The Bombay High Court will on Tuesday hear the succession dispute raging in the million-strong Dawoodi Bohra community. On April 17, when the case first came up for hearing, the judge had had recused himself stating he had represented the late Syedna in the past in another matter.
Soon after the death of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin in January, the 52 Dai Ul Mutlaq, his stepbrother Khuzaima Qutbuddin, had challenged the succession of the spiritual head's second son Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin.
A statement from the community in June 2011 had stated that Mufaddal will be succeeding Burhanuddin. Qutbuddin has alleged that after this Syedna Mufaddal has made many other claims of such appointment, none of which are believable.
Qutbuddin claims he is the real successor as he was the Mazoon (the second in command in the community). He says the late Syedna too was once the Mazoon and had become the head of the community after his predecessor's death.
It has also been claimed that after Burhanuddin became the new Syedna, he had publicly appointed his younger brother, Khuzaima Qutbuddin, as his Mazoon and privately anointed him as his successor (53rd Dai Ul Mutlaq).
Qutbuddin claimed that he did not challenge the false claims made by Syedna Mufaddal until now because he (Qutbuddin) had been asked to maintain his appointment in confidence by Syedna Burhanuddin. He hoped that Syedna Burhanuddin Saheb would recover and set the position right.
Qutbuddin has also alleged that Mufadal made a false claim when it was not possible for the Syedna to anoint him as his successor due to poor health. Some letters of doctors have made it as part of the petition to be heard by the community.
"It is due to his health reasons that we did not take up the issue when he was alive. We wanted his health to improve so that the issue can be taken up with him. Syedna Qutbuddin was sworn in private in 1965 in private," said Abdeali Qutbuddin, son of Khuzaima.
Mufaddal's side have till now not commented on the claims made by the other side but his supporters have rubbished the claims of Qutbuddin. They even held a show of strength of sorts at Azad Maidan to show that community is behind Mufaddal while the mourning period was on after Burhanuddin's death. A declaration was given to the chief minister and other heads of states stating that Mufaddal be recognised as the true successor.
Qutbuddin's side, however, have stated that all negotiations with the community had failed because Mufaddal's side were not willing to sit and talk. Like the one in the Bombay High Court, similar case has been filed in Gujarat High Court too where a similar reprieve is sought.
What is at Stake
At stake now is not just the issue of succession and title of 53rd Dai Ul Mutlaq – given to the one who heads the community but also of the various trusts and Wakfs. These trusts and Waks together hold onto the properties of the business community that run into several thousands of crores not just in India but across the world. These properties include the palace – Saifee Mahal, in which the spiritual leader of the community resides.
Allegations made by the Qutbuddin faction against Mufaddal
The faction's allegations that are not part of the plaint but are being fought out in the community circles include one accusing the other of being orthodox and being against the freedom of women in the community.