I received the following article from someone but am unaware of its source, nevertheless I am posting it as it is very interesting and also relevant to the present situation prevailing in the Dawoodi Bohra community :-
Atabi-i-Malak Jamat Based in Nagpur India
Among the various Shia Muslim sects in India, the Daudi Bohras are among the most numerous.
Almost all Daudis are Gujarati-speakers and are mostly traders. Large Daudi concentrations are found in several towns in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, besides in other Indian cities and abroad as well. Being, for the most part, traders, the Daudis generally maintain a low profile, and hence little is known about them outside their narrow circle.
Recent events among a small sub-sect of the group, however, threaten to snowball into a major public controversy, with leaders from other Muslim groups, including the majority Sunnis, being drawn into the raging dispute. The storm of the controversy centers around a splinter group among the Daudis, the Atba-i-Malak Jamaat, based at Nagpur. This group was established by one Abdul Hussain Jivaji of Bombay in 1891. Jivaji held, in line with the Daudi Bohra belief, that the divine authority to carry on God's mission in the world, Amar, had been passed down from Prophet Muhammad, through his son-in-law Imam Ali, through a chain of Imams. The 21st. Imam, Imam Tayyeb was believed to have gone into seclusion (Gayba), after which the Amar was transferred to Yemen, being passed on through one Mauletana Hurrate Maleka, a woman, to the first Dai-i-Mutlaq, or deputy of the Imam, one Sayyedna Zoeb. The Amar continued to be invested with the Yemeni Dai-i-Mutlaqs till the 23rd Dai-i-Mutlaq, Sayyedna Muhammad Izzudin. Then, the Amar was transferred to the 24th Dai-i-Mutlaq, Sayyedna Yusuf Najmuddin who set up his base in India. Through him, the Amar was passed on to his successors, till the 46th Dai-i-Mutlaq, Sayyedna Muhammad Badruddin, who died in 1840. It was following the death of the 46th Bohra Dai-i-Mutlaq that the Daudi Bohras split and the Atb-i-Malak Jamaat came into existence. The founder of this new group, Abdul Hussain Jivaji, claimed that the 47th Dai-i-Mutlaq, whom the majority of the Bohras had chosen to follow, had unfairly usurped that position and that, therefore, he was not the rightful possessor of the Amar (Sahib-i-Amar).
In his place, Jivaji claimed to be the Hujjat or 'Proof' of the Imam, and hence, the divinely appointed leader of the Bohra community. Jivaji's claim brought him into sharp conflict with the powerful Bohra establishment, as a result of which he, along with his followers, was forced to move to Nagpur, where he set up the headquarters of his new community. He now claimed the title of Malak, and Christened his community the Atba-i-Malak, or 'the followers of Malak'. From the donations of his followers he bought a large tract of land in Nagpur, which he named as Mahdibagh, and set up his headquarters there. Here he established a Mosque, a Jamaatkhana, a library, a Madrasa, a clinic and an agricultural, tailoring and engineering unit, and his followers lived and worked together in a commune. Soon his name spread among the Bohras, and he succeeded in attracting many Bohras to his fold in Nagpur, Gujarat, Hyderabad, Khandesh and Ujjain. In claiming to be the Hujjat of the Imam, Jivaji based his arguments on traditional Bohra beliefs as contained in their interpretations of the Qur'an and their own texts, the Sahifa and Nasihat of their leaders.
Jivaji claimed that following the death of the 46th Bohra Dai-i-Mutlaqs the Amar had passed on to four hidden leaders or Mumalikins in seclusion, until the death of the fourth of these, Adamji Tayyebji of Bombay, in 1891. The last mentioned was Jivaji's father, from whom Jivaji claimed to have received the Nass or appointment to the exalted post of 'proof of the imam'. According to Jivaji, time had been divided into three cycles or Daurs. The first of these was the Daur-i-Fatrat or the 'Age of Lethargy', a period of 3000 years. This was followed by the Daur-i-Satr, or the 'Age of Darkness', lasting 7000 years. Finally the Daur-i-Kashf or the 'Age of Light', that would carry on for 50,000 years.
Jivaji held that he had been appointed by God to herald the end of the 'Age of Darkness'. The 'Age of Darkness', he claimed, was also period of the Prophet Muhammad and the various Bohra Imams and Dai-i-Mutlaqs whom the Bohras believe received the Amar after him. Jivaji maintained that from 1891 to 1901 would be the ten-year period of the Akhir-uz-Zaman or the 'End of Time', after which the Amar would be passed on to the divinely appointed leader of the 'Age of Light', known as the Qaim. He claimed to be the one who would herald the arrival of the first Qaim, and hence also took the title of Hujjat-ul-Qaim. In contrast to the Prophet, imams and Dai-i-Mutlaqs of the 'Age of Darkness', Jivaji held that the Qaim would be able to openly reveal hidden divine secrets, something which, he believed, was not possible in the earlier time cycles. Jivaji died in 1899 at the village of Korhadi, near Nagpur, soon after which a major split occurred in the Atba-i-Malak sect on the issue of his successor. On one side were the supporters of a close disciple of Jivaji, Khan Bahadur Ghulam Hussain Miyakhan Hakim. Ghulam Hussain had been appointed by Jivaji as the 'Veil of the Malak' or Hijab-i-Malak, and was given the name of Badruddin, 'The moon of the Faith'. He and his followers claimed to be the true inheritors of Jivaji's legacy, and styled themselves as the Atba-i-Malak Badra Jammat. On the other hand, were the supporters of another of Jivaji's close disciples, one Abdul Qadir Ebrahimji Chimthanawala. Abdul Qadir claimed to have been appointed by Jivaji as his legal heir or Vakil, and so he and his followers called themselves as the Atba-i-Malak Vakil Jamaat.
Besides the issue of succession to Jivaji, other factors were at work in the dispute between the Badris and Vakilis. Central to this was the sprawling headquarters of the community, the Mahdibagh commune. Both Ghulam Hussain and Abdul Qadir claimed to be the rightful owners of this vast property. In the course of the dispute between the two, Abdul Qadir was ex-communicated from the community by Ghulam Hussain, although he had taken the oath of allegiance [mithaq] from the latter.
Abdul Qadir and his followers then had to leave Mahdibagh, setting up their headquarters a mile way on a small piece of land, which they named Qaimibagh. Abdul Qadir and his supporters then instituted several court cases against the Jamaat led by Ghulam Hussain, claiming ownership of Mahdibagh for themselves. Many of these cases are still in the courts today. Following the split in the Atba-i-Malak Jamaat, clear theological differences began to emerge between the two groups, which are at the root of the present controversy.
Abdul Qadir proclaimed himself as the Qaim, the Imam of the 'Age of Light', whose arrival, he claimed, Jivaji had been sent by God to herald. After his death in 1911, the same exalted position of Qaim was claimed by his successors, his three brothers, Abdeali, Razzak, and Imdad Ali. The present head of the sect, Tayyebhai Razzak Chimthanawala, nephew of Imdad Ali, also claims the same title. According to the Vakilis, the Qaim is God's representative on earth and is the Sahib-i-Amar, or guardian of God's spiritual mission in the world, in his own time. Although various other Shia groups also place faith in the Imam, whether in 'seclusion' or not, the Vakilis differ with them on the issue of the role of the Qaim.
According to the Vakilis, following the ushering in of the 'age of light' with the appointment of Abdul Qadir as the Qaim in 1901, the Shariat of the Prophet Muhammad (Shar-i-Muhammadi) stands abrogated.
In a deposition before the court of the district judge of Nagpur in the civil suit 143/67 [Jafar Bhai vs. Hasan Nurani], the present head of the Vakili Jamaat, Tayyebhai Razzak, claimed that the Islamic rituals prevailing before the establishment of his sect had been abrogated. The reason he gave was that, 'The rituals of every Prophet are abolished, when the next Prophet appears with the appearance of the Quyam [Qaim]'. It is not clear if, from this, Tayyebhai Razzak was claiming to be a Prophet himself or a status equal to that of the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). Further, he claimed that with the founding of the Vakili Jamaat and the dawn of the so-called 'Age of Light', essential Islamic rituals such as fasting during the month of Ramadan, praying in Mosques, and offering Namaz had been abolished, for such rituals, he alleged in his deposition, 'were futile'.
The Mosque, he said, was a mere piece of cement and mortar, and the true Mosque was actually 'the place where the religious leader, Guru, is offered regard and respect and prostration'. The Kabah, he stressed, was simply a deaf, dumb black stone'. All Islamic rituals, he added, that had an external [Zahiri] form in the so-called 'Age of Darkness', had now, in the 'Age of Light' been declared to be totally unnecessary by Abdul Qadir and should only be followed in their 'Inner' or Batini sense. On the other hand, the followers of the rival Atba-i-Malak Badr Jamaat continued to remain within the broad contours of Islam, asserting that the Shariat of Muhammad still had to be followed in the 'Age of Light', the only difference between the 'Age of Light' and the age preceding it being that Jivaji, the 'Hujjat' of the Imam, and his successors had now to rationally and openly argue the rationality behind the rules of the Shariat.
Hence, rather than claiming for themselves the title of Qaim, Ghulam Hussain and his successors, including the present-head of the sect, Muhammad Amiruddin, merely claimed to be the Dai-i-Mutlaqs of the Imam or Qaim, in line with mainstream Shia theology. The theological wrangling between the two sects of the Atba-i-Malak are thus several decades old and would probably have gone un-noticed but for an attempt this February on the part of the Vakilis, led by their self-styled Imam, Tayyebhai Razzak, to enter the Mahdibagh colony ostensibly to organize a gathering [majlis] at the Mosque there, the Masjid-i-Ibrahim. On 12th February, 1998, the residents of Mahdibagh, shot off an angry letter to the Commissioner of Police, Nagpur, claiming that the Vakilis were threatening to force their way into their Mosque. They stressed that since the Vakilis had publicly claimed that since in the view of their so-called Imams, Zahiri [external] Namaz in a Mosque was useless and had been abolished by Abdul Qadir, their first so-called Qaim, the Vakilis' intention in entering the Mosque was but a crude attempt to capture control over the Mahdibagh colony.
In order to galvanize public opinion on the issue, the leaders of the Atba-i-Malak Badr Jamaat have contacted several leading Muslim authorities, both Shia as well as Sunni, throughout the country. In their request for fatwa from leading Shia and Sunni Ulama, they have enquired whether, in the light of the Shariat, it is allowable for the Vakilis, who explicitly reject the Shariat of Muhammad, particularly the injunctions on Namaz, and deny the need for a Mosque, to claim a right to enter their Mosque.
Important Muslim institutions such as the Madrasai-i-Madinatul Ulum, Nagpur, the Dar-ul-Ulum Salafiyya, Nagpur, the Dar-ul-Ulum, Deoband, the Jamia Nizamia, Hyderabad [all Sunni madrasasas] and the Tauhidul Muslimin Trust, a Shia institution in Lucknow headed by the well-known scholar Sayyed Kalbe Sadiq, have declared it unlawful for the Vakilis to enter any Muslim Mosque.
Some of them have even declared the Vakilis to be non-Muslims. Meanwhile, despite the flurry of fatwas denouncing the sect, the head of the Vakilis, the head of the sect, Tayyebhai Razzak, persists in his grandiose claims. In an extensive interview in Nagpur recently, Tayyebhai Razzak claimed himself to be the Imam for the whole world, and that all those who do not believe in him, Muslims as well as others, were Kafirs and shall 'certainly perish in hell'. While he claims that the Qur'an itself establishes the veracity of the Vakili sect, he himself admits that he knows no Arabic. Indeed, he does not even know Urdu. According to him there is no need for him to read the Qur'an in its original, because, he says, his is 'No Bookish Knowledge'. Instead, he says, he is in direct communication with God. When asked why, if he denied the relevance of the Shariat, he sported a beard and depicted a picture of a Mosque on the cover of his sect's Gujarati periodical, Isbat-i-Kashf, he frankly admitted that this was simply to 'attract others' to his fold. In reply to a question as to why he was now attempting to enter the Mosque of the Badris although the Vakilis clearly negated the need for Mosques and Namaz, he confessed that his intention was just to prove the 'legality' of his sect's claim over the sprawling Mahdibagh property.' That property belongs to me', he said, 'and I shall bring Mahdibagh into my hands at any cost'.
Such attempts to make religion a tool for personal greed have not been rare in the past, but, clearly, the present controversy far surpasses anything in the history of the Bohras, which itself has been replete with cases of splits on the issue of succession and control over the vast wealth of this enterprising community.
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