would sherbat have been offered, he replied,"No.'' He added that the majlis was not a condolence meeting. "I did, in fact, pray for the long life of the Syedna,'' he said.[169]

Qutbuddin also said that two attempts were made to kill him; first in Indore during Muharram and the second in Yemen,[170] however, he named no suspects, nor dates, in court.[171]

3) 29 July 2015: Qutbuddin said that he was referred to as al Walad al Ahabb, meaning the 'beloved son'. According to him, this carried the meaning that he was the successor. Counsel Iqbal Chagla, however, suggested to him that one Hussain Dawoodbhai of Sri Lanka was also referred to as al Walad al Ahabb. Qutbuddin alleged that the meaning may be the same but the context was different.[172]

Qutbuddin also confirmed that shortly after Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin's sroke in 2011, he had called Qaid Johar Ezzuddin in London to wish the Syedna and his successor.[173]

4) - 31 July 2015: Qutbuddin told Court he was very hurt at being prevented from visiting Raudat Tahera. Chagla asked him if there has been a single instance when he was prevented. Qutbuddin replied that he had sent his sons to visit the mausoleum a few months ago. "They were actually beaten and pushed away.'' he said. But Chagla asked, "Have you personally been prevented from visiting the Raudat Tahera?''. He replied "I did not go because my security advised me not to do so.". When Chagla asked if the statement that he was prevented from visiting is incorrect, Qutbuddin said, "I don't agree. I stand by my statement.'' [174]

Counsel Iqbal Chagla, showed several documents to Qutbuddin and sought his reply on whether those were written by the 52nd Dai and whether he recognized it. To some he accepted and to some he replied in the negative or sought to study them.[175]

5) - 3 Aug 2015: Qutbuddin claimed that even his father, Syedna Taher Saifuddin, had viewed him as a successor.[176] In an earlier hearing, he alleged that Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin had appointed him as the Mazoon and gave a sermon, at that time he said 'I was a beloved son', and this carried the meaning that he was his successor. He again reiterated the same thing by saying that it is correct that his appointment as Mazoon was done in a public sermon by the 52nd Dai.[177]

6) - 4 Aug 2015: Qutbuddin was asked about the exact phrase used by Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin in his sermon on 10 Dec 1965 and when according to him, he said that you are his beloved son? Qutbuddin replied, “Al-waladul-ahabb.”[177] Chagla asked him whether the translation of Al-walad ul-ahabb meant the beloved son or my beloved son. Qutbuddin maintained it meant my beloved son. He was then shown paragraph 28 (a) at page 64 of his plaint where it stated "my [lit. 'the'] beloved son". Qutbuddin was questioned as to what the meaning of [lit. 'the'] was and whether he agreed that the meaning of the phrase was in fact the beloved son. Qutbuddin said that he was confused as to why he said "my" when the translation provided by his son in the plaint stated the words "[lit. 'the']". When asked whether the translation done in the plaint was incorrect, he said he was confused.[178] Around more than 400 hundred questions were asked in which the examination centered around the sermon of 52nd Dai which mentioned the word “beloved son”.[177]

7) 24 Aug 2015: Chagla asked Qutbuddin whether Mufaddal Saifuddin and his brothers were his pupils in matters of "spiritual guidance ". He replied, "Not regularly. But only once in a while". When asked how often, he replied, "They were regular during one period of time but not later." He said Burhanuddin sent his sons to him and this was for about ten years during his reign. While he could not remember the exact period they were his pupils, Qutbuddin added that that they came to him from the time of his father, the 51st Dai.

Qutbuddin later stated that "if not all then many" persons of higher spiritual value knew he was made the mansoos (successor) and even offered him sajda (prostration). He alleged that Saifuddin and his brothers used to offer him sajda.[179] When asked whether sajda (physical prostration) could be offered to a person other than a dai, Qutbuddin said, "Sajda is offered only to a dai or the mansoos or to a person known as one who will succeed the dai." "I remember my sisters would sometimes do so (offer him sajda). I do not remember if my brothers did it".[180]

8) 25 Aug 2015: Qutbuddin stated that in the last years of his life, late Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin was not as mentally alert as he used to be. When advocate Iqbal Chagla asked whether Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin was in full control of his mental and physical faculties till the end, Qutbuddin answered, "I felt and believed that his health had deteriorated during the last two and a half years of his life." He said Syedna Burhanuddin was "unable to function and carry out his activities as before."[181]

Status of case following the death of Khuzaima Qutbuddin (Plaintiff)

The hearings were later fixed for April 22 and May 2 2016,[182] however, Khuzaima Qutbuddin died on 30 March 2016. The Bombay High Court cancelled these two dates.[183]

According to Indian law, upon the death of a plaintiff a suit will not abate immediately upon death but rather after 90 days if no action is taken by the legal heirs or representatives of the plaintiff.[184] As Fakhruddin intends to continue the case, it is likely that such an application would be made and the case would not abate.[185]Accordingly, Justice Patel also said if Fakhruddin decides that he would like to be substituted as plaintiff he will have to file a chamber summons to set aside the abatement of the suit, and that "Nobody requires an order that that the suit has abated".[186] On 4 July 2016, Taher Fakhruddin reported that he has written a letter to Mufaddal Saifuddin in which he mentions that he has filed a Chamber Summons in the Bombay High Court as the plaintiff in place of his late father Khuzaima Qutbuddin.[187]

A senior counsel commented that the Da'i al-Mutlaq is not a hereditary title that can be passed on from a father to a son; it’s an appointment that is made. This is the basis on which Khuzaima Qutbuddin had challenged the naming of Mufaddal Saifuddin as the 53rd Syedna. Taher Fakhruddin will have to prove that his father had been appointed as the Syedna, and only then can he claim the same.[188]

Gujarat High Court case

Gujarat High Court issued an interim order on 16 April 2014 prohibiting Saifuddin from acting as the 53rd Dā'ī and his supporters from dealing with the trust properties. Khuzaima filed eight writ petitions before Gujarat High Court pertaining to the succession controversy.[189][190] This order was rescinded to allow Mufaddal Saifuddin full control over and use of all properties in Gujarat, provided that as the sole trustee, nothing is done to degenerate the value of the trust, effectively allowing him to operate as the 53rd Dai, but without granting such recognition. This situation was to remain pending the outcome of the Bombay High Court.

UK Charity Commission

In May 2014, Khuzaima Qutbuddin approached the UK Charity Commission[29] claiming that there was no valid appointee as the Da'i al-Mutlaq. On 15 August 2014, the UK Charity Commission[29] altered their position in favour of Mufaddal Saifuddin. The Commission established that there is someone in office, albeit that their position is being challenged. They also stated in writing, that "our view is therefore that His Holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin is the current incumbent of the office of Dai al-Mutlaq."[30] They further stated that Mufaddal Saifuddin can continue to administer the Charity until the outcome of the Bombay High Court case is known.[30]

Support for the claimants

Saifuddin

  • The 52nd Syedna died in January 2014. Mufaddal Saifuddin led the last rituals in which hundreds of thousands of Bohras joined.[191] It is reported that when he made his first public appearance on a temporary bridge connecting Saifee Masjid and Raudat Tahera mausoleum after Syedna's demise, hundreds of thousands of Dawoodi Bohras' standing gave an "indication of who they have believed to be their 53rd Dā'ī al-Muṭlaq". Indian Express further reports that "Many" Bohras have accepted Burhanuddin's second son Syedi Mufaddal Saifuddin as Syedna".[43]
  • Around 90% [192] majority of the community support Mufaddal Saifuddin as the rightful leader of 2.5 million Dawoodi Bohras living in 100 countries.[193]
  • The Indian foreign minister, Salman Khurshid, on 28 Rabi' al-thani 1435 AH (28 February 2014 CE) arrived to offer condolences to Mufaddal Saifuddin at the late Syedna's residence Saifee Mahal, Mumbai. It is reported that he presented a letter of good wishes from Sonia Gandhi as Saifuddin left for his first trip abroad, after "accession to the.. Dā'ī office".[147]
  • A number of prominent personalities offered their condolences to Mufaddal Saifuddin as Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin's son and successor.[145] These personalities include Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Narendra Modi,[146] Mahinda Rajapaksa, Nawaz Sharif, Uhuru Kenyatta, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Salman Khurshid, Ministers, Members of Parliament, Consulates, representatives of religious communities, prominent citizens, professionals and intellectuals.[145][147]
  • Around 50,000 followers of Mufaddal Saifuddin gathered at a public ground in Mumbai to "endorse their solidarity and offer their condolences" to their "new spiritual leader". According to the official association handling the affairs of Dawoodi Bohras in Mumbai, Qutbuddin's "wrongful claim" has aggrieved community members, as they had witnessed "nass" in 2011 in Mumbai which "had [been] reaffirmed … on many occasions".[194]
  • Followers of Mufaddal Saifuddin staged peace marches and submitted a memos protesting his half brother's claim in Bhopal, Surat, and 'in various parts of the country'.[195][196]
  • Professors and students and teachers of the 200-year-old Arabic teaching academy in Surat and its branches and various state heads have recognized Mufaddal Saifuddin as the successor.[197]

Qutbuddin

  • The former Chief Justice of India, AM Ahmadi, in his personal stand, accepted Khuzaima Qutbuddin as the rightful successor. As per report, the former Chief Justice of India, AM Ahmadi also said that he "examined the documents and believe that Syedna Qutbuddin's stand of the 53rd Dā'ī is principled" in his opinion.[198]
  • Abdeali Qutbuddin, son of Khuzaima Qutbuddin, claimed that they have around 450,000 (450,000) followers.[150]
  • Other sources state that his support ranges from as much as 500 people.[192]
  • The faction supporting Mufaddal Saifuddin as the Dā'ī,[160][better source needed] has excommunicated Qutbuddin and his followers.[199] However, there is no official confirmation from the community on the alleged ex-communication while the progressive members have called a ban on this practice citing it illegal.[200]

Un-decided

The Progressive Dawoodi Bohra took a neutral stance in wake of the succession controversy, citing dubious claims of both the would-be successors and the wealth accumulated by the late Syedna's family. The Progressives' Central Board warned the claimants that they would be "consigned to the dustbins of history" if they do not adapt and act more fairly.[194] Several community members interviewed welcomed the court action as they looked forward to corruption in the community being exposed.[201]

Several[who?] community members interviewed welcomed the move to court on this issue saying "It is sad that we have to wash dirty linen in public, but the truth about the corruption in the community needs to come out", said a Bohra from Mumbai, on the condition of anonymity.[this quote needs a citation]

The Times of India reported that "most Dawoodi Bohra back Syedna Burhanuddin's second son, Syedna Mufadda Saifuddin, and hold him as its 53rd spiritual leader".[202] There were reports that some Bohras who support Qutbuddin have been forced to swear allegiance to Saifuddin through social isolation and threats of divorce between married couples.[203]

An online survey among the Dawoodi Bohra community revealed that only one fifth of the Dawoodi Bohras support the succession of Mufaddal saifuddin and a little less than one fifth support the half brother Khuzaima as the rightful successor [1]. A cover story on the Bohra survey revealed that most Bohras (46%) support Khuzaima over Mufaddal and many are in the community due to fear and force [2]

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