While the dust is yet to settle after Saturday’s tragic turn of events, another storm is brewing within the Dawoodi Bohra community – over who will succeed the late Syedna Burhanuddin as the 53rd Dai al-Mutlaq, the religious head of the one million member-strong worldwide community.
Even as a section of Bohras have already accepted Burhanuddin’s second son Syedi Mufaddal Saifuddin (70) as the next Syedna, Burhanuddin’s half-brother Khuzaima Bhaisaheb Qutbuddin (73) announced late on Friday night that the Syedna had performed nass on him in private nearly 49 years ago while appointing him as Mazoon, that is the second in line, after the Syedna.
Nass is the official conferring of succession of the Dai’s position, which can be done either in a public ceremony or in private. At 3.15 pm on Saturday, when Muffadal Bhaisaheb Saifuddin made his first public appearance on a temporary bridge connecting Saifee Masjid and Raudat Tahera mausoleum after Syedna’s demise, lakhs of Dawoodi Bohras standing on the streets of Bhendi Bazaar screamed “Maula” giving a clear indication of who they have believed to be their 53rd Dai al-Mutlaq.
For some members of the community, there is absolutely no doubt over the succession of Mufaddal Bhaisaheb as the next Syedna.
A representative of the community who did not wish to be named said that along with thousands of other Bohras, he was witness to the ceremony when the late Syedna proclaimed nass on “Mufaddal Bhaisaheb” in Rahudat Tahera mausoleum in Mumbai. Months before this happened, in June 2011, the late Syedna had reportedly said to have suffered a stroke and had made the same proclamation of nass in front of his sons.
However, followers of Khuzaima Bhaisaheb Qutbuddin consider him the rightful successor, having been the late Syedna’s closest aide over the years. A statement released by this sect, which has unofficially started calling itself the ‘Qutbi Bohras’, says the late Syedna had instructed the Mazoon to not reveal the nass at the time. He continued to keep it under wraps at the time of the late Syedna’s illness two years ago, in hope that he would recover.
Dr Abdeali Qutbuddin, son of the Mazoon, said that on various occasion the late Syedna had indicated that the Mazoon would be the next Dai. “The group who claims that Mufaddal bhaisaheb is the next Dai has taken advantage of Syedna’s illness which left him speech impaired. In the so-called official nass, the late Syedna was not even able to speak, let alone utter the name of his son as the successor. Syedna’s son-in-law misinterpreted late Syedna’s gesture and everyone present believed that Mufaddal was pronounced the next Dai,” he said. Whether there will be spilt in the community, remains to be seen but followers of Khuzaima believe that people will “gravitate towards the truth and a progressive and reformist ideology.”