Al-Dai al-Ajal Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS and ʿAshara Mubaraka: Excerpt from 75 Momentous Years

Al-Dai al-Ajal Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS and ʿAshara Mubaraka: Excerpt from 75 Momentous Years

The delivery of sermons, known as waʿz majlis, is the primary medium through which history, doctrinal law, intellectual thought, wisdom and guidance is disseminated in the Daʿwat. These sermons are delivered throughout the year, usually on days of religious significance.

The most important annual sermons are delivered during ʿAshara Mubaraka which takes place at the onset of the Islamic year to commemorate the martyrdom of the Prophet Mohammed’s SAW beloved grandson, Imam Husain AS. The cumulative efforts of the last three Duʿat Mutlaqeen AS have ensured that every single Dawoodi Bohra community centre across the world holds the ʿAshara event for its local congregation with a series of majalis (pl. of majlis) both in the morning and in the evening in which Imam Husain’s AS martyrdom is commemorated through sermons delivered by the congregation leader and the recitation of elegies by the audience. With each subsequent sermon, having progressed through various themes in Islamic history and philosophy, the assembly moves closer to the day of ʿAshura (the 10th of Muharram) in which Imam Husain’s AS final journey to Karbala and the oppression he faced there are narrated in great detail.

A large segment of the community travels to hear the sermons of the Daʿi which are conducted at a scale like no other and offer a truly unique experience for the thousands that attend. In the few short years of Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin’s TUS tenure, the number of attendees has grown exponentially with over 200,000 people attending his sermons in Indore, India in 1440/2018. The sermons serve as a means for followers to reinvigorate their faith and navigate the complexities of modern life by contextualising thousands of years of history with the issues facing the Dawoodi Bohra community and humanity at large today. The majalis give rise to intense grief and emotion which not only cleanses the soul providing mental and spiritual relief, but also sensitises attendees to contemporary challenges facing the world, generating a greater sense of collective empathy. Syedna’s TUS counsel and guidance throughout the year, but especially during ʿAshara Mubaraka, are the source and foundation of the community’s core ethos: the expression of a strong Islamic identity that resonates with values of loyalty, patriotism, lawfulness and generosity. These values encourage Dawoodi Bohras to be exemplary citizens of the countries they live in and ideal members of society.

Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS has always had a seminal role in generating greater awareness of the significance of Imam Husain’s AS martyrdom. He delivered his first ʿAshara sermons in 1388/1968, when Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA sent him to Indore. Indicating the importance of this maiden event, Syedna Burhanuddin RA instructed Dawat hudud, members of his administration and Mumineen to see Syedna Saifuddin TUS off at the railway station. In subsequent years, Syedna Burhanuddin RA directed Syedna Saifuddin TUS to deliver ʿAshara sermons in Madina Munawarra and Karbala al-Muʿalla (1391/1971), Karachi (1394/1974), Dohad (1395/1975), al-Qahira (1396/1976), Ahmedabad (1397/1976), Kuwait (1404/1983) and Mumbai (1411/1990).

The 52nd Daʿi often sent his successor to assess cities vying for the privilege of hosting ʿAshara Mubaraka, trusting his judgement and evaluation. In one instance he states:

The requests of the faithful in Indore seeking this great honour (that Syedna Burhanuddin RA grace their city with the sermons of ʿAshara Mubaraka) had been conveyed to us continuously for a number of years… From Khandala, I sent my radiant son, the delight of the eye of Allah’s trustworthy Daʿi, ʿAqeeq al-Yaman, Thiqat al-Daʿwat al-Tayyibiyya, ʿAleem al-Baariʿ , to ascertain the requirements needed…

During the 52nd Daʿi’s tenure, the 53rd Daʿi was the single most prominent voice in encouraging the faithful to attend ʿAshara Mubaraka, rendering a hugely consequential service to his father. The prominence of his service was made apparent during the night majalis held in the location where the 52nd Daʿi led the ʿAshara gathering. Whilst other Daʿwat hudud and scholars in attendance would address the gathering each evening offering their reflections on Syedna Burhanuddin’s RA sermon delivered that day, for years it was reserved for Syedna Saifuddin TUS to deliver his uniquely impassioned oration as the final speech on the final night, the eve of ʿAshura. His heartfelt words strengthened the conviction of attendees and prepared them for the day of ʿAshura, the day Imam Husain AS attained martyrdom. Syedna Saifuddin’s TUS ʿAshura eve oration was eagerly anticipated and was a core feature of Syedna Burhanuddin’s RA ʿAshara Mubaraka.

In 1411/1990, Syedna Burhanuddin RA was due to deliver the ʿAshara sermons in Dar es Salaam when illness prevented him from travelling to Tanzania for the first few days. He instructed Syedna Saifuddin TUS to deliver sermons in his stead in Mumbai’s historic Ghurrat al-Masajid (Saifee Masjid). Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA describes this occasion in the following words:

I beckoned my radiant son, the delight of my eye, ʿAqeeq al-Yaman, Mufaddal Saifuddin, and directed him to deliver the sermon of mourning at Ghurrat al-Masajid. He followed my directives, and having sought succour from Allah, delivered an excellent sermon. He guided Mumineen towards the best of paths. He counselled them regarding the obligation of Allah’s obedience, the indispensability of Maula’s walayat (love), and the need for them to be sincere and pure. These sermons continued until the 4th of Muharram. He oversaw this responsibility diligently with regards to his narration, his counsel and the remembrance of [Imam Husain’s AS] martyrdom.

While Syedna Saifuddin TUS was delivering the sermon in Mumbai, Syedna Burhanuddin RA remained at Saifee Mahal and alternated between listening to a recording of a sermon delivered by his father and predecessor, Syedna Taher Saifuddin RA and listening to the live audio relay of the ongoing sermon of his son and successor from Ghurrat al-Masajid. After completing the first sermon, Syedna Saifuddin TUS returned to the presence of his respected father who showed his pride and pleasure by kissing him upon his forehead.

The ghurrat of all those who had rendered services to Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA delivered three sermons during ʿAshara Mubaraka 1411/1990 in Ghurrat al-Masajid in Mumbai as per the directives of Syedna Burhanuddin RA.

The 53rd Daʿi would go on to deliver sermons on behalf of his predecessor in 1433/2011-12, 1434/2012-13 and 1435/2013 after he was publicly proclaimed successor. During this time, the 52nd Daʿi bestowed upon him the unique privilege of seating him at his side on the takht[^1] on multiple occasions including the blessed day of ʿAshura for three successive years. This rare sight invoked the memory of the 51st Daʿi who similarly granted his successor the same honour twice, once in Ahmedabad and once in Mumbai. Such is the seamless continuity that is manifested throughout the illustrious lives of these three august personalities.

The significance of ʿAshara Mubaraka for the religious and cultural perpetuity of the Dawoodi Bohra community cannot be overstated, and Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS has spared no effort in spreading awareness in this regard. Throughout time, it has been the responsibility of the Imam or Daʿi of each era to ensure the preservation and perpetuation of the Daʿwat so that its adherents may continue attaining salvation. The 53rd Daʿi, like Duʿat Mutlaqeen RA before him, has clearly stated that for the Dawoodi Bohra community, this salvation lies in the remembrance of, and lamentation upon, Imam Husain AS.

In order to ensure that this message reaches each and every individual, members of Syedna’s TUS family, administration and students of Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah along with select Mumineen travel to towns and cities where Dawoodi Bohras reside during the annual Ohbat[^2] week approximately a month prior to ʿAshara Mubaraka to explain its significance and motivate the community. During this week, community members visit each other’s homes and hold majalis where they recall Imam Husain’s AS tragedy at an intimate and personal level. The opportunity to remember Imam Husain AS in the familiar setting of one’s home surrounded by individuals whose common bond is the love for Imam Husain AS and his Daʿi TUS is a profound experience and is the perfect motivation and precursor for the upcoming ʿAshara gathering. The end result of Ohbat has been that community members’ attendance, punctuality and understanding of the sermons and the significance of Imam Husain’s AS grief continues to grow year on year. It is customary for community members to close their shops, cease their businesses and other worldly activities, and take leave from school and work to participate in the majalis, and wholly commit themselves to this remembrance as a humble tribute to Imam Husain’s AS sacrifice. Following ʿAshara Mubaraka, they return to their daily lives spiritually fulfilled, primed for the year that lies ahead with renewed vigour to do what is right, kind and virtuous in all spheres of their lives, positively impacting their relationships, businesses and souls. Immediately after one ʿAshara Mubaraka draws to a close, Syedna TUS urges the community to prepare and plan for the next. Wherever Syedna TUS travels, this one message of his remains constant, a message that has brought the community closer to each other and, more importantly, closer to Imam Husain AS.

Notes

[^1]:
The takht is an ornate platform from which sermons are delivered.

[^2]:
Ohbat is the Arabic word for preparation and in this context is used to express the notion of readiness, eagerness and preparedness for ʿAshara Mubaraka.