Dawoodi Bohras Community


    In News

    A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court referred to a larger Bench of nine judges, a series of petitions challenging the authority of Dawoodi Bohra community leaders excommunicate their members.

    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Dawoodi Bohra community’s Arabic Academy at Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah (The Saifee Academy) in Mumbai.


    • It is a world-class Arabic academy dedicated to producing graduates of the highest calibre. 
    • The centuries-old pursuit of providing intellectual nourishment at Aljamea is brought to fruition in four state-of-the-art campuses across the world under the guidance and leadership of the 53rd al-D??? al-Mutlaq Dr. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS, who is the sole benefactor of the institute.

    Who are the Dawoodi Bohras?

    • They are Shia Muslims  and they trace their heritage to the Fatimi Imams, direct descendants of the Prophet Mohammed, in Egypt. 
    • The Dawoodi Bohras throughout the world are guided by their leader known as the Al-Dai-Al-Mutlaq.  (unrestricted missionary), who first operated from Yemen and then, for the last 450 years, from India.
    • The present leader is the 53rd al-Dai al-Mutlaq, His Holiness Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin. 
    • They today are generally highly educated, thriving business people and qualified professionals in numerous fields. 
    • Aggregating to around 1 million members, the Dawoodi Bohras have settled in over 40 countries across the globe to practice their faith and lead meaningful and prosperous lives
    • Power to excommunicate 
      • The leader of the community is recognised by the members as having the right to excommunicate its members. 
        • In practical terms, excommunication means not being allowed to access a mosque belonging to the community or a burial dedicated to the community.
          • Among the members of the community who have faced excommunication in the past are those who contested the headship of the leaders.
    • Arguments against In November  1949, the Bombay Prevention of Excommunication Act (now repealed) was enacted, which sought to prevent the practice of excommunication prevalent in certain communities, as it led to the deprivation of legitimate rights and privileges of its members and in “keeping with the spirit of changing times and in the public interest”.
    • Arguments for: The 51st leader of the community challenged the constitutional validity of the Act, stating it violated fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution under Articles 25 (Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) and 26 (Freedom to manage religious affairs).
    • It was submitted that the power of excommunication was part of the management of community affairs in matters of religion, and depriving the Dai-ul-Mustlaq (leader) of the right and making its exercise a penal offence “struck at the very life of the denomination and rendered it impotent to protect itself against dissidents and schismatics”
    • Supreme Court’s Observations: .
    • Earlier: A Constitution Bench of the SC held in 1962 that Dai’s position is an essential part of the community and the power to excommunicate is to enforce discipline and preserve the denomination, not to punish. (Sardar Syedna Saifuddin v. State of Bombay).
    • Recent: A Constitution Bench led by Justice S K Kaul said that the 1962 judgment needed a relook. 
    • The court held that the consideration was needed mainly on two grounds: balancing the rights under Article 26(b) — the right of religious denominations to manage their own affairs in matters of religion — and Article 21 — whether the practice can be protected under Article 26(b) when tested on the touchstone of constitutional morality.

    Khatna(Female Genital Mutilation)

    • Female genital mutilation is a practice that involves altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons.
    • In India, it is practised predominantly within the Bohra Muslim community
    •  It has been recognised by the United Nations as a human rights violation that can harm the health and integrity of women.
    • UNICEF and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) jointly lead the world’s largest programme to end FGM. 
      • Launched in 2008, the programme partners with communities to raise awareness of the harms caused by FGM and to shift social norms towards collective abandonment. 

    Source: IE