Mohammad Hasan (name changed), a Dawoodi Bohra from Godhra, has been having serious discussions with some fellow community members over the past six months on joining a newly emerging group within the community.
Rumours are rife within the one-million-strong community that some members, who are loyal to the Mazoon Qutbuddin, the half-brother of the Bohras' spiritual leader Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, have formed a separate sect and refer to themselves as the Qutbi Bohras. They want the Mazoon to be the 53rd Dai-al-Multaq after the Syedna.
Dawoodi Bohras are the subsect of the Shia Muslim community and are originally traders from Gujarat.
According to historical precedence, the Mazoon is the next in line to take the position as leader of the community.
However, after the Syedna suffered a stroke and was hospitalised in London two years ago, he is said to have named his second son, Maulaya Muffadil Bhaisaheb Saifuddin, as the heir apparent.
"I will follow the Mazoon, as my parents had told me that he is the successor. I know of about 15 families within the community who have also decided to follow him," said Hasan.
"While we are not ready to declare this now, it will definitely come out in the open once it is time for the successor to take over," he said
The rumour has been rampant on online forums, particular on the website of the progressive Dawoodi Bohras, which split from the community in the 1970s following allegations of suppression by the Syedna.
Some of the discussions on the forum read: “Currently there is a rumour going around in the Bohra circles of mumbai, that the followers of Mazoon Saheb are intending to form a new sect declaring the current Mazoon as Dai after Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin.
"The rumour also has it that the sources from within Saifee Mahal are spilling this news out. This is compounded by the fact that no one has heard Syedna saheb utter Nass in his own words in front of common bohras…. I dont know how far the above is true but it is catching fire amongst bohras (sic).”
Nass is the official declaration of the successor of the Syedna.
There has been strong opposition to the posts. The administration team of the forum clarified saying that these were just rumours and the source could not be ascertained.
Some reformist Bohra leaders indicated that while the transformations were happening internally, it will be some time before it comes out in the open.
“While people are internally calling themselves Qutbi Bohras, it is not likely that there will be an open declaration of the sect as long as there is no power balance within the community,” said Saifuddin Insaf, one of the founders of the progressive sect within the community.
"While the Mazoon has declared on record that he is the Syedna's successor, there is no clarity on how much support he has," he said.
While several community members confirmed they had heard the rumours, no one wished to comment on it.
However, family members of the Syedna dismissed the news as "baseless".
“There is no such dispute within the family or the community. The Mazoon himself wished the Syedna and his son after he was named the successor,” said Abdulqadir Bhaisaheb, son of the Syedna's third daughter Husena Bensaheba.
“While the Syedna had declared his son as the successor in the hospital in London, he also openly declared it to the community at the Raudat Tahera [a mausoleum in Bhendi Bazaar] in front of 5,000 people,” he said.
Members of the Mazoon's family refused to comment on the issue.