|Musta‘li & Nizari History|
|Groups and present leaders|
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, 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 seclusion of 21st Imam Al-Tayyeb, as per guidelines of Imam's directives, Queen appointed Syedna Zoeb bin Moosa as the first Dai-al-Mutlaq to rule the whole D'awa giving him unrestricted authority.
As Shi'a 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, and then to Cairo.
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 "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).
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).
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 Sultan Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūbi. 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 sect.
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 Gujarat and went to Cairo, Egypt, to learn. They 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.
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.
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. 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.
Dr.Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (6 March 1915 – 17 January 2014) was the 52nd Dā‘ī l-Muṭlaq. The title of Syedna is not always hereditary, every Syedna declares his own heir.
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 al-Muṭlaq.
The 52nd Dai Al Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed BurhanuddinRA served dawat for 50 years. Since the death of the 52nd Dāʿī, Mohammed Burhanuddin, in 2014, the position of Dāʿī is claimed by two people, Mufaddal Saifuddin and Khuzaima Qutbuddin. Of the two, Mufaddal Saifuddin is commonly recognized to as the Syedna by news media in India, and is reported to have majority support among the community.
Dawat–e-Hadiyah is the central body of the Dawoodi bohra organization. The present office is in Badri Mahal, Mumbai. They are represented by Jamaat Committee in all the cities with significant Dawoodi Bohra members. The Aamil is the president of the Jamaat committee, at their respective city. He is appointed by the Dawat–e-Hadiyah with permission of Dai al Mutlaq.
There are several sub committee and trusts under the Jamaat committee, who looks after different aspects of Dawoodi bohras administration.
Dawoodi Bohras have a blend of ethnic cultures, including Yemeni, Egyptians, Africans and Indians. In addition to the local languages, the Dawoodi Bohras have their own language called Lisan al-Dawat. which is written in Perso-Arabic script and is derived from Arabic, Persian, and Gujarati.
There are up to a million Dawoodi Bohra community adherents worldwide. The majority of adherents reside in India as well Pakistan (mostly in Karachi). There are also significant diaspora populations in Europe, North America, the Far East and East Africa.
The Dawoodi Bohra maintain a distinct form of attire; the Dawoodi Bohra men wear a 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. 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. This way of dressing was not always the norm; it was only established (in fact, mandated) as part of an Islamization program by the da'i Mohammed Burhanuddin, starting in the late 1970s. Prior to this, especially under the modernizing Taher Saifuddin, Dawoodi Bohra dress and culture were "considerably more assilimated to mainstream Indian culture" (says journalist Jonah Blank). Traditional dress existed in several regional variants before standardization was decreed in 1981.:184–187
The Dawoodi Bohra retain the Fatimid-era Tabular Islamic calendar, 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.
Female genital mutilation, known as khatna, is considered a religious obligation in the Bohra community, in most cases performed on girls around age 7. The practice may originate in North Africa, where the Dawoodi Bohras trace their origins, and is now considered "intrinsic to their identity". The Dawoodi Bohras are the only Muslim sect in India to practice it. A 2011 Internet petition, to be delivered to Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, was the first public protest against female genital mutilation to emerge from the Bohra community.
The unique system of Faiz-e-Mawaid-al-Burhaniyah (tiffin) was adopted by the community two years back under instruction of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, which is delivered to the household of community members from the community kitchens.The system is organized and handled by community volunteers. The food delivered is enough for two meals. This serves the purpose of providing 'nutritious' 'same' food to 'all' irrespective of 'economic status'. This further facilitate women to 'devote time' for other activities. 
Dawoodi bohra has their own Masjid where the "Amil" or the leader appointed by the Syedna (TUS) offers Namaaz and discourses.
Dawoodi bohra has a unique system of eating in group of 8 people around Thal (particularly large metallic tray), where all the members sit around and several course of meal is served. Place where all the members gather for meal on various occasions like Marriage,Death Anniversary and Birthdays is called Jamaat Khana. The Jamaat Khana is usually adjoined to the Masjid Complex
Education for Dawoodi Bohra has been foremost. Several colleges, schools and Madrasa are established in various cities. Apart from their own business, there are many[vague] Doctors, Lawers, Architects, Engineers and IT professionals in the community.
Al Jamea Tus Saifiyah is an Islamic Arabic Academy located in Surat, India. It was founded as a theological University for Dawoodi Bohras in 1814 AD(1224AH)by the 43rd Dai Syedna Abdeali Saifuddin and named it as ‘Daras-e-Saifee" . There is a subsidiary campus located in the northern foothills of Karachi, Pakistan. A third campus of Al Jamea Tus Saifiyah was formed in Nairobi, Kenya in 2011, and in 2013 a fourth campus was established in (Marol) Andheri, Maharashtra. Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin is credited with expanding the two century old Arabic university Al Jamea tus Saifiyah, introducing 'state-of-the-art' facilities[peacock term] and making it world-wide acceptable as an International Baccalaureate Office. 51st Dai Syedna Taher Saifuddin was a prolific scholar who wrote more than 40 volumes of books and have written more than 10000 verses pertaining to the different aspects of the Dawoodi Bohra sect. Much of his works are part of the syllabus in the different branches of Al Jamea tus Saifiyah.
Aligarh Muslim University offered 51st Dai Taher Saifuddin Doctorate of Theology and also offered Chancellorship of Aligarh Muslim University which Syedna Taher Saifuddin accepted and remained as a Chancellor till his demise for three consecutive terms. In October 1999, 52nd Dai Mohammad Burhanuddin was also elected Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University.
Thousands of Dawoodi Bohra visit every year Mausoleums of Ahl al-Bayt especially Medina, Karbala,Shaam and Cairo.
The Dai al MutlaqRA and Wali of Past have been laid to rest in Rauza's, where thousands of community members visit every year, in Yemen and India. Raudat Tahera(Arabic: روضة طاهرة Rawḍatu Ṭāḥiratu),is Rauza of Syedna Taher SaifuddinRA who lead the Dawoodi Bohra community from 27 January 1915 to his demise on 12 November 1965. He was succeeded by his son, Mohammed Burhanuddin, who lead the community from 12 November 1965 to his demise, 17 January 2014. He was buried by his son, Mufaddal Saifuddin in the same mausoleum.
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.
Islam prohibits Riba; Dawoodi Bohra follow principle of Qardhan hasana, an interest free loan. Special arrangements are made under Aamil  in their respective cities to facilitate Qardhan Hasana. The fund is generated from contributions of members and bulk amount comes from Dai-al-Mutlaq office. (In 2014, Mufaddal Saifuddin donated more than Rs. 103.50 crore (Rs. 1.035 billion).)
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.:29 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.
Muharram is a month of remembrance that is often considered synonymous with the event of Ashura. Ashura, which literally means the "Tenth" in Arabic, refers to the tenth day of Muharram. It is well-known because of historical significance and mourning for the martyrdom of Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad.
Dawoodi Bohra begin mourning from the first night of Muharram and continue for ten nights with discourse and Matam(beating chest), climaxing on the 10th of Muharram, known as the Day of Ashura. The last few days up until and including the Day of Ashura are the most important because these were the days in which Hussein and his family and followers (consisting of 72 people, including women, children and elderly people) were killed by the army of Yazid I at the Battle of Karbala on his orders. Surviving members of Hussein's family and those of his followers were taken captive, marched to Damascus, and imprisoned there.
Thousands of Dawoodi Bohra flock from around the world to hear discourse offered by Da'i al-Mutlaq at different places, for ten days and on the tenth day of Muharrum, they pray for Hussein till the magrib, which ends with breaking of fast.
Dawoodi Bohras have initiated development projects worldwide to help improve member's 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.
Guinness world records acknowledged largest distribution of bird feeders i.e. 20,631. It was organised by Burhani Foundation (India), across India, on 6 March 2011.The event was undertaken to celebrate His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin’s centenary birth.
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), and Jāmiʻ al-Juyūshī in Cairo. These activities have received criticism and accusation from art historians and restorers.
In 1884, Sir Adamji Peerbhoy, a well known bohra philanthropist from Mumbai, India, built several properties. A trust was formed for undertaking the properties' use for the benefit, service and well being of the community. The trustees handed over the properties to 51 Dai Dr. Syedna Taher SaifuddinRA. The hospital was later renamed Saifee Hospital. In June 2005, the Dawoodi Bohra community rebuilt 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.
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.
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. On 8 July 2007, Mohammad Burhanuddin inaugurated a new masjid in Paris, France.
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".
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