Sameena Kenaz

Hyderabad’s Dawoodi Bohra community was plunged into mourning on the morning of January 17, 2014 after the death of Sayedna Mohammad Burhanuddin, spiritual leader of the sect for more than 50 years. Men, women and children waited for hours outside Saifee Mahal, Malabar Hills, Mumbai to catch a glance of their beloved ‘Maula’ one last time. He was 102 years old and died of cardiac arrest. He was conferred state honours, with Maharashtra’s Chief Minister – Prithviraj Chavan, and Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh turning up to pay their respects.

Followers from all over the world arrived for the Sayedna’s funeral. Buses were arranged by city heads from nearby cities for those who desired to be part of the funeral. “It is very difficult to describe the actual feelings. Near  his residence, Saifee Mahal,  there  was  a sea of humanity,  most of them  crying loudly  when  the  funeral  procession started,” says Khaizar Husain, who had gone to Mumbai to attend the funeral.

Bohra Masjids broadcast the entire procession and burial at Raudat Tahera for those who could not be there. Tasneem P., a housewife who watched it, recollects, “It was shocking news! He had been preaching for more than fifty years now, and it just seemed impossible at first. The mosque was full and solemn. We felt fortunate that we could watch the processions.”

Unfortunately, there was more bad news to follow. Friday became a day of mourning as many believers were killed in a stampede that followed the news of his burial. “The news of the stampede saddened me more. The day could not have been more tragic,” added Tasneem.

The Sayedna was a great believer in the conservation of the environment and urged his followers to do the same. A humble man, he ensured the prosperity of his community by emphasizing the importance of education and building schools for children. He also played a crucial role in designing the curriculum of Al Jamea tus Saifiyah, a leading theological university of Dawoodi Bohras in Surat.

His leadership saw the Dawoodi Bohra community embraced modernity. A number of Bohra mausoleums and community centres were established thanks to him. His work won honours and recognition from universities across the globe: Al Azhar University (Egypt), Aligarh Muslim University (India), University of Karachi (Pakistan) and Ahlulbait University College (Iraq).