His Holiness Dr Syedna Taher Saifuddin


Early life & Work

His Holiness Dr Syedna Taher Saifuddin was born in Surat on the 5th of August, 1888. He is the 51st al-dai al mutlaq and leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community, predecessor and father to the 52nd dai the late his Holiness Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin and grandfather to the current His Holiness Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin the 53rd incumbent of the office of dai al-mutlaq. From his very boyhood he received an excellent education in the holy books of Islam, Arabic history and literature. Heir to a heritage of spiritual thought and practice, philosophic inquiry, scholarship, and administrative skills going back centuries, His Holiness assumed charge of the pontifical office of the Dawoodi Bohra Community known as Dawat-e-Hadiyah in 1915 at the age of 28. Although young in years, he was rich in attainments like his illustrious predecessors.

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His Holiness was essentially a scholar and a preacher, born as well as made by dint of strenuous industry and perseverance. Among a plethora of tasks and affairs that he looked into for managing his community, his dedication to education was exemplary. In a speech at Kurnool College, he stated:

‘As I have spent most of my life in the pursuit of knowledge and its dissemination amongst those of understanding - strengthening its foundations, and beautifying its gatherings - I have found nothing more important, pleasant or agreeable than the hours and days that have passed in this noble and exalted endeavour.’

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An Eminent Personality

His Holiness travelled widely in India and visited most of its important cities more than once. These travels enabled him to acquire first hand information not only about the state of his followers who are far flung all over India but also about the goings on in the country as a whole. He met almost all the prominent Muslim as well as Non-Muslim men of every province and then rulers of several Indian states, big and small.

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Travels & Experiences

Throughout his life, His Holiness was committed to the betterment of his followers. To that extent his duties would require him to travel frequently to the places where his followers resided, both in India and abroad. His Holiness is distinguished to be the first dāʿī to travel as far as East Africa and Far-East Asia, where Dawoodi Bohras had settled between the 17th and 18th centuries. His itinerary during these visits would be dedicated to his followers where a large percentage of time was reserved for one-to-one interactions with them. These would entail sometimes long and animated conversations about their problems and counsel in both spiritual and temporal affairs. Even today, the septuagenarian Bohras of East Africa recall his visit of 1963, just two years prior to his demise and reflect upon the profound impact it made on their personal and professional lives.
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A Leader for Humanity

Although His Holiness was the leader of a minority in India, he maintained amicable relations with the highest leadership of his time. The revered Indian icon of freedom, Mahatma Gandhi was close to him and had once called upon him at his residence at Saifee Mahal to seek consultation before departing for the Second Round Table Conference in London.

Similarly, the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru frequently met with His Holiness and upon his invitation inaugurated the community’s premier seat of learning, Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah in Surat. He also visited His Holiness’ dedication of Saifee Villa to the nation. Saifee Villa was the landmark property owned by His Holiness where Gandhiji had taken lodgings on his historic Salt March (also known as Dandi March) in 1930.

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Contributions to Society

As a devout Muslim, His Holiness took keen interest in the affairs of all Islamic countries and contributed with kind and counsel to important causes within them.

On a visit to Iraq in 1934, he was apprised about the sedate structural condition of the sepulchre of Imam Ali AS and Imam Husain AS at Karbala and Najaf respectively. His Holiness readily agreed to replace both of them by newly made structures prepared in India in silver and gold by expert artisans.

His Holiness performed the annual pilgrimage of Hajj in 1937, where he was accorded the status of State Guest by King Ibn Saud’s government. After his return to India, His Holiness presented a distinctive kiswa (curtain) to adorn the walls of the holy Kaaba which remained inside the precincts of the structure of the holy Kaaba for many years.

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Honours and Acknowledgements

Syedna Taher Saifuddin was conferred Doctor of Theology by Aligarh Muslim University on the 15th of April 1946, and later in  1953 he accepted the chancellorship for which he was elected to for four consecutive terms from 1953 to 1965. He was the longest serving chancellor in the university’s history.

Syedna was also honored by Karachi University who conferred him with a Doctor of Laws degree in 1955. He was also voted among 100 Greatest Indian Muslims of the Twentieth Century in an opinion poll run by Milli Gazette.

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Shortly after his demise, on the 18th of March 1966 Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, his son and successor, established His Holiness Dr Syedna Taher Saifuddin Memorial Trust with the aim of providing scholarships and grants for education as well as financial aid for medical purposes to both individuals and institutions alike.