Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin was the 52nd Dā'ī al-Mutlaq of Dawoodi Bohras, a subgroup within the Mustaali, Ismaili Shia branch of Islam. He was appointed as the 52nd Dā'ī al-Mutlaq at the age of 52 in 1967. He was the longest living Dā'ī al-Mutlaq of the Dawoodi Bohra community. Compared to those of his predecessor, Syedna Burhanuddin's policies were aimed at Islamization of his sect.
Syedna Burhanuddin was presented the highest national civic honors by the leaders of Egypt and Jordan. He was the first Dā'ī al-Mutlaq to visit Europe and America.
Syedna Burhanuddin was born to Syedna Taher Saifuddin and Aaisaheba Husaina Aaisaheba in Surat in the Indian state of Gujarat. He was educated by his father, Syedna Taher Saifuddin. At the age of twelve, he survived a car accident in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where his vehicle got hung on one wheel.
Syedna Burhanuddin issued a dress code, calling for male Bohras to grow a beard and wear a white topi and kurta, and for women to wear a colorful two piece abaya, known formally as a Rida. This Islamization countered a trend toward assimilation into the larger culture of their ancestors that was also prevalent under his predecessor, Syedna Taher Saifuddin and the previous Du'at before them. The history of this culture can be traced back to the medieval Fatimid dynasty in Egypt.
In 1980 ACE/1401 AH, the Al-Hakim mosque was extensively refurbished in white marble and gold trim by Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. Remnants of the original decorations, including stucco carvings, timber tie-beams, and Quranic inscriptions were restored as part of the renovations. His intent to restore the ancient Al-Hakim Mosque as a place of worship in contemporary times necessitated a lighting solution that provided this important functionality to the mosque and did so in a manner that paid tribute to the Fatimid tradition of illumination and its aesthetics. The miraculous emergence of the mishkat or small lantern from the niche of the richly decorated façade of Al Jami al Aqmar provided that solution. The niche in which the lantern motif was found has also been compared to the mihrab niche of Al Azhar mosque, the same also now found in Al-Hakim mosque, which has a central motif that resembles a large lamp or lantern.
In October 1999, Syedna Burhanuddin was elected Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University, a position that his father also held. He is credited with expanding the two century old Arabic university Al Jamea tus Saifiyah. In 1983, a new campus of "Al Jamea tus Saifiyah" was built by him in Karachi. He built the "Burhaniyah Business Counseling Center" in Mumbai to provide modern business solutions. He also built the Raudat Tahera, a mausoleum of his father Syedna Taher Saifuddin in Mumbai, India. It is one of a kind, having the entire Quran inscribed on its inner white walls in letters decorated with of gold leaves and with precious stones. It was inaugurated in 1975 by the erstwhile President of India Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed.
In 1998, he constructed the Mahad al-Zahra institute for memorization and recitation of the Quran.
Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin is credited with the establishment of community kitchens to provide meals everyday to the Dawoodi Bohra families, thus providing free time for women to pursue economic, educational or religious activities. The community kitchens don't discriminate between the privileged and the underprivileged sections, both getting the same "good quality and hygienically-prepared" food, while the community members have the provision of paying for their own family, and for sponsoring those who cannot afford it.
Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin is also credited with conceptualizing and establishing Saifee Hospital in Mumbai. The hospital is a state-of-the-art, multi-specialty, 250-bed hospital dedicated to providing modern medical care. It was inaugurated in 2005 by Dr. Manmohan Singh, the erstwhile prime minister of India.
Awards & Honours
- "Order of the Star of Jordan", the highest civic honor of Jordan by the King of Jordan.
- "Order of the Nile", the highest civilian honor of Egypt.
- "Honorary Doctorates", by Al-Azhar University, Egypt, Aligarh Muslim University, India and University of Karachi, Pakistan.
- On 6 March 2011, Burhani Foundation, India made largest distribution of bird feeders (20,631) to celebrate Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin 100th birthday (according to the Islamic calendar). It was recorded in Guinness World Records.
- Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award of India, in 2015.
- Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin was named one of The 500 Most Influential Muslims in the years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin died of cardiac attack at his home Saifee Mahal in Mumbai on 17 January, 2014. The Bohra community announced a 40-day mourning period in respect of the departed leader. He was buried at Raudat Tahera Mausoleum in Bhendi Bazar, Mumbai beside his father Syedna Taher Saifuddin. His second son and his successor Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin led the Salat al-Janazah (funeral procession) of his father at the Saifee Mosque. Half mast of Flag and state honor was given by Indian Government during his funeral.
The day after his death, a crowd of supporters assembled outside his residence to pay their respects; when the gates were opened to let them in, a human stampede ensued, killing eighteen people. A commemoration service held one year after Syedna Burhanuddin's death drew an estimated three hundred thousand bohras to Mumbai; two dedicated townships were built specially to accommodate them.