Dawoodi Bohra

The Dawoodi Bohras are a religious denomination within the Ismā'īlī branch of Shia Islam.[5][6] Their largest numbers reside in India, Pakistan, Yemen, East Africa, and the Gulf states. There are also significant numbers living in the Middle East, East Africa, Europe, North America, South East Asia and Australia. Most estimates put the worldwide population to be one million.[7]

  • Dawoodi Bohra
  • بُهرة داؤوْدِية
Dawoodi Bohra family in their religious attire.
Dawoodi Bohra family in their religious attire.
Total population
1,000,000[1] — 1,500,000[2]
2018
Regions with significant populations
 India
500,000 — 1,000,000[3][4]
Religions
Shi'a Islam
Scriptures
Quran
Languages
Related ethnic groups
Website
thedawoodibohras.com

Like all Muslims, they pray five times a day, fast in the month of Ramadan, perform the Haj and Umrah and give Zakat.[8] Dawoodi Bohra communities are united by a set of centuries-old principles: an unwavering commitment to the faith; being law-abiding citizens and developing a genuine love for the country in which they live; a belief in the value of society, education, hard work and equal rights; engagement with other faiths; and a responsibility to care for the environment and all creatures that dwell within it. They seek to embrace modernity while remaining true to their traditions and core beliefs. They believe in self-reliance and are for the most part traders, businessmen and entrepreneurs.[9][10][11][12]

The word Bohra comes from the Gujarati word vohrvu or vyavahar, meaning “to trade,” in reference to one of their traditional occupations which continues to this day.[13]

History

Dawoodi Bohras are a subset of Islam. They are traced as: Dawoodi, Taiyebi, Musta'li, Isma'ili, Shia, Muslims.[14]:1–4[15]The Dawood Bohra Muslims trace their heritage to the Fatimid Caliphate, named after Fatimah, the venerated daughter of the Islamic prophet Mohammed.  Devotion to the Fatimids Imams and Mohammed’s family is a hallmark of the Dawoodi Bohra faith.[16]

The Dawoodi Bohras and the Fatimid dynasty

The Fatimids first inhabited Medina and later ruled over large parts of the Islamic world during the 10th and 11th centuries, including North Africa and Egypt. They ruled with the aim of fostering and strengthening the religious traditions established by Mohammed. The Fatimids Imams oversaw an unparalleled period of Islamic history in terms of its political, economic, literary, artistic and scientific achievements.  They founded educational establishments, such as Al-Azhar University, the world’s oldest surviving university, as well as many architectural masterpieces in the city of Cairo, Egypt, which remain an enduring legacy of that era.[17]

Prior to the death of the 20th Imam, Al-Amir bi-Ahkam Allah, he directed his grand emissary in Yemen, Sayyida Arwa al-Sulayhi, the queen of Yemen, to establish the office of the Da'i al-Mutlaq (or, “unrestricted missionary”) to act as vicegerent of the 21st Imam At-Tayyib Abu'l-Qasim while in seclusion. The Da'i al-Mutlaq was instructed to continue the mission of the Imam, known as al-Da’wah al-Hadiyah (also Dawat-e-Hadiyah), which means providing believers with guidance.

Succession to the office of al-Dai al-Mutlaq is determined by a process called Nass, whereby each Da’i - inspired and guided by the hidden imam - appoints his own successor.  Each al-Dai al-Mutlaq has appointed a successor in his own lifetime to carry on the mission in the name of the imams with all the authority and power inherent in that high office. The chain of Da’is has continued without interruption to this day. .[18] The present incumbent to the office of the 53rd Da'i-al-Mutlaq is Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin.[19]

Faith and traditions

Beliefs and practices

Devotion to Mohammed, his family and his descendants is a hallmark of the Dawoodi Bohra faith, and is called walaayat.  The other fundamental practices are tahaarat (purity in body and thought), salaat (daily ritual prayers), zakaat ( (offering a portion of one’s income to Allah), sawm (fasting, particularly in the month of Ramadan), and hajj (a ritual pilgrimage to Makkah and its surrounds) and jihad (striving in the way of Allah).  Dawoodi Bohras establish mosques wherever they live and congregate for prayers and for majalis (lit. gatherings) for the remembrance of Allah and His chosen ones.

Left: Burhanuddin, the 52nd Da'i al-Mutlaq of Dawoodi Bohras, held the office from c. 1965 for 49 years. Right: Saifuddin, Burhanuddin's son and successor.

Qardan Hasana

Islam prohibits Riba (Usury) and interest; Dawoodi Bohras follow the principle of Qardan Hasana.[20] Qardan Hasana (lit. good loan) is a connotation towards the borrowing or lending of loans at zero rates of interest also commonly known as interest-free loans.[14] The term Qardan Hasana is a unique terminology specific to Islam, which has been mentioned six times in the Quran.[21] The Dawoodi Bohras follow this tenet with strict adherence to the principle of interest-free transactions. As it is based on the ideal of uplifting the borrower, this model has played a pivotal role in the economic growth within the community.[22]

Dawoodi Bohras voluntarily contribute to the corpus on a regular basis from an institutional level to individual and personal levels. The funds thus collected are managed by respective city-wise committees appointed by the central administration for this purpose. These loans are used by community members to buy houses, fund their education and businesses.[23]

Mithaq

The central rite of passage for Bohras is mithaq. This ceremony is a covenant between the believer and God, effected through his representative on earth. In addition to spelling out the duties a believer owes to Allah, it includes an oath of allegiance: a vow to accept the spiritual guidance of Syedna wholeheartedly and without reservation. The mithaq ceremony is mandatory to enter the fold of the faith.

The mithaq oath is first taken at whatever age a child is deemed to have reached maturity: most commonly, thirteen years for girls, fourteen or fifteen for boys. During early puberty, a child will be brought by his or her parents for an interview with the local amil (local head of the community). The amil asks the youth a series of questions about the Bohra faith, and only after providing adequate answers will the child be accepted for mithaq.

On the eighteenth day of the Islamic month of Zil Hijjah, every Bohra congregation renews its mithaq vows together.[24]

Calendar

The Dawoodi Bohra follow the Fatimid-era Tabular Islamic calendar[25] which matches perfectly with the lunar cycle and does not require any correction. In this calendar, the lunar year has 354 days. The odd-numbered months have 30 days and the even-numbered months have 29 days, except in a leap year when the 12th and final month has 30 days.[26] This contrasts with other Muslim communities, which base the beginnings of specific Islamic months on sightings of the moon crescent.[26]

Major calendar events

It is stated in the Holy Qur’an that  the Qur’an descended in the month of Ramadan, the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. During this month, Dawoodi Bohras fast from dusk to dawn as a mandatory practice. Bohras congregate in their mosques during this auspicious month for the daily prayers, but particularly during the evening prayers, and break the day long fast together, and have the iftaar (fast breaking) meal together. This is a season of heightened devotional activity, which ends in one of the great festivals, ‘Id al-fitr. In the month of Zil Hajj, the hajj (pilgrimage takes place). At the end of the pilgrimage (10th of Zil Hajj), another great festival is celebrated. On the 18th of Zil Hajj, according to Bohra (and Shia) tradition, Mohammed publicly appointed his son-in-law Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor. It is a very significant event in which the Dawoodi Bohras fast and offer special prayers. Special prayers and congregations are also held in other major events such as the day Mohammed first began his mission, the birthday of Mohammed, some of the death anniversaries of the communities’ leaders, and the birthday of the current Dai. In all events, devotion to Mohammed and his family is a recurring theme.

Muharram

The remembrance of the martyrdom of Imam Husain ibn Ali, the son of Ali ibn Abi Talib and the grandson of Mohammed, is central among the many expressions of devotion of the Dawoodi Bohras.[27]

According to scriptures, Mohammed’s grandson, Imam Husain, was martyred along with his family and companions on the plains of Karbala on a journey to Kufa through the scorching deserts of modern-day Iraq.  Many Muslims believe that Imam Husain’s martyrdom was foretold by his grandfather, Mohammed, and was destined to change the course of history of Islam

Known as “Ashara Mubaraka”, or the Blessed Ten, the commemoration of the martyrdom of Imam Husain consists of a series of ten gatherings that take place at the start of the Islamic new year dedicated to remembering the suffering of Imam Husain, his beloved family and loyal companions, at Karbala.

Bohras believe that Imam Husain’s martyrdom epitomizes the universal values of humanity, justice, truth and standing against injustice and tyranny even at the cost of great personal sacrifice.  It offers lessons in bravery, loyalty and compassion for all.  These values are said to encourage a spirit of self-sacrifice and adherence to the core beliefs of the faith.

Muslims, especially the Shi’a Muslims across the world commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Husain during the month of Muharram  with the belief that doing so is a source of blessings and a means to spiritual purification.

Ashara Mubaraka is a spiritual, educational, and material journey of growth and development.  All Dawoodi Bohra communities across the world host a series of majālis, or assemblies, in the morning and evening during which sermons recounting Imam Husain’s sacrifice are given and prayers services are held. The majālis led by Mufaddal Saifuddin sometimes attract hundreds of thousands of followers.[28]

In 2020, in accordance with government regulations in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the community observed Ashara Mubaraka remotely from their homes. Audio and Video recording of sermons delivered in the preceding years by Taher Saifuddin, Mohammed Burhanuddin, and Mufaddal Saifuddin were broadcast to the community worldwide. While volunteers of community kitchens, Faiz al-Mawaid al-Burhaniyah, prepared and distributed cooked meals to every home; members of local Jami'ats, especially the young, ensured senior members had access to necessary facilities to participate in all sermons and prayers online.[29]

Office and administration

The office of the Da'i al-Mutlaq, known as Dawat–e-Hadiyah, is central to secular and religious affairs among Dawoodi Bohras. The present office is in Badri Mahal, Mumbai, which is represented by Jamaat Committees in all the cities with significant numbers of Dawoodi Bohra members. The Aamil is the president of the local Jamaat committee in his respective city. He is appointed by the Dawat–e-Hadiyah, with the permission of the Dai al Mutlaq.

There are several sub committees and trusts under the Jamaat committee, looking after different aspects of Dawoodi Bohra administration.

The Dawoodi Bohras, being Ismailis and thus Jafaris, are signatories of the Amman Message.[30]

Demographics and culture

The worldwide number of Dawoodi Bohras is estimated at just over one million.[31] The majority of adherents reside in Gujarat state in India and the city of Karachi, Pakistan. There are also significant diaspora populations in Europe, North America, the Far East and East Africa.[32]

Name and etymology

The word Bohra comes from the Gujarati word 'vohrvu' (to trade), in reference to their traditional occupation.[33][34] The term Dawoodi comes from the support given to Dawood Bin Qutubshah during a schism that the community faced in 1592.

Language

Dawoodi Bohras have a blend of ethnic cultures, including: Yemeni, Egyptian, African, Pakistani and Indian. In addition to the local languages, the Dawoodi Bohras have their own language called Lisan al-Dawat.[35] which is written in Perso-Arabic script and is derived from Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Gujarati.

Dress

Dawoodi Bohras have a distinct form of attire. Men of the faith traditionally wear a predominantly white three-piece outfit consisting of a form of tunic called a kurta, an overcoat of equal length called a saaya, and pants or trousers called Izaar.  Men also wear a white cap with golden designs called a topi. Bohra men are expected to adhere to the practice of Mohammed of growing a full beard.[7]

Women of the faith wear a two piece dress called a rida that is distinguishable from other forms of Hijab by its bright colors, decorative patterns and lace, and the fact that it does not cover the woman’s face.[36] The rida can be of any colour except black. It has a flap called a pardi that is usually folded to one side to allow the woman’s face to be visible but that can be worn over the face if desired.[7]

Cuisine

Communal eating

Dawoodi Bohras have a unique system of communal dining involving eight or nine people seated around a thaal (a large metal dish).[37] This is the same for communal dinners as well as eating in the home as a family. Each course of the meal is served for those at the thaal to share.[38][39]

The meal begins with a taste of salt which islamic tradition is a prevention to many diseases. Bohras usually cover their heads during the meal. The tradition of hand-washing before and after the meal is also followed and where one is a host to guests the common etiquette is for the host to clean their guests’ hands using a metal chilamchi lota (basin and jug).  At community feasts, Bohras first eat mithaas (sweet dish), followed by kharaas (savoury dish), and then the main meal. As at the beginning, Bohras end the meal with a pinch of salt.[40] Bohra cuisine is renowned for its unique taste and dishes such as Bohra style biryani and daal chaawal palidu (rice, lentils and curry).[41]

Community kitchen – Faiz al Mawaid al Burhaniyah (FMB)

In 2012, the Bohra leader, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, established community kitchens in Mumbai to deliver Bohra families with at least one meal per day, partly to ensure that nobody should go to bed hungry. Such kitchens now operate in every Bohra community throughout the world. Their purpose remains to provide at least one freshly cooked wholesome meal to every Bohra family and to reduce - for women in particular - the time spent every day in food preparation thus freeing them to pursue other productive activities..[39][42] The scheme has eliminated food poverty from within the community and, of late, in times of wider crisis (such as the flooding in Texas or during the covid-19 pandemic) these community kitchens have supplied meals and provisions to the wider society.[43][44][45]

Dana Committee (No food wastage)

Most Bohra communities have an established Dana (grain) Committee tasked with eliminating food wastage. Their task is to ensure that not a single grain or morsel goes to waste. There are over 6,000 Dana Committee volunteers spread across 40 countries in the world, some of whom operate sophisticated RSVP apps[46] and other web and mobile-based platforms to ensure no wastage results from unneeded food during communal dinners.[47] This is done through a combination of assessment of the actual needs for the dinners by determining as accurately as possible the number of people who will attend and then by taking any excess food after the event and distributing it among the needy in the locality.[48]

Many Bohra communities support the United Nations annual World Food Day campaign for healthy diets for zero hunger. In addition, throughout the year, and as part of Project Rise[49] – a global Dawoodi Bohra initiative established to improve the lives of the less fortunate through welfare initiatives. Bohras work in partnership with government bodies and local organizations around the world to help alleviate hunger, raise health and nutrition levels among mothers and children, improve environmental and sanitation conditions and reduce food waste.

As an example of its work, in September 2019 over 27,000 Bohras who gathered in Sri Lanka to commemorate Muharram with Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, followed a zero food waste policy by focusing on portion control and distributing leftovers to the homeless and needy. This policy was first adopted the previous year during the Muharram commemorations held in Indore.

Community centres

Masjid

For the Dawoodi Bohras, a masjid in addition to being a primary place of worship is regarded as one of the pivotal centres of nurturing that provides a haven for the socio-cultural development of all community members. Along with serving the purpose of religious congregations, the masjid also plays an important role as a centre for civic affairs. A Dawoodi Bohra masjid complex usually houses several administrative offices of the community along with a banquet halls designated for ceremonial purposes.

Contemporary Dawoodi Bohra Masjids have an aesthetic style that blends the past with the present. The architectural features found in the Fatimi masjids of Cairo serve as a blue-print for these new structures. The reproduction of these features onto contemporary masjids serve testimony to Fatimi architecture and

The eras of Syedna Taher Saifuddin and Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin saw an exponential increase of construction of masjids in different parts of the world. Under the leadership of Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, the community continues to foster the same spirit of construction to ensure a rich socio-cultural environment that engenders peace and harmony for all.

Masjid e Moazzam in Surat, India is the largest masjid in the community

 
Masjid e Moazzam, Surat

Markaz

Dawoodi Bohras communities (or jamaats) are centered around a Masjid (or mosque) or markaz (centre) where there is no masjid.  Jamaat Committees - or Anjumans - operate all around the world where Dawoodi Bohra members live and work. Bohra communities have populations ranging from around one hundred to tens of thousands in major cities.

The Amil is the president of the local Anjuman in his respective city. He is appointed by the Dawat–e-Hadiyah, the office of the Da'i al-Mutlaq. There are several sub committees and trusts under each Jamaat committee that look after different aspects of the Dawoodi Bohra’s community’s administration.

As its head, the Amil administers and manages the socio-religious affairs of the jamaat. The Amil leads prayers and gives discourses.

Jamaat Khaana

Communal meals are served in dining halls called the jamaat khaana, which are generally part of the mosque complex.

The Dawoodi Bohras operate an elaborate administrative system set up by the central organization.  The office of the Da'i al-Mutlaq, known as Dawat–e-Hadiyah, is central to administering the secular and religious affairs of all Dawoodi Bohras. The main office is currently located in Badri Mahal, Mumbai, India.

Education and educational institutes

Mohammed made it equally incumbent, upon every Muslim man and woman, to pursue knowledge.[14]  In the Dawoodi Bohra community, both religious and secular education is highly valued.  The community has a very high rate of literacy and there is no disparity between the opportunities to learn between boys or girls.[14] This can be seen in the community’s own schools, particularly the Madrasah Saifiyah Burhaniyah which teach an integrated syllabus of sciences, humanities, languages and theological subjects with girls and boys being equal in numbers in these institutes. In 1984, Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin established MSB Educational Institute in Nairobi and Mumbai. Currently, there are 25 branches of the school worldwide.[50] This continues to be seen in the community’s primary educational institute, Al Jamea tus Saifiyah, with its four campuses in Surat, Mumbai, Karachi and Nairobi. In all of these campuses the ratio of male to female students is equal for the first seven years of its syllabus.[51]

Women’s education is actively encouraged with the understanding that an educated girl, who will most probably go on to become a mother, leads to families that value education and thus to an educated society.  This is borne out by the high rate of Bohra children who go onto higher level studies.[52] Today, university education is commonplace for community members all over the world.[23]

During the 20th century, the 51st and 52nd Dais established colleges, schools and madrasas in villages, towns and cities  around the world. The Bohras’ focus on literacy and education has resulted in a high percentage of members of the community – both male and female – earning degrees and having successful careers in such areas as medicine, law, architecture, engineering, teaching, IT, and industry. Many also go on to set up and run successful businesses.[23]

The community’s primary educational institution is an Arabic Academy called Al Jamea tus Saifiyah.  Here, the community’s youngsters are prepared in religious lore and trained to lead the community.  It trains students, both boys and girls for up to 11 years, in the Arabic language, Quranic sciences and religious doctrine. It also gives the students secondary and college level education through national boards and Cambridge International with whom it is affiliated. Students are thus equipped to pursue degree courses elsewhere should they wish to do so. The institution vouchsafes the religious traditions of the community and is well known for housing some of the oldest Arabic manuscripts in the world. It specializes in the arts of Quran recitation, Arabic calligraphy, and geometrical design in the Islamic tradition.[51]

The first campus was set up in the 19th century in the city of Surat in Gujarat in India.[53] In the early 19th century, the 43rd Dai, Syedna Abdeali Saifuddin, founded the Dars e Saifee, a theological boarding academy.[54]  This was eventually converted by the 51st Dai into a modern university teaching English and sciences and renamed Al Jamea tus Saifiyah. A second campus was founded in 1983 and located in the northern foothills of Karachi, Pakistan. A third campus was established in Nairobi, Kenya in 2011, with a fourth in 2013 in Marol (Mumbai), Maharashtra.[51]

The Dais of the Bohras exemplify this learning themselves by the numerous Arabic literary works they have written both in poetry and prose. In addition are many poems of counsel, which impart Isamic values of life in the language that most of the community speak - the Gujarati based dialect known as Lisan ud-Dawat.

A large volume of treatises of the 51st Dai (d. 1965) are, for example, housed in the library of the institution. These are since joined by the works of the 52nd and 53rd dais. The dai personally presides over the annual examinations of the institution. The oral examinations are uniquely held for senior students, with each student being questioned by the rectors in the presence of the dai in public gatherings of the Bohras.[51]

Social responsibilities

The Dawoodi Bohras are primarily  traders and businessmen and have now expanded to a community  that includes philanthropic business persons, industrialists, entrepreneurs and highly skilled professionals.

An important article of faith for the Dawoodi Bohras is the Islamic teaching of loyalty to one’s country of abode.  Dawoodi Bohras seek to participate in the cultures and communities they live in, to integrate and yet at the same time preserve their own identity.

True fulfilment, according to Dawoodi Bohra beliefs, requires community members to be resourceful and proactive contributors to the societies in which they live and loyal citizens of the countries they call home.[55]

Environment protection

The Bohra faith places great importance on protecting and enhancing the natural environment and raising awareness of the need for sustainable development. Nazafat (or cleanliness) is an integral component of Islamic faith, and members of the Bohra community are urged to engage in clean-up drives, tree planting and other green initiatives to foster and promote a clean living environment wherever they reside; to avoiding waste and pollution; to recycle; and to nurture all forms of life.[56]

In 1992, the Spiritual Leader of the Bohras, the late Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, established the Burhani Foundation, a charitable trust dedicated to making the preservation of the environment the responsibility of every Bohra, and to spread awareness of the relationship between environmental health and the health of people. The Burhani Foundation seeks to enhance the natural environment through tree planting, water pollution controls, promoting techniques for sustainable development, raising public awareness and funding research. In 2017, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, the 53rd and current Da'i al-Mutlaq, initiated a worldwide program to plant 200,000 saplings as a means of conserving the environment and raising awareness of environmental issues.[57]

Turning the Tide

Together with Champions of the Earth , Afroz Shah, the Dawoodi Bohras Turning the Tide campaign is working to eliminate single-use plastic; remove plastic from oceans, rivers and beaches in India; and educate people on the need to protect the natural environment. Bohras regularly lead practical efforts to protect, enhance and clean-up the natural environment where they live, while raising awareness among the wider community of the need for sustainable development.[58][59][60][61]

Project Rise - social upliftment

In June 2018, the Dawoodi Bohra community launched Project Rise, a global initiative established to help improve the lives of people that are marginalized, neglected or living in poverty. In partnership with government bodies and local organizations around the world, Project Rise’s upliftment programs span a range of policy areas, including healthcare, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene, environmental responsibility and conservation, and education. Project Rise takes its inspiration from the teachings of Islam and the Prophetic traditions, which instruct Muslims to work for the betterment of others.[62]

Project Rise was launched in Mumbai in partnership with Fight Hunger Foundation – part of the Action Against Hunger global network – to help alleviate hunger in some of the poorest parts of India; significantly raise health and nutrition levels of children and mothers suffering from severe malnutrition; and provide mothers, caregivers and local health workers with disease prevention techniques.[63]

Project Rise began by supporting nutrition among families in Mokhada in the Palghar district of Maharashtra and suburban Govandi[64] but has since expanded its scope and range throughout India and the Bohra’s global community.

In September 2019, Bohra volunteers helped people to recover from the devastating flooding and landslides in Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat by providing meals and essential supplies to affected families.[65]

In October 2019, Bohras in North America marked United Nations World Food Day by undertaking a range of Project Rise initiatives, including donating to local food banks and helping to feed vulnerable members of society.[66]

Many of the values at the core of Project Rise – including eradicating poverty and hunger, improving health and education, empowering women, avoiding waste, and preserving the natural environment – align closely with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. For centuries, Bohras around the world have been living their daily lives according to these principles, regularly taking practical action to support members of society who most need help.[67]

In addition, every year, as part of the Dawoodi Bohra Upliftment Drive, thousands of volunteers from Bohra communities around the world undertake a range of initiatives aimed at raising the living standards of the less fortunate members of society that need additional support in terms of housing, food, health and spiritual well-being.[68][69]

Hunger, nutrition, homeless

Bohras subscribe to the view that nobody should go to bed hungry, and consider it their duty to help the less fortunate members of society. Bohra communities regularly organize food drives to feed the homeless and hungry in cities throughout the world.

In October 2019, Bohras in North America marked United Nations World Food Day by undertaking a range of Project Rise initiatives, including donating to local food banks and helping to feed vulnerable members of society.

In March and April 2020, Bohra communities throughout the world donated significant volumes of food to local charities that were supporting economically vulnerable people most impacted by COVID-19.[68][69]

Cluster development project

Planning on the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT) began in 2009 and was envisioned by late Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin to transform the unhealthy locality into a planned and sustainable neighbourhood. The project comprising 16.5 acres of land has approximately 250 existing buildings, 1250 shops and 3200 families; all of which all of which are incorporated into a state-of-the-art holistic development with 13 new buildings, wide roads, modern infrastructure, more open spaces and highly visible commercial areas. Once completed all residential and commercial tenants will become owners to their premises.[70][71][72][73]

Currently the first two towers of phase I - Al Saadah - are completed and over 600 residents and 128 shop owners have come back to their new premises.[74][75]

Healthcare

Bohras place great emphasis on healthcare and personal hygiene.  Around the globe, there are thousands of Bohra men and women working in medical professions. The Bohra community runs over 25 hospitals and clinics in India, as well as a number of facilities in Pakistan and across the world.[76]

Saifee Hospital

Saifee Hospital is a flagship project of the Dawoodi Bohra community. It was established in Mumbai, India in 1948 with the aim of providing safe, ethical and affordable medical assistance to people of all faiths and socio-economic backgrounds.  In 2005, the hospital was rebuilt on the existing site.  The then prime minister, Manmohan Singh, joined the 52nd Dai, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, in a grand opening ceremony.   The Saifee Hospital specializes in bariatric surgeries, cardiology, critical care medicine, dentistry, dermatology, gynecology, hepatology, oncology, neurology, nephrology, ophthalmology, neonatology, high dose radioactive therapy units, and Pressurized Intra Peritoneal Aerosol Chemotherapy (PIPAC). The hospital features a highly advanced Robotic Surgical System to facilitate the surgeon in performing complex but minimally invasive surgery. The hospital has won many awards in quality and is now one of the highly sought after hospital in the country, for both local and tourist medical interventions.[77]

A new Bohra hospital of the same name is currently being built in Dahod, India.

Recognitions

  US: 2011: The Burhani Foundation under its campaign "Save Our Sparrows" (SOS), received the Guinness World Records award for the largest distribution of bird feeders.[78][79]

  India: 2018: the Dawoodi Bohra community received an award for organizing the largest zero waste religious event during the Ashara Mubaraka sermons in Indore, by the Golden Book of World Records.[80][81]

  India: 2018: the Dawoodi Bohra community of Indore received the "Swachh City Award" for being the "best citizen led initiative" under the Swachh Bharat Mission on 9 March 2019.[82]

Mausoleums

 
Raudat Tahera, Mausoleum of the 51st and 52nd Dai (covered with temporary canopy to protect it from dust of nearby ongoing construction project)

Each year, thousands of Dawoodi Bohras visit a number of places to pay respects to the Dai-al-Mutlaqs and other pious dignitaries of the faith who have been laid to rest there.[83] These places have a community-administered complex (mazaar) that provide accommodation, business centers, dining and various recreational activities to the visiting pilgrims. The piece-de-resistance of these complexes is to facilitate the mass footfalls to a spiritual leader’s mausoleum. Prominently found around central and western India, these mausolea provide a spiritual retreat to the Dawoodi Bohras and a common ground for community members to meet and mingle.[83]

The standout features of a Dawoodi Bohra mausoleum is the plush white colour of its exterior, accompanied by a golden finial at the apex of the dome. The interior of the mausoleum is usually lit up in incandescent light with numerous Quranic inscriptions running through its walls. Harbouring both austere and aesthetic beauty, a mausoleum also embodies several meanings in the form of its structure and build. Raudat Tahera in Mumbai stands out as a befitting example, where though looking like a simple, elegant structure on the outset, it has a range of intricacies deliberated into its making.[84] For example, the inner height of the mausoleum is 80 ft above the plinth: the number signifies the age of Syedna Taher Saifuddin - the spiritual leader buried there - when he passed away. The sanctum of the mausoleum measures 51×51 ft, which symbolises his position as the 51st spiritual leader.[85][14]

Additionally, the Dawoodi Bohras make pilgrimages to various mausolea outside India consisting of Islamic prophets, Ahl al-Bayt, and Da'i al-Mutlaqs in and around the regions of the levant, namely, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Jerusalem and Cairo.[86]

Interfaith engagement

It is an article of faith for the Bohras that universal truths and true knowledge are found in all societies and religions. That all of creation share the same purpose and the same ancestry and the same purpose. It is a teaching of Mohammed that all mankind, indeed creation, are a single family of Allah, and that the one dearest to Allah is the one who benefits Allah’s family most. Thus Bohras are required to be good neighbours and good citizens, and strive for that which is beneficial to all.


Status of women

Overview

The status of women in the Bohra community underwent a major change in the latter half of the 20th century. According to Jonah Blank, women of the Bohra faith are among the best-educated women in the Indian subcontinent.[87] Female Bohra in the U.S. and Europe have become business owners, lawyers, doctors, teachers and leaders in a range of professions.[88] At an interfaith celebration of Eid al-Fitr hosted by the Dawoodi Bohra community of Detroit, Michigan, United States on 7 June 2019, U.S. Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (Democrat, Michigan's 14th congressional district) praised the Bohras for having "used their voices to make progress on countless issues including gender equality and the environment."[89]

Female genital mutilation

The Dawoodi Bohra practice what they call khatna,[90] khafd,[91] or khafz[92], a practice critics consider female genital mutilation (FGM). The procedure is for the most part performed without anaesthesia by a traditional circumciser when girls reach their seventh year.[93] Non-Bohra women who seek to marry into the community are also required to undergo it.[94] There are no authoritative studies on the extent of the practice among the Bohra.[91][95] A 1911 Bombay census of unknown reliability noted that they were performing clitorectomy.[96] According to a 1991 article in Manushi, the Bohra remove either the clitoral hood or the tip of the clitoris.[97][98] Supporters of the practice say that the Bohra remove only the clitoral hood or perform symbolic nicking, and that it should be referred to as "female circumcision", not FGM.[92]

A qualitative study in 2018 carried out by WeSpeakOut, a group opposed to FGM,[99] concluded that most Bohra girls experience Type I FGM, removal of the clitoral hood or clitoral glans.[100][101] A gynaecologist who took part in the study examined 20 Bohra women and found that both the clitoris and clitoral hood had been cut in most cases.[a] According to the Dawoodi Bohra Women's Association for Religious Freedom, the study's conclusions did not reflect the views of most Bohra women.[101] In Australia in 2018, the convictions of three members of the Bohra community, related to performing FGM on two girls, were overturned when the appeal court accepted that the tip of each girl's clitoris was still visible and had not been "mutilated"; the defence position was that only "symbolic khatna" had been performed.[103] The High Court of Australia overturned that decision in October 2019, ruling that the phrase "otherwise mutilates" in Australian law does encompass cutting or nicking the clitoris. As a result, the convictions were upheld, and the defendants received custodial sentences of at least 11 months.[104]

Dawoodi Bohra Mosques

 
Burhanuddin in conversation with Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, in London (2010).

The first Dawoodi Bohra masjid (mosque) in the Gulf was built in Dubai, UAE in 1983. After which another masjid was built in 2004 and later on following cities like Sharjah, Ajman and Abu Dhabi masjids were inaugurated

The first Dawoodi Bohra masjid (mosque) in the West was built in Farmington Hills, Michigan in 1988. Immediately thereafter, the first Canadian masjid was inaugurated by Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin in Toronto. Mohammed Burhanuddin inaugurated the Houston masjid in 1996, which was reconstructed into a larger masjid that is four times the size of the original. This new masjid was inaugurated in Oct, 2015 by Mufaddal Saifuddin.

The first Dawoodi Bohra masjid (mosque) in the Europe was built in London, England in 1996, after which masjid were built and inaugurated in following cities like Bradford, Manchester, Birmingham and Leicester

In 1999, Mohammed Burhanuddin inaugurated Masjid-ul-Hussaini in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

In June 2001 Masjid-ul-Badri in Chicago was inaugurated. In July 2004 new mosques in New Jersey (Masjiduz-Zainy), Washington DC and Boston were inaugurated.[105] The following year, August 2005, the Dā‘ī l-Mutlaq inaugurated another new masjid in Fremont, California (metropolitan San Francisco) and was congratulated by various officials and dignitaries from local, state and federal US governments. President George W. Bush also sent a letter from the White House.[106] On 8 July 2007, Mohammad Burhanuddin inaugurated a new masjid in Paris, France.[107]

In March 2015, Mufaddal Saifuddin inaugurated masjids in Los Angeles, San Jose, Bakersfield and Orange County

In July 2018, Mufaddal Saifuddin inaugurated a Shujai Masjid in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

V K Singh praised the role of the Dawoodi Bohra community in help with Operation Rahat[b] carried out by the Indian Navy to evacuate civilians during the Yemeni Civil War of 2015.[109]

Gallery

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Sujaat Vali (The Clitoral Hood: A Contested Site, 2018): "Given that most girls are cut at age seven, without anesthesia, by traditional cutters, and the procedure happens in a minute or two, the operator cannot get enough separation between the clitoris and the skin surrounding the clitoris. So, usually they end up cutting the clitoris along with the skin covering the clitoris."[102]
  2. ^ India today evacuated 1052 of its nationals from Yemen, taking the total number of Indians rescued from the strife-torn country to nearly 3,300 as the government was looking at wrapping up the massive evacuation operation 'Rahat' in a couple of days.[108]

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Further reading

External links