Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dawoodi Bohras

Dawoodi Bohra ( Arabic/Urdu) is a subsect of Isma?ili Shi?a Islam. While the Dawoodi Bohra is based in India, their belief system originates in Yemen, where it evolved from the Fatimid Caliphate and they were persecuted due to their differences from main stream Islam - leading the shift of Dawoodi Bohras to India.

After occultation of their 21st Imam Tayyib, they follows Dai as representative of Imam which are continued till date. The word Bohra itself comes from the Gujarati word vehwahar ( "trading"), while the term Dawoodi refers to their support for Dawood Bin Qutubshah in the 1592 Dai dispute which divided the Tayyibi sect, creating the Dawoodi Bohra.

They have a very small, tight-knit community made up of approximately one million adherents worldwide, with the majority of adherents residing in India. There is also a large community in Karachi, Pakistan, the destination of many who came as refugees in 1947 following the Partition of India. There is also a significant diaspora population in the Middle East, Europe, North America and the Far East.

Dawoodi Bohras have a blend of cultures, including Yemeni, Egyptian, African, and Indian. In addition to the local languages, the Dawoodi Bohras have their own language called Lisanu l-Da‘wat ("language of the Da‘wat") which is written in Perso-Arabic script and is derived from Urdu, Gujarati and Persian. The Dawoodi Bohra community is known worldwide for their various projects, including philanthropic efforts, hospitals, schools, and renovations and restorations of Islamic and Shi'a landmarks.

The spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community is the Da?i l-Mu?laq (Arabic:"Unrestricted Missionary"), currently Mohammed Burhanuddin. The Dai serves as the earthly representative of the Imam, currently believed to be occultation.


As Shi'as, Bohras believe that their Imams are descendants of Muhammad by way of his daughter Fatima and her husband Ali-ibn-Abi Talib. They believe that as Mohammad delegated Ali as his successor while he was returning from his first and last Haj(year 632AD), when he stopped at Ghadir Khumm. While raising Ali's hand in his, Mohammad declared: "For whoever I had been his moula (leader), now this Ali shall be his moula." This is regarded as proof of instituting Ali as his successor (wasi).

Dawoodi Bohra as Shi'a believe that after Muhammad ,Ali had been the rightful vasi/Imam and khalifa, but the actual zaahiri ("literalist") caliphate was usurped by other successors, whom the Sunnis accept. However during 656 to 661CE Ali served as the Caliph( IV as per Sunnis) also, the Imamate and Caliphate were united in this period. After Ali, his son Hasan ibn Ali, the first Imam (Imam e Fatemi), was struggling for the position of caliphate, which resulted in a pact with Muawiyah (the Umayyad caliph) to recognise Muawiyah as caliph in order to avoid bloodshed, while Hasan retained the Imamate.
After Imam Hasan, Imam Husayn sacrificed himself, his family and companions in Karbala but not agreed to abide Yezid the son of Muawiyah. After the Karbala battle Husayn's body was buried in Karbala, near the site of his death. Dawoodi Bohra believe that Husain's head was buried first, in the courtyard of yezid mahal (Umayyad Mosque), then transferred from Damascus to Ashkelon[1] to Qahera(for history please refer section 'Transfer of the head of Husayn[2] ’, main article Husayn ibn Ali).

Shia schisms and the Fatimid Dynasty

The first Imam through the 5th Imam, Jafar us Sadiq are common accepted Imams of all Shi'a as whole Bohras count Hasan as the first Imam, whereas Twelver and Nizari Ismaili recognize Ali as first Imam. The 6th Imam Ismail bin Jafar's followers became the Ismailis (year 775AD), from whom the Bohra descend. Some Shi'a sects such as the global majority Twelvers believe that Musa Qazim was heir to Imam Jafar, and that their line diverged at that point. The Seveners believe that after Imam Ismail, the next Imam, went in occultation. After the death of the Imam Jafar, the Abbasid caliphate replaced the Ummayad, and began to aggressively oppose the belief in the Imamate. Due to strong suppression by the Abbasids, the 7th Imam Muhammad ibn Ismail went into hiding and a period of satr (occultation) began. In this period his representative, the Dai, maintained the community.

The names of the 8th, 9th, and 10th imams are considered by some traditions to be "hidden", and known only by their nicknames due to threats from the Abbasid caliphate. However the Dawoodi Bohra in their religious text, Taqqarub, claim to have the true names of all 21 imams in sequence including those "hidden" imams: 8th Imam Abdillah-ibne-Mohammad the true name/ (Wafi Ahmad), 9th Imam "Ahmed-ibne-Abdillah (Taqi Muhammad), and the 10th Imam Husain-ibne-Ahmed(Rabi Abdullah).[3][4]

The 11th Imam Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi Billah founded the Fatimid dynasty in 909 CE in Ifriqiya (present Tunisia), ending the first period of satr. In Ismaili eyes this act again united the Imamate and the Caliphate in one person. The Fatimids then extended up to the central Maghreb (now Morocco, Algeria, Libya). They entered and conquered Egypt in 969 CE during the reign of the 14th Imam Al-Muizz Lideenillah, and made Cairo their capital. After the 18th Imam, Mustansir, the Nizari sect believed that his son Nizar was his successor, while another branch, to be known as the Mustaali (from whom the Dawoodi Bohra would eventually descend), supported his other son, Al-Musta'li. The Fatimid dynasty continued with Al-Musta'li as both Imam and Caliph, and that joint position held until the 20th Imam Amir-ibn-Mustaali (1132CE).

Tayyibi-Hafizi schism

At the death of Imam Amir, one branch of the Mustaali faith claimed that he had transferred the imamate to his son Tayyeb Abil-Qasim, who was then two years old. Another faction claimed Amir died without producing an heir, and supported Amir's cousin Al-Hafiz as both the rightful Caliph and Imam. The Al-Hafiz faction became the Hafizi Ismailis, who were later eliminated during the rule of Saladin. The supporters of Tayyeb became the Tayyibi Ismailis.

Tayyeb's claim to the imamate was endorsed by the Hurrat ul Maleka, Arwa al-Sulayhi, the Queen of Yemen. Arwa has been designated a hujja, the highest rank in the Yemeni Dawat, by Al-Mustansir in 1084 CE, and was the first woman to hold that position. Under Queen Arwa, the Dai al-Balagh (intermediary between the Imam in Cairo and local[where?] headquarters) Lamak ibn Malik and then Dai Yahya ibn Lamak were working for the cause of the Fatimid.

Tayyibis (which include the modern Dawoodi Bohra) believe the second and current period of satr began after Imam Tayyeb went into occultation, and Queen Arwa instituted the office of the Dai-ul-Mutlaque, who administers the community in the Imam's absence. Zoeb bin Moosa (d.546 AH/1151 AD) was the first Dai-ul-Mutlaq, and lived and died in Haus, Yemen. His ma'dhun (assistant) was Khattab bin Hasan. The 3rd Dai Sayedna Hatim (d. 1191 AD) was prominent amongst the Du'at of Yemen, having written many books, both exoteric and esoteric in philosophy on the Ismaili faith.

Establishment in India

Representatives of the Du'at like Moulai Abdullah (460 AH/1067 AD), the first Wali-ul-Hind ("representative in India") and Moulai Ahmed were sent to Khambhat, Gujarat, western India, and the Tayyibi community was established in Gujarat in the second half of the 11th century. Moulai Nuruddin (467 AH) was sent to Deccan. Per legend, while he was there two travellers from India went to the court of Imam Mustansir. They were so impressed that they converted and went back to preach. One of them was Rupnath, whose new name was Maulai Nuruddin; his dargah is at Don Gaon, Maharashtra.The another was Moulai Abadullah (formerly known as Baalam Nath).[5]
Moulai Abadullah khambhat

Abdullah upon arriving in Khambhat came across Kaka Akela and Kaki Akela, a husband and wife, who were his first converts. A well on their farm had dried up, but Abdullah performed a miracle and the well filled with water. Amazed by this, the couple became the first to accept Fatimid Islam in India, and thus the earliest Bohra.

After the death of Maulai Abadullah, Dai Zoeb appointed Maulai Yaqoob as the second wali in India of the Fatimid dawat, the first such wali of Indian descent. He was son of Moulai Bharmal, minister of Rajput king Siddhraja Jaya Singha (Anhalwara, Patan) (487-527 AH/1094-1133 AD). The king sent his soldiers to get Abadullah, but they could not reach him as they saw a wall of fire created around him. The king himself went to Abadullah and was so impressed with his thoughts that he, along with his ministers Moulai Bharmal and Tarmal and their fellow citizens freely accepted Islam and the Imam.[citation needed] Moulai Fakhruddin, son of Tarmal was sent to western Rajasthan, India for proselytizing. Fakhruddin was killed in Galiakot, Rajastan by aboriginal highwaymen (bhil) while returning from Muharram lectures on the martyrdom of Imam Husein.

In the generation of Moulai Yaqoob, Moulais Ishaq, Ali, and Hasan Fir continued one after another as Wali-ul-Hind. Hasan Fir was the fifth wali in the era of 16th Dai Abadullah (d. 809AH/1406 AD) of Yemen.

Transfer of Dawat to India

One Dai succeeded another until the 23rd Dai in Yemen. In India also Wali-ul-Hind were appointed by them one after another up to Wali-ul-Hind Moulai Jafer, Moulai Abdul Wahab and Moulai Qasim Khan bin Hasan (11th and last Wali-ul-Hind, d.950AH, Ahmedabad). The last three wali were of great help in the era of the 21st to 24th Dai. It was during this time when the Dawat was transferred to India from Yemen, that the 23rd Dai-al-Mutlaq Mohammed Ezzuddin performed nass (transfer of authority) on Yusuf Najmuddin ibn Sulaiman in Sidhpur, Gujrat, India.

Moulai Fakhruddin Shahid

Due to prosecution by the local Zaydi Shi'a ruler in Yemen, the 24th Dai, Yusuf Najmuddin bin Sulayman (d.1567 AD), shifted the whole administration of the Dawat (mission) to India but continued to live in Yemen and died there. The 25th Dai Jalal Shamshuddin (d.1567 AD) was first dai to have died in India and has his mausoleum in Ahmedabad, India. Dai Jalal's tenure as Dai was very short, only a few months, but before that he was Wali-ul Hind (after Moulai Qasim) for about 20 years under 24th Dai Yusuf while the Dai was in Yemen.

Persecution in India, and movement of the Dawat

In India the Bohras were persecuted by the Mughal rulers. The 32nd Dai Qutubuddin Shaheed was prosecuted and beheaded in 1648 AD under Aurangzeb.Moulai Hasan peer

The 34th Dai Ismail Badruddin (son of Moulai Raj, 1657 AD onward) was the first Dai of Indian Gujrati origin. He shifted the Dawat from Ahmedabad to Jamnagar.[6] During this period Dai also moved to Mandvi and later to Burhanpur. In the era of 42nd Dai Yusuf Najmuddin (1787 AD onward) the Dawat office shifted to Surat. The educational institute Al-Daarus-Saifee (later renamed Al Jamea tus Saifiyah) was built in that era by the 43rd Dai Abdeali Saifuddin, who has done extensive work in the literary field also. During the period of 51st Dai Taher Saifuddin (1915-1965 AD), the Dawoodi Bohra Dawat shifted to Mumbai and continues there to the present day, currently headed by 52nd Dai Mohammad Burhanuddin.

Expansion and recognition

The first Dawoodi Bohra mosque in the West was built in Farmington Hills, Michigan in 1988. Immediately thereafter, the first mosque for Canada was inaugurated by Mohammed Burhanuddin in Toronto.

In June 2001 Masjid-ul-Badri in Chicago was inaugurated. In July 2004 the new mosques in New Jersey (Masjiduz-Zainy), Washington DC and Boston were inaugurated.[7]

Roza Mubarak of Taher Saifuddin Maula

The following year, August 2005, the Da‘i l-Mutlaq inaugurated another new mosque in Fremont, California (metropolitan San Francisco) and was congratulated by various officials and dignitaries from local, state and the United States governments. President George W. Bush also sent a letter from the White House.[8] On July 8, 2007, Mohammad Burhanuddin inaugurated a new masjid in Paris, France.[9]

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visited the Dawoodi Bohra Mosque in London in 2009, and their web page recognise the Bohra as a "community that has made a major contribution to British business and has patriotism at the heart of its faith".[10]


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