I am among the fortunate few who have met and seen the last three Syednas of the Dawoodi Bohra community: Syedna Taher SaifuddinRA, Syedna Mohammed BurhanuddinRA and the present incumbent, Syedna Mufaddal SaifuddinTUS.
The manner in which they have guided their community and earned praise from not just their followers but leaders, preachers and persons from all walks of life across the world is indeed remarkable. It is my privilege to have known them and received their blessings.
Known for its entrepreneurship and philanthropic works, the Dawoodi Bohra community willingly contributes to social causes, which includes building hospitals and schools.
The Bohras, with their distinctive dress code, are easily identified and are respected globally. The unique sartorial style of the community makes them stand out even among a huge crowd.
I have had the opportunity in my long and exciting journey as a journalist to meet a number of spiritual leaders of various faiths and communities and in that regard, I am amongst those fortunate persons who got blessed by Syedna Taher SaifuddinRA.
His eternal impression on me when I met him with my late father has left an indelible mark. I was a teenager when I met Syedna Taher SaifuddinRA and still remember how learned he was in different languages. He has left exemplary works in Arabic, Urdu as well as the unique language spoken by the community known as Lisan al-Dawat.
It was a remarkable day when I had an audience with Syedna Mohammed BurhanuddinRA in 1965 after the sad demise of his beloved father. He was always smiling, soft-spoken, and benevolent. Whenever I met him, he would ask about the well-being of my family and friends.
His followers across the world miss him, but his guidance to nurture ethics, morals and a sense of belonging to the community is remembered. Whenever my articles on the community appeared, he would convey that he liked them and sent encouraging words for me. There is a lot to learn from the way he worked.
When on January 17, 2014 we bade farewell to this remarkable man, the island city of Mumbai was shrouded in white and hundreds of thousands from the community took to the streets to pay their last respects.
From his residence in Malabar Hill to his eternal abode at Raudat Tahera in Bhendi Bazaar, the entire road was filled with devotees and mourners as his cortège passed slowly.
After the demise of Syedna BurhanuddinRA, the present incumbent, Dr Syedna Mufaddal SaifuddinTUS, has consolidated the progress made during the time of his late father and grandfather.
I have met him on a number of occasions and observed that he too radiates the same spirituality and warmth that I saw in his father. The devotion of the community towards their leader never ceases to amaze me. He imbibes within him the qualities of his father and predecessors in office as he goes about performing the tasks of guiding the community.
Whenever I have the opportunity of meeting Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin his sparkling eyes mesmerise me. His concern for the community and society at large makes me grateful and I always thank the Almighty for blessing us with such a noble soul.
Unfortunately, the community had been dragged into a completely unnecessary controversy regarding the successor to the 52nd Dai. From my experiences and observations during these past few years, I have no hesitation in saying that the narrative of a split is patently false.
The community is united in its acceptance of Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin as the 53rd incumbent to the office of al-Dai al-Mutlaq. He has the support of the entire community.
I was able to attend the recent Ashara commemoration in Colombo and can confidently say that the event was a clear example of the community’s dedication to Syedna as well as the noble causes he supports.
One can only hope that in the future, this stellar community known for its philanthropy and peaceable outlook is spared unnecessary controversy.