Dawoodi Bohra

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Dawoodi Bohra ( Urdu: داؤدی بوہرہ‎, also spelled Daudi Bohra) are a sub-sect of Shia Islam. The Dawoodi Bohra trace their belief system back to Yemen, where it evolved from the Fatimid Caliphate and where they were persecuted due to their differences from mainstream Sunni Islam and Zaydi Shia Islam. Around 1530 CE, the Dawat was relocated to India. The word Bohra itself comes from the Gujarati word vehru ("trade") in reference to their traditional profession,[1] while the term Dawoodi refers to their support for Dawood Bin Qutubshah in the 1592 leadership dispute which divided the Tayyibi sect, creating the Dawoodi Bohra.

The spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community is called Da'i al-Mutlaq (Arabic: داعي المطلق‎), which serves as the representative of the Imam. The role of Da'i was created by Queen Arwa bint Ahmed (also known as Al-Hurra Al-Malika) of Yemen. It was initially created as a subordinate role to support other roles as such Hujja, Dai-ad-Du'at and Dai Balagh. Following the hiding of 21st Imam Al-Tayyeb and unavailability of the successor, Queen appointed Syedna Zueb bin Musa as the first Dai-al-Mutlaq to rule the whole D'awa.[2][3][4]

Mohammed Burhanuddin (6 March 1915 – 17 January 2014) was the last and 52nd Dā‘ī l-Muṭlaq. The succession of Da'i al-Mutlaq is disputed between his son Mufaddal Saifuddin and his half-brother Khuzaima Qutbuddin.[5][6] It is said that, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin had declared his son Muffadal Saifuddin as his successor in the London in 2011.[7] [8] While Khuzaima Qutbuddin, Burhanuddin's half-brother claimed that his half-brother appointed him heir around 50 years ago while conferring on him the title of 'mazoon' and also published a public notice on his website declaring the same.[9] [10]

The title of Syedna is not always hereditary, every Syedna declares his own heir. Saifuddin, if dispute resolved, will be the third generation Dai from the same family, is a grandson of Syedna Taher Saifuddin, the 51st Da'i who died in 1965.[11] [12]

Dawoodi Bohra in their customary attire

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 Lisānu d-Dā‘wat ("language of the Dā‘wat")[13] 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 Islamic landmarks. 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, as well as a significant diaspora population in Europe, North America, the Far East and East Africa.


As Shi'i Muslims, Bohras believe that their Imāms are descendants of the Islamic prophet Muhammad by way of his daughter Fatimah and her husband Ali. They believe that Muhammad chose Ali as his successor while he was returning from his first and last Haj in 632 CE. Dawoodi Bohra believe that after Muhammad, Ali had been the rightful wasi, Imam and caliph, but the actual Caliphate was usurped by Ẓāhirī ("literalist") caliphs. Ali was the final Rashidun Caliph from 656-661 CE; the Imamate and caliphate were united in this period.

After Ali, his son Hasan ibn Ali, the first Ismāʿīlī Imam, struggled for the Caliphate, which resulted in a pact with the Umayyad Caliphate to recognise the claimant in power, Muawiyah I, as Caliph in order to avoid bloodshed, while Hasan retained the Imamate. After Hasan, Hussain and his family and companion were killed at the Battle of Karbala and Hussain's body was buried near the site of his death. Dawoodi Bohra believe that Hussain's head was buried first, in the courtyard of Yazid (the Umayyad Mosque), then transferred from Damascus to Ashkelon,[14] and then to Cairo.[15]

Shia schisms and the 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 first Imam whereas Twelvers number Ali as the first. The followers of Ja'far's son, Isma'il ibn Jafar, became Ismailis, from whom the Bohra descend. 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 strong suppression 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 names of the eighth, ninth, and tenth Imams are considered by some traditions to be "hidden", known only by their nicknames due to threats from the Abbasids. However, the Dawoodi Bohra, claim to have the true names of all the known Imams in sequence, including the so-called "hidden" Imams, namely: the eighth Ahmad al-Wafi (Abadullah), the ninth Muhammad at-Taqi (Ahmed ibn Abadullah), and the tenth, Rabi Abdullah (Husain ibn Ahmed).[16]

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 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, 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 were later eliminated during the rule of Saladin. The supporters of Tayyeb became the Tayyibi Ismāʿīlī.

Tayyeb's claim to the imamate was endorsed by the Hurratu l-Malika ("the Noble Queen") Arwa al-Sulayhi, the Queen of Yemen. Arwa was designated a hujjah (a holy, pious lady), 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 modern Dawoodi Bohra) believe the second and current period of satr began after Imam Tayyeb 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 AD) was the first Dai-ul-Mutlaq, and lived and died in Haus, Yemen. His ma'dhūn (assistant) was Khattab bin Hasan. The 3rd Dai Sayedna Hatim (d. 1191 AD) was prominent among the Du'at of Yemen and wrote many books, both exoteric and esoteric in philosophy on the Ismaili faith.

Transfer of Dawat to India

Moulai Abadullah was the first Walī al-Hind in the era of Imam Mustansir (427–487 AH). Moulai Abadullah and Moulai Nuruddin were originally from Yemen and went to Cairo, Egypt, to learn. They to came to India in 467 AH as missionaries of the Imam. Moulai Ahmed was also their companion.

Dā'ī Zoeb appointed Maulai Yaqoob (after the death of Maulai Abadullah), 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 son of Moulai Bharmal, minister of Hindu Solanki King Siddhraja Jaya Singha (Anhalwara,Patan) (487–527 AH/1094–1133 CE). With Minister Moulai Tarmal, they had honoured the Fatimid dawat along with their fellow citizens on the call of Moulai Abdullah. Moulai Fakhruddin, son of Moulai Tarmal, was sent to western Rajasthan, India, and Moulai Nooruddin went to the Deccan (death: Jumadi al-Ula 11 at Don Gaum, Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India).

One Dā'ī after another continued until the 23rd Dā'ī in Yemen. In the generation of Moulai Yaqoob, Moulai Ishaq, Moulai Ali, Moulai Hasan fir continued one after another as Wali-ul-Hind. Moulai Hasan Fir was fifth Wali in the era of 16th Dai Abadullah (d.809 AH/1406 AD) of Yemen. The Awliya al-Hind were champions of the Fatimid dawat in India, who were instrumental in maintaining & propagating it on instructions of the Dā'ī at Yemen, and it is because of them that the Fatimid dawat was able to survive the persecutions in Cairo and Yemen.

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

The 24th Dai, Yusuf Najmuddin bin Sulayman (d.1567 AD), shifted the whole administration of the Dawat (mission) to India, in part due to their persecution by the Zaydi Imams. However, Yusuf Najmuddin continued to live in Yemen and died there. The last Wali-ul-Hind and 25th Dai Jalal Shamshuddin (d.1567 AD) was 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 24th Dai Yusuf while the Dai was in Yemen.

Inter-Bohra schisms

The divisions of the Mustaali, sometimes referred to as Bohras.

Following the death of the 26th Dai in 1591 CE, Suleman bin Hasan, the grandson of 24th Dai, was wali in Yemen and claimed the succession, supported by a few Bohras from Yemen and India. However, the most Bohras denied his claim of nass, declaring that the supporting documented evidence was forged. The two factions separated, with the followers of Sulayman Bin Hassan becoming the Sulaymanis, and the followers of Dawood Bin Qutubshah becoming the Dawoodi Bohra.

Again in the period of the 29th Dai Abduttayyeb Zakiuddin, a small group of Aliya Bohra separated under Ali bin Ibrahim (1034 AH/1634 AD), the grandson of 28th Dai 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.

Persecution in India, and movement of the Dawat

In India the Bohras were persecuted by the Mughal rulers. The 32nd Dai Syedna Qutubuddin Shaheed (A.Q) was prosecuted and beheaded in 1648 AD under Aurangzeb. The 34th Dai Syedna Ismail Badruddin (A.Q)(son of Moulai Raj, 1657 AD onward) was the first Dai of Indian Gujrati origin. He shifted the Dawat from Ahmedabad to Jamnagar.[17] During this period Dai also moved to Mandvi and later to Burhanpur. In the era of 42nd Dai Syedna Yusuf Najmuddin (A.Q) (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 Syedna Abdeali Saifuddin (A.Q), who was an extremely devoted scholar in the literary field. During the period of 51st Dai Syedna Taher Saifuddin (A.Q) (1915-1965 AD), the Dawoodi Bohra Dawat shifted to Mumbai and continues there to the present day.

Expansion and recognition

The first Dawoodi Bohra 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 is now being reconstructed into a larger masjid that is four times the size of the original.

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.[18]

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.[19] On 8 July 2007, Mohammad Burhanuddin inaugurated a new masjid in Paris, France.[20]

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visited the Dawoodi Bohra Mosque in London in 2009, and their web page recognizes the Dawoodi Bohra community as a "community that has made a major contribution to British business and has patriotism at the heart of its faith".[21]

Present activities

Dawoodi Bohras have initiated development projects worldwide to help improve members’ way of life. Aside from an international tree planting campaign, in which over 500,000 trees were planted in Dawoodi Bohra masjid complexes, community centers and other public spaces under the supervision and permission from local authorities, medical camps are also set up to treat 250,000 Dawoodi Bohras worldwide. Low-cost housing schemes, trade fairs, business seminars, and mass marriages have also been done for the community.[22]

52nd Dai His Holiness Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (T.U.S) undertook the complete renovation and restoration of Masjid al Anwar the Mosque of Imām Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah in Cairo. The site was destroyed by Napoleon, who used it as a horse stable, and was a project UNESCO had considered and initiated but abandoned, calling it "an impossible task". Some of the most important Fatimid-era mosques were also renovated by the Dai in Cairo as a tribute to the legacy of the Fatimid Imams, including, Masjid Luluwa, Jāmiʻ al-Aqmar (built in 1125)[23] and Jāmiʻ al-Juyūshī in Cairo.[24][25]

In 1884, Sir Adamji Peerbhoy, a well known bohra philanthropist from Mumbai, India, originally built several properties (a burial ground, a Senatorium (on Charni Road), and a Community Hospital) for the benefit of the poor and the needy. A trust was formed for undertaking the properties' use for the benefit, service and well being of the Kaum (community). The trustees handed over the properties to the father of Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (T.U.S), Dr. Syedna Taher Saifuddin (RA), the Dai at the time. The hospital was later renamed Saifee Hospital. In June 2005, the Dawoodi Bohra community renovated Saifee Hospital in Mumbai, India. Today, the hospital is one of the most technologically advanced hospitals in the entire country, and was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh on 4 June 2005. At the inauguration, the Dawoodi Bohra community was commended by the Prime Minister during a speech delivered by him.[26]


The Dawoodi Bohra maintain a distinct form of attire, with Dawoodi Bohra men wear a traditional white three piece outfit, plus a white and gold cap (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 often being in color and decorated with patterns and lace. The rida additionally differs from the burqa in that the rida does not call for covering of women's faces like the traditional veil.[27] 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.


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

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.

Qardhan Hasana

Islam prohibits Riba; Dawoodi Bohra follow principle of Qardhan hasana, an interest free loan. Special arrangements are made under Aamil [29] in their respective cities to facilitate Qardhan Hasana. As a part of the 103rd birth anniversary celebrations of the 52nd spiritual head of the Dawoodi Boharas, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, his son Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin donated more than Rs. 103.50 crore (Rs. 1.035 billion) to the Qardhan Hasana fund for the community.[30]

Imams and Dais

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

As Mustaali Ismaili Shi'a Muslims, the Dawoodi Bohra believe that the imamate continued until the 21st Imam, Tayyeb ibn Aamir. Following the imam's occultation, the Dai has served as the his temporal representatives on earth; the current (53rd) Dai is Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin. The Bohra believe the Imam is still present on the earth guiding the Dai spiritually and will reappear one day.

Dawoodi Bohras believe that the 21st Mustaali Imam, Taiyab abi al-Qasim, is a direct descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima Zahra. 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 l-Muṭlaq. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin is the 53rd and current Dāʿī l-Muṭlaq.

Mohammed Burhanuddin appointed his second son Mufaddal Saifuddin to the office of Dā'ī al-Mutlaq during his London stay after his 100th birthday celebrations in Mumbai, in June, 2011[31]

Tabular Islamic calendar

The Dawoodi Bohra retain the Fatimid-era Tabular Islamic calendar,[32] 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. This is in contrast with other Muslim communities, which base the beginnings of specific Islamic months on sightings of the moon, with the naked eye, by religious authorities, which often result in differing opinions as to the occurrence of religiously significant dates, such as the start of Ramadan.

Religious tolerance

As per Fatimid tradition Dawoodi Bohra feel themselves inclined to be tolerant toward other religions. Under 15th Imam Aziz (5th Fatimid Egypt calipha) religious tolerance was given great importance. One of the viziers of Imam Aziz was Christian, and high offices were held by both Shia and Sunnis. Imam Aziz rebuilt the church of Saint Mercurius near Fustat and encouraged public theological debate between the chief qazi and bishops in order that the ideas of their religions could merge.[33] In the modern era, the Dawoodi Bohra have maintained good relations with other religions, with the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams visiting Bohra religious sites in England.[34]


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  12. ^ http://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india/know-more-about-dawoodi-bohra-chief-mufaddal-saifuddin--34490.html
  13. ^ Michel Adam (2009). L'Afrique indienne: les minorités d'origine indo-pakistanaise en Afrique orientale. KARTHALA Editions. pp. 272–. ISBN 978-2-8111-0273-9. Retrieved 22 March 2012. . Délivré dans la langue liturgique des Bohra (lisan ud dawat)
  14. ^ Sacred Surprise behind Israel Hospital, Batsheva Sobelmn, special Los Angeles Times
  15. ^ Qazi Dr. Shaikh Abbas Borhany PhD. Brief History of Transfer of the Sacred Head of Hussain ibn Ali, From Damascus to Ashkelon to Qahera. Daily News (Karachi), 1 March 2009.
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  20. ^ [2][dead link]
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  31. ^ "Successor to Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin named". Dnaindia.com. 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2013-03-09. 
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  34. ^ "Archbishop's visit to Dawoodi Bohra Mosque and Jain Temple". Archbishopofcanterbury.org. 2012-12-31. Retrieved 2013-03-09. 

Further reading

External links