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The term Dā'ī al-Mutlaq or ad-Da'i ul-Mutlaq (Arabic: الداعي المطلق or داعي المطلق) literally means "the absolute or unrestricted missionary" pl. Du'aat-دعاۃ. In the Fatimid era Ismā'īlī faith, the term dā'ī has been used to refer to important religious leaders other than the hereditary Imāms working under their commands known as ad-Da'i al-Bilaagh (Arabic: الداعي البلاغ), and the Da'wah or "Mission" is a spiritually guided clerical-style organisation. "The Da'wah" was a term for the Ismā'īlī faith itself from early on. They are also called Dā'ī Syednas.
According to Ismā'īlī Musta'alavī Tayyabī tradition, before the 21st Fatimid Musta'alavi Imam, Taiyab abi al-Qasim went into state of occultation from Cairo in 528 AH/1134 AD, his father, the 20th Imām al-Amīr had instructed Queen Arwa al-Sulayhi/Al-Hurra Al-Malika in Yemen to anoint a vicegerent after the occultation - the Dāʻī al-Mutlaq, who as the Imām's vicegerent, has full authority to govern the community in all matters both spiritual and temporal. It is the spiritual rank in Isma'ili Da'wah which became more explicit and operational after the seclusion of 21st Imam. After Prophet Mohammad this rank is on the 6th position and after this comes Mazoon-مأذون and Mukaasir-مکاسر who are in turn appointed by the Dā'ī al-Mutlaq. Before the seclusion, the Da’i or a missionary works under the direct orders of Imaam and his trusted associates in all the 12 islands-جزائر where faithful were present and living openly propounding their faith or secretly due to the fear of their lives.
During the Imam's occultation, the Dā'ī al-Mutlaq is appointed by his predecessor in office. Da’i was given Itlaaq-إطلاق or a free conduct and absolute religious and social authority but under the governing principles of Isma’ili Taiyebi Faith. His command is regarded as a final decree guided by the divine support of Imam and this is the reason he is called Da’i al-Mutlaq. Unlike the case of Imam, where he appoints his successor only from his sons through divinely guided practice called Nass-نص, the Da’i can appoint anyone in his place who is most trusted, pious and capable of carrying Da’wah affairs with wisdom and proficiency. The first Da'i al-Mutlaq of the Taiyabi Ismaili sects was Syedna Zoeb bin Moosa.
Nass-نص is a declaration and designation through Divine Indication and Spiritual Intervention-تأئید إلھي for the appointment of a successor-منصوص, be it an Imam or his deputy-داعي during Imam’s concealment by his predecessor-ناص amongst his subjects, publicly-نص جلي or privately-نص خفي and at times supported by written documentary orders-سجل شریف. This tradition and practice-سنۃ اللہ is related to the Isma’ili Taiyebi succession to the seat of Imaamat, whereby each Imam under hidden heavenly commands designates his successor, when he witnesses the Light of Imaamat-نور الإمامۃ has got transferred to one of his sons whom he selects for Nass. During the seclusion of Imam, his deputy-Da’i performs this act of succession whom he finds eligible for the status of Da’i. He might not be from his sons, unlike the succession of Imam where an Imam always appoints his successor from one of his sons.
The appointment according to Shi'a faith and sources is when Mohammad appointed his son-in-law, cousin and his heir 'Ali bin Abi Taalib as his Vicegerent, legatee and Wali of the Faithful. This Prophetic tradition is followed throughout the centuries be it the appointment of Imam or Da'i and as per Isma'ili-Taiyebi principles it is the belief that no Imam or Da'i dies without the appointment of his successor and this will continue till the Last Day of this World.
The Dawoodi Bohra follow a sort of Shia Islam as propagated by the Fatimid Imamate in medieval Egypt. They pray 3 times a day joining both afternoon prayers Zuhr and Asr and both evening prayers Maghreb and Isha, fast in the month of Ramadan, perform Haj and Umrahand give Zakat.
Within the Dawoodi Bohra sect, there was a dispute on who is the rightful successor to the 52nd Da'i al Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. Two people have staked claims to be appointed 53rd Da'i al-Mutlaq, being Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin’s half-brother, Khuzaima Qutbuddin and Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin’s second son, Mufaddal Saifuddin. Khuzaima Qutbuddin died on 30 March 2016. On 31 March 2016 the family of Khuzaima Qutbuddin released a statement that Khuzaima Qutbuddin had conferred nass (announcement of successor) on his son Taher Fakhruddin. On 7 March 2017, Justice Gautam Patel allowed Taher Fakhruddin's plea to be substituted as plaintiff in this suit, stating that although Taher Fakhruddin was free to file a separate suit, including him in the current suit would save judicial time, money and valuable amounts of paper. The matter was set for direction on 25 April 2017. Till date there is no further hearing and its believed Taher Fakhruddin has put the case. Dr. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, now widely recognized as the community's 53rd Dai al-Mutlaq, has continued his predecessor's social control programs.
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This title is also used in the Alavi Bohra community to refer to their leader (in the Persian form "Da'i-e-Mutlaq") for similar reasons. At present Saiyedna Haatim Zakiyuddin is the 45th Da’i al-Mutlaq of Alavi Bohras in the line of succession of these Da’is in which 24 are in Yemen, 7 are in Ahmedabad, 1 is in Surat and 12 are in Vadodara. The 44th Da'i al-Mutlaq Saiyedna Abu Haatim Taiyeb Ziyauddin (d. 05-08-1436 AH/23-05-2015) appointed his eldest son Haatim Zakiyuddin as his successor.