Dawoodi Bohras are a sub-sect of Shia Islam, which is one of the two major denominations of Islam. The Dawoodi Bohras follow the Fatimid tradition of Shia Islam, which traces its origins back to the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, Imam Ali, and his wife Fatima. The Dawoodi Bohras believe that the Prophet Muhammad designated Ali as his successor, and that the spiritual authority of the community rests with the Imam, who is considered infallible and divinely appointed.
The leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community is known as Al-Dai-Al-Mutlaq
The Dawoodi Bohra community is led by a spiritual leader known as Al-Dai-Al-Mutlaq, who is the highest religious authority for the community. The Al-Dai-Al-Mutlaq is responsible for guiding the community in all religious and temporal matters, including interpreting Islamic law and issuing fatwas (religious rulings). The position of Al-Dai-Al-Mutlaq has been passed down through a hereditary line for over four centuries, with the current and 53rd leader being Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin.
Over 1 million Dawoodi Bohras across the world
Dawoodi Bohras are a global community, with members residing in countries around the world, including India, Pakistan, Yemen, East Africa, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The community is estimated to have over 1 million members worldwide, with the majority living in India. Despite being a minority within the larger Muslim community, the Dawoodi Bohras have a distinctive cultural and religious identity that sets them apart from other Shia and Sunni Muslims.
The challenge to the constitutional validity of the practice of excommunication in the Dawoodi Bohra community
Excommunication is the practice of excluding certain members from the community, typically by not allowing them access to a mosque or a burial ground. The Dawoodi Bohra community has been criticized for its practice of excommunication, which is seen as a violation of individual rights and religious freedom. The challenge to the constitutional validity of the practice of excommunication in the Dawoodi Bohra community was recently referred to a 9-judge bench by a 5-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India.
The 9-judge bench was set up to review the 2018 Sabarimala judgment, which dealt with the issue of gender discrimination in the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. The reference to the 9-judge bench in the Dawoodi Bohra case is significant because it will allow the court to review the constitutional validity of the practice of excommunication in the context of the larger issue of religious freedom and individual rights.