Islamic Scholar and President of World Peace Council (India Chapter) Dr Abdul
Sami Bubere recounts his many memories of and impressions about the
I am among the fortunate few who have met and seen the last three Syednas of the
Dawoodi Bohra community: Syedna Taher Saifuddin, Syedna Mohammed
Burhanuddin and the present incumbent, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin. The manner in
which they have guided their community and earned praise from not just their followers
but leaders, preachers and persons from all walks of life across the world is indeed
remarkable. I must say it is my privilege to have known them and received their
Known for its entrepreneurship and philanthropic works, the Dawoodi Bohra community
willingly contributes to social causes, which includes building hospitals and schools. The
Bohras, with their distinctive dress code, are easily identified and are respected globally.
The unique sartorial style of the community makes them stand out even among a huge
crowd. You can spot a community member by just looking at their dress.
I have had the opportunity in my long and exciting journey as a journalist to meet a
number of spiritual leaders of various faiths and communities and in that regard, I am
amongst those fortunate persons who got blessed by Syedna Taher Saifuddin. His
eternal impression on me when I met him with my late father has left an indelible mark. I
was a teenager when I met Syedna Taher Saifuddin and still remember how learned he
was in different languages. He has left exemplary works in Arabic, Urdu as well as the
unique language spoken by the community known as Lisan al-Dawat.
It was a remarkable day when I had an audience with Syedna Mohammed
Burhanuddin in 1965 after the sad demise of his beloved father. He was always smiling,
soft-spoken, and benevolent and gave the impression that he liked anyone who visited
him. Whenever I met him, he would ask about the well-being of my family and friends.
His followers across the world miss him, but his guidance to nurture ethics, morals and
a sense of belonging to the community is remembered. It was humbling that a highly-
acclaimed and renowned person like him would appreciate my writing. Whenever my
articles on the community appeared, he would convey that he liked them and sent
encouraging words and blessings for me. There is a lot to learn from the way he
When on 17th January, 2014 we bade farewell to this remarkable man, the island city of
Mumbai was shrouded in white and hundreds of thousands from the community took to
the streets to pay their last respects. From his residence in Malabar Hill to his eternal
abode at Raudat Tahera in Bhendi Bazaar, the entire road was filled with devotees and
mourners as his cortege passed slowly.
After the demise of Syedna Burhanuddin, the present incumbent, Dr Syedna Mufaddal
Saifuddin, has consolidated the progress made during the time of his late father and
grandfather. I have met him on a number of occasions and observed that he too
radiates the same spirituality and warmth that I saw in his father. The devotion of the
community towards their leader never ceases to amaze me. He imbibes within him the
qualities of his father and predecessors in office as he goes about performing the tasks
of guiding the community.
Whenever I have the opportunity of meeting Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin his sparkling
eyes mesmerize me. His concern for the community and society at large makes me
grateful and I always thank the Almighty for blessing us with such a noble soul.
Unfortunately, the community has been dragged into a completely unnecessary
controversy regarding the successor to the 52nd Dai. As a journalist who knows the
community intimately and closely, and one who follows events related to it regularly, it
saddens me and others who know the community well to hear of the rumours and false
claims made by the self-appointed claimant to this exalted post of Dai and the manner
in which he has been portrayed. The word “split” is being used by some sections of the
media to create a false narrative. It seems to convey that there is a major fault-line
running through the well-knit social fabric of Dawoodi Bohras. From my experiences and
observations during these past few years, I have no hesitation in saying that the
narrative of a split is patently false. The community is united in its acceptance of Syedna
Mufaddal Saifuddin as the 53rd incumbent to the office of al-Dai al-Mutlaq. He has the
support of the entire community.
Although there is a rival claimant to the office, the false equivalence being created in
certain sections of the media is most disturbing. This will be evident to anyone who has
had the opportunity to attend any gatherings where Syedna is present among his
community. I was able to attend the recent Ashara commemoration in Colombo and can
confidently say that the event was a clear example of the community’s dedication to
Syedna as well as the noble causes he supports.
There simply cannot be any comparison between the claimant and Syedna Mufaddal
Saifuddin. Assertions by the claimant that his own sermons are viewed by thousands
and hence he has a large number of followers online is absurd. People view things for
many different reasons. His oft-repeated argument that people are scared of aligning
with him openly due to the fear of violence and social boycott is also specious since as
to my knowledge, no such case of intimidation that has come to light.
While I support my colleagues in the journalistic fraternity in their endeavour to publish
stories of public interest, it is incumbent upon them to ascertain the true facts and
understand the implications of what they write. One can only hope that in the future, this
stellar community known for its philanthropy and peaceable outlook is spared