Nineteen-year-old Shaban Bukhari, son of Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari, has been chosen to succeed his father as the 14th Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in the country.
Shaban was picked for the influential post due to his "strong inclination" toward humanities besides his religious capabilities, said Bukhari who has been holding the prestigious post since 2000.
The teenager, who is pursuing Bachelors in Social Work at a private university, will be anointed as the 'Nayab Shahi Imam' (Vice Imam) at a ceremony on November 22 which will be attended by around 1,000 religious leaders from across the world.
He will be groomed under his father, who will remain the "Shahi Imam" for his life. Shaban will then take over the mantle from his father.
From nearly 400 years, Imamat of the Jama Masjid has been continuing in the same family from generation to generation.
Jama Masjid's history dates back to 1656, when Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari was conferred the title of "Shahi Imam" by then Mughal emperor Shahjahan. He was sent to Delhi by the Shah of Bukhara, then emperor of Uzbekistan, following a request from Shahjahan.
"The first namaz took place in 1656 and it was then Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari was conferred the title of 'Shahi Imam'. From that day, in accordance to Shahjahan's wish, the Imamat of the Jama Masjid has been continuing in the family from generation to generation," Syed Ahmed Bukhari told PTI.
Explaining the process of choosing his heir, he said that it has to be seen which son is capable of becoming 'Imam' and whether he has religious inclination or not.
"He (Shaban) is capable and has religious inclination, in addition to that he is doing his graduation in Amity University. He has had strong leaning toward humanities, he wanted to serve humanity and social work has been his main subject. He is also doing his graduation social work.
"So keeping in mind his capabilities and his inclination the decision was taken to appoint him as the 'Nayab Shahi Imam' of the Jama Masjid and he will be the next, that is, the 14th Shahi Imam," he said.
Talking about the grooming process, Bukhari said, "I was appointed as the 'Nayab Shahi Imam' in 1973 by my grandfather and I was appointed as the Shahi Imam in 2000. Similarly I will groom my son, he said.
The Shahi Imam's post is considered quite influential. Bukhari's endorsement of Congress in the run-up to the 2014 general elections had triggered criticism against the party.
The Muslim cleric had also extended his support to SP before the 2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.