News & EventsA Legal Triumph for the Dawoodi Bohra Community

A Legal Triumph for the Dawoodi Bohra Community

In a historic moment for the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community, on Tuesday, April 23, 2024, the Bombay High Court dismissed a lawsuit filed a decade ago that aimed to challenge His Holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin’s position as al-Dai al-Mutlaq and leader of the community.

The Lawsuit and Judgment

After the demise of His Holiness Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, the 52nd al-Dai al-Mutlaq of the Dawoodi Bohra community, on 17th January 17, 2014, his son Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin succeeded him to become the 53rd al-Dai al-Mutlaq. Challenging his succession, his uncle Khuzaima Qutbuddin, the Original Plaintiff, filed a suit in the Bombay High Court on March 28, 2014. When he died in 2016, his son Taher Fakhruddin, the new Plaintiff, was allowed to continue the suit on March 18, 2017. The hearing was concluded on April 5, 2023.

The judgment given by Justice Gautam Patel a year later on April 23, 2024, after having considered the evidence led and the elaborate arguments advanced by both the parties, conclusively held that the 52nd Dai Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin had appointed his son Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin as his successor and the 53rd Dai.

The Hon’ble Judge said that the decision was based on evidence rather than faith, emphasising the importance of proof in the case. The judgment asserted that the advocates of the Plaintiff, Taher Fakhruddin, were unable to prove their claim of the conferral of nass (designation as successor) on his father, the Original Plaintiff, by the 52nd Dai. The evidence put forth by Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin’s legal representatives, on the other hand, proved that the 52nd Dai had conferred nass upon Syedna Saifuddin on four separate occasions.

The Plaintiff’s Case

In his lawsuit, the Plaintiff sought that the court declare that his father, the Original Plaintiff, was appointed as the 53rd Dai of the Dawoodi Bohra community and that he, the present Plaintiff, was appointed as the 54th al-Dai al-Mutlaq by the Original Plaintiff and was therefore entitled to administer all the properties and assets of the Dawoodi Bohra community, including waqfs and trusts. He demanded that the court order the Defendant to hand over possession of these and restrain him from acting as the Dai.

The Original Plaintiff claimed that he had been privately appointed as the 52nd Dai’s successor. There was no other person present for this appointment, no public announcement, no record, and no one else was ever told. It was only after Syedna Burhanuddin’s demise in 2014, that he publicly claimed that a nass had been conferred on him in 1965. The Plaintiff contended that a nass can be pronounced without any independent witnesses present and that it is irrevocable since a nass is conferred by divine inspiration.

The Plaintiff’s case was not proved as it was entirely inferential without any evidentiary foundation, as the judgment made clear.

The Defendant’s Case

Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin proved that he was repeatedly appointed successor by the 52nd Dai; four separate pronouncements of nass took place:

  1. January 28, 1969, in Mumbai
  1. November 2005, in London
  1. June 4, 2011, in London
  1. June 20, 2011, in Mumbai

The judgment, based on the vast amount of evidence submitted, held that all the instances of nass on Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin were proved. Additionally, Syedna’s legal team cited textual evidence that doctrinally and historically, nass must be and has always been in the presence of witnesses, and is not irrevocable, as every decision by an Imam or Dai is divinely inspired.

Citing a lack of evidence on the part of the Plaintiff, Justice Patel dismissed the suit, resulting in a favourable judgment for Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin.

A Cause for Joy

The Dawoodi Bohra community around the world rejoiced at this legal triumph—that the Hon’ble Court upheld the position and rights of their Dai, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, and dismissed the misleading portrayal by the Plaintiffs of the facts in issue and the history and doctrines of the community. Throughout this period of ten years, the Dawoodi Bohra community has placed unwavering faith in Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, whose guidance continues to lead the community to success in all its endeavours.