City List – Shahi Imams, Jama Masjid
Migrants from Bukhara.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Old Delhi’s Jama Masjid formally received its future ‘royal’ imam, or chief cleric, in November 2014. The Mughal-era mosque and the immediate surroundings were lit up with electric bulbs at night to celebrate the occasion.
The mosque’s present imam, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, anointed his college-going son Shaban Bukhari as the naib imam (deputy imam). The ceremony took place in the backdrop of Delhi High Court’s ruling that such a succession has no “legal sanctity”.
The forefathers of the mosque’s imam are said to have come from Bukhara in central Asia. The first imam was appointed by Emperor Shahjahan. The office has remained within the same family.
Here is a list* of all the shahi imams of the 17th century Jama Masjid.
1. Syed Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari (appointed in 1656)
2. Syed Abdul Shakoor Shah Bukhari
3. Syed Abdul Raheem Shah Bukhari
4. Syed Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari Thani
5. Syed Abdul Rehman Shah Bukhari
6. Syed Abdul Kareem Shah Bukhari
7. Syed Mir Jeewan Shah Bukhari
8. Syed Mir Ahmed Ali Shah Bukhari
9. Syed Mohammed Shah Bukhari
10. Syed Ahmed Bukhari
11. Syed Hameed Bukhari
12. Syed Abdullah Bukhari
13. Syed Ahmed Bukhari (2000 onwards)
Paris for one night (Jama Masjid decked up to celebrate the succession)
10. (No legal sanctity)
An office that has stayed within the same family for centuries and can be held only by men ? Sounds exciting ! So the next time I scrape together a dish of paneer that isn’t quite what it is supposed to be, I’ll call it my naib shahi paneer. It’ll get to be the real thing some day.
Boy, this “shahi” business is anti-democratic and ought to be abolished.
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