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Dawoodi Bohra

Dawoodi Bohra family in their religious attire

The Dawoodi Bohras are a sect within the Ismā'īlī branch of Shia Islam.[1][2] The largest populations of Dawoodi Bohras reside in India, Pakistan, Yemen, East Africa and the Middle East. There are also significant numbers living in Europe, North America, South East Asia and Australia. Most sources put the worldwide population to be one million.[3]

The Dawoodi Bohras follow an embodiment of Shiism propagated by the Fatimid Imamate in medieval Egypt. Adhering to the traditional norms of Islam, they pray five times a day, fast in the month of Ramadan, perform Haj and Umrah and give Zakat.[4]

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 empowering women; 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.[5][6][7][8]

In 2018, the Dawoodi Bohra community launched Project Rise, a global initiative established to improve the lives of people that are marginalized, neglected or living in poverty. Its upliftment programs span a range of policy areas, including healthcare, nutrition, 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.[9][10]


Dawoodi Bohras are a subset of Islam. They are traced as: Dawoodi, Taiyebi, Musta'li, Isma'ili, Shia, Muslims.[11]:1–4[12]

Evolution of the Dawoodi Bohras from other Shia sects

The Dawoodi Bohra sect is a Shia sect and is also referred to as the Tayyabī Musta'lī Ismā'īlī sect. The Isma'ilis were split from the Ithna Ashari (Twelver) Shias over the succession issue of Imam Jafar Al-Sadiq. The Isma'ilis consider Isma'il bin Jafar as their Imam whereas the Ithna Ashari Shia consider Musa Kazim bin Jafar Al-Sadiq as their Imam. The Ismailis further split into Nizari and Musta'ali branches due to a succession issue. The Bohras located in India have a link to the Fatimids through the missionary activity that was initiated here by the 18th Imam al-Mustansir, whose surviving correspondence documents the historical provenance of early conversions.[13] The Musta'ali branch to which Dawoodi Bohra trace their legacy continued until the 21st Imam Al-Tayyib, who went into occultation/seclusion (hiding). His direct descendant is considered as the current Imam and remains in seclusion. While the Imam is in seclusion, the governance of the sect has been entrusted to the Da'i al-Mutlaq (Vicegerent /Unrestricted Missionary). Splinter groups of the Bohras have subsequently emerged over the succession dispute of the preceding Da'i, the majority of which today follow the 53rd Dai-al-Mutlaq, Dr. Mufaddal Saifuddin as their religious head.

The Dawoodi Bohras and the Fatimid dynasty

Dawoodi Bohra and Fatimid Dynasty

The first through the fifth Ismāʿīlī Imams – until Ja'far al-Sadiq – are commonly accepted by all the Shi'a, although numbered differently. Bohras and Nizari Ismāʿīlīs treat Ali as Vasi (successor to Mohammad) and Imam Hasan as the first Imam whereas Twelvers consider Ali as being the first. The followers of Ja'far's son, Isma'il ibn Jafar, became Ismailis, to whom the Bohras belong. Twelvers believe that Musa al-Kadhim was heir to Ja'far instead; their Imams diverged at that point.

During the period of Ja'far, the Abbasid Caliphate replaced the Umayyads and began to aggressively oppose belief in an Imamate. Due to severe oppression by the Abbasids, the seventh Ismāʿīlī Imam, Muhammad ibn Ismail, went into a period of Occultation. During this period his representative, the Dāʿī, maintained the community.

The 11th Imam, Abdullah al-Mahdi Billah, founded the Fatimid Caliphate in 909 CE in Ifriqiya (present Tunisia), ending the occultation. In Ismāʿīlī 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 fourteenth Imam, al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah, and made Cairo their capital. After the eighteenth Imam, al-Mustansir Billah, the Nizari sect believed that his son Nizar was his successor, while another Ismāʿīlī branch known as the Mustaali (from whom the Dawoodi Bohra would eventually form), supported his other son, al-Musta'li. The Fatimid dynasty continued with al-Musta'li as both Imam and Caliph, and this accordance continued until the 20th Imam, al-Amir bi-Ahkami l-Lah (1132 CE).

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 at-Tayyib Abi l-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 later converted during the rule of Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūbi. The supporters of Tayyib became the Tayyibi Ismāʿīlī.

Zarih of Arwa al-Sulayhi, Yemen

Tayyib's claim to the imamate was endorsed by the Hurrah al-Malika ("the Noble Queen") Arwa al-Sulayhi, the Queen of Yemen. Arwa was designated a hujjah, the highest rank in the Yemeni Dawat, by al-Mustansir in 1084 CE. Under Queen Arwa, the Dai al-Balagh (intermediary between the Imam in Cairo and local headquarters) Lamak ibn Malik and then Yahya ibn Lamak worked for the cause of the Fatimids.

Tayyibis (which include the Dawoodi Bohra) believe the second and current period of satr began after Imam Tayyib went into seclusion, and Queen Arwa created the office of the Dai al-Mutlaq to administer the community in the Imam's absence. Zoeb bin Moosa (d.546 AH/1151 CE) was the first Dai-al-Mutlaq, and lived and died in Houth, Yemen. His ma'dhūn, the rank after Dai al Mutlaq, was Syedna Khattab bin Hasan. The 3rd Dai Sayedna Hatim (d. 1191 CE) was prominent among the Du'at of Yemen and wrote many books, both exoteric and esoteric regarding the philosophy of the faith.

Transfer of Dawat to India

Moulai Abdullah was the first Walī al-Hind (Wali meaning representative) in the era of Imam Mustansir (427–487 AH). Moulai Abdullah and Moulai Nooruddin were originally from Gujarat and went to Cairo, Egypt, to the Imam's court in search of knowledge. They came to India in 467 AH as missionaries of the Imam. Moulai Ahmed was also their companion.

Dā'ī Zoeb appointed Moulai Yaqoob after the death of Moulai Abdullah, who was the second Walī al-Hind of the Fatimid dawat. Moulai Yaqoob was the first person of Indian origin to receive this honour under the Dā'ī. He was the son of Moulai Bharmal, minister of Hindu Solanki King Siddhraja Jaya Singha (Anhalwara, Patan). With Minister Moulai Tarmal, they had accepted the Fatimid dawat along with their fellow citizens on the call of Moulai Abdullah. Moulai Fakhruddin, the son of Moulai Tarmal, was sent to western Rajasthan, India, and Syedi Nooruddin went to the Deccan (death: Jumadi al-Ula 11 at Don Gaum, Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India).

One Dā'ī after another followed in succession until the era of the 23rd Dā'ī in Yemen, after which the seat of the Dawat was transferred to India. During that time, the Waliship continued in the descendants of Moulai Yaqoob; Moulai Ishaq, Moulai Ali, Moulai Hasan Fir. Moulai Hasan Fir was the fifth Wali in the era of the 16th Dai Syedna Abdullah (d.809 AH/1406 CE) of Yemen. The Awliya al-Hind (plural of wali) remained the pioneers of the Fatimid dawat in India, and were instrumental in maintaining & propagating it as per the instructions of the Dā'ī in Yemen, and it is because of them that the Fatimid dawat was able to survive the twin threats of internal and external religious persecution.[13]

The wali Moulai Jafer, Moulai Abdul Wahab, Moulai Qasim Khan bin Hasan (d.950AH, Ahmedabad) and last Jalal Shamshuddin bin Hasan (1567 CE) (12th wali-ul Hind and also became 25th Dai) played a significant role 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 bin Sulaiman of Sidhpur, Gujrat, India.

The 24th Dai, Yusuf Najmuddin bin Sulaiman (d.1567 CE), shifted the whole administration of the Dawat (mission) to India, due to the submission of the Indian converts to their Dai's will as well as the persecution of Tayyibis that followed in Yemen.[14] However, Yusuf Najmuddin continued to live in Yemen and died there. The last Wali-ul-Hind and 25th Dai Jalal Shamshuddin bin Hasan (d.1567 CE) was the first Dai to die in India; his mausoleum is in Ahmedabad, India. Dai Jalal's tenure as Dai was very short, only a few months, however, before his nass, he was Wali-ul Hind (after Moulai Qasim) for about 20 years under the 24th Dai Syedna Yusuf while the Dai was in Yemen.

Intra-Bohra schisms

The divisions Bohras

Following the death of the 26th Dai in 1591 CE, Sulaiman bin Hasan, the grandson of the 24th Dai, was wali in Yemen and claimed the succession, supported by a few Bohras from Yemen and India. However, most Bohras denied his claim of nass, declaring that the supporting documentary evidence was forged. The case was put up in the royal court of Mughal emperor Akbar resulting in shahi farman(royal order) issued in favour of Syedna Dawood.[15][16] The two factions separated, with the followers of Suleman Bin Hasan becoming the Sulaymanis, and the followers of Syedna Dawood Bin Qutubshah becoming the Dawoodi Bohra.

Later, in the period of the 29th Dai Abduttayyeb Zakiuddin, a small group of Aliya Bohra separated under Ali bin Ibrahim (1034 AH/1634 CE), the grandson of the 28th Da'i Syedna Sheikh Adam Safiyuddin. A further branch broke from the Dawoodi in 1754, with the Hebtiahs Bohra splicing in a dispute following the death of the 39th Dai.

A group of reformists, the Progressive Dawoodi Bohra, was formed by Asghar Ali Engineer. While they accept the religious authority and status of the Dai, these reformers call for social reforms within the Dawoodi Bohra community. Specifically, they object to the strict social control policies, as well as the amount of tithing requested by the clergy.[17] Its members have been excommunicated by the mainstream Dawoodi Bohra clergy.[18]

History in India

The 34th Dai Syedna Ismail Badruddin I (son of Moulai Raj, 1657 CE onward) was the first Da'i of Indian Gujarati origin. He shifted the Dawat from Ahmedabad to Jamnagar.[19] During this period the Da'is also moved to Mandvi and later to Burhanpur. In the era of the 42nd Da'i Syedna Yusuf Najmuddin (1787 CE onward) the Dawat headquarters shifted to Surat. The educational institute Al-Dars-al-Saifee (later renamed Al Jamea tus Saifiyah) was built in that era by the 43rd Dai Syedna Abdeali Saifuddin, who was an extremely renowned scholar in the literary field. During the period of the 51st Da'i Syedna Taher Saifuddin (1915–1965 CE), the Dawoodi Bohra Dawat administration has been relocated to Mumbai and continues there to the present day. The 51st and 52nd Da'is both had their residence at Saifee Mahal in Mumbai's Malabar Hill as does the current Dai Dr. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin.


Seven pillars

The Dawoodi Bohras follow the Seven pillars of Ismaili Islam adhering to the tradition of Fatimid Dawat: Walayah (guardianship of the faith), Taharah (purity), salat (prayer), Zakat (alms-giving), Sawm (fasting), Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), and Jihad (struggle).

  • Dawoodi Bohras believe Walayah to be the most important of the seven pillars of Islam. It is the love and devotion for God, through their Da'i, Imam, Wasi (Wali) Ali and Nabi Muhammad. There is an incident famous amongst Bohra which confirm how they mean and weigh ‘walayat’ principle. There was an order from the 19th Da'i Syedna Idris in Yemen to the 6th Wali-ul-Hind, Moulai Adam in order to test the loyalty of the Bohras in India, to let a water-carrier called Sakka lead their congregational prayers. Moulai Adam along with his associates were willing to perform prayer under the Sakka without hesitation. As a result, the Da'wat was shifted to India.[14][20]
  • Their interpretations of the pillars Sawm, Hajj, and Jihad are akin to those in other forms of Islam, but the Dawoodi manner of salat and zakat differs from other groups:
  • Salat (prayer) as per tradition is to be performed five time in intervals specified as Fajr, Zohr, Asr, Maghrib and Ishah. The times of Zohr and Asr are contiguous, so are the times of Maghrib and Isha. Hence they are combined together and Bohra perform these five Salat in three intervals. Fajr in morning, Zohr & Asr in the afternoon, and Maghrib and Isha at sunset.
  • Zakat is performed during the month of Ramadan. This is organized and collected by the central authority : Dawat–e-Hadiyah from every member of the community. Individuals who resent having to pay would have difficulty challenging the scriptural legitimacy of this tax.[21]

As is the case with the majority of Shi'a Muslims, the Bohra append Aliyun waliallah to their profession of faith (kalema‐tut‐ sahadat). The Dawoodi Bohra utilise the versions of the azaan (call to prayer) and shahada common to other Mustaali, which incorporate mention of Ali.

Imams and Dais

Dawoodi Bohra 52nd Dai Sayyedna Mohd. Burhanuddin,1965 CE onward

Dawoodi Bohras believe that the 21st Mustaali Imam, Taiyyib abi al-Qasim, is a direct descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatimah. According to this belief, Ṭayyib Abī l-Qāṣim went into occultation and established the office of the Dā‘ī l-Muṭlaq as the Imām's vicegerent, with full authority to govern the believing community in all matters spiritual and temporal, as well as those of his assistants, the Ma'dhūn (Arabic: مأذون‎) and Mukāsir (Arabic: مكاسر‎). During the Imām's seclusion, a Dā‘ī l-Muṭlaq is appointed by his predecessor. The maʾzūn and mukasir are in turn appointed by the Dā‘ī l-Muṭlaq. A fundamental belief held by the Dawoodi Bohra is that the presence of the secluded Imām is guaranteed by the presence of the Dāʿī al-Muṭlaq.

No. 52; Syedna Taher Saifuddin’s RA Testimony in the Chandabhoy Galla Case 1920, pp. 280–284</ref>

Spiritual leader

Tree linking Dawoodi Bohra Dai with Rasulullah
Family tree linking Dawoodi Bohra Dai with some noted Duats

The Bohra clergy is organized much like a Fatimid government-in-exile, although the exile is one of time rather than geography. The spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community is called Da'i al-Mutlaq (Arabic: داعي المطلق‎),who serves as the earthly representative of the imam during the period of his seclusion. Succession to this office is determined by nass: each da’i, inspired and guided by the hidden Imam, appoints his own successor.[22] As the time for the seclusion neared, the 20th Imam Mansur al-Amir bi ahkamillah instructed his grand emissary, Sayyida Arwa binte Ahmad, the queen of Yemen, to vest in the office of al-Dai al mutlaq, the vicegerency of the Imam when the Imam enters seclusion.[23] The first Dai Zoeb bin Musa al-Wadi’i was appointed in 532/1138 in Yemen. The Current Da'i-al-Mutlaq is Dr Mufaddal Saifuddin as he was appointed as the 53rd Dai-al-Mutlaq by his father, Dr Mohammed Burhanudin on a worldwide shown live-relay.[24]

Many of Dawoodi Bohra Dais belongs to family of Moulai Fakhruddin, Hakimuddin, Khanji Pheer and, lukmanji. Many also have links with Mohammad Rasulullah family as indicated in the family trees (right).[25]

Qardhan Hasana

Islam prohibits Riba (Usury) and interest; Dawoodi Bohras follow the principle of Qardhan hasana (interest-free loans). Numerous Qardhan Hasana fund schemes have been established, many working at the local jamaat level and others working at a national level in various countries. The funds are generated from contributions of individual members but the bulk amount comes from the Da'i-al-Mutlaq. (In 2014, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin donated more than Rs. 103.50 crore (Rs. 1.035 billion).[26]


The central rite of passage for Bohras is mithaq, the only major ritual unique to the denomination. This ceremony, obligatory for every Bohra who wishes to be part of the community, 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 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. 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 zyl-Hajj, every Bohra congregation renews its mithaq vows together. The ceremony takes place on this date because (Shi’a tradition holds) it was on the eighteenth of zyl Hajj in the year 23 A.H. that the Prophet Muhammad and his son-in-law All received an oath of mithaq from 70,000 Muslims at Ghadir Khumm on the road from Mecca to Medina. The oath is said to hearken back to a verse from the Qur’an: “God purchased from all the faithful their souls and their property in consideration of Paradise.”[27]


The Dawoodi Bohra retain the Fatimid-era Tabular Islamic calendar,[28] which they believe matches perfectly with the lunar cycle, not requiring any correction. In this calendar, the lunar year has 354 days. Their odd-numbered months have 29 days and the even-numbered months have 30 days, except in a leap year when the 12th and final month has 30 days.[29] This is in contrast with other Muslim communities, which base the beginnings of specific Islamic months on sightings of the moon crescent.

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 the Amman Message.[30]

Demographics and culture

Yemeni Dawoodi Bohra at his coffee plantation

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.[18]

Name and etymology

The word Bohra comes from the Gujarati word 'vohrvu' (to trade), in reference to their traditional occupation.[32][33] The term Dawoodi comes from the support given to Dawood Bin Qutubshah during a schism that the community faced in 1592 when there was a leadership dispute.


The community has a rich legacy of Arabic literature while the main spoken language is Lisan al-Dawat, a fundamentally Gujarati dialect with considerable inclusion of vocabulary from Arabic and Urdu with some English. The Script used is Perso-Arabic.

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.[34] which is written in Perso-Arabic script and is derived from Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Gujarati.


When in communal attire, a Dawoodi male has a form of tunic called kurta, equally lengthy overcoat dress called saya, and an izaar typically donned underneath, all of which are mostly white, along with a white and golden cap called topi. It is emphasized that Bohra men should adhere to the practice of the Prophet of growing a full beard.[35] A Bohra woman wears a two piece dress called a rida.

The Dawoodi Bohra maintain a distinct form of community attire; the Dawoodi Bohra men wear a white three piece outfit, plus a white and gold cap Kufi (called a topi), and women wear the rida, a distinctive form of the commonly known burqa which is distinguished from other forms of the veil due to it sporting bright colours and decorated with patterns and lace. The rida can generally be of any colour except black. The rida additionally differs from the burqa in that the rida does not call for covering of women's faces like the traditional veil.[36] It has a flap called the pardi that is usually folded to one side to facilitate visibility, but can also be worn over the face if so desired. (says journalist Jonah Blank).

Cuisine and Eating practices

Dawoodi Bohras have a unique system of communal eating with groups of 8 or 9 people seated around a thaal (a particularly large metal tray). Each course of the meal is served for the people around the thaal to share.[37]

All heads should be covered during the meal. Once everyone is seated, one serving member walks with water in a chelamchi lota (a kind of basin and jug) for everyone to wash their hands.

At community feasts, they have desserts or meethas first and starters or khaaras next, followed by the main meal.[38]

Community Kitchen – Faiz Ul Mawaid Il Burhaniya (FMB)

In 2012, the community leadership under Mohammed Burhanuddin instituted community kitchens in Mumbai that deliver Bohra families one meal per day; the goal of this system is to provide at least one wholesome meal to every family as well as free women from the task of preparing food and providing them with time to pursue education or economic activities.[38][39]

Bohras subscribe to the view that nobody should go to bed hungry, regularly organizing food drives to feed the homeless and hungry in cities throughout the world.[40][41][42]

Dana Committee (No food wastage)

At every town and city across the world, they have formed a Dana ( grain) Committee, which is tasked to eliminate food wastage. The emphasis is on not allowing even a single grain to go to waste.[43] There are over 6000 dana committee volunteers spread across 40 countries in the world.

As a first step, the dana committee has developed RSVP apps and other web and mobile based platforms where invitees to a communal meal inform in advance if they will be able to attend.[44]

Community centres (masjid)

Masjid e Moazzam, Surat

Dawoodi Bohras have their own jamaats (local communities) which will be focused around a masjid or a markaz (community centre) where an "Amil" (a representative appointed by the Syedna) leads namaaz and gives discourses). The place where meals are served is called the jamaat khaana. The Jamaat khaana is generally adjoining the masjid complex.

Education and educational institutes

During the 20th century, the Syednas established colleges, schools and madrasas in villages, towns and cities all around the world.[vague] The focus on literacy and education has meant that the community has a high percentage of degree holders and professionals both male and female with a large number of doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, teachers and IT professionals in the community in addition to the numerous[quantify] businessmen and industrialists.[citation needed]

Al Jamea tus Saifiyah is the Dawoodi Bohra theological university, which was founded in Surat, India[45] in 1814 AD(1224AH)by the 43rd Dai Moulana Abdeali Saifuddin who named it ‘Dars-e-Saifee".[46] A second campus was founded in 1983 located in the northern foothills of Karachi, Pakistan. A third campus was established in Nairobi, Kenya in 2011, and in 2013 a fourth campus was established in Marol (Mumbai), Maharashtra.

The 51st Dai Syedna Taher Saifuddin introduced modern subjects including sciences and arts to the curriculum in 1961 and renamed the academy Al Jamea tus Saifiyah. This process of modernization continued with his son and successor Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin who introduced 'state-of-the-art' facilities such as the Mahad al-Zahra Quran training Institute. He also made it an International Baccalaureate Office.[45] The academies are administered by a central office located in Badri Mahal, Fort, Mumbai. The 51st Da'i Syedna Taher Saifuddin was a prolific scholar who wrote more than 40 volumes or 'Risalas' and has penned more than 10,000 verses in tribute to the Shia saints.[citation needed] Many of his works are part of the syllabus in the different fields of Arabic study in Al Jamea tus Saifiyah.[citation needed]

The Aligarh Muslim University conferred a Doctorate of Theology on the 51st Da'i, Taher Saifuddin,[47] and offered him its Chancellorship.[48] He remained as Chancellor for three consecutive terms until his death in 1965.[49] In October 1999, the 52nd Dai Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin was also elected Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University.[50] Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin was elected chancellor in 2015.

Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin established MSB Educational Institute in Nairobi and Mumbai, in 1984. Currently, there are 25 branches of the school worldwide.

The Natural Environment

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.[51]

In 1992, the Spiritual Leader of the Bohras, His Holiness, 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, His Holiness, 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.[52]

Together with United Nations Champion of the Earth, Afroz Shah, the Bohras’ Turning the Tide campaign is working to remove plastic from oceans, rivers and beaches in India.[53][54][55]

Project Rise

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.[56]

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.[57]

Project Rise began by supporting nutrition among families in Mokhada in the Palghar district of Maharashtra and suburban Govandi[58] 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.[59]

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.[60]

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.[61]


 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.[62][63]

 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.[64][65]

 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.[66]


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

Thousands of Dawoodi Bohra visit every year mausoleums of Ahl al-Bayt especially in Medina, Karbala, Syria and Cairo. The Dai al Mutlaqs and other pious dignitaries of the faith have been laid to rest in mausolea where thousands of community members visit every year, in Yemen and India. Raudat Tahera (Arabic: روضة طاهرةRawḍatu Ṭāḥiratu), is the mausoleum of 51st Dai Syedna Taher Saifuddin.[67] The 52nd Dai Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin was buried by his son, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin in the same mausoleum.[11]:56


The 52nd Dai Al Mutlaq, Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, served the dawat for 50 years. His main policy was one of Islamization, countering the modernizing tendencies of his predecessor[68] Under his rule, a system of strict social control was developed using modern means of communication. A succession dispute emerged after Burhanuddin's death as his son (Mufaddal Saifuddin) and his half-brother (Khuzaima Qutbuddin) both claimed he had named them his successor.[69] The majority of the community sided with Saifuddin. Dr. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, now widely recognized as the community's 53rd Dai al-Mutlaq, has continued his predecessor's social control programs. [18]

The centralized, hierarchical organization of the Dawoodi Bohras is maintained largely using persuasion and (the threat of) excommunication of those who do not conform to the rules laid down by the Syedna and other members of the clergy.[70] Excommunication dissolves marriage and bars burial in Dawoodi burial sites.[71]

Occasions and Commemoration

Status of women


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.[72] Female Bohra in the U.S. and Europe have become business owners, lawyers, doctors, teachers and leaders in a range of professions.[73] 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."[74]

Female genital mutilation

The Dawoodi Bohra practice female genital mutilation (FGM), which they call khatna,[75] khafd,[76] and khafz.[77] The procedure is for the most part performed without anaesthesia by a traditional circumciser when girls reach their seventh year.[78] Non-Bohra women who seek to marry into the community are also required to undergo it.[79] There are no authoritative studies on the extent of the practice among the Bohra.[76][80] A 1911 Bombay census of unknown reliability noted that they were performing clitorectomy.[81] According to a 1991 article in Manushi, the Bohra remove either the clitoral hood or the tip of the clitoris.[82][83] 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.[77]

A qualitative study in 2018 carried out by WeSpeakOut, a group opposed to FGM,[84] concluded that most Bohra girls experience Type I FGM, removal of the clitoral hood or clitoral glans.[85][86] 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.[86] 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.[88] 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.[89]

Muharram and Ashura

Dargah-e-Hakimi, Burhanpur, burial site of Abdul Qadir Hakimuddin, the Dawoodi Bohra saint

Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. The first ten days of this month are marked by Bohras to commemorate the martyrdom of Husain ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad.[90]

Dawoodi Bohra begin mourning from the second eve of Muharram and continue with discourses during the day and majlises each night which climax with the day of 'Aashura' on the 10th of Muharram. This is the day on which Husain and his family and 72 of his companions and family were mercilessly killed by the army of Yazid I at the Battle of Karbala on his orders. The surviving members of Husain's family and those of his followers were taken captive, marched to Damascus, and imprisoned there.

Thousands of Dawoodi Bohras flock from around the world to hear the discourses offered by the Da'i al-Mutlaq usually in a different place each year. In October 2016 the Ashara commemorations by Mufaddal Saifuddin[91] took place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The event takes place in every Bohra community worldwide along the same lines in terms of time and duration. Selected discourses by the Syedna are broadcast live from wherever he happens to be that year. It is Syedna's express instruction that Bohras set aside this time of the year to focus solely on the commemoration by taking the requisite time off from their work, businesses and institutes of education well beforehand.

Dawoodi Bohras and the world

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.

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.[92] 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.[93] On 8 July 2007, Mohammad Burhanuddin inaugurated a new masjid in Paris, France.[94]

V K Singh lauds Dawoodi Bohra community's role in 'Operation Rahat'[clarification needed] in Yemen.[95]

Cluster development project

Dawoodi Bohra plans to redevelop Mumbai's congested Bhendi Bazaar area with about 20000 population, as per the government's cluster development policy. Project visualized in 2009, aimed at ‘transforming’ the lives of people in 3,200 residences, 75 per cent of which were claimed to be declared dangerous for habitation. The project estimated to cost Rs. 4,000-crore and involves pulling down about 250 buildings and 1,250 shops, and building 17 towers across nine sub-clusters, a very tedious and difficult job. As the Bhendi Bazaar will go vertical, all the residents will get a minimum of 350 square feet carpet area with lots of open spaces for parks, parking and other amenities. It is referred as a 'biggest urban makeover', which will change 'the contours' of Mumbai and set an example that redevelopment is feasible of such a vast nature and capacity.[96][97][98][99]


See also


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Further reading

  • The Dawoodi Bohras: an anthropological perspective, by Shibani Roy. Published by B.R. Publishing, 1984.
  • Bin Hasan, Idris, Uyun al-akhbar (Bin Hasan was the 19th Da'i of the Dawoodi Bohra. This volume is a history of the Ismaili community from its origins up to the 12th century CE., the period of the Fatimid caliphs al-Mustansir (d. 487/1094), the time of Musta‘lian rulers including al-Musta‘li (d. 495/1101) and al-Amir (d. 524/1130), and then the Tayyibi Ismaili community in Yemen.)
  • A Short History of the Ismailis, By Farhad Daftary
  • The Ismaili, their history & Doctrine, By Farhad Daftary
  • Medieval Islamic Civilisation, By Joseph W. Meri, Jere l.Bacharach
  • Sayyida Hurra: The Isma‘ili Sulayhid Queen of Yemen, By Dr Farhad Daftary
  • Cosmology and authority in medieval Ismailism, By Simonetta Calderini
  • Religion, learning, and science in the ʻAbbasid period, By M. J. L. Young, John Derek Latham, Robert Bertram Serjeant

External links

Media related to Dawoodi Bohra at Wikimedia Commons