HIS HOLINESS
SYEDNA MUFADDAL SAIFUDDIN

53rd al-Dai al-Mutlaq and Leader of the Dawoodi Bohra Community

Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin is the 53rd al-Dai al-Mutlaq and present leader of the worldwide Dawoodi Bohra community. He has dedicated his life to the service of the community and the betterment of society at large, with a special emphasis on education, environmental responsibility and socio-economic development.

Syedna Saifuddin guides his followers across the globe drawing them closer to their faith, culture and heritage. He teaches them the Islamic values of peace and patriotism while emphasising the need for every member of the Bohra community to be productive citizens who make a positive contribution to the social fabric of their respective countries.

NEWS OF SYEDNA MUFADDAL SAIFUDDIN

SYEDNA MUFADDAL SAIFUDDIN WITH WORLD LEADERS & DIGNITARIES

 

His Holiness Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin and his son and successor Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin

His Holiness Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin and his son and successor Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin

A DISTINGUISHED HERITAGE

Dawoodi Bohra Muslims trace their heritage to the Fatimi Imams, direct descendants of the Prophet Mohammed. They ruled over large parts of the Islamic world during the 10th to 12th centuries and were responsible for an unparalleled efflorescence of learning, art and architecture. One of the oldest functioning universities in the world, Al-Azhar, as well as many architectural monuments in the city of Cairo, Egypt — the vibrant city the Fatimi Imams founded — are enduring legacies of that era. In 1132 the 21st in the line of the Imams chose seclusion after ensuring that the office of the al-Dai al-Mutlaq (lit. unrestricted missionary) was instituted to represent the Imams and lead the faithful. Ever since, the Dawoodi Bohras have been led by the al-Dai al-Mutlaq who first operated from Yemen and then, for the last 450 years, from India. The present incumbent to this office is the 53rd al-Dai al-Mutlaq, His Holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, who assumed office in January 2014, succeeding his father and predecessor, the 52nd al-Dai al-Mutlaq, His Holiness Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin.

A NOBLE UPBRINGING

Born in Surat, India on the 20th of August, 1946, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin is the second son of the 52nd al-Dai al- Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin and grandson of the 51st al-Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna Taher Saifuddin. Syedna Saifuddin benefitted from the personal tutelage and instruction of both his esteemed predecessors. Syedna Saifuddin was invariably present with his respected father Syedna Burhanuddin at home and on his many pilgrimages and travels to visit his community abroad. He thereby learnt first-hand the traditions, customs and protocols associated with the office of the al-Dai al-Mutlaq.

His Holiness appeared for the examinations of the historic Dawoodi Bohra educational institute Aljamea-tus- Saifiyah in Surat where he graduated with the highest honours. He completed his undergraduate education in India and Egypt where he was privately tutored by distinguished professors from Cairo’s leading universities including Cairo University and Al-Azhar.

Syedna Saifuddin was conferred the highest degree of Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah: al- Aleem al-Bari , (The Outstandingly Learned). Syedna Burhanuddin also conferred upon him the rare title of Thiqat al-Dawat al-Tayyibiyya (The Trusted of the Tayyibi Mission). Syedna Saifuddin is distinguished by special accolades and a unique closeness given to him by his predecessor that is reserved for future occupants of the office of al-Dai al-Mutlaq.

In 1987, following the passing away of Dr Shahzada Yusuf Najmuddin, rector of Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah, Syedna Saifuddin was appointed as one of the rectors of the academy. In this capacity, he strove to uphold and ensure the moral integrity of the academy’s students, encouraged them to memorise the Holy Quran in its entirety and inspired them to lead their lives according to the universal precepts of tolerance, kindness and service to one another to which the Holy Quran calls.

Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin 53rd al-Dai al-Mutlaq and Leader of the Dawoodi Bohra Community

Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin 53rd al-Dai al-Mutlaq and leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community

A LEGACY OF KNOWLEDGE

Aligarh Muslim University Chancellor, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin presents an honorary Doctor of Science degree to Dr Ashok Seth

Muslim University Chancellor, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin presents an honorary Doctor of Science degree to Dr Ashok Seth

Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin with his sons and officials from University of Karachi

Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin with his sons and officials from University of Karachi

Soon after his ascension to the office of al-Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna Saifuddin was requested to accept the chancellorship of Aligarh Muslim University like his esteemed father and grandfather before him. A few months later, in April 2015, Syedna was confirmed as AMU Chancellor. In February 2016, Syedna Saifuddin visited the University as chancellor for the first time on the occasion of its 63rd Annual Convocation and addressed the 5000-strong gathering with an exposition of the Quranic verse which is the motto of AMU, “He (the Almighty) taught man that which he knew not”.

Prior to this, in September 2015, the University of Karachi conferred upon His Holiness the degree of Doctor of Letters honoris causa in recognition of his scholarship and commitment to the causes of learning and education. Syedna Saifuddin is the third head of the Dawoodi Bohra community to have received an honorary degree from this institution; his father, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, was presented with the same degree in 2004, and his grandfather, Syedna Taher Saifuddin, was also presented an honorary degree in 1955.

UPHOLDING THE TRADITION OF KNOWLEDGE

Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah Surat Campus

Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah Karachi Campus

Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah Nairobi Campus

Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah Marol Campus (Render)

Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah, originally built in Surat, India in 1810 for the teaching of religious lore and jurisprudence under the direct supervision of the al-Dai al-Mutlaq of the time, has been greatly expanded under Syedna Saifuddin and his predecessors. They introduced modern facilities and contemporised teaching methodologies while retaining the academy’s essential and original features.

Today, it has become an institute of great repute with three established campuses in Surat, Karachi and Nairobi, and one more under construction in Mumbai. Enrolment in the institute is highly sought after in the community and is quite competitive. An integral element of Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah’s curricula, and a primary factor for admission, is the memorization of the Holy Quran. A department within the institute dedicated to Quranic sciences and arts known as Mahad al-Zahra was established in 1976. Over the years it has expanded tremendously and today offers a variety of classes to students of Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah and via its eLearning platform it facilitates Quranic education for community members across the world.

At the same time, Syedna oversees the functioning of hundreds of schools and educational institutes across the world, in which religious education is combined with the secular. This gives students the ability to creatively meet the challenges of career and society, while their core Islamic values and beliefs are strengthened.

The beneficiaries of Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin’s efforts in the field of education are not limited to members of the Dawoodi Bohra community. Apart from schools under his own administration, there are a number of educational establishments across South Asia, East Africa and the Gulf states which have benefitted from His Holiness’s and his predecessor’s generosity and patronage, a prime example being the Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin Department of Genetics at Karachi University. Syedna also recently donated 1000 computers to a group of high schools affiliated with Aligarh Muslim University, one of which is the Syedna Taher Saifuddin High School at Minto Circle. The school’s buildings are listed heritage monuments and Syedna has sponsored a programme for their complete architectural restoration. In this way, Syedna’s educational endeavours and trusts have helped countless students in their academic journeys.

REVIVING HISTORY

Al-Jami al-Anwar in its restored splendour

Al-Jami al-Anwar in its restored splendour

A photograph of al-Jami al-Anwar by celebrated English photographer Francis Frith from the 1850s

A photograph of al-Jami al-Anwar by celebrated English photographer Francis Frith from the 1850s

Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin was instrumental in the endeavour to restore ancient Fatimi monuments in Cairo dating back to the 10th through 12th centuries. This movement began in the late 1970s with the restoration of the nine century-old masjid of al-Imam al-Hakim bi Amr Allah, also known as al-Jami al-Anwar.

For centuries, this ancient place of worship had suffered abject neglect. Due to the late Syedna Burhanuddin’s unwavering resolve and guidance and through Syedna Saifuddin’s dedication and intensive involvement, this key Islamic monument in historic Cairo was restored within the short span of twenty-seven months and reinstated to its former glory.

Later, in the 1990s, the restoration of other Fatimi historic monuments followed suit, including the masjids al-Aqmar, al-Lulua and al-Juyushi, all dating to the 11th and 12th centuries. These restorations marked the beginning of a collaborative effort on the part of The United Nations Development Program and the Egyptian government to rehabilitate and reinvigorate historic Islamic Cairo, contributing towards the socio-economic development of the 300,000 plus inhabitants of this area.

ENCOURAGING ENTREPRENEURSHIP

The Dawoodi Bohras have a significant presence in various countries across the world where they have gone on to thrive and prosper as industrialists, traders and professionals. This prosperity can be attributed in a large part to the efforts of the Duat (pl. of al-Dai al-Mutlaq), who, in keeping with Islamic values, have inculcated a business-minded attitude in the community, which Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin today continues to encourage. Some say that the very name ‘Bohra’ is derived from the Gujarati word for trade. As an example, in countries of East Africa, Syedna has rekindled the renowned entrepreneurial zest of the Bohra community. In Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia, he counselled members of the community to establish businesses and dedicated resources to assist them and other members of society. Syedna Saifuddin has personally guided followers and overseen the establishment of their homes and businesses in these developing nations, some of whom have returned here from the Gulf and western nations where they were once comfortably established. Under the guidance of His Holiness, by their contributions to both economic and social development, members of the Dawoodi Bohra community have become exemplary citizens of their countries of domicile while also remaining steadfast to the principles of Islam, demonstrating that temporal success and spiritual fulfilment can go hand in hand.

Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin views a trade and business display in Dubai

Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin views a trade and business display in Dubai

QARDAN HASANA: A SOURCE OF ECONOMIC GROWTH

Continuing the initiatives of his esteemed father, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin has developed further a number of institutions that assist in alleviating poverty, providing affordable housing and enabling business growth. An extensive network of schemes offers interest-free loans in keeping with the Islamic injunction to refrain from all forms of interest. The Quranic term for these loans is Qardan Hasana. Apart from institutional lending, community members are encouraged to loan each other money as Qardan Hasana at a personal, individual level — these initiatives being as much acts of faith as of sound economic value. Their practice has led to sustained economic growth and self-reliance within the community.

PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT

Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin has repeatedly emphasized the responsibility of every member of the community to conserve and protect the environment. In his discourses and sermons, Syedna promotes environmental awareness, particularly the preservation and enhancement of greenery by way of planting trees and flowers in and around homes and community buildings. For example, in Ramadan of 2017, Syedna expressed a desire for the community to plant at least 200,000 trees all around the globe. Linking the planting of trees with fasting and prayer which is the essence of the holy month of Ramadan, Syedna’s message is clear: protecting the environment is an important aspect of a Muslim’s ibaadat (worship). Similarly, last year during the annual Upliftment Drive where members of the community reach out to those less fortunate in different rural and urban settings in India and elsewhere, one of His Holiness’s directives was to assist in the cleaning and organising of private homes as well as community properties, particularly cemeteries which were often found neglected. Volunteers removed undergrowth and planted shrubs and flowers often transforming unused lands into play areas and sports fields. In the wake of these recurring cleanliness drives, Nazafat or Cleanliness Committees have been established in Dawoodi Bohra communities with the specific mandate of maintaining their cities’ sanitation and environmental health. Food and sustenance of any sort is seen as a blessing in Islam as it is in many other traditions. Therefore, food waste and excess has come under the spotlight in recent years and an emphasis has been placed on ensuring that not a single grain or morsel is discarded at homes or during communal events. Elaborate systems are in place to ensure that leftovers are either taken home or distributed to those in need by volunteers.

Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin planting and watering a tree sapling, Environment

Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin planting and watering a tree sapling

ENHANCING THE QUALITY OF LIFE

Prominent among his welfare initiatives is Syedna Saifuddin’s focus on improving the living standards and conditions of the community. For the past three years, Syedna has sent officials from his administration, students and staff of Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah and architects, engineers and construction professionals from the community to visit homes in critical need of restorative work. Volunteers not only provide immediate relief in the form of short term solutions such as painting and tiling, but also put in place long-term measures to ensure the stability and comfort of the families they visit. Medical practitioners also accompany Upliftment teams and provide basic medical care to those in need wherever they go.

Alongside these endeavours, Syedna Saifuddin’s other initiatives include hygiene and cleanliness awareness programmes to combat disease and pollution, clothing and aid drives for the impoverished, endowments for the provision of sports and recreational facilities to encourage healthy living and dispatching volunteering teams during natural disasters or other emergencies.

The community’s housing scheme by the name of Faid Inayat Amakin al-Anwar has so far provided — at heavily subsidised rates — over 11,000 new homes for those living in cramped or decrepit conditions. It is a stand-out achievement of the community which has seen 100 housing projects completed and 27 currently under construction.

SAIFEE BURHANI UPLIFTMENT PROJECT: A RENEWAL OF SPACE AND SPIRIT

SBUT New Shops

Residents and shop owners have begun to take possession of their newly constructed homes and places of business

The completer Al-Saada Building of the SBUT Project in Mumbai

The Al-Saada Building marks the completion of the SBUT cluster redevelopment project’s first phase

Al-Saada Bird's eye view

The Al-Saada building features green spaces, state of the art amenities and dedicated play areas for children

In the true spirit of Islam, Syedna Saifuddin has dedicated himself to the betterment and upliftment of society. The Saifee Burhani Upliftment Project (SBUP) undertaken to uplift the lives of the people in Bhendi Bazaar, Mumbai is one such ambitious initiative. SBUP was initiated by Syedna Saifuddin’s revered father in 2009 with the vision of providing residential and commercial tenants with an environment that fosters human growth in all aspects – spiritual, intellectual, social and financial.

The redevelopment project comprising of 16.5 acres within the heart of the city has 250 decrepit buildings and is home to 3200 families and 1250 shops. All of these will be incorporated into a state-of-the-art sustainable development with 17 new buildings, wide roads, modern infrastructure, large open spaces and prominent commercial areas. In 2015, the project was showcased and identified by the Indian government as the ‘National Best Practice Project’ for inner city redevelopment.

YEMEN: FOSTERING PROSPERITY

Al-Hutaib al-Mubarak, Yemen

Al-Hutaib al-Mubarak, an important place of pilgrimage for Dawoodi Bohras, is one of the many remote Yemeni villages that has benefitted from development programmes initiated by Syedna Saifuddin under the guidance of the late Syedna Burhanuddin

Coffee terraces in the village of Jarma

Coffee terraces in the village of Jarma

Coffee terraces in the village of Bani Murra

Coffee terraces in and around the village of Bani Murra

At a young age, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin was deputed the care and social, economic and spiritual development of the Dawoodi Bohra community domiciled in Yemen. It was in Yemen where the community first established itself after the transfer of the seat of Da’wat from Cairo. Ever since, it has been home to thousands of Dawoodi Bohras indigenous to the region. Islam has a strong tradition of bestowing titles in recognition of outstanding accomplishments and commitment which is why the late Syedna Burhanuddin bestowed upon Syedna Saifuddin the honorary title of Aqiq al-Yemen, meaning the Precious Jewel (Carnelian) of Yemen, for his dedication and service rendered to the Yemeni people.

Under his respected father’s oversight, Syedna Saifuddin has implemented a comprehensive programme for the Yemeni community’s socio-economic development. Foremost among them is the initiative of uprooting qat (Catha edulis). Qat is a drug of abuse which has stifled both the economic and social development of the population of Yemen for decades. The present initiative replaces qat cultivation with various agro-economic enterprises including coffee plantations, strawberry farms, animal husbandry and bee keeping. Gradually, the affected communities of the Haraaz region where the majority of the Dawoodi Bohra community lives have managed to escape from the stranglehold of qat, both as an addictive drug and as the sole source of income.

Alongside various infrastructure projects including the construction of reservoirs for irrigation, tarmac roads and photovoltaic installations for renewable energy, there has also been a drive to provide free education to children in this remote, mountainous region of Yemen. This has enabled students, both male and female, to realize their aspirations and has paved the way for greater social mobility.

FAIZ AL-MAWAID AL-BURHANIYAH: THE COMMUNITY KITCHEN

Even in this age of plenty, far too many people remain affected by food insecurity. Syedna Saifuddin has addressed this issue within the Dawoodi Bohra community by establishing a common kitchen in every village, town or city where they live, under the aegis of Faiz al-Mawa’id al-Burhaniya, commonly referred to as FMB. This common meal, which in most cases is home-delivered, is taken by nearly everyone, regardless of means, and ensures that no family goes without at least one wholesome and nutritious meal a day. This eradication of food poverty is an achievement that has had far-reaching consequences and has resulted in a shift in the social fabric of the community. FMB not only ensures the provision of a basic human necessity , but also frees homemakers, primarily women, from a time-consuming family obligation thus granting them the opportunity to pursue other interests, further their education, devote more time to the upbringing of children or contribute to the home income. This initiative has also succeeded in fostering a greater sense of community and kinship.

SERVICE TO HUMANITY

In the same manner as his revered father Syedna Burhanuddin before him, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin has dedicated his life to the service of the community and the betterment of society at large, with a special emphasis on cultural and socio-economic development. In recent decades the last three Syednas have increasingly devoted resources to providing the latest in medical care facilities. Hospitals, clinics, medical camps, ambulance services and charitable medical aid are provided in cities across the world. Standing tall amongst these efforts is the iconic Saifee Hospital which has become a central pearl in the skyline that is the ‘Queen’s Necklace’ – Mumbai’s Marine Drive. Its very design reflects the Bohra ethos with domes invoking ancient places of worship and glass elevations a symbol of modern architecture.

TIRELESS TRAVELS

Syedna at Dar es Salaam Airport

Syedna greeted by local officials at the airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Syedna arrives in Kisumu, Kenya

Syedna arrives in Kisumu, Kenya

Syedna welcomed at Colombo Airport

Syedna welcomed at the airport by government officials in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Syedna greets community members during a brief stop at a train station in Indore.

Syedna greets community members during a brief stop at a train station in Indore

Syedna at al-Jami al-Anwar in Cairo

Syedna at al-Jami al-Anwar in Cairo, Egypt

Syedna inspects a Guard of Honour in Madagascar

Syedna inspects a Guard of Honour in Madagascar

Over the centuries, Dawoodi Bohras have migrated across the world in pursuit of better opportunities in trade and commerce. Small community settlements have grown into sizeable formal congregations in many places around the globe. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin accompanied his father on his journeys to observe for himself the collective growth of the community and understand the complexities every individual faces. Today, His Holiness travels extensively wherever Dawoodi Bohras live, be they metropolitan cities or remote towns and villages. Each of his visits brings vibrancy to the faith and draws the adherents closer to their culture and heritage.

He provides a sense of direction and purpose to their lives, inculcates in them the values of patriotism as laid down in Islam and emphasizes the importance of being productive citizens, guiding them towards becoming an integral part of the social fabric of their countries. Moreover, His Holiness’s interactions with world statesmen, captains of industry and religious leaders, and their reciprocation with honour and respect, enhances the pride of the community and helps foster warm and peaceful relations between Dawoodi Bohras and their fellow citizens.

LOOKING CONFIDENTLY TOWARDS THE FUTURE

The 52nd al-Da’i al-Mutlaq , His Holiness Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin led the Dawoodi Bohra community for half a century leaving behind a rich legacy of spiritual and material progress. Despite the magnitude of the task, His Holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin has resolutely met the demands and challenges of the community’s leadership after his respected father’s passing. He continues to uphold his outstanding legacy of service, scholarship and commitment to social betterment.

As Syedna Saifuddin travels the world visiting members of the Dawoodi Bohra community, he guides them towards a way of life the hallmarks of which are kindness, loyalty and devotion — both to their faith and their country. He never fails to strengthen the bonds and bridges of love and amity that exist between the Dawoodi Bohras and their brethren from other faiths and communities in whichever country they call home. His warmth and humility make a lasting impression on all those whom he meets and his sincerity and sagacity are inspiring. Basking in his leadership and direction, the Dawoodi Bohra community looks confidently towards the future.

Photos of Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin