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Differences in belief between Bohras and Nizaris
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 12, 2004 6:44 pm    Post subject: Differences in belief between Bohras and Nizaris Reply with quote

Assalamu aleikum!

What are the differences between Bohra Ismailis and Nizari Ismailis?

I know that practice-wise the both groups differ remarkably - so much so that one would not consider them part of the same group (Ismailis) of Shi'ism. Yet, how do they differ doctrinally and theologically? (Besides, of course, their Imam being in ghaibat and the Nizari Imam being mawjud and hazir.)

(I think it's interesting how Gujarati plays a large role in both groups.)


Mowla hafiz,
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 12, 2004 7:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wa alaykum Salaam, Ahalan wa salan

Bohoras are an offshoot of the Fatimid Dawa that spread into the Indian subcontinent hence their connection to Gujerat. They belong to the Musteali faction of the Fatimid Ismaili split. Most of their beliefs stem from the Fatimid period and have not been modified a great deal unlike the Nizari Ismailis whose beliefs changed radically after the fall of the Fatimid period. Hence the Bohoras still retain the practices of Ismailis during the Fatimid period which include the Salat, Sawm, Hajj etc. One could say that the Bohoras retained the 'zaheri' aspect of Fatimid Ismailism whereas the Nizari Ismailis retained and developed the 'batini' aspect. I believe they still follow the Fatimid theology and philosophy whereas the Nizari Ismailis have modified their systems significantly since then.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2004 5:20 am    Post subject: Bohoras - Different Accent Reply with quote

I am curious as to why the Bohoras speak Gujerati with a different accent than the rest. They pronouce the letter "t" differently. Can anyone explain?
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2005 2:31 am    Post subject: 'Ismaili Communities - South Asia’ Reply with quote

'Ismaili Communities - South Asia’

This article is an edited version of an article originally published under the title ‘Ismaili Sects - South Asia’ in Encyclopedia of Modern Asia, Vol. 3, pp. 185-187, ed. David Levinson and Karen Christensen, New York, 2002.
Farhad Daftary and Azim Nanji

An important Shi‘i Muslim community, the Ismailis as an entity emerged in 765 from a disagreement over the successor to the sixth imam, Ja‘far al-Sadiq. The Ismailis chose Isma‘il and then traced the imamat through Isma‘il’s son Muhammad and the latter’s progeny. The bulk of other Shi‘i, however, eventually recognised 12 imams, descendants of Isma‘il’s brother Musa al-Kazim. The two main Ismaili branches in India are the Musta‘lis (Bohras) and the Nizaris (Khojas). The Nizaris, led by the Aga Khan, also have populations in Pakistan, Iran, Central Asia, East Africa, Europe, and North America.

Early History

By the middle of the ninth century the religiopolitical message of the Ismaili da‘wa (mission) aiming to win recognition for the Ismaili imam as the rightful interpreter of the Islamic revelation was disseminated in many regions by a network of da‘is (missionaries). The earliest Ismaili missionaries arrived in Sind (in today’s Pakistan) in 883, initiating Ismaili activities in South Asia.

By 909, the Ismailis had succeeded in establishing the new Fatimid caliphate with their imam as head, in rivalry with the ‘Abbasid caliphate (750-1258) established by Sunni Muslims. Around 958 an Ismaili principality was established in Sind, with its seat at Multan, where large numbers of Hindus converted to Ismailism. Ismaili rule ended in Sind in 1005, but Ismailism survived in Sind and received the protection of the ruling Sumra dynasty. The Sulayhids of Yemen, who acknowledged the suzerainty of the Ismaili Fatimid caliph-imams, played a crucial role in the renewed efforts of the Fatimids to spread the Ismaili cause in South Asia. In 1067 missionaries sent from Yemen founded a new Ismaili community in Gujarat in western India. The mission maintained close ties with Yemen, and this new Ismaili community evolved into the present Bohra community.

In 1094 the Ismaili community became divided over who would become the nineteenth imam; the two branches resulted from this division, each of which developed its own religious and literary traditions.

Musta‘li Ismailis (Bohras)

The Musta‘li Ismailis founded their stronghold in Yemen, where in the absence of the imams the da‘i acted as executive heads of the da‘wa organisation and as community spiritual leaders. They were designated as da‘i mutlaq (da‘i with absolute authority).

The Musta‘li da ‘wa

The Musta‘li da‘wa in South Asia remained under the strict supervision of the da‘i and the da‘wa headquarters in Yemen until the second half of the sixteenth century. In South Asia, the Musta‘li Ismaili da‘wa originally spread among the urban artisans and traders of Gujarat; the Hindu converts became known as Bohras.

Many were converted in Cambay, Patan, Sidhpur, and later in Ahmadabad, where the Indian headquarters of the Musta‘li da‘wa were established. Early in the sixteenth century the headship of the Musta‘li Ismailis passed to an Indian from Sidhpur, and later the headquarters of this Ismaili community were transferred permanently from Yemen to Ahmadabad, where the da‘i could generally count on the religious tolerance of the Mughal emperors. By then the Ismaili Bohras of South Asia greatly outnumbered their co-religionists in Yemen.

Challenges for the Bohras

In 1589 a succession dispute over the position of the da‘i mutlaq split the Musta‘li Ismailis into the rival Da‘udi and Sulaymani branches, each of which followed a separate line of da‘i. Subsequently the Da‘udi Bohras were further subdivided in India as a result of periodic challenges to the authority of their da‘i mutlaq. In 1624 a third Bohra splinter group appeared under the name of ‘Aliyya, a small community of 8,000 still centred in Baroda. In 1785 the headquarters of the da‘wa organization of the Da‘udi Bohras were transferred to Surat, still a centre of traditional Islamic and Ismaili learning for the Da‘udi Bohras.

The Bohras, like other Shi‘i Muslims, were periodically persecuted in South Asia, and many converted to Sunni Islam, the religion of the Muslim rulers of Gujarat and elsewhere. However, with the consolidation of British rule in India in the early nineteenth century, South Asian Ismailis were no longer subjected to official persecution. The total Da‘udi Bohra population of the world is currently estimated at around 700,000 persons, more than half of whom live in Gujarat. Since the 1920s Bombay has served as the permanent seat of the da‘i mutlaq of the Da‘udi Bohras and the central administration of his da‘wa organisation.

The Sulaymani Ismailis, numbering around 60,000, are concentrated in northern Yemen, with only a few thousand Sulaymani Bohras living in South Asia, mainly in Mumbai (Bombay).

Nizari Ismailis (Khojas)

Nizari Ismaili da‘wa

In the late eleventh century, the Nizari Ismailis founded and organised a state with a network of mountain strongholds in Iran and Syria, which the Mongols destroyed in 1256. Around the thirteenth century, the Nizari Ismaili da‘wa was introduced into the Indian subcontinent. The earliest Nizari da‘i operating in South Asia apparently concentrated their efforts in Sind (modern-day Punjab in Pakistan), where Ismailism had persisted clandestinely since Fatimid times. Nizari da‘is were referred to as pirs in South Asia. Pir Shams al-Din is the earliest figure associated with the commencement of Nizari Ismaili activities in Sind. The Nizari da‘wa continued to be preached secretly in Sind by descendants of Shams. By the time of Pir Sadr al-Din, a great-grandson of Pir Shams, Nizari missionaries had established their own hereditary dynasty of pirs in South Asia with sporadic contacts with the Nizari imams who continued to reside in Iran.

Pir Sadr al-Din consolidated and organised Nizari activities in South Asia and strengthened the Nizari Ismaili, or Khoja, community in the Indian subcontinent. His shrine is located near Ucch, south of Multan. Sadr al-Din converted many Hindus from the Lohana trading caste and gave them the title of Khoja. The specific Nizari Ismaili tradition that developed in India is sometimes referred to by the vernacular translation of the Qur’anic term sirat al-mustaqim, rendered as Satpanth (sat panth) or the ‘true way’.

Pir Sadr al-Din was succeeded by his son Hasan Kabir al-Din, who eventually settled in Ucch, which served as the seat of Nizari Ismailism in South Asia. Pir Hasan was reportedly affiliated with the Suhrawardi Sufi order, at the time prevalent in western and northern India. Multan and Ucch in Sind, where Ismailism had become established, were also the headquarters of the Suhrawardi and Qadiri Sufi orders. In the next two or three centuries Ismailism, in its Nizari form, re-emerged in the subcontinent, in forms and ideas having much in common with Sufism. The nature of this relationship is not clear, but recent research suggests that the Ismailis along with the Sufis spearheaded the spread of Islam in rural areas of India. The Ismaili heritage and contribution to Islam in South Asia are best reflected in their literary traditions, preserved and developed over centuries and aptly called ginans, from the Sanskrit jnana, meaning reflective or contemplative knowledge.

After the death of Pir Hasan Kabir al-Din a section of the community seceded and established itself in Gujarat, becoming known as Imam Shahis. The majority continued to adhere to the authority of the Nizari imams.

Ginans and Their Historical Context

Expressions of devotion and spirituality

With scholars’ growing realisation that oral and so-called popular expressions of Muslim devotion and spirituality constitute a vital component of Islamic life and practice, there is increasing interest in the texts that preserve, in local languages, the devotional spirit of Muslim mysticism in the Indian subcontinent. In the South Asian context such texts represent part of the processes of conversion, negotiation, and transmission of established traditions of Muslim spirituality and ideas. The ginans emerged in a milieu where both oral and written traditions were well established. Because of their primary role in ritual and religious life, the performative and recitative elements of such devotional expressions were much more pronounced than was the case, for instance, for Sufi poetry.

Among the Nizari Ismailis, ginan has come to refer to that part of their tradition whose authorship is attributed to the pirs who undertook conversion and preaching. It is important to distinguish the various strands making up the hagiography of the pirs and to isolate the elements that reflect traces of ancient tradition and form the nucleus of later narratives. These are rarely concerned with imparting objective records of the past; the true value of the ginan narratives lies in their dual perspective on the tradition: one level mirroring the impact and continuing influence of the earlier pirs on the community’s collective memory, and the other revealing the community’s beliefs and understanding at various stages in its history.

Modern Period

The 46th Nizari Ismaili Imam Hasan Ali Shah (1817-1881), who received the honorific title of Aga Khan (‘lord’) from the monarch of Iran, Fath Ali Shah Qajar, emigrated from Iran to India in the 1840s and eventually settled in Bombay; he was the first Nizari Ismaili imam to live in India. Aga Khan I established elaborate headquarters and residences in Bombay, Poona, and Bangalore. As the spiritual head of a Muslim community, like other communities in British India, Aga Khan I was accorded recognition of his role in the legal framework of the empire. Aga Khan I tried to strengthen the religious identity of his followers. His successors to the Nizari Ismaili imamat adopted modernisation policies and introduced new administrative and institutional frameworks for guiding the affairs of their Khoja and other Nizari followers. Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, the 48th imam, led the Nizari Ismailis for 72 years (1885-1957), longer than any of his predecessors. He became well known as a Muslim reformer and statesman owing to his prominent role in Indo-Muslim and international affairs, as well as a wealthy sportsman and breeder of racehorses.

The Nizari Khojas, along with Bohras, were among the earliest Asian communities to settle in East Africa. Many from the Nizari Khoja communities of East Africa, India, and Pakistan have emigrated to Europe and North America since the 1970s. The Khojas today represent an integral part of the Nizari communities scattered in more than twenty-five countries.

They currently recognize Prince Karim Aga Khan IV as their 49th imam. The present Nizari imam continued and substantially expanded the modernisation policies of his grandfather and predecessor and developed new programmes and institutions, including the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Under the leadership of their recent imams, the South Asian and other Nizari Ismailis, numbering several millions, have entered the twenty-first century as a prosperous and progressive community with a distinct identity and a variety of regional traditions.

Further Reading

Abdul Husain, Mian Bhai Mulla, Gulzare Daudi, for the Bohras of India, Ahmadabad, India: Amarsinhji Press, 1920.

Ali, Syed Mujtaba, The Origin of the Khojahs and Their Religious Life Today. Wiirzburg, Germany: R. Mayr, 1936.

Asani, Ali S., ‘The Ismaili Ginans as Devotional Literature’, Devotional Literature in South Asia, ed. R. S. McGregor. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 101-112, 1992.

Daftary, Farhad, The Ismailis: Their History and Doctrines, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Hamdani, Abbas H., The Beginnings of the Ismaili Da‘wa in Northern India, Cairo, Egypt: Sirovic Bookshop, 1956.

Kassam, Tazim R, Songs of Wisdom and Circles of Dance: Hymns of the Satpanth Ismaili Muslim Saint, Pir Shams, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995.

Lokhandwall, Shamoon T., ‘The Bohras, a Muslim Community of Gujarat’, Studia Islamica 3, pp. 117-135, 1955.

Nanji, Azim., The Nizari Ismaili Tradition in the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent, Delmar, NY: Caravan Books, 1978.

Schimmel, Annemarie, Mystical Dimensions of Islam, Chapel Hill, NC University of North Carolina Press, 1975.

Shackle, Christopher, and Zawahir Moir, Ismaili Hymns from South Asia: An Introduction to the Ginans, London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1992.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2005 4:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are some major mistakes in this article by David Levinson and Karen Christensen, New York, 2002.
Farhad Daftary and Azim Nanji

Nizari da‘is were referred to as pirs in South Asia.

Nizari dais were not referred as Pir. Pir word was and is used for "Imam Mustwada" It is clear from Ginans that dais were not referred as Pir for example about Pir Shams it is in Ginan that
The manifest guide from the begining is Shams. He is indeed the one who has wandered through numerous ages.
[Ginan Aad Gur Shams mun naavar Jaan verse 1]

By the time of Pir Sadr al-Din, a great-grandson of Pir Shams, Nizari missionaries had established their own hereditary dynasty of pirs in South Asia

No comments....As any one with proper knowledge of Ismaili history can understand that thats not the true.

Pir Hasan was reportedly affiliated with the Suhrawardi Sufi order, at the time prevalent in western and northern India.

Nonsense for any Ismaili to even think like that !

After the death of Pir Hasan Kabir al-Din a section of the community seceded and established itself in Gujarat, becoming known as Imam Shahis. The majority continued to adhere to the authority of the Nizari imams

The sect of Imam Shahis was formed at the time of Syed Mohammad Shah after the death of Syed Imam Shah. According to the Shorter Encylopedia of Islam, "He [Syed Imam Shah] can not be regarded as the founder of a new sect as he remained loyal to the Imam of his time."
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2005 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

star_munir wrote:

Nizari dais were not referred as Pir. Pir word was and is used for "Imam Mustwada" It is clear from Ginans that dais were not referred as Pir for example about Pir Shams it is in Ginan that
The manifest guide from the begining is Shams. He is indeed the one who has wandered through numerous ages.
[Ginan Aad Gur Shams mun naavar Jaan verse 1]

Our Pirs were part of the Nizari Dawat and therefore they were Dais. But they were referred to as Pirs in South Asia. In my opinion there is nothing wrong.
star_munir wrote:

By the time of Pir Sadr al-Din, a great-grandson of Pir Shams, Nizari missionaries had established their own hereditary dynasty of pirs in South Asia

No comments....As any one with proper knowledge of Ismaili history can understand that thats not the true.

I am not sure what is not true. Were not all Pirs appointed from the same lineage at that time and hence wouldn't you call it a dynasty?
star_munir wrote:

Pir Hasan was reportedly affiliated with the Suhrawardi Sufi order, at the time prevalent in western and northern India.

Nonsense for any Ismaili to even think like that !

Our Imams and Peers have known to be associated with mysticism and sufism through out our history. Being affiliated to an order does not make him a disciple of Suhrawardi. He could have been associated in the capacity of a lecturer. At times it helps our cause if such connections are made so long as we do not compromise our Bayat with our Imam.
star_munir wrote:

After the death of Pir Hasan Kabir al-Din a section of the community seceded and established itself in Gujarat, becoming known as Imam Shahis. The majority continued to adhere to the authority of the Nizari imams

The sect of Imam Shahis was formed at the time of Syed Mohammad Shah after the death of Syed Imam Shah. According to the Shorter Encylopedia of Islam, "He [Syed Imam Shah] can not be regarded as the founder of a new sect as he remained loyal to the Imam of his time."
I agree with you.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2005 4:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ya Ali Madad

As you wrote:

By the time of Pir Sadr al-Din, a great-grandson of Pir Shams, Nizari missionaries had established their own hereditary dynasty of pirs in South Asia I am not sure what is not true. Were not all Pirs appointed from the same lineage at that time and hence wouldn't you call it a dynasty?

Of course Pir is appointed by Imam and were appointed from same lineage but read the sentence again "NIZARI MISSIONARIES HAD ESTABLISHED their own daynasty of PIRS."

K MaherAli its good that you are taking it very positively but same Author Farhad Daftary in book Short history of Ismailis further wrote that"PIR SADARDIN ..... HAD ESTABLISHED A HEREDITARY DYNASTY WITHOUT REGULAR CONTACTS WITH NIZARI IMAM " Its on page number 179 on first paragraph. Now what do you say?

"Nizari da‘is were referred to as pirs in South Asia. "
Of course Pirs who converted hindus were dais also but not all dais or missionaries were Pir. There is a difference between dai and Pir..Hazir Imam is also Pir but not Dai similarly Syed Imam Shah was dai and not Pir.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2005 5:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

star_munir wrote:
K MaherAli its good that you are taking it very positively but same Author Farhad Daftary in book Short history of Ismailis further wrote that"PIR SADARDIN ..... HAD ESTABLISHED A HEREDITARY DYNASTY WITHOUT REGULAR CONTACTS WITH NIZARI IMAM " Its on page number 179 on first paragraph. Now what do you say?
In my opinion there is nothing wrong with the statement. Were not the Peers autonomous in their governance of the various institutions? Although they were appointed by the Imams, they did not consult them on day to day matters. They were responsible for the establishment and administration of the various JamatKhanas and the Dawat institutions in the Jampudeep.
star_munir wrote:

"Nizari da‘is were referred to as pirs in South Asia. "
Of course Pirs who converted hindus were dais also but not all dais or missionaries were Pir. There is a difference between dai and Pir..Hazir Imam is also Pir but not Dai similarly Syed Imam Shah was dai and not Pir.
Perhaps a more accurate description would have been: "The heads of Nizari dais were referred to as Pirs in South Asia."
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2005 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mowla Ali Madad,
The sentence is not about establishment and administration of Jamat Khana etc but establishment of hereditary dynasty without contact with Imam.
Pir have spiritual contact with Imam and also Pir Sadardin went two times Iran from India for deedar of Imam. In FAIR section of this website there is a very nice song in Gujrati "Hazrat Ali naa janaasheen basta hata Iran ma..." in song it is that for the sake of Deedar momins used to go India to Iran and come back with Dua and blessings of Imam.

As I have read the book Short history of ismailis it is written in such a negative manner that it seems that Pir were not directly appointed by Imam. As it is that Syed Dadu was first Pir but later his name was taken out from the list of Pir..So does this make any sense? There was a detail discussion on this in detail in past in which I pointed out many of such mistakes in Ginan Section of the froum under topic anti Ginan book among ismailis.
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 5:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ya Ali Madad,

I cannot comment on the other book. However, here it is stated that the Pirs did not have regular contacts with the Imam. If Pir Sadardeen visited the Imam only twice, then this statement is not unreasonable.

Also, we must bear in mind the audience. This work is directed to all - Ismailis and non Ismailis and therefore I consider the context as 'Zaheri'. I would not expect a non Ismaili historian to be able to understand the 'Batini' dimension of our Tariqah and therefore would not be in a position of articulating matters such as the spiritual bond between a murid and a Murshid, though it has a great bearing on any historical circumstance.

This raises broader questions about whether non-Ismailis are qualified to write about Ismaili history. Would they be able to understand the esoteric dimension of the spiritual relationship between a Murid and a Mursheed and its bearing upon historical circumstance?

Say AKDN grows significantly over the next decades. Would non-Ismaili historians 2 centuries hence be able to appreciate the dimension of SEVA involved?
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 5:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mowla Ali Madad,
As you worte: Also, we must bear in mind the audience. This work is directed to all - Ismailis and non Ismailis and therefore I consider the context as 'Zaheri'. I would not expect a non Ismaili historian to be able to understand the 'Batini' dimension of our Tariqah and therefore would not be in a position of articulating matters such as the spiritual bond between a murid and a Murshid, though it has a great bearing on any historical circumstance

I agree with you but there some Non ismailis also who have lots of love in heart for Imam and have believe that Imam can do whatever He pleases and there are several examples of it in Noorum Mubin.

The book about which I have commented and many other members also criticized in Ginan Section under topic anti Ginan book among ismailis ... about whom I have discussed here is because many things which is in this article were quite similar to that what I had read in past in that book with same author. As it was written in a very negative way...As we know although history is same but it makes difference if some one writes who follow that religion and other who dont believe in that religion or sect. Like historical events and miracles of Pir Shams were called as myths etc...
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2005 5:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dawoodi Bohras are a Musta'li subsect of Ismaili Shi'a Muslims based primarily in India and Pakistan. Their spiritual leader is Dr. Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin. He is known as the Da'il Mutlaq and is the 52nd Dai in an unbroken chain of Dais. The Bohras believe that the 21st Imam, Imam Taiyab (a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammad S.A. via his daughter Fatema Zahra S.A.), went into seclusion and appointed the Dai as his Vicegerent.

The majority of Bohras were converts from Hinduism. Their conversion—the result of the work of some Arab missionaries from Yemen—took place around the twelfth century A.D. in Gujarat in India. The converted were largely from the Hindu middle and upper castes and especially those engaged in trade and commerce. Later, indigenous converts undertook the missionary activities in other contiguous regions such as the areas that today constitute Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra. Thus today, the Bohras in India are concentrated in these areas and number between 800 to 900,000.

They are encouraged to engage themselves in trade though a newly educated professional class is also coming into prominence. There is also a large community in Pakistan, where the main downtown market in Karachi, the largest city, is called Bohree Bazaar because of the community's major presence as shop_owners and _keepers.

There is also a significant diaspora resident in East Africa, Europe and North America.

The Dawoodi Bohras are a very closely-knit community which seeks advice from the high priest (da'i) in both spiritual and temporal aspects. The Bohras trace their origins to the Fatimids of Egypt and thus their cultural mores are based on the practices of the Fatimid Imams. This is further found in the myriad constructions that the Bohras have carried out around the world all of which feature Fatimid influences from the mosques and buildings of Cairo. Dr Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin undertook the complete renovation and restoration of the Mosque of the Imam Al-Hakim in Cairo; a project UNESCO had considered but did not undertake.

The ordinary Bohra is highly conscious of his identity and this is especially demonstrated at religious and traditional occasions by the appearance and attire of the participants.

Dawoodi Bohra women wear a distinctive form of the commonly known burka which is distinguished from other forms of the veil due to it often being in colour and decorated with patterns and lace. Bohra women are encouraged to progress in education in the same way as the men.

Due to the emphasis placed on education, the community is highly educated and can boast of being one of the few communities in India to have 100% literacy.

Besides speaking the local languages, the Bohras have their own language called Lisan-ul-Dawat. This is written in Arabic script but is derived from Urdu, Gujarati and Arabic.

(portions adapted from THE BOHRAS - RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY ( By Asghar Ali Engineer)
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2005 4:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The following are some pertinent facts on the split between the Ismailis and the Bohoras compiled by someone else.

When Nasir Khusraw had sought Imam Shah Mustanseer Billah's permission to go and preach in Khurasan, the Imam had revealed to him that after him, Shah Nizar, his oldest son was heir to the Imamat.............

Also when Badru Jamali had proved very arrogant as the Chief Administrator, the Imam had warned him to desist and when Badru Jamali tried to usurp the power of the Imam, he appointed Shah Nizar as his successor and had made his decision known to all the Governors.

At that time there were two parties - one party supported Shah Nizar and the other supported Musteali (the younger son of the Imam).

Hassan bin Sabbah who supported Shah Nizar was also imprisoned but he escaped from there and went to Persia and preached in favour of Shah Nizar.

Shah Nizar's followers are called Nizari Ismailis (Khwajas) whilst Musteali's followers are called Bohras. Both are called ismailis as they followed Imam Shah Ismail.

Musteali was the son of the Imam was never appointed by his father to succeed him as an Imam nor was he appointed as a Khalif.

Amirul Juyus Al Afzal was the Prime Minsiter then and he supported Musteali's appointment as the Khalif because Musteali was his son in law and Al Afzal was power hungry.

Al Afzal forced Imam Shah Nizar's aunt to make a statement that "Musteali" was the successor of Imam Shah Mustan Seer Billah..

After the death of Shah Mustan Seer Billah, Musteali forcefully became the Khalif with the help of Al Afzal and he called all his brothers to do his Bayah and to recognize him as the next Imam.

Imam Shah Nizar refused and said, " I would rather die than acknowledge you as an Imam - My father appointed me as his legitimate successor for which I have a written proof " and saying so Shah Nizar left the court and Musteali sent his spies to find Shah Nizar but they could not locate him as the Imam had moved to Alexandaria thereafter.

Al Afzal attacked Alexandaria where the Imam was living peacefully and
finally the fighting was stopped as both parties agreed to come to a settlement.

However when Imam Shah Nizar went to meet with Musteali in good faith, Musteali proved treacherous and rather than coming to any settlement,imprisoned the Imam.

Musteali died at a young age of 26 and his son Aamir was their 21st Imam. Aamir found out all the wicked things which Al Afzal had done and so he killed him.

Aamir had barely remained as a Khalif for some nine years when he was murdered.

At the time of his death it is said that one of his begums was pregnant and that this child was to be his Heir and in the meantime his cousin Abdul Hamid Hafiz would rule.

Historian Olyari says: Aamir's begum gave birth to a baby girl but the Bohras believe that the begum gave birth to a baby boy who since age 2 has "disappeared" and that his name was Taiyab and they consider him to be their 22nd Imam.

Now Abdul Hamid Hafiz and Abu Ali (Al Afzal's son) fought raging battles for power and eventually Abu Ali too was murdered but Cairo had become very unstable as people were fighting amongst themselves. and in the end Salahudin became the Khalif under the title of SULTAN.

By this time Hassan Bin Sabbah had already established the Fatimide rule in Alamut

The Musteali Ismailis founded their stronghold eventually in Yemen where in the absence of the Imams the Da'is acted as Executive Heads of the da'wa organization and as community spiritual leaders and they were designated as Da'i Mutlaq ( with absolute authority).

Practice-wise both the groups i.e. the Nizaris and the Bohras remarkably differ. It is only interesting that they speak Gujrethi in common but they differ doctrinally and theologically plus the Bohra Imams are in "ghaibat" but ours is "Mawjud" and "Hazir".

Most of the Bohra beliefs stem from the Fatimid split and which remain unmodified,for the most part and hence they still retain the Salat, Sawm, hajj can arguably be said that they are still retaining the "Zaheri" aspect of the Fatimid Ismailism whereas the Nizaris have retained and developed the "Batin" aspect as well.

I think the Bohras still pursue the Fatimid philosophy and theology but we have overtime modified our systems.

In 1589 a succession dispute over the position of the Da'i Mutlaq split the Mustealis into the rival Dau'di and Sulaymani branches and each follow a separate line of Da'i.

Subsequently the Dau'di Bohras were further sub-divided in India as a result of periodic challenges to the authority of their Da'i Mutlaq.

In 1624 a third Bohra splinter group appeared under the name of "Alliyya" and in 1785 the HQs of the Dau'di Bohras was transferred to Surat.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2005 4:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you very much! That was very helpful.

Mowla hafiz,
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 17, 2007 5:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


This Muslim community of Gujarat in western India traces its spiritual ancestry to early conversions to Ismaili Shiism during the reign of the Fatimid caliph-imam al-Mustansir (AH 427-487/1036-1094 CE). When schisms occured in the Ismaili dawah (mission) in the eleventh and twelfth centuries in Egypt, the Ismailis in India followed the Fatimi Tayyibi dawah of Yemen.

Subsequently, this community split a number of times to form the
1. Jafari Bohras,
2. Daudi Bohras,
3. Sulaymani Bohras,
4. Aliyah Bohras, and
5. other lesser-known groups.

The word Bohra (also spelled Bohara or Vohra) is derived from the Gujarati vohorvu or vyavahar, meaning "to trade." This has sometimes caused Hindus, Jains, and Muslims of trading communities other than those related to the Tayyibi Ismailis to list themselves on census forms as Bohras. The early Hindu converts of the eleventh century comprised of a single group of Ismaili Bohras owing allegiance to the da'i mutlaq in Yemen. A number of them seceded in 1426 to form the Jafari Bohras, who adopted the Sunni Hanafi school. The modern Jafari Bohra community comprises mainly cultivators residing in Patan, Gujarat, who revere descendents of the sixteenth-century Sunni missionary Ahmad Jafar al-Shirazi. After the Jafari schism, the Ismaili Bohras were subject to severe persecution by local rulers. However, by the late sixteenth century, they had grown strong enough to enable the transfer of the mission's headquarters and the residence of the da'i mutlaq to India. The da'i mutlaq operates as the sole representative of the secluded Ismaili imam, and as such has had a great influence on the history, faith, and practices of the Ismaili Bohras.

The term "Bohra" applies most commonly to the Daudi Bohras, who are reputed to be the best organised and wealthiest of all Bohras. The Daudi Bohra community has largely been molded into its present form by the two da'is who have led the community in the twentieth century. The fifty-first da'i, the celebrated Tahir Sayf al-Din (1915-1965), was an accomplished scholar, a prolific writer and poet, a capable organizer, and a man of vision.

During his period of fifty years he revitalized the community, fostered strong faith, modernized the mission's organization, promoted welfare and education in the community, and guided it through the tumultuous period of world wars and independence of nations. A doctrinal dissent that had severely disturbed the community for sixty years prior to his accession was successfully challenged and reduced during his period to a less significant anti-da'i social reform movement. As much as 2 percent of the community belongs to this movement, whose demands are regarded as heretical by the rest of the Bohras. The reformists were particularly active in the 1970s and early 1980s, but their efforts failed to win legal recognition and only amounted to bad press and distress of the Bohra community.

The present da'i, Muhammad Burhanuddin, has continued his predecessor's endeavors with particular emphasis on strengthening the community's Islamic practices and on the promotion of Fatimid heritage.

The religious hierarchy of the Daudi Bohras is essentially Fatimid and is headed by the da'i mutlaq who is appointed by his predecessor in office. The da'i appoints two others to the subsidiary ranks of madhun and mukasir. These positions are followed by the rank of shaykh and mullah, both of which are held by hundreds of Bohras. An ahil (usually a graduate of the order's institution of higher learning, al-Jami'ah al-Sayfiyah) who leads of the local congregation in religious, social, and communial affairs, is sent to each town where a sizable population exists. Such towns normally have a masjid and an adjoining jamaatkhanah (assembly hall) where socio-religious functions are held. The local organizations which manage these properties and administer the social and religious activities of the local Bohras report directly to the central administration of the da'i based in Bombay, called al-Dawah al-Hadiyah.

At the age of puberty every Bohra, or mumin (believer) as sectarians call each other, pronounces the traditional oath of allegiance which requires the initiate to adhere to the shariah and accept the leadership of the imam and the da'i. This oath is renewed each year on the 18th of Dhu al-Hijjah (Id Gadir al-Khumm). The Bohras follow the Fatimid school of jurisprudence, which recognizes seven pillars of Islam. Walayah (love and devotion) for Allah, the Prophets, the imam, and da'i is the first and most important of the seven pillars. The others are (ii)taharah (purity and cleanliness), (iii) salah (prayers), (iv) zakah (purifying religious dues), (v) sawm (fasting), (vi) hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), and (vii) jihad (holy war).

Pilgrimages to the shrines of the saints are an important part of the devotional life of Bohras, for the facilitation of which resthouses and
assisting organizations have been set up. The martydom of Imam al-Husayn is commemorated annually during the first ten days of Muharram.

The Daudis use an arabicized form of Gujarati, called lisan al-dawah, which is permeated with Arabic words and written in Arabic script. Another distinctive feature is their use of a Fatimid lunar calendar which fixes the number of days in each month. There is a strong religious learning tradition among the Daudi Bohras, the da'is usually being prolific writers and orators. The Daudi Bohras number about a million and reside in India, Pakistan, the Middle East, East Africa (since the eighteenth century), and the West (since the 1950s). They are easily recognizable by their dress: men wear beards and white gold-rimmed caps, and women wear a colorful two-piece head-to-toe dress called a rida.

Daudi Bohras are named after their twenty-seveth da'i Daud ibn Qutbshah (d. 1612). Sulaymani Bohras acknowledge a different line of da'is ensuing from their twenty-seventh da'i, Sulayman ibn Hasan (d. 1597). Similarly, Aliyah Bohras follow Ali ibn Ibrahim (d. 1637) as their twenty-ninth da'i having seceded from the Daudis in 1625. Neither have significant doctrinal differences with the Daudi Bohras, though their religious organizations are different. The Aliyah Bohras are led by their forty-fourth da'i, Tayyib Diya al-Daimin, residing in Baroda, India and number about five thousand. The Sulaymani leadership reverted to Yemen soon after the Daudi-Sulaymani split and in the main has remained there. Their current leader, Sharaf al-Husayn ibn Hasan al-Makrami, is the forty-ninth da'i in the Sulaymani series; his chief representative in India, called the mansub resides in Baroda. The Sulaymanis number about four thousand in India and about seventy thousand in the Yemenite region of Najran.

[See also Ismailiyah; Jami'ah al-Sayfiyah, al-; and the biography of Burhanuddin.]
Mustafa Abdulhussein Bibliography
a.. Amiji, Hatim. "The Bohras of East Africa." Journal of Religion in
Africa 7.1 (1975); 27-61.
b.. Burhanpuri, Qutb al-Din. Muntaza al-akhbar. Vol. 2. N.p., 1884.
c.. Burhanuddin, Sayyidna. Istifah Zubad al-Maarif. Bombay, 1965.
d.. Constitutions. Governing local Daudi Bohra organizations in India and East Africa, these documents provide a summary of their beliefs and practices.
e.. Daftary, Farhad. The Ismailis. Cambridge, 1992.
f.. Davoodbhoy, T. A. A. Faith of the Dawoodi Bohras. Bombay, 1992.
g.. Fyzee, Asaf A. A. "Bohoras." In Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed., vol.
1, pp. 1254-1255. Leiden 1960-.
h.. Fyzee, Asaf A. A. Compendium of Fatimid Law. Simla, 1969.
i.. Fyzee, Asaf A. A. Outlines of Muhammadan Law. 4th ed. Oxford, 1974.
j.. Habibullah, Abdul Qaiyum. Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb: Da'i-ul-Mutlaq of Dawoodi Bohras. Bombay, 1958.
k.. Hodgson, Marshall G. S. "Da'i." In Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed., vol. 2, pp. 97-98. Leiden 1960-.
l.. Jhaveri, K. M. "A Legendary History of the Bohoras." Journal of the
Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 9 (1933).
m.. Jivabhai, Muhammad Ali ibn Mulla. Mausam-i bahar. Vol. 3. Bombay, 1882.
n.. Khan, Ali Muhammad. Mirat-i Ahmadi. Translated by S. N. Ali. Baroda, 1924.
o.. Khan, Najmulghani. Madhahib al-Islam. Lucknow, 1924.
p.. Lokhandwalla, Sh. T. "The Bohras: A Muslim Community of Gujarat." Studia Islamica 3 (1955): 117-135.
q.. Madelung, Wilferd. "Makramids." In Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed.,
vol. 6, pp. 191-192. Leiden 1960-.
r.. Misra, S. C. Muslim Communities in the Gujrat. Bombay, 1964.
s.. Najafali, Abbasali. Law of Marriage Governing Dawoodi Bohra Muslims. Bombay, 1943.
t.. Numan, Qadi al-. Daa'im al-Islam. 2 vols. Edited by Asaf A. A. Fyzee,
2d ed. Cairo, 1963-1965. The principle text of jurisprudence followed by the Bohras.
u.. Poonawala, Ismail K. Bibliography of Ismaili Literature. Malibu, Calif., 1977.
v.. Roy, Shibani. The Dawoodi Bohras: An Anthropological Perspective. Delhi, 1984.
w.. Saifiyah Educational Trust. A Golden Panorama. Bombay, [1961].
x.. Sayf al-Din, Tahir. Rasail al-Ramadaniyah. 48 vols. Bombay, 1912-1963.

Along with Burhanuddin above, the most authoritative exposition of the faith and practices of contemporary Daudi Bohras.

y.. Sahifat al-Salat wa-al-ibadaat. Bombay, 1989. Daudi prayer book containing information on religious practices.
z.. Walid, Ali ibn Muhammad al-. Taj al-Aqa'id. Thirteenth-century manuscript. An english summary by W. Ivanov titled "A Creed of the Fatimids" (Bombay, 1936) gives a good summary of the creed of the Bohras.

Source and Credits.
This article is reprinted with permission in its entirety from the OUP Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, John Esposito (ed), Copyright �
1995 and may not be reproduced elsewhere.
In order to make the text of the OUP article more readable for the web medium, most accents have been removed from the original text. The original
article with accents is available here: part 1, part 2, part 3, bibliography.
For more information on the Daudi Bohra community, visit The contemporary (and most used) spelling of Daudi Bohras is Dawoodi Bohras.

We recommend Firefox for richer, more secure web-browsing. Join us!
mumineen dot org has served Dawoodi Bohras worldwide since 1997 with the raza and dua mubarak of His Holiness, the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin Saheb (TUS).
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 21, 2008 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


By Asghar Ali Engineer

(Here we reproduce an article on Dawoodi Bohra Community and issues faced by it in the country by Asghar Ali Engineer, the best known face of the Bohra community)

Modernisation and change has brought many problems in its wake. The change is hardly ever smooth though we often like it to be one. Many religious communities have gone or have been going through turmoil in this process of modernisation and change. What is referred to as rise of fundamentalism in world religions in general, and in Islam in particular, owes its rise, among other things, to this tortuous process. No wonder then that the Bohra community has also been witnessing cataclysmic upheavals of late. In a way the problem for this community is probably a shade worse as it is not only tightly-knit but also under the tight grip of the priesthood used to govern the community with an iron hand.

Any community ruled with an iron hand for long develops a psychology of servility. It begins to crawl where it only needs to submit and it prostrates where it has only to bow. The bohras have not only been governed under absolutist rule, they have faced certain adverse historical situation as well. They were, until nineteenth century, a persecuted community considered as it was heretical by other Muslims. Persecution leads to sense of insecurity which in turn results in dependence syndrome on some or the other authority and if this authority happens to be religious, this dependence gets further reinforced. Thus persecution-complex breeds dependence-complex and creates fertile ground for development of authoritarianism.

Today in the bohra community if there is any most major problem it is authoritarianism. Authoritarianism, as is quite natural, refuses to accept doctrine of accountability in any form or any field. The reform movement which started around turn of our century never demanded accountability from the Da'i in the field of religion; it demanded accountability only in secular matters and even that was refused.

I would like my bohra sisters and brothers to understand that a true religious spirit never leads to authoritarianism in any form, not even in religious form. The holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was extremely gentle and polite and never showed any trace of authoritarianism. No wonder the holy Qur'an says about him, “And surely you have sublime morals (Khuluqin ‘azim)”. His sublime morals won him great admiration even from his enemies who too referred to him as al-amin i.e. the trusted one. Thus he was gentle, polite and a model of honesty and integrity. No one could accuse him of authoritarianism even in religious matters. It should be remembered that Islam categorically rejects authoritarianism and absolutism even in religious matters. It was not for nothing that the holy Qur'an says, “Call to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in the best manner”( 16:126) . Also the Qur'an has resonantly proclaimed,“There is no compulsion in religion”(2:257).

These are no mere exhortations, it is a serious attempt to build a non-authoritarian, open and democratic culture respecting human conscience and right to believe. The whole Qur'an and the Prophetic traditions are suffused with this spirit, not to talk of the Prophet's conduct which was a model of this most humane culture and tradition. The Bohra priestly establishment's conduct, on the other hand, represents total negation of open, democratic, conscientious and humane religio-cultural model represented by Islam and early Islamic society. The Bohra priestly model is authoritarian to the core. It has no place for democratic openness, let alone conscientious dissent. It is most intolerant and absolutist. It is highly coercive and far from persuasive.

Islam lays great emphasis on reason. All the prophets of Allah rejected those earlier traditions which rested on sanctity of time but did not measure up to the criteria of reason. Whenever leaders of unbelievers (kuffar) referred to their ancestral traditions the prophets exhorted them to use their own reason and bear testimony to the truth from Allah. Many verses can be quoted to this effect from the Qur'an. Prophet Ibrahim Khalilullah defied idol worship of his father Azar and instead followed the course of deliberation, reasoning in keeping with the revelation from high on.

Islam, let us remember, is not religion of blind faith. It calls upon mankind to follow rational faith - synthesis of faith and reason. Even iman bi al-ghayb (faith on unseen) cannot be construed as irrational though it may at the most be described as supra-rational. It is in fact faith in future and its various potentialities as they unfold and of whom we have no knowledge and hence it is described as ghayb (unseen). The Isma'ilis and M'utazilas - two important sects of Islam - laid great deal of emphasis on reason. It would be no exaggeration to say that the Isma'ilis in particular imbibed all the knowledge that was available even outside the Islamic world of the time and incorporated into, and synthesised with, the doctrines of Islam. They acted according to the Prophetic tradition al-hikmah dallah al-m'umin (wisdom and knowledge is lost property of the faithful, it should be appropriated from wherever available). Resa'il Ikhwan al-Safa are an outstanding testimony of all this.

The Bohras should not only be justly proud of this intellectual heritage but should do everything possible to disseminate it and elevate it to new heights in this age of explosion of knowledge. However, it is very sad, indeed very tragic, that the Sayedna's establishment does everything to negate this proud intellectual heritage and instead inculcate, slavish mentality and blind unquestioning faith. The Daras in Surat (the theological seminary) too, strives to produce theological robots who only act on commands and carry out programmes as fed through software produced by the Sayedna's close relatives, the coterie surrounding him. The trainees at the Saifee Daras are not allowed to raise any questions, let alone approach traditional theology with critical openness and carry out researches in various fields of received theological knowledge. If the Kothar did not have powerful vested interests in perpetrating blind obedience, the Daras at Surat could have become a great and invigorating, stimulating center of Isma'ili theological and philosophical research . The community does have resources for such activities.

Let my Bohra brethren know that the Isma'ili and Fatimi Da'is of yester years were great intellectuals of their time well versed not only in the Isma'ili theology an philosophy but also in comparative religion, in natural sciences, in mathematics and in Greek philosophy which was considered in those days as the highest achievement of human mind. They were not found wanting in any field of knowledge. They could take on any intellectual giant of their time in religious and philosophical polemics. Sayedna J'afar Mansur al-Yaman, sayedna Muyyad Shirazi and Hamid al-Din kirmani are some of the shining examples. Muyyad Shirazi entered into polemics on number of questions with the great poet and intellectual Abul Ala M' arri. It is said that Abi Sina, the great philosopher, was also an Isma'ili, though he never made it public for fear of consequences. Even if he had not been, there were great many philosophers, eminent writers and poets who proudly entered the ranks of Isma'ilis and proclaimed it with sense of pride.

It was not easy to be a Da'i. He had to fulfill more than 100 rigorous conditions to qualify as one. Sayedna Hatim has included these conditions in his celebrated work Tuhfat al Qulub from a risalah compiled by Sayedna Ahmad Nishapuri. These conditions are very rigorous indeed. A Da'i has to be most knowledgeable - in fact competent in knowledge of other religions, secular philosophies of the time, physical sciences etc. so that he could enter successfully into arguments with others in order to demonstrate superiority of his religion. A Da'i has to be an efficient administrator, a statesman of high quality, shrewd in worldly matters, polite, gentle, compassionate and wise. There are many more such conditions laid down in the Risalah.

Our Da'i hardly fulfills these conditions. Our ‘Ulama do not have adequate knowledge of their own religion, let alone competent knowledge of other religions, secular philosophies and physical sciences. They have been trained, as pointed out above, only to be obedient robots. It is considered great crime to think, to question and to doubt. Questioning and doubting is most subversive and is severely punished. No wonder than that our community has become intellectually most stagnant. We read Quran not to think and contemplate deeply over its verses (the Quran says that this “Book that we have revealed to thee abounding in good, that they may ponder over its verses and that the people of intelligence may take heed, 38:29”) but to recite only to earn thwab (religious merit).

The bohra religious establishment is today completely devoid of any intellectual vigour and stimulation. It has totally lost the Quranic spirit in other respects too. In my humble opinion there are four extremely significant words in the Quran which represents its real spirit. These words are ‘adl, ihsan , rahmah and hikmah. All these represent essence of any religion and are most essential for building a humane society. You cannot build a humane society without justice, benevolence, compassion and wisdom.

Can kothar claim any of these virtues? Its every act is contrary to these concepts. It is most unjust, in fact outright tyrannical; it has never known benevolence. On the contrary it is so greedy that it has become totally insensitive to others needs, it has no sense of obligation towards others, it only makes demands for itself. Any establishment which is based on injustice, tyranny and greed, loses all its potential for compassion. One cannot expect compassion from those who are completely insensitive to others suffering. And where is the question of wisdom (hikmah) where there is no spirit of ‘adl and ihsan. In fact ‘adl and rahmah (justice and compassion) are twins, one cannot exist without the other. Qur'an lays so much emphasis on ‘adl (justice) that it equates it with taqwah (piety). (5:icon_cool.gif. as for hikmah (wisdom) the Qur'an observes, “And whoever is granted wisdom, he indeed is given a great good” (2:269).

As for rahmah it is repeatedly asserted in the Qur'an that Allah is Rahim and Rehman (Merciful and Compassionate). It is thus more than clear that a truly Islamic, imamic and religious establishment, society or rule has to be based on these four fundamental virtues. If it lacks these it is anything but Islamic and humane. We thus appeal to our Bohra sisters and brothers to do everything possible to bring about these virtues and promote them so as to make our religious establishment most Islamic and humane.

Critical thinking is most fundamental to any change. No revolution or social change is possible without freedom to think, criticise and evaluate. Freedom of conscience is most fundamental to modern democratic society. It is this freedom which Sayedna's establishment is trying to prevent. They see nothing but subversion in it. This is not only against the spirit of modern democracy, it is totally opposed to the Qur'anic spirit too. The Qur'an gives option even between iman and kufr (faith and unbelief) through its doctrine La ikraha fi al-din (there is no compulsion in religion). It leaves it to the conscience of the believer though warning him of the severe consequences of kufr (unbelief). we should, therefore, refuse to submit blindly and unthinkingly to Kothar (Sayedna's religious establishment). A truly faithful is also a truly fearless creature. Faith and fearlessness are integrally connected. Only those who lack integrity of faith are fearful. Deliverance from exploitation cannot come without fearlessness.

When Prophet Shu'aib and his followers were threatened by the arrogant chiefs to be thrown out from the town they fearlessly replied : “Indeed we should have forged a lie against Allah, if we go back to your community after Allah has delivered us from it. And it is not for us to go back to it, unless Allah, our Sustainer please....”(7:88-89). We should have iron determination and fearlessness of Shu'aib and his followers. If our religious chiefs boycott us let them. We who have firm faith in Allah and His guidance, His Prophets, angles, Day of judgment, should not be fearful of such boycott and firmly refuse to return to the community of those who violate the Qur'anic spirit in every conceivable manner.

We are great inheritors of Fatimi D'awah and its glorious traditions. Its intellectual contribution to Islam and humanity has been second to none. Its intellectual achievements can make anyone proud. It led humanity from darkness of blind obedience to the light of creative thinking. It is our duty today to enrich this tradition and not shame it by blind submission to the forces of darkness and exploitation. The Fatimi Imams had established al-Azhar, then Islamic world's greatest institution of learning and had furnished it with the collection of best books then available in the world. The scholars of the world used to flock to it for higher learning.

Unfortunately we have forgotten these traditions and are not even aware of our intellectual heritage. Let us create institutions of higher learning and come out of the Jamatkhana syndrome. The institution of jamatkhana has been continuously reinforced in last few decades to distract our attention from other pressing problems and to create a disgraceful culture of obedience. Thanks to it we have fallen far behind in higher learning though at one time we were the leaders in that field. I do not say that the institution of Jamatkhana be abolished altogether; it may have some purpose to serve in a small community of small businessmen. However, it should not become our obsession. All our resources should not be put only in that basket. There are other and more useful baskets inviting our attention.

There is also shameful levels of poverty in our community today. Thousands live in hutments or ramshackle houses. Hundreds are unemployed and many more on fringes of illiteracy. They too deserve our urgent attention. There are enough charitable institutions in the community but all have slipped under the control of Sayedna's authority. The Quran strongly condemned hoarding of wealth by the Jewish ahbar (priests). The Quran says admonishingly, “O you who believe, surely many of (the Jewish) priests and monks eat away the property of men falsely, and hinder (them) from Allah's way. And those who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in Allah's way - announce to them a painful chastisement”(9:34).

Our priests are also guilty of eating away people's properties and hoarding hordes of money and living a life of vulgar luxury when thousands are living on fringes of poverty. Yet, strangely enough, the community has been putting up with such state of affairs. Not only this, we go on giving them more and more money. This plunder must stop right away. The collection of zakat and other dues should be made by a democratically responsible body and resources so collected must be spent on welfare of the poor and needy and on building institutions of research and higher learning. The priesthood should be paid their wages for their religious services, and no more. It is their due. The control of all the properties vested in the community should rest with community. The priesthood should have no control over it.

All the ills we are suffering from today is on account of centralised control in the hands of the priesthood. In fact it has become virtual owner of all that which rightfully and legitimately belongs to the community. We have made the priesthood so powerful that we have become powerless so much so that we are being treated as utter slaves and nothing but blind submissions demanded from us. In other words we are ourselves responsible for this state of affairs. It is for us to liberate ourselves. The reformists have shown the way. They have also provided a democratic model which has been functioning now for several years. It is now for the community to break the shackles of slavery and veer round the reformists. Fatimi Da'wah has been imprisoned by powerful vested interests. Let us liberate it from the clutches of exploiters and make it a dynamic institution that it once was.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 10:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vice President Releases a Book 'Sulaimanis -Lives Less Ordinary'

19:21 IST
The Vice President of India Shri M. Hamid Ansari released a book titled "Sulaimainis- Lives Less Ordinary" edited by former Cabinet Secretary Shri Zafar Saifullah at a function here today. Addressing on the occasion, the Vice President said that a good book has been published about very eminent personalities. The book has added to knowledge about the sheer diversity of Indian Society. The diversity is a fact of life. Each one them exists as an identity. In India, that identity is allowed to sustain.

The Vice President said that this unique book is an exercise of sheding light on diversity. He congratulated Smt. and Shri Zafar Saifaillah of bringing out such a valuable and informative book. Shri K.Rehman Khan, Deputy Chairman Rajya Sabha, Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar, Union Minister for Panchayati Raj, Smt. Shiela Dikshit, Chief Minister of Delhi, Shri Amar Singh (MP, Rajya Sabha) and a large number of distinguished persons were present on the occasion.

The book is a tribute to the Sulaimani Boharas, their talents, values, labours, dedication, tenacity and commitment, inspiring accomplishments and above all strong patriotism not just to the country of their birth but to the incomparable society. The book describes that by dint of their qualities, the Sulaimani rose to positions of national eminence in this wide spectrum of professions and carving of unique niche for themselves in the country's mainstream. And for a community that is truly miniscule in size, their achievements measured by any yardstick, are an eloquent and self evident tribute to their outstanding mettle.

The Sulaimanis belong to the Ismaili Shiya sect of Islam. Their roots are in Yemen, located in the South-west coast of Arabia, the birth place of major world religions including Islam. The world's first cities developed here over 5000 years ago. This is, indeed, a community that is extraordinary, for its men and women have influenced the course of events in their country, time and again.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2008 8:05 am    Post subject: Re: Differences in belief between Bohras and Nizaris Reply with quote

ONiazi wrote:
Assalamu aleikum!

What are the differences between Bohra Ismailis and Nizari Ismailis?

I know that practice-wise the both groups differ remarkably - so much so that one would not consider them part of the same group (Ismailis) of Shi'ism. Yet, how do they differ doctrinally and theologically? (Besides, of course, their Imam being in ghaibat and the Nizari Imam being mawjud and hazir.)

(I think it's interesting how Gujarati plays a large role in both groups.)


Mowla hafiz,

wa `Alaykum As-Salam and MOWLA ALI MADAD

The differences between Bohra Ismaili and Imami Nizari Ismaili Muslims are that the Bohra`s Mazab are (Zahiri) and Nizari`s are (Batini)......The Bohra`s believe that their Imam is hidden and will return in future, but the Nizari Ismaili' Imam is always present in the EARTH, it is said that "The world can not exist without Imam"....And also, Holy Prophet Mohammad (s.a.s) said in one of his Hadith "One who dies without knowing the imam of his time, dies an infidel , One who does not recognize his Imam is not recognizing God.......

I have a very simple question according to Bohra`s Mazab, Ishanasirya and Druze? Why is the Imam hiding from the world? Why should He? What makes him to hide? Since Imam is the king of the both world, He don't need to hide? nor He fears anybody. It has been 1 400 years that Ishanasirya`s imam is hiding?.... Imam is the Noor of Allah, the hand of Allah is with him, right path is with him and without him we all will go astray. If these people believes that the Imam (Mahdi) is hiding but He is here in this world, then why don't they look for him and find their guide? How long should they be waiting?
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Transferred from Contemporary section

Posted: 06 Jan 2009 09:56 am Post subject: BOHRAS IN THE NEWS
The Other Muslim
The affluence of Dawoodi Bohras of Gujarat and the Ismailies of Mumbai deconstruct the myth of Muslims as a poor and marginalised community, says Danish Reyaz

If taken on face value, it is hard not to stereotype the Dawoodi Bohra community as 'just your average Muslims' – conservative, inward looking and, who knows, even fanatical. After all, isn't that the most common, albeit erroneous picture that is painted to depict an average Muslim? But on a closer look you will realise that this community has learnt the fine art of maintaining a perfect balance between devoutly following the Islamic teachings and keeping pace with the 'modern' world.

The Dawoodi Bohras are an advanced lot in every sense of the word, be it social, educational, political, or financial. They have developed their business economy and a separate identity not only in Mumbai but across the world. And there are those who will vouch for this: you will not find a single beggar from this community anywhere in India. And what, you may ask, is the secret behind their development and prosperity? Education, which they consider extremely important, for both men and women, and their love and quest for knowledge which disallows them to keep looking inwards and fall out of pace with the rest of the world.

"Knowledge is our legacy. Hence, it is our duty to protect this legacy for the betterment of our community. The world is changing fast and, to live a respectable life, it is necessary for us to be aware of what's going on around us; it is our duty to adapt to modern technology and industrial development," says Syedna Burhanuddin.

The Bohras of India belong to a Shiite sect of Gujarati-speaking Muslims. During the reign of the 11th Fatimid Caliph in Egypt, this group made a lasting impact on the people of Egypt and Yemen. It should be worth noting that the earliest Caliphs were 'Companions of the Prophet' and were called Khulfa-e-Rashideen (rightly guided Caliphs). Consequently, the Caliphate shifted to Damascus (Umayyads), then to Baghdad (Abbasids), Egypt (Fatmids), and finally to Turkey under the Ottomans before the Caliphate was abolished by Kemal Ataturk in 1924. After coming to India, the Dawoodi Bohras converted Gujarati Vaishyas and Brahmins to Islam.

Dawoodi Bohra and Ismaili sects of Muslims today inhabit around 25 countries; their population in India is about one million. Asghar Ali Engineer, a prominent Islamic scholar and researcher who himself belongs to Bohra community says, "Over 1.3 lakh Dawoodi Bohras live in Mumbai while there are over one million of them living all over the world. There is a famous shrine of Dawoodi Bohras at Mohammad Ali Road in Mumbai where devotees come to pay homage. Also found in large numbers in Mumbai, Ismailis have an old Jamaat Khana at Kharak in Dongri where they perform their rituals."

Even though the Dawoodi Bohras live all across the globe, yet they remain very close to each other and share a common streak – that of altruism. "We are an interconnected community. We help each other and do our best to help other segments of the society too," claims Raghib Qureshi, media in-charge of Dawat-e-Hidaya, Badri Mahal. The large number of Bohra schools, colleges, hospitals, social and welfare institutions in Mumbai corroborate Qureshi's statement.

"We were born here and we love this soil. Our predecessors, who were Vaishya and Brahmins, converted to Islam and made us aware of Islamic teachings. Syedna Mohammed Burhanudin Taash is our 52nd Imam who was knighted 'Dai-e-Mutlaq' (absolute preacher) in 1965 when he was 53. He was born on March 6, 1915, at Surat in Gujarat," Qureshi told TSI.

On the other hand, Hazrat Ali was the first Ismaili Imam. The current Imam, Prince Karim Agha Khan, is the 49th. He was vested with this power on July 11, 1957, and completed his 50 years of leadership last year. His birthday (December 13) celebrations this year had to be cancelled following the tragedy that befell Mumbai on November 26.

Dr Nuruddin Hirani sheds some light on the history of Ismailis: "We came to Mumbai between 1801 and 1810. In the early 19th century, Agha Hasan Ali Shah arrived in India and settled in Mumbai. This attracted people from across the world who followed suit and settled in the area from Dongri to Rea Road. When our 48th Imam, Sir Sultan Mohammad Shah Agha Khan, migrated to Europe, people started migrating to other countries."

It was a golden age for Ismailis in Egypt until the 19th century brought with it many changes for this community. "After his arrival in Mumbai, Agha Hasan Ali preferred social and welfare activities over other things. No doubt, Isamailis are a business community, but our Imam has been playing a leading role with respect to this issue as well. Agha Khan is not only our religious leader, he also guides us in worldly affairs," Dr Hirani added. It is true that you will find Ismailis occupying most of the business centres in Mumbai. They have played a big role in setting up of the Development and Credit Bank. "When people from other counries came to India, they needed money and subsequently small welfare institutions such as Masalawala Society and Cooperative Banks were established. Gradually, as the society grew, it was converted to Development and Credit Bank, which has Nasir Manji as its current Chairman," informed Dr Hirani.

The secret behind the success of Ismailis, as in the case of Dawoodi Bohras, is their focus on education. Says Dr Hirani, "Today, every Ismaili is well established because he never sidelines the importance of education. Sir Sultan Mohammad Agha Khan set up a girls' school to make women literate. During the times of crisis we actively took part in the relief works. Roller Support Programme and Agha Khan Foundation helped Ismaili community in its growth and development." The Dawoodi Bohras are more concerned for the preservation of their beliefs, traditions and culture than Ismailis, it is said. Yet, the determination of both these communities to keep moving ahead, even at a time when Islam is passing through a critical phase, serves as an inspiration to all.

Last edited by Admin on 06 Jan 2009 11:18 pm, edited 1 time in total

Headline News
Kuwait Times

Bohras : Sunni perspective
October 17, 2007
By Ahmad Al-Khaled, Staff Writer

KUWAIT: Sunni cleric Sheikh Mohammad Al-Hamoud, who is a member of the Jamiyat Ahiya Al-Torath, a local Salafist organization, spoke to Kuwait Times about the Bohra religion and some of the practices which separate it from the mainstream Muslim community.

Last week, the Municipality denied a request made by the government on behalf of local Bohras, who number somewhere between 25,000 to 50,000, to be allocated government land to build a house of worship. The request to build a Bohra place of worship raised a controversy, with Islamists arguing that the request should be denied based on the fact that no Kuwaiti nationals were members of the Bohra sect as well as the fact that residents in Ardiya opposed the building in their area. The unspoken reason for theopposition was more than likely based on the fact that local Muslims do not believe Bohras to be a legitimate sect of Islam. Bohras (which is linguistically traced to the Gujarati word meaning 'to trade') have roots in Gujarat , India where they were converts to Ismaili Shiism. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, they broke from the branch following the Fatimi Tayyibi dawah of Yemen. They then broke into several offshoots on multiple occasions and came to be known as Aliyah Bohras, Dawoodi Bohras, Jafari Bohras and Sulaymani Bohra among others.

Bohras believe in seven pillars of their religion and not the five pillars of Islam which are mentioned in the Holy Quran . The first and most important of their seven pillars is that of walayah, which is love and devotion for Allah, the Prophets, the Imam, and the da'i.

Sunni Muslims do not believe in the worship of any God but Allah and do not call on followers to devote themselves to anyone but Allah. Sheikh Mohammad said the group has historically brought with it "a lot of movement that has harmed Islam in the past and present". "The Ismailia sect, which Muslim scholars believe is a sect which has strayed, believe in an imam who is without sin," he said. This belief is contrary to the belief of Sunni Muslims that only the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was sinless. "They believe the imam is a descendant of Imam Ismail bin Jaafar," he added.

Notably, the current da'i or leader of the Dawoodi Bohras, Sayyedna Mohammad Burhanuddin, is 52nd in a long line of da'i mutlaqs which can be translated to 'absolute preacher or summoner'. He is revered for his supposed ancestry and position which is contrary to Sunni beliefs, which do not allow religious reverence for anyone but Allah.

Sheikh Mohammad stated that the Bohras believe, "Whomever does not know the Imam of his time will die as a non-believer and non-Muslim." This belief flies in the face of Sunni Muslim beliefs which do not require reverence for imams or any religious heads as a prerequisite for being a Muslim. "They do not pray in Sunni or Shiite mosques (because) either they do not believe we are Muslims or they do not believe these are legal mosques," the cleric said.

Notably, among differences in Islam and Bohra beliefs is their belief in reincarnation . On Bohra beliefs on reincarnation, Sheikh Mohammad said, "If someone is righteous and he dies, Bohras believes his spirit will live on in another person." As to the possibility of Bohra building a place of worship in Kuwait, Sheikh Mohammad summed up the issue stating: "If these are their beliefs, then we should not help them build a temple because this is opposite to Islam and there are fatwas forbidding this." Specifically, he noted that a fatwa was issued by a religious committee in Saudi Arabia. "Their belief is a mixture of philosophy, interpretations, and Shiite practices," he said.

Huthayif Yusef, a spokesman of the local Bohra community, refused to comment on any of the topics discussed in this article.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2009 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall Greets Bohra Muslim Community in Visit to Mosque

NORTHOLT, England, February 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall (TRH) visited Husaini Masjid, the mosque for the Dawoodi Bohra Muslims, in Northholt on Wednesday morning. They met with Prince Qaidjoher Ezzuddin, son of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, spiritual leader of Dawoodi Bohra Muslims worldwide.

(Photo: )

TRH saw an exhibition covering aspects of the community's contribution to British life, particularly in medicine and business, and also their philanthropic work world-wide, including the restoration of heritage mosques in Egypt and Iraq, a state-of-the-art hospital in India and water sourcing and coffee farming projects in Yemen.

TRH examined some Fatimid features in the prayer area of the mosque complex, saw a children's classroom in the madrasah and from the prayer area, viewed a tree planted by His Royal Highness during an earlier visit in 1996.

In his welcoming speech, Prince Ezzuddin said:

"Since 1993, you have made significant statements in support of Islam and the values it espouses. It is heart-warming for our community and all Muslims residing in UK, that the Heir to the Throne of the country they live in should value their religion and traditions in the way that you have.

It is an inclusive and sympathetic approach, not born out of a political need or even a sense of responsibility as the future monarch, but a wish to seek out the best that the rich diversity of your subjects can offer. As a token of our gratitude for this, and to commemorate your visit today, we have published a compilation of your speeches on Islam."

The Prince of Wales praised the Bohra community for their contribution and expertise in business and said, "I am impressed by you what you have achieved here."

He also said, "But most importantly, I cannot applaud enough the invaluable example of your belief that patriotism is part of faith. This makes an enormous contribution to modern British society."

TRH were given a number of gifts including a traditional shawl and a Muslim cap.

The Dawoodi Bohra Muslims in UK are almost all British citizens. They have purpose-built mosques in London, Manchester and Bradford.

Anjuman e Burhani
Mohammedi Park, Rowdell Road, Northholt, Middlesex UB5 6AG

Contact: Mustafa Abdulhussein +44-7768101192



Charles meets spiritual prince
1 day ago

The Prince of Wales met a spiritual prince when he visited a unique Muslim community that has made a major contribution to British business.

Charles was praised during the visit to the Dawoodi Bohra Muslims and their mosque in north-west London for valuing Islam and its traditions.

The Shia Muslim sect number around 6,000 in the UK, with more than 3,000 of those living in the capital.

Followers are led by spiritual leader Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, and one of their key principles is "patriotism is part of the faith", which encourages them to make a positive contribution to whichever country they live in.

The word Bohra means trader, and traditionally most members of the sect have been entrepreneurs - most notably Sir Gulam Noon, who has built up a curry empire that supplies thousands of Indian meals to supermarket shelves.

Prince Qaidjoher Ezzuddin, the son and heir of the Dawoodi Bohra's leader, praised Charles in a speech to more than 100 people gathered in the mosque in Northolt.

He said: "Since 1993, you have made significant statements in praise of Islam and the values Islam espouses.

"It is heart-warming for our community and all Muslims residing in the United Kingdom that the heir to the throne of the country they live in values their religion and traditions in the way you do.

"It is an inclusive and sincere approach, not born out of a political need or even a sense of responsibility as the future monarch, but a wish to seek out the best that the rich diversity of your subjects can offer."

The Prince added that, as a mark of their gratitude and to commemorate his visit, they have published a compilation of his speeches on Islam, and presented him with a copy
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2010 6:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Feast of goodness

Dipti Nagpaul D'souza Posted online: Mon Sep 06 2010, 04:59 hrs
It's 7.30 in the evening and Kadri Makan in Modi Street resembles a wedding venue. Brightly lit, the sweet fragrance of fresh spices and delectable food hangs in the air as hundreds of people greet each other and then sit in a long queue where members of the Bohra Muslim community from the neighbourhood are going to be served the iftaar dinner — their first wholesome meal after the day-long fast.

Kadri Makan is only one of many venues across the world where a community dinner is held during days of Ramzan. A practice that does not date back to more than half a decade, it's a unique ritual that Sayedna Taher Saifuddin, the high priest of the Bohra Muslim community, introduced to strengthen the ties within the community.

A sub-sect of the Shia Ismaili community, Dawoodi Bohras are a 1.2 million-strong community worldwide with roots in India and chiefly, Mumbai. While religiously, they too, follow the Koran, the sect chiefly distinguishes itself through the system of priesthood.

As we scan the crowds, Saifuddin Kopty, a community member and resident of the famous Bohri Mohalla near Bhendi Bazar, talks about the holy month of fasting and what sets them apart from other Muslims. "We Bohra Muslims follow a fixed Hijri calendar, which is lunar. So every year, the month of Ramzan begins on the same day and lasts for precisely 30 days, culminating with Eid-ul-Fitr on the 31st day. This implies that unlike most other communities worldwide, our Eid does not depend on sighting of the moon. However, there isn't more than a day or two's difference between our Eid and the Eid celebrated by Sunni Muslims," he explains.
Primarily a community of traders from Gujarat, Bohra Muslims, as part of guidelines set by the Sayedna for the wellbeing of the people, follow the system of Zakat, which is a tax — a certain percentage of their yearly earnings — that every family pays as alms towards the community fund (kothar), managed by the Sayedna. "While the month of Ramzan sees Muslims from across the world give alms, Zakat is compulsory among the Bohra Muslims who give out generously during this period for it is believed to cleanse the soul," says Irfan Engineer, another community member.

Iftaar, the breaking of the fast, is a popular culinary event across the world, known for the delectable foods that comprise the meal, which includes kebabs, mutton keema, chicken cutlets and other meat specialties, and is as appreciated by non-Muslims for these delicacies.
But according to Kopty, a few years ago, the Sayedna, looking at the richness and possible health hazard posed by such a meal, suggested that the community members instead break the fast with a simple meal of two dates, two biscuits and a cup of tea instead. This is followed by the community dinner at a pre-decided venue in the neighbourhood. Kopty says that not only are hygiene standards maintained here, unlike other street-side food joints, but also looking at the current lifestyles, the meal is prepared in olive oil.

The Bohra Muslims will celebrate their Eid this year on September 9 with morning prayers called Eid ka Khutba, like any other Muslim sect. Most Bohra Muslims will follow this up with a visit to Raudat Tahera in Bhendi Bazar, the mausoleum of the Sayedna's father. "The 98-year-old Sayedna spends most part of the Eid day here in prayers and believers from across the city and country come here to get a glimpse of him," Kopty adds.

Culturally, however, there is little difference in the celebrations of Eid across the world. "Just like the others, we meet our near and dear ones. We too prepare the sevaiyyan though we call it sheer khurma. Of course, there is a strong Gujarati influence on our palate but that hardly sets us apart in such cosmopolitan times," smiles Shaifi Kaanchwala, a housewife from Marol.

In a city like Mumbai, Ramzan and Eid often help bring members of the various Islamic sects together. Engineer seconds this: "Eid is a social festival and since the government holiday for Eid is on the day when Sunni Muslims celebrate Eid, Bohra Muslims too join in for the celebrations."
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2011 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Bohras’ Majlis of Muharram: Bohra Mohalla, Bendhi Bazzar, Mumbai,

Indian, December 2010

Dawoodi Bohras are Shia Ismaili, but differ from Agha-Khani Ismaili; they follow Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin who is their spiritual head. Bohras are commemorating Muharram by Majlies and not taking out procession. This year, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin delivered sermons at Muharram Majilises in Bendhi bazaar.

As Times of India (TOI) reported; ‘Since the Syedna's speech is considered sacred for every Bohra, there was a great rush to be at his Majlis. The attendees received their invitations after registering by e-mail. Nearly two lakh Bohras from across the world are in town and around 32,000 get to sit in the massive mosque at a time. Those who have not found a place at the mosque see him on screens set up at 60 relay centres across the city and suburbs’ (TOI, December 14, 2010, ).

I had a privilege to attend and observer the majilis at Bendhi Bazar. The crowd in the street are there to see their spiritual leather, who would pass a bridge that I took the photo from. The bridge temporary connects Seifi Masjid and Rowda al-Tahera.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reform movement gathers forces in the Bohra community

Charges against Bohra religious head range from tyranny to corruption

Yoginder Sikand

With a population of just over a million, the Dawoodi Bohras are ethnic Gujaratis, mostly small traders. Last month, when 3,000 Dawoodi Bohras gathered at Udaipur for their 14th world conference, the thrust was on galvanising the ongoing movement against what the organisers described as the draconian rule of their spiritual head or dai-e-mutlaq, Syedna Burhanuddin.

The Dawoodis are one of the many branches of the Ismaili Shia sect. Throughout their history, the Ismailis have faced dissensions over succession to the post of Imam, whom they believe to be appointed by God as the Prophet’s deputy. The Dawoodis believe that their 21st Imam, Tayyeb, who resided in Yemen, went into seclusion, and that in his absence he had appointed a dai-e-mutlaq, a deputy with absolute powers over his followers, to control the community.

Faced with violent opposition from Sunni Muslims, the Dawoodi branch of the Ismailis carried on an underground religio-political movement in Yemen. But when Sunni opposition became severe, the 24th dai shifted to Gujarat. Following this, missionaries of the sect made numerous converts in Gujarat, particularly among Lohana traders (called Bohras in Gujarati). The Dawoodi Bohras, the largest of the various Bohra groups, are followers of the 27th dai.

The present dai, Syedna Burhanuddin, is the 52nd in line. Today, he finds himself in the centre of a brewing controversy, faced with angry protests from reformist Bohras amidst allegations of corruption.


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In his address to the Udaipur conference, noted Islamic scholar Asghar Ali Engineer, general secretary of the Central Board of the Dawoodi Bohra Community, recounted how the Syedna and his cronies have consistently sought to scuttle the reformist movement, not hesitating to use force in many cases. In an interview with this writer, Engineer spoke of the total control that the Syedna imposes on his followers, including demanding that they prostrate before him, although in Islam prostration is to be made only before God.

He referred to Burhanuddin’s father, Tahir Saifuddin, the 51st dai-e-mutlaq, who in a statement made in the Bombay High Court even declared himself to be “God on earth” (Ilah-ul-ard), a claim that is unambiguously unIslamic. He added that the Bohras are made to believe, quite contrary to Islamic teachings, that entry to heaven is dependent entirely on the Syedna’s goodwill.

The chief guest of the conference, social activist Medha Patkar, linked the struggle of the Bohra reformists to the wider struggle for social justice, stressing the need for internal democracy within religious communities and for challenging the autocracy of self-styled religious heads.

Syed Shahid Mehdi, former vice- chancellor of Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia, characterised the Syedna’s dictatorial powers over the Bohras as ‘religious apartheid’. Tahir Mahmood, former chairman of the National Minorities Commission, castigated the Syedna for making exorbitant demands on the Bohras and for allegedly making claims for himself that even the Prophet Muhammad had never done.

Noting how the reformist Bohras were being hounded by the Syedna for speaking out against their oppression, he called for a law to protect religious dissenters.

Over three days, dozens of Bohras expressed their anguish at the oppressive practices of the Syedna and his vast family of around a thousand members. Abid Adeeb, president of the Udaipur Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat, spoke of how the present Syedna levies a number of taxes on the Bohras that had no sanction in Islam.

Through his representatives or amils, he said, the Syedna extracts several crores of rupees from his followers annually, demanding payment on almost every conceivable occasion. Even prayer spaces in Bohra mosques in the month of Ramzan are now up for sale, he revealed.

He felt that opposition to the Syedna’s exploitation was mounting but those who dare to do so are immediately excommunicated. Adeeb recounted numerous cases of excommunicated dissidents being forced by the Syedna to divorce their spouses.

The reformists had taken the issue of baraat, the power of excommunication that the Syedna claimed for himself, to the courts several years ago, but the case was still pending. He noted that various political parties were hand-in-glove with the Syedna, owing to the vast economic clout that he wields and the votes he can deliver, because of which these parties are, he alleged, indifferent to demands for reform. He pointed out that the Syedna even had close links with Narendra Modi, despite the fact that Bohras, along with other Muslims, had suffered immensely in the anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in 2002.

He also claimed that the Syedna routinely paid various Sunni Muslim institutions money so as to project himself as a pious Muslim as well as to buy their support and their silence on his un-Islamic practices and exploitative ways.

Likewise, he said, the mainstream media, which routinely sensationalises Muslim issues, had largely ignored the scandals that abound in the Bohra religious establishment. “The Syedna spends vast sums of money to place advertisements for himself in the newspapers, and I would not be surprised if the Syedna’s men pay some mediapersons hefty sums to keep off writing on the corruption of the Bohra

religious establishment or to praise the Syedna,” he added.

Zainab Bano, president of the Bohra Youth Association Udaipur, spoke of the origins of the reformist movement in Udaipur in the 1970s, recounting the torments they have had to suffer over the years as a result, including being beaten up by Burhanuddin’s men, forcibly divorced from their spouses, banned from Bohra mosques and denied access to graveyards.

She pointed out that the present Syedna had invented new titles for his sons and daughters, styling them as ‘princes’ (shehzada) and ‘princesses’ (shehzadi). He had, she added, appointed key members of his family as amils in towns with a sizable Bohra population, and many of them had amassed vast fortunes by levying a host of taxes on Bohras and through shady deals.

Saifuddin Insaf, 70, one of the pioneers of the Bohra reformist movement, and editor of the reformist journal Bohra Chronicle, traced the degeneration in the Bohra priesthood to the 47th dai, Abdul Qadir Najmuddin, great-grandfather of Syedna Burhanuddin, who had established hereditary rule.

In order to dispossess the Bohras of the numerous trusts that Bohra philanthropists had set up across the country, the present Syedna had gone so far as to claim to be their sole trustee. The reformists had challenged this claim in the courts years ago but, Insaf lamented, the verdict was still pending.

Insaf revealed that in order to impose total control on the Bohras, the Syedna insists that no Bohra can pray in a mosque or marry without his permission. “This is a complete violation of Islamic teachings. It is a tool to ensure complete slavery. If a Bohra marries without the Syedna’s permission, the marriage is considered illegal and the offspring of that union illegitimate,” he explained.

He spoke of how Tahir Saifuddin had invented a new rule demanding that every Bohra adolescent give an oath of allegiance (mithaq) to him, rather than, as in the past, to the Imam who is believed to be in seclusion. This new oath insisted on complete surrender to the Syedna’s will, and required that every Bohra declare himself to be the “slave of the Syedna” (abd-e syedna). The present Syedna, he said, continues with this mithaq, which he castigated as “wholly unIslamic”.

Next month, Burhanuddin turns 100 and lavish preparations are underway to celebrate his centenary. Conference participants revealed that instructions have been sent to every Bohra family to cough up a substantial amount of money to fund his birthday revelries. Speaker after speaker also spoke of battles behind the scenes between rival factions among Burhanuddin’s several brothers and sons to succeed him as head of the vast empire he controls once he dies since he has not as yet revealed his successor. When that happens, they do not rule out the community splintering into rival sects, which would only be in consonance with the Ismaili historical tradition.

Sikand is a sociologist and critic
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 20, 2011 6:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Radical Islamism & Jihad
19 Mar 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com

One Woman’s Jihad

By Yoginder Sikand

Zehra Cyclewala is a leading figure in the reformist movement against the tyranny of Syedna Burhanuddin, the head-priest (dai-e mutlaq) of the Daudi Bohra Ismaili Shia sect. Here, in a conversation with Yoginder Sikand, she relates the story of her decades-long personal struggle against priestly tyranny.

The Syedna turns 100 this month, and massive celebrations are being organized by his followers across the world to project him as a popular and pious leader. Zehra’s life tells a different story, however.

My name is Zehra Cyclewala. I am 55 years old, and have lived in Surat for most of my life. I was born in an orthodox, lower middle-class Dawoodi Bohra family. My parents had five children, and I was the youngest child. In the mid-1980s, soon after I completed my education—I did my graduation in Commerce—I joined the Saif Cooperative Society in Surat, a bank established in the 1960s by a group of Bohra traders. It was inaugurated by the Bohra head priest Syedna Burhanuddin himself, and enjoyed his blessings. I started work there as a clerk, and, gradually, rose to become its manager.

From the very beginning, the Saif Cooperative Society gave and took interest. The Syedna naturally knew of this, and he had no problem with it, although some Muslims believe that even bank interest is forbidden or haraam in Islam. However, two years after I joined the bank, the Syedna issued a fatwa claiming that bank interest was forbidden, and demanded that the Bohras working in our bank leave their jobs at once. All the staff of the bank was Bohras at that time. Because the Bohras believe the word of the Syedna to be almost like divinely-inspired law, they hurriedly complied with his order and quit their jobs. I was the only one to refuse. After all, I thought, when, from the time the bank was established till the Syedna had issued this fatwa, the bank had been giving and taking interest, and the Syedna knew about this all along, how come he had suddenly decided or realized that such interest was haraam? The Syedna himself had inaugurated the bank, and when he did so he had no problem with it dealing in interest. There was something fishy in this fatwa, I felt.

Despite enormous pressure to leave the job, I refused. I lived with my mother, Fuliben Taherali, in Surat, and was the sole source of her support, because my father had died when I was 20. I simply could not do without this job. So, despite the Syedna’s order, I stuck on. The District Cooperative Society Board appointed a non-Bohra administrator—a man called Mr. Daru—to run the bank, and I worked under him. My defiance of the Syedna’s orders was not liked by the Bohras of Surat, and soon complaints about me reached the Syedna’s religious establishment—the Kothar.

The eldest son of the Syedna, Qaid Jauhar, came to Surat and met with me, and insisted that I must resign. ‘Why should I?’ I asked. I told him that a branch of the Bank of Baroda functioned in a building built on a plot of land owned by some Bohras in Surat, and that this bank dealt in interest. The bank paid rent to the Bohra owners, who, in turn, parted with some of it to the Syedna’s establishment, through the Syedna’s local amil or representative. ‘Why don’t you stop taking rent from the Bank of Baroda?’ I asked. Qaid Jauhar was shocked by what he regarded as my impudence. He told me that I asked too many questions, and said that this was improper.

As I said, by this time there was enormous pressure on me to quit my job. The Bohras believe that the Syedna is a divinely-appointed man. To displease him, they believe, is a sure way to land in hell. To refuse his order, they think, is to disobey and revolt against God. This is what the Syedna has made them believe. Hence, they thought that my refusal to quit my job was no ordinary revolt—but that it was nothing than a defiance of the divine will. And so, in a short while, a campaign was launched in Surat to excommunicate me. My house is in the middle of the Saifi Mohalla, a Bohra locality, hardly five minutes walk from the Jamia Saifia, the Bohras’ biggest madrasa. All my neighbours were fellow Bohras. Soon after I was excommunicated, they all stopped speaking to me. Even my relatives were forbidden to have any interaction—even on the phone—with me.

Yet, even in the face of this ostracism, my mother insisted that I must not give up. ‘Don’t you quit your job,’ she said. ‘You have to stand on your own feet. Your community is not going to help you when you need it.’ I did what she said. After all, I was no longer young, and it was not easy for me to get another job. If I quit my job, who would feed us?

The Syedna has a powerful weapon that he readily deploys to shut up anyone who dares protest against his oppression. Anyone who speaks out against his crass corruption (on the basis of which he and his vast family have become enormously rich by levying all sorts of taxes on the Bohras) or dares to criticize his dictatorship is at once excommunicated. This is called baraat. A Bohra who is thrown out of the community’s fold by the Syedna can have no social relations at all with any other Bohra, not even with his or her own family. Numerous spouses have been forcibly divorced, against their will, because one of them dared to differ with or raise his or her voice against the oppression and corruption of the Syedna and his henchmen.

And so, I, too, was declared to have become a mudai or apostate, and was subjected to baraat. Even my closest relatives, barring, of course, my mother, whom I lived with, stopped talking to me. When my mother and I walked on the streets, Bohras used to spit at us. Many would utter abuses and curse us. I refused to take this lying down. After all, I was always assertive, even as a child, and could not tolerate nonsense. And so, I filed a case against almost 20 Bohras who used to torment me and my mother in this vulgar way. This was in 1989. I won the case, and my tormentors came to me asking for forgiveness.

Meanwhile, the Syedna’s men continued to try to force me out of my job. They entreated Mr. Daru, the newly-appointed administrator of the bank, to throw me out, but he refused because I was good at my work. When I discovered that several rich Bohras of Surat, including some who had been office-bearers in the bank, had taken loans and had defaulted on payments, I took them to court, and the court forced them to return the money that they owed. This greatly incensed these men, and, using the enormous political influence that the Syedna wields, they pressurized the government of Gujarat, which was then controlled by the Congress, to remove the administrator of the bank and appoint someone else in his place, who they hoped would do their bidding. They managed to do so, and Mr. Daru was replaced. Mr. Daru’s only ‘fault’ was that he had refused to agree to their demand to expel me from my job.

Now that the Syedna’s men had succeeded in forcing Mr. Daru out of the bank and that the new administrator was a pro-Syedna man, I felt that my own job was under threat. So, I sent letters to top officials, including the Chief Minister of Gujarat, informing them about what was going on. Thereupon, I was suddenly demoted to the post of accountant, on the instigation of the Syedna’s men. I approached the court in protest, which issued a stay order, declaring that I should not be removed from the post of manager. The new administrator of the bank pursued the case in the higher courts, but even the high court confirmed the stay order, which was in my favour.

However, because the majority of shareholders of our bank were Bohras, and because they believed every word of the Syedna to be divine law, they voted to suspend me despite the court’s stay order. This was tantamount to contempt of court. And so, for three years, from 1989 to 1991, I could not go to office. It was at this time that I began meeting with other women—Hindus, Sunni Muslims and Christians—who had also suffered in their own ways and who were trying to speak out against their oppression. We formed a support group and tried to help each other cope with our difficult situation. It was these women who inspired me to refuse to let the board of directors of the bank off. After all, by voting to suspend me they had violated the court’s orders. And so, I lodged a contempt of court case against them, which dragged on for two years. In the end, the court ruled in my favour. The directors of the bank begged the court for mercy, and I was reinstated as manager, while 15 Bohra men were suspended from the bank’s board of directors. Till then, the bank had been in the hands of the Syedna’s cronies. To stabilize the bank and to make it more broad-based, I appointed several Hindus, Sunni Muslims and reformist Bohras as members of the society, and so it became much more cosmopolitan.

All this while, I refused to relent, although the Syedna’s men kept sending me messages, saying, ‘Repent and you will be forgiven.’ But what I did I need to repent for? It was not me, but they, who had done wrong. They should have repented, not me. I refused to tender any apology although I had to face, and still continue face, brutal social ostracism. After all, my struggle was not for myself alone, but for the many Bohras who live under the cruel tyranny of the religious establishment. It was a struggle for truth and justice.

In 1991, my mother fell sick but no relatives could come to see her, for fear of being ex-communicated. She, too, had been excommunicated by the Syedna because she lived with me and refused to accede to his orders that no Bohra should have anything to do with me. She knew that having been excommunicated she would not be buried in a Bohra graveyard. Still, even on her deathbed, she stood like a rock behind me, insisting that I must never surrender to injustice. Shortly after, she passed away. No Bohra came for her funeral—not even her other children, my siblings. The Bohras of Surat refused to bury her in the community’s burial ground. I insisted that she would be buried there and nowhere else, because I was a Bohra and I had my rights, and my mother had been a Bohra, too. The Sunni Muslims of Surat offered to let her body be buried in their cemetery. I thanked them but I declined their offer, saying that if I accepted their offer, it would be conceding defeat in the struggle against the Syedna’s religiously-sanctioned tyranny.

News about my mother’s body being thrown out of the Bohra mosque soon spread throughout the town, and so, in the dark hours of the morning, and under police protection, a crowd of some 10 thousand Sunnis and Hindus collected at the Bohra graveyard and ensured that my mother’s body was laid to rest there. Not a single Bohra came for the funeral.

Sometime in the 1990s, a local Bohra leader, Yusuf Bhai Badri, who was then Secretary of the Bohra Jamaat of Surat and a close confidante of the Syedna, had taken a loan from our bank, but because he had not repaid the loan, interest on it had mounted and he owed the bank almost double the principal. He refused to pay back on time, and I was compelled to take him to court. The court issued a warrant ordering the seizure of the property of his guarantor, a Bohra industrialist called Haiderbhai Hazur. I went to Haiderbhai’s house with the court order, along with some policemen. When I got there and he saw me, he said, ‘How dare you come here? You are an apostate!’ I told him that he had to repay the money, otherwise the court would take action against him. Scared of what might happen to him, he asked for three days to pay up.

Just as I left his house, some Bohras began screaming like mad men, alleging that I had abused the Syedna. They began hollering out to the Bohras around to come out and beat me up. Soon a huge crowd collected and surrounded me, including many Bohra women. Somehow, I managed to escape. I ran to the nearby Mahidarpura police station, but the crowd of Bohra men and women, more than 5000-strong, rushed there as well, following me. They started raising slogans, crying out, ‘Give us Zehra Cyclewala! We will kill her!’ The Bohra amil of Surat, Syedul Khair, son-in-law of the Syedna, was leading the crowd. ‘Come out and we shall hammer you!’ he shouted.

Inspector Khan of the police station said to me, ‘Ask them for mercy and they will let you go, or else they might kill you. Why create a fuss about refusing to say just two words in apology?’ But I refused, saying, ‘I would rather die but I shall never ask them for mercy. After all, what wrong have I done?’ The policemen did nothing to control the crowd or stop them baying for my blood. Instead of beating them with lathis or tear-gassing them or even registering a case against them, they lent them their support. Such is the enormous power of the Bohra establishment.

Although I was perfectly innocent and the crowd was at fault, a false case was registered against me, claiming that I had abused them! I tried to lodge a formal complaint in the police station, I was not allowed to and, instead, I was put into the police lock-up, where I had to spend the entire night. The next afternoon, I was taken to the court. A huge crowd of Bohra women gathered there. They demanded that I be sent to jail. But the magistrate refused, saying that it was a bailable case and so I was released on bail.

Because it was no longer safe for me to stay in the Bohra locality, where I had my home, I shifted to a Hindu locality for a couple of days. The Bohras had spread all sorts of false news about me, claiming that I had caused a disturbance by abusing the Syedna, so I went to the offices of leading newspapers in Surat to tell them the truth. I said, ‘You have been fed on wrong propaganda and, without doing any investigation, you have published false things about me. Now you have to publish my version of the events or else I will go on hunger-strike and will lodge a complaint with the Press Council.’ The journalists heard me out and the next day they published my story.

As I said, instead of supporting me, the police had taken the side of the Bohras, and so as soon as I was let off by the court I, along with several of my women friends of the Surat District Mahila Sangh, a women’s group of which I was one of the founders, went to meet the Police Commissioner and told him how badly the policemen had treated me. I don’t know what I would have done without the help of these women colleagues—who were mostly Hindus and Sunni Muslims. With the help of the Police Commissioner, a case was lodged against a group of Bohras who had attacked my house when I was in the prison lock-up, and eight of them were arrested. But I was not satisfied with this measure and lodged a writ petition in the High Court against the policemen and the Bohras who had assaulted me. I complained about how the police had refused to lodge a case of rioting against the Bohras, and, instead, had kept me locked up in jail. Some policemen came to me and asked me for mercy but I refused. If I relented, I thought, how would these people, who are paid to help the victims of those who violate the law, learn that they cannot refuse to abide by their duty?

Soon, my case was heard in the High Court, which ruled in my favour and came down heavily on the Bohra rioters and the police. By now things had become so tense that I knew that some enraged Bohra could easily kill me, and so the court ordered that I be given police protection 24 hours a day. And so, two armed police men were given to me, who accompanied me wherever I went. This carried on till 2006.

In 1998, the Rotary Club of Surat decided to hold a function to honour me for my struggle against the tyrannical Bohra establishment. They announced the event in the newspapers. As soon as the Bohras of Surat heard about it, they arrived in a huge horde outside the Rotary Club and began shouting slogans against me and the Club’s decision to honour me. The men who run that Club got scared on seeing them, and so, just a day before the event was to be held, they told me that they had called it off. When my colleagues in the Surat District Mahila Sangh heard of this, they were enraged. They went to the Club and told the men there, ‘You have dishonored and insulted Zehra, although you had announced you would honour her!’ The next day the news was splashed in the papers. But we did not stop at that. Through a lawyer, we sent a notice to the Rotary Club saying, ‘If you don’t apologise within three days, we will lodge a defamation case against you.’ The Club folks got nervous, and they asked me to forgive them. ‘We will never do this sort of thing again with any woman,’ they promised. I told them, ‘We accept your apology, but you must issue an advertisement in the press to this effect, and you must also add that the orthodox Bohras forced you to cancel the programme.’

The advertisement came out in three newspapers—it must have cost the Club a lot of money!—but we women were glad. After all, we did all this not so that I could salvage my name but so that organizations like the Rotary Club would learn not to cave in to the pressure of reactionaries and that they would stand up for justice, which they claim they are committed to.

Because I had taken on the Syedna’s henchmen, the police and influential organizations like the Rotary Club for siding with the tyrannical Bohra establishment, many newspapers had reported about me. This further incensed the Syedna’s blind supporters. One of them, a certain Mustafa Dodia, tried to trap me. Later, it was discovered, he had been paid by the Syedna’s men to do this. One day, he lodged a false complaint against me in a police station, claiming that I had tried to kill him. He got together a group of Bohras and they went on hunger-strike outside the police station, demanding my arrest and the removal of the police protection that the court had granted me. I was not one to take this lying down, of course. I reacted by lodging a complaint in the police station against Dodia, alleging that he had demanded the removal of police protection so that he could kill me. His demand, I added, was tantamount contempt of the orders of the court, for the court had ordered that I should receive police protection. Finally, Dodia was forced to withdraw his false complaint. The crime branch investigated his complaints against me and found them to be completely concocted.

Initially, I was the only Bohra in Surat to speak out against the tyranny of the Syedna and his men. I had no idea that there were other Bohras, in other cities, even in other countries, who were fed up of the extortion and the corrupt dictatorship of the Syedna and his family in the name of Islam, and who were agitating against all of this. Slowly, I came in touch with these reformists. News of my struggle reached them and they contacted me. They were inspired by my lone battle, and felt that I had something to tell other Bohras, to teach them that standing up for truth, for values, for principles was true surrender to God, and that the supine surrender to a corrupt priesthood, which the Syedna insists on in the name of Islam, was its complete contradiction. In 2001, a group of reformist Bohras invited me to Canada to speak on my life, and to help galvanise the Bohra reformist movement in the West, where a number of Bohras live. In 2005, I was invited to an international convention of reformist Bohras in Birmingham, England, where my biography, titled One Against All, written by the noted Bohra reformist Yunus Bhai Baluwala, was released. In the same year, I insisted that the reformist Bohras of India organize a convention in Surat, which is where the major Bohra madrasa is located. Some people were scared to do this in the very den of the Syedna, as it were, fearing that they would be attacked by the Syedna’s cronies, but we went ahead and it was quite a success!

I began my struggle and my public life in the Saif Cooperative Society in Surat, and I still work there, now as its manager. Our business has expanded considerably over the years. And, I must say, despite the torrent of hatred that has been directed against me all these years, many Bohras who refuse to countenance any criticism of the Syedna now come to me with requests for loans. Although I am still officially ex-communicated from the Bohra fold, many Bohras come to my office to see me. They cannot invite me to their homes on family functions, of course, because of the Syedna’s orders. My brothers and sisters, too, cannot meet me. If they dare too, they stand the risk of being ex-communicated.

I keep attending reformist Bohra conferences wherever they are held. I am also invited by secular women’s groups to speak, and in this way I have had the chance to travel to various parts of India. Hindu and Sunni Muslim groups also invite me to their meetings, and I am grateful to them for their support. Wherever I go, I talk of the central role of women in promoting reform and resisting tyranny in the name of religion, which is an affront to true spirituality. I also keep stressing the need for communal harmony. From my own personal experiences, not from reading fat books, I know how deeply inter-related patriarchy, communalism, violence and priestly tyranny are.

I owe a lot to my mother, who stood firmly by me when I was ex-communicated. For that, she was thrown out of the community herself, but she refused to budge. She kept insisting, ‘Zehra! Never cave in to tyranny. Keep your head high. This is what God wants.’ Some Bohras from Surat, blind followers of the Syedna, offered me 50 lakh rupees if I issued an ‘apology’ to the Syedna, and even said that this would enable me to rejoin the Bohra fold. I remembered what my mother always told me and said to them, ‘I will never do that, no matter how much money you offer as a bribe. I know that by offering me money you want me to shut my mouth, to stop speaking out against the tyranny of the priests, to stop the Bohra reform movement.’ Had I accepted their offer, my reputation as someone who has always stood for certain principles would have been in tatters and people would then say, ‘Zehra has sold herself for money.’ But since I have never cowed down to their threats and blandishments, I can, as my mother always told me to, hold my head high, and so, after I leave this world, people can say, ‘There was a Bohra girl called Zehra who shook the Bohra community and dared to challenge the tyrants within it.’

In memory of my brave mother, and as a small token of appreciation for all that she stood for, recently I set up a charitable trust in her name. The trust has five trustees—a Hindu, a Sunni and three reformist Bohras. The trust offers modest financial assistance to the needy. We dream of doing many things in the future, one of them being to establish a common graveyard for people of all religions and communities so that people who are tormented and oppressed by their religious leaders, like my mother was, can find a final resting place there.

Sometimes, people ask me, ‘If the Syedna and his henchmen are such tyrants, why do you reformist Bohras not convert to another religion or to another Muslim sect? Why do you insist on remaining Daudi Bohras?’ I reply to them, saying, ‘This is precisely what the Syedna wants, because if we reformists quit the Bohra fold, he will be able to rule just as he pleases, without any opposition whatsoever!’ That is why I insist we must remain within the Bohra fold and continue to struggle for our rights, for true internal democracy. I think Islam, if correctly understood, tells us that this is precisely what we should do.

I have lived a long life of struggle. I have had to face terrible odds. All through, it was not desire for personal revenge or power that goaded me to take on the Bohra establishment, but an irrepressible commitment to justice. That is something basic, or ought to be, to all human beings. I simply cannot compromise on this. Some people may say that I was too obstinate or even vindictive, that I should have compromised instead of taking people to court, staging demonstrations, and lodging police complaints. But I tell them, ‘If we keep quiet and cave in, tyrants will continue to play with our lives. Surely, speaking up against tyranny is a fundamental duty and right, is it not? Surely this is what Islam, properly understood, should inspire us to do.’

And this is what the Bohra reformist movement is doing. The reformists are appealing to the world to see the trickery behind the ‘pious’ exterior of the Syedna and his cronies, who are misusing and misinterpreting religion to extort money from the Bohras and enforce a stultifying form of slavery on them, on their bodies and minds, all in the hallowed name of Islam. This is how the Syedna and his family have become among the richest in all of India. Anyone who dares to speak out against this tyranny is automatically thrown out of the community.

I appeal to the Government, political parties, intellectuals and social activists, and to people in general to see through this charade of the Syedna and his cronies, who have been twisting Islam in order to promote their own interests. I ask them to stop supporting and patronizing these men. The Syedna turns 100 this year, and hectic activities are underway to celebrate his centenary. A lot of public functions will be held to project him as a truly ‘pious’ man and a ‘popular’ religious leader. I appeal to people to listen to my voice, to the voice of a Bohra woman who has seen through and struggled against the tyranny of the Bohra establishment for decades, not to fall prey to this nefarious propaganda.

A regular columnist for, Yoginder Sikand works with the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion at the National Law School, Bangalore.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2011 6:55 am    Post subject: Bohra's Dai will be 100 years old this month. Reply with quote

Bohra community's dai His Holiness Dr. Saiyadina Mohammad Burhauddin Saheb will be 100 years old this month on March 25th, 2011.

In celebration of this coming birthday, there was a big parade in Sidhpur, Gujarat, India yesterday. In this parade there were 2 elephants, 21 horses,
8 camels and many peoples from Bohra community and other sects were participated.
Many many congratulations to Dr. Saheb for his 100 birthday from Ismaili. net readers along with me.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 11:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Circumcision battle on web

Mumbai, Dec. 18: A Mumbai-based Bohra woman has begun an online petition against the practice of female circumcision that young girls of the Ismaili Shia Muslim sect are made to undergo.

The petition, which has garnered over 500 signatures, will be sent to Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, the religious head of the Dawoodi Bohras, asking for a ban on the practice by the community.

Started by Tasleem, a woman in her 40s who does not wish to reveal her second name, the petition calls the practice “cruel, inhuman and undemocratic”.

With a population of over a million, the Dawoodi Bohra community is largely concentrated in western Maharashtra and Gujarat and is the only Muslim sect in India to practise female circumcision.

Scholars of the religion say the practice finds no mention in the Quran and has its roots in Africa, where some tribes still practise female genital mutilation.

A medical expert said that unlike male circumcision, which has medical acceptance and is proven to reduce sexual diseases, female circumcision has no advantages.

“No medical organisation permits it because it is not beneficial to a woman in any way. On the contrary, it hampers a woman’s quality of life. Depending on which of four types of circumcision has been done, she can witness immediate or delayed effects such as infection, adjacent tissue injury, vascular bleeding, bleeding during menstruation or urination, and even sexual dysfunction and other psychological effects,” the expert said.

“It is a patriarchal practice that goes back to the thinking that women are not entitled to pleasure and their sexuality needs to be curbed.”

Tasleem said she began her campaign by first joining a group for Bohras on social networking site Facebook.

“I posted anti-female genital mutilation pictures, looked for people in the group who had little girls and pleaded with them not to do this,” she said.

Tasleem’s parents did not make her go through circumcision, nor has she subjected her daughter to it. Bohras say the women are generally circumcised around the age of seven, by an elderly woman from the community who is allowed to practise the technique by the clergy or, these days especially, by a doctor and under anaesthesia.

“I was taken to a house in the local community along with my mother and other women. An elderly woman asked me to lie on the ground on my back. I was seven then and vaguely remember having felt pain,” said a young Bohra woman.

“I forgot about it till my growing up years. It was only later when I realised what had been done that I questioned and criticised my family about it.”

Another woman said: “We were always told that it is done to both men and women and is good for one’s health and helps prevent sexual diseases.”

According to some Bohra women, while some parents are opting out of the practice, many others try delaying it but continue with it as otherwise they face constant pressure from the elder women in the family.

While the public relations office of the community remained unavailable for comment, the petition has found mixed reactions online. Some have said they would continue to do it to their daughters, calling it an “honour”.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2011 4:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scholars of the religion say the practice finds no mention in the Quran and has its roots in Africa,

Are any other Muslim sects besides Bohra sect also practices this strange practice "female circumcision"?

What is significant behind this circumcision? I don't think any religious significant!!
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2012 8:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bohra woman leads petition against female genital mutilation
Tuesday, 31st January 2012

An Indian woman from an Ismaili Shia Muslim sect called the Bohras is leading a petition against the practice of female genital mutilation, which still exists in her community, it has been reported.

News provider IPS spoke to the campaigner, who goes under the name Tasleem, about her fight to have the procedure outlawed.

"Initially, only the non-Bohras were signing, but once the media got into the act, many women from the community openly began talking about their painful experience," she stated.

Her petition is to the local high priest Dr Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin and the campaigner recently told Indian news provider Outlook she thought as many as 90 per cent of Bohra people practise the ritual.

IPS said there are an estimated two million individuals in this community around the world.

Research from analysis and mapping company Maplecroft recently revealed in its Women's and Girls' Rights Index of 197 nations that up to nine out of ten teenage girls experience female genital mutilation in Somalia.

Posted by Carla MackenzieADNFCR-2094-ID-801277983-ADNFCR
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2012 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Female circumcision anger aired in India


Eleven years ago, Farida Bano was circumcised by an aunt on a bunk bed in her family home at the end of her 10th birthday party.

The mutilation occurred not in Africa, where the practice is most prevalent, but in India where a small Muslim sub-sect known as the Dawoodi Bohra continues to believe that the removal of the clitoris is the will of God.

"We claim to be modern and different from other Muslim sects. We are different but not modern," Bano, a 21-year-old law graduate who is angry about what was done to her, told AFP in New Delhi.

She vividly remembers the moment in the party when the aunt pounced with a razor blade and a pack of cotton wool.

The Bohra brand of Islam is followed by 1.2 million people worldwide and is a sect of Shia Islam that originated in Yemen.

While the sect bars other Muslims from its mosques, it sees itself as more liberal, treating men and women equally in matters of education and marriage.

The community's insistence on "Khatna" (the excision of the clitoris) also sets it apart from others on the subcontinent.

"If other Muslims are not doing it then why are we following it?" Bano says.

For generations, few women in the tightly-knit community have spoken out in opposition, fearing that to air their grievances would be seen as an act of revolt frowned upon by their elders.

But an online campaign is now encouraging them to join hands to bury the custom.

The anti-Khatna movement gained momentum after Tasneem, a Bohra woman who goes by one name, posted an online petition at the social action platform in November last year.

She requested their religious leader, the 101-year-old Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, ban female genital mutilation, the consequences of which afflict 140 million women worldwide according to the World Health Organisation.

Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin is the 52nd Dai-al Mutalaq (absolute missionary) of the community and has sole authority to decide on all spiritual and temporal matters.

Every member of the sect takes an oath of allegiance to the leader, who lives in western city of Mumbai.

When contacted by AFP, Burhanuddin's spokesman, Qureshi Raghib, ruled out any change and said he had no interest in talking about the issue.

"I have heard about the online campaign but Bohra women should understand that our religion advocates the procedure and they should follow it without any argument," he said.

But over 1,600 Bohra Muslim women have since signed the online petition.

Many describe the pain they experienced after the procedure and urge their leader to impose a ban.

"The main motive behind Khatna is that women should never enjoy sexual intercourse. We are supposed to be like dolls for men," 34-year-old Tabassum Murtaza, who lives in the western city of Surat, told AFP by telephone.

The World Health Organisation has campaigned against the practice, saying it exposes millions of girls to dangers ranging from infections, hemorrhaging, complicated child-birth, or hepatitis from unsterilised tools.

In the Middle East, it is still practised in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan and Syria.

"It is an atrocity committed under the cloak of religion," says Murtaza, who along with her husband was asked to leave their family home when they refused to get their daughter circumcised.

"My mother-in-law said there was no room for religious disobedience and we should move out if we cannot respect the custom," she explained. "It is better to live on the street than humiliate your daughter's body."

Asghar Ali Engineer, a Bohra Muslim and expert on Islamic jurisprudence, has known the dangers of fighting for reform.

He has authored over 40 books proposing changes, particularly around the status of women, and has been attacked by hardliners inside a mosque in Egypt and had his house trashed by opponents.

While both France and the United States have laws enabling the prosecution of immigrants who perform female circumcisions, the practice remains legal in India and Engineer expects this to remain the case.

"Female circumcision is clearly a violation of human rights, the Indian government refuses to recognise it as a crime because the practice has full-fledged religious backing," he said.

"No government has the courage to touch a religious issue in India even if the practice is a crime against humanity."

He says many fathers are simply unaware of the damage they are doing by following the custom.

"I prevented my wife from getting our daughters circumcised but in many cases even fathers are not aware of the pain their daughters experience," he says.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 11:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


12 2012. By Vali Jamal: It was a great day for the Bohra community of Uganda today: The successor to the 52nd Dai al Mutlaq, Dr Mohamed Burhanuddin (TUS), Alqadir Sayedi Mufaddal Bhaisaheb Saifuddin (TUS) paid a 24-hour visit to lay the foundation stone of the first-ever Bohra mosque in Uganda. The succession was announced by the Dai himself in London two years ago. The Dai reached 101 years by the Islamic calendar this year, 100 years by the regular calendar next month.

I was invited to attend by the Mukhi of the Bohra jamat in Uganda, Sheikh Husseinbhai Malkan. His account is in my book in the section Those Who Never Left For Even a Day. He is the only original Bohra in Uganda. There are around 150 others from India. I was the only non-Bohra present. There were around 200 of the community, mostly from abroad, to catch a glimpse of their religion leader.

As Bhaisaheb Saifuddin alighted from his car a great cry of Allahu Akbar went up, accompanied by lots of tears-shedding. The heir to the Dai came to the verandah to sit on his ceremonial chair. Sheikh Husseinbhai went to brief him. Suddenly he called out my name to come to the dais. I hurriedly took my shoes off, took out the book volumes from my brief case and climbed the steps to meet the Dai. I was nervous. Bhaisaheb Saifuddin actually stood up from his chair to greet me, looking straight into my eyes with his kind eyes. We embraced. Sheikh Hussein showed him pages pertaining to himself in the book. Sayedi Saifuddin placed his hands on the book. He said I give you my blessings for your work. Then as another surprise he asked me to sit beside on the adjoining chair.

Everyone afterwards said to me nothing like this ever happened to any of them and my book was bound to succeed. Inshallah and al-Hamdulillah. I feel blessed and miracles already happened.

In one of the pictures: Sheikh Husseinbhai on the left and in another with the devoted kids. They were a delight to watch when the Bhaisaheb came to the dais. I agreed with Sheikh Hussein that I’d print a brand-new dedicated version next week to present to Bhaisaheb for the Dai al Mutlaq.

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