Syedna claimant Khuzaima Qutbuddin’s son stakes claim as successor, youngsters pledge allegiance to Mufaddal Saifuddin
The uncle-nephew battle for supremacy over the small, but powerful, Bohra community has taken an unexpected turn with the death of Syedna claimant Khuzaima Qutbuddin in the US on Thursday. Qutbuddin had challenged the succession of Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, son of late Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin, as the 53rd Dai al-Mutlaq in the Bombay High Court in January 2014, claiming that the Syedna had conferred nass (announcement of successor) on him. However, a large part of the community pledged allegiance to Syedna Saifuddin, with only a few coming out in support of Qutbuddin, driving a never-before wedge within the community.
Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin and Khuzaima Qutbuddin. File pic
Qutbuddin’s death, though, does not spell the end of the battle. His son, Taher Fakhruddin, has now staked his claim as the successor, and has vowed to continue the legal battle, much to the disappointment of youngsters in the community who are caught in the crosshairs of the row.
Burhanuddin Pota (29), a pilot with a private airline company in the city, said, “The entire controversy over who is the rightful Dai had left me disillusioned. I hope that with Khuzaima Qutbuddin’s passing away, it comes to an end. Our small community has been divided for no rhyme nor reason just to fatten egos.”
This issue has also led to families being split, couples getting divorced and some members of the community being socially boycotted.
Insiya Kantawala (26), a law student, said, “This legal battle has caused hurt and broken families in the community for over two years. This needs to stop. Don’t the community leaders see that instead of leading and guiding us, they are just dividing us?”
Some are, however, unperturbed by Qutbuddin’s death, given that they did not consider him to be their leader, and hope that the legal battle ends with him.
Batul Gabuji (25), a nurse at a city hospital, said, “Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin is our Syedna. Khuzaima Qutbuddin and his followers sought a lot of publicity through a divide-and-rule approach. I hope his son, Taher Fakhruddin, joins the community and opts to follow our only Syedna, Mufaddal Saifuddin. Only time will tell what happens. But we are praying for the unity of the Dawoodi Bohra community in Mumbai.”
Echoing the majority sentiment, an exasperated Aziz Engineer (30), an executive with a software company, said, “We know and recognize only one Dai. I have heard of atrocities faced by the supporters of Qutbuddin, which is pointless. This fight has little to do with religion, as the main reason for this fight is the valuable religious properties and trusts across the world, including the multi-crore-rupee Saifi Burhani Upliftment Trust that is in charge of rebuilding Bhendi Bazaar.”
Tasneem Rangwala (20), a mass media student, said, “Even though Khuzaima Qutbuddin caused a lot of strain in our Dawoodi Bohra community, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin asked us to pray for him. I do not think the succession drama will end as his son is now claiming to have been handed the mantle from him. We know that Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin is the rightful leader.”
Ravi Kadam, senior counsel who had been representing Khuzaima Qutbuddin in the Bombay High Court with advocate Chirag Mody
I have received information about the appointment of [Taher Fakhruddin] as Khuzaima Qutbuddin’s successor. We need to decide the next course of action.
A senior counsel,
The succession battle will be taken up for hearing on April 22 by Justice Gautam Patel. Dai 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.
— As told to Vinay Dalvi