Borhras and reform

Sayedna Taher Saifuddin, Sayedna Mohammed Burhanuddin and Yusuf Najmuddin

Late Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin claimed his father, the 51st Dai, did not know about the Fatemid tradition

How the 51st Dai was undermined by his sons


The year 1967 was a memorable year for Bohras in East Africa. That was the year when plans hatched by late Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin and his brother late Yusuf Najmuddin were finally enacted. That was the year when they would replace the 1955 Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat of East Africa Constitution with their own. The 1955 Constitution was developed with consultations with Syedna Taher Saifuddin and was adopted at meeting of East African Jamaats on 17 April 1955 in Dar-es-Salaam. The Constitution was subsequently sanctioned by Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb (A.Q.) as 51st Dai-el-Mutlaq. In the preamble to the 1967 Constitution, it states:

“In the year 1959 His Holiness Dr. Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb (A.Q.) as 51st Dai-el-Mutlaq and Head of the Dawoodi Bohra community had been graciously pleased in the exercise of the authority of his august office to establish the East African Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat Central Council and provided for its functioning a Constitution.”

This statement clearly shows that the 51st Dai, Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb, agreed with the constitution, welcomed it and gave the East African Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat Central Council his blessings to adopt it.

In 1967 Syedna Taher Saifuddin’s two sons, the 52nd Dai, late Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin and Yusuf Najmuddin were zealous in their pursuit to grab all the community assets in East Africa. To do this they needed to replace the 1955 Constitution with their own. The actual transcriptions of the same preamble states:

“In his desire to provide a proper means to promote, foster, further and aid the fulfilment of the philosophy and guidance of His Holiness the 51st Dai-el-Mutlaq, foster the awakened zeal for the faith and the Dawat that moves the followers of East Africa to consolidate the gains, to better protect the Dawat and the Momineen from activities prejudicial and contrary to the Shariat and the Dawat, further strengthen the unity of purpose and to lead Momineen onwards by improving, systematising and strengthening the existing organisations and institutions, His Holiness, the Dai-el-Mutlaq deems it opportune, necessary, fit and proper that the Dawoodi Bohra Jamaats of East Africa should be governed by a fresh code of rules and regulations. In the context His Holiness the Dai-el-Mutlaq has borne in mind the resolution of the East African Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat Central Council carried at its meeting held in Mombasa on 19th day of June 1966 and reading:

         

“This meeting of the Central Council strongly feels that the present Constitution of the Jamaat Corporations of East Africa do not fully represent the traditions and heritage of the Fatemi Faith and do not give expression to the feelings, aspirations and sentiments of the Bohra Community of East Africa. Be it therefore resolved that Huzurali Moulana Dr. Mohammed Burhanuddin Saheb (T.U.S.) be humbly requested to graciously give his guidance and incorporate such changes as he may deem fit and proper in the context”.

"Now Know Ye and these presents witness that in the premises His Holiness the 52nd Dai-el-Mutlaq directs that the Constitution governing the various Dawoodi Bohra Jamaats shall be deemed to have been revoked and repealed and is hereby revoked and repealed and the Constitution hereinafter appearing shall be deemed to be the Constitution applicable to the various Dawoodi Bohra Jamaats and operative with effect from the date and in the manner prescribed in the Directive of His Holiness the 52nd Dai-el-Mutlaq dated 16th day of Moharram 1387 corresponding to the 25th April 1967.”

This was a shocking admission. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin was admitting that his father, the 51st Dai, did not know about Bohra tradition and Bohra heritage. Furthermore, Syedna Taher Saifuddin was, according to Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, ignorant about the Fatemid faith, its traditions and about the aspirations of the community and hence had led the community astray by agreeing to the 1955 Constitution which is why it had to be replaced.

Sayedna Taher Saifuddin, Sayedna Mohammed Burhanuddin and Yusuf Najmuddin

Sayedna Taher Saifuddin, Sayedna Mohammed Burhanuddin and Yusuf Najmuddin

If that is the case, Syedna Taher Saifuddin’s appointment of the Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin as Dai must also have been flawed. A man considered ignorant of his faith, heritage and tradition cannot be expected to make an informed decision about the spiritual leadership of the community.

Either Syedna Taher Saifuddin was ignorant and unfit to be the Dai, or Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin broke the terms of his own Misaq by denouncing his predecessor. If Syedna Taher Saifuddin was unfit as a Dai then so must be his appointment of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. If Syedna Taher Saifuddin was wise and fit then his denunciator must be unfit.

Neither of the two present claimants can expect any esteem, authority, legitimacy or inheritance of communal assets as they both claim to have been appointed by a person whose own legitimacy and credentials are questionable.

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