TNN | Updated: Jan 25, 2017, 01.48 AM IST

The head of the rival faction of the Dawoodi Bohra community proclaimed himself the 54th Dai al' Mutlaq at a formal coronation ceremony in Thane on Monday. [Syedna] Taher Fakhruddin performed his 'takht nashini' (ascension to the throne ritual) as part of his 50th birthday celebration.

[Syedna] Fakhruddin is the oldest son of Khuzaima Qutbuddin, who was claimant to the position of 53rd Da'i before he passed away in March 2016. He was waging a succession battle in court with his nephew Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin whom many Bohras regard as the 53rd Dai al' Mutlaq or true successor. The 52nd Dai al' Mutlaq—Syedna Mufaddal's father, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin—died in 2014.

The office of Syedna Mufaddal remained unperturbed by the development. "We are not concerned with what they do since we have no connection with them," said a representative.

The 'coronation' took place at Darus Sakina, [Syedna] Taher Fakhruddin's headquarters in Thane, where he is also delivering a three-day 'sabaq' or philosophical discourse. His brother [Shezada] Abdeali Qutbuddin said, "The succession battle is being fought in court. But this event does not amount to contempt of court at all. The takht nashini is an expression of joy on behalf of his followers who are pleased at his ascension. It is also our statement of confidence in our stand."

[Shezada] Abdeali refuted the opposition's charge that his brother has a minuscule number of followers, mostly comprising his own family members. "That is far from true. This is the age of technology. I have statistics from Google Analytics to prove that last year 5.5 lakh people visited our website for a total of 11 million times. My brother's sermons on YouTube have elicited 3.5 lakh views." When asked if these hits could include curious rivals as well, Abdeali agreed this was possible. "Yet, our rivals instruct their followers not to look at our sites or sermons so people are clearly not listening to them. Moreover, they would stay for a few fleeting moments, not linger 11 million times."