Borhras and reform
Taxes imposed on Bohras are unjustified and unIslamic
Taxes and more taxes - a dead certainty for Bohras
The government in each country imposes on its citizens various taxes like income tax, sales tax, excise duty etc. in order to fulfil various projects like construction and maintenance of roads, lights, bridges, houses, dams, transport, postal services, educational and cultural institutions and the like.
Each government formulates budgets and remains accountable to the public for surplus and deficit. However, the Dawoodi Bohra Dai who runs a parallel government within a government in every country and imposes and forcefully collects taxes from Bohras remains unaccountable. Sayedna Saheb neither announces the welfare projects to be carried out during the coming year nor specifies any budget for their completion.
Take, for example, Saifee Hospital. Sayedna Saheb’s family spent crores of rupees of the community just to get hold of the land of Sir Adamji Peerbhoy Trust and erase his noble name. Sayedna Saheb’s lawyers and solicitors spent 30 years in fighting court cases. Then there was no estimation given for the demolition of existing Sanatorium and construction of the hospital.
A world-wide campaign was started for collecting funds in the name of the hospital. In the wajebat forms an amount “for Saifee Hospital” was added and money was collected from each and every Bohra for the hospital. This makes Saifee Hospital a public hospital but all the benefits gained from it go directly in Kothar’s coffer. The hospital which was declared open with lots of fan fair is hardly talked about now. This is an example from the recent history known to everyone.
Sayedna Saheb’s establishment has become so powerful and arrogant because of the huge amount of money it has extorted from the community on various occasions that it refuses to submit any account. They have floated numbers of trusts and have managed them by bribing government official and not submitting accounts for years. They are taking full advantage of the corruption in Charity Commissioner’s offices and Waqf boards.
Beside taxes imposed by the local jamats on occasions like birthday celerabation of Sayedna, Imamuz-Zaman, Mazoon and Mukasir, Arz to Sayedna, his Ikram on arrival, Najwa, Kadambosi, Tallaqi, Nawizishat, Darees, Nikah, burial, Vaiz, Majlis, renovation of masjids and mazars, etc. there is a compulsory annual collection of taxes from all Dawoodi Bohras throughout the world in the name of ‘Wajebat’ and ‘Sabil’. Bohras pay various taxes imposed by Sayedna’s establishment. Some pay by thinking that it is their religious duty and others pay to safeguard their social and family interests.
So is there any justice in taxes imposed on Bohras? Let’s find out:
The Wajebat (meaning compulsory or obligatory payments) includes Zakat, Sila Fitra, Khums, Haqqun Nafs, Nazar Muqam and Salaam.
- Zakat: Islam came in Arabia as a powerful message for social revolution and serious challenge to vested interests when there were the moral and social crises generated due to extreme concentration of wealth in few hands and extreme poverty of large section of the society. We should understand the importance of Zakat in this context.
The holy Qur’an spells out that the Zakat is meant to be spent on orphans, poor and needy, to set free slaves, paying debts of the indebted, providing facilities to the wayfarers. Qur’an is truly a book of Hikma (wisdom) so it has prescribed Zakat but not its rate. The principle of infaq (spending) in Qur’an lays down that one should spend whatever is superfluous. The rate of Zakat as two and half percent was prescribed by the holy Prophet for equitable distribution of wealth in then prevailing situation. It is not the quantum of Zakat but its principle which is important.
The transfer of a part of wealth from rich to poor is necessary to create some sort of balance in the society which can lead to social justice. Otherwise if rich become indifferent to the plight of weaker sections of society it will lead to unrest and the wealth of rich will become unsafe.
Today in our Dawoodi Bohra community Zakat has become a ritual and rather than bridging the gap between rich and poor it is helping just one family to get richer year after year. Therefore unless we pay Zakat directly to the needy its purpose will not be fulfilled.
We have also to understand the complexities of industrial economy. Two and half percent rate of Zakat in capitalist industrial economy can not bridge the income differences between wage earners and their capitalist masters. On the contrary it would bring about concentration of wealth in few hands leading to social injustice. Thus in order to effect the transfer wealth from rich to poor it would be necessary to decide from time to time how much rich must be taxed. It is not the amount of Zakat but its principle which is important.
Today the Zakat fund must be used to provide interest-free loans to weaker sections of the society in order to meet their requirements like housing, food education etc., debt relief, health care, unemployment allowance, release and rehabilitation of bonded labours and some such social welfare causes. It is anti-Quranic and anti-Islamic to hand over the due Zakat money to persons who are already rich and rolling in luxury.
Regarding Zakat the holy Qur’an says: “Innamas sadaqaato lil fuqararaae wal masaakeen…….” Sadaaqa is something given with sincerity and not by compulsion. During holy Prophet’s time there was no state machinery to collect Zakat and it was voluntary donation. Even during short period of Hazrat Abu Bakar there was no state machinery. But a tribe opposed the Zakat and Hazrat Abu Baker fought a war against them known as “Battle of Riddha”. After the conquest of Iran Hazrat Umar learnt the art of state machinery from Rome and Iran and introduced the same in the Islamic state.
Even during Hazrat Ali’s caliphate Zakat was collected by state machinery. In those days war booty was also a part of Zakat fund known as Baytul-Maal or public treasury of which only one fifth was kept and the rest was distributed. But even then Zakat was voluntary, no force was used. The caliph had to run the affairs of state and as there were no other taxes, Zakat fund was the only source then. It started during Hazrat Umar’s time that the salaries were paid to the state police and soldiers.
Sila: Sila-al-Imam or simply Sila is not a part of Islamic Shari’ah but it is a much later invention and found only in Dawoodi Bohra faith. There is no mention of sila in Daim al-Islam. The Bohra priestly class collects sila as compulsory tax under the pretext that it is an offering for the hidden Imam. But the hidden Imam according Sayedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb is imaginary so the Sila-al-Imam collection goes nowhere but in Sayedna Saheb’s coffer.
So it is not at all obligatory to pay any amount towards Sila to the amil or Sayedna Saheb.
Fitra: It is according to Islamic Shari’ah. It must be directly given to the poor and needy on behalf of one’s family members so that they can also celebrate Eid on the day of Ramadan Eid. It could be in form of grains, clothes or cash. Fitra should be paid directly to the needy person a day before Eid.
So it is not obligatory to pay any amount to the amil or Sayedna Saheb in the name of Fitra.
Khums: It means one fifth - that is one fifth of the war booty. As per the Qur’an one fifth of war booty could be retained and rest to be distributed among poor and needy and war soldiers. The one fifth amount retained was for the holy Prophet for the upkeep if his family and performing other functions as the head of umma. Wars are not fought now and hence no war booty received.
But according to Shia faith Khums was levied as one fifth of the unexpected wealth. It was meant to be paid to Imam of the time who had to run the affairs of state. Today there is no state and no Imam so it is not obligatory to pay any Khums to the amil or Sayedna Saheb.
Haqqun Nafs: This tax is not mentioned in the Quran nor is it the part of Islamic Shariah. This is only a Dawoodi Bohra custom introduced by Bohra Dai in the name of salvation of the soul of a deceased. Bohras can not bury their dead unless they pay haqqun nafs to the Amil or Sayedna Saheb. But it has nothing to do with Islamic Shariah.
Nazar Mukam: This is also not in the Quran or Islamic Shariah. It is the money for votive offering (mannat) kept aside for the hidden Imam. When an orthodox Dawoodi Bohra goes out of his/her house for any adventurous work, or when he/she is in trouble like some dear one has not returned home, lost his/her way in journey, faced with some natural calamity, involved in some legal matter etc. he/she makes a vow to keep aside certain sum of money as offering to the hidden Imam and later distributes it among poor and needy Muslims.
Earlier every Dawoodi Bohra house used to keep a separate box of collecting Nazar Mukam. The money then was given as loan to help some Bohras in need and the beneficiary also used to treat this amount as offering to the Imam and would return the money as and when he/she was able to pay back.
According to “Haqiqatun Naiaam” a risla written by Sayedi Khoj bin Malak “the system of Nazar-Mukam was devised by our 23rd Sayedna Peerkhan Shujauddin in Ahmedabad. The reason was that Sayedna Qutbuddin Shaheed was beheaded by Sunni ruler of Gujarat and under fear and pressure Dawoodi Bohras were converting to Sunni faith. Some were converted due to economical constraints. To help such needy Bohras, Sayedna Peerkhan Saheb had devised this custom of Nazar-Mukam. Since it benefited the needy Bohras in time of difficulty successive Dais maintained the custom.
In general Shias there is a tradition of tying some coins on the right arm of the person going on a journey or for any adventurous work. It is known as “Imam Zamin”. Perhaps Sayedna Peerkhan Saheb coined the word Nazar-Imam on the same line which later on came to be known as NazarMukam.
The meaning of word Nazar Mukam: Nazar or Nazarana means offering and Mukam means occasion (like we say “yeh gaur karne ka Mukam hai). Therefore Nazar-Mukan means “Occasional offering” not regular offering like Zakat. Now of course like Zakat and Fitra, Nazar-Mukam is also forcefully collected by the amils of Sayedna Saheb. It has now lost its significance at it does not help Bohras in need and therefore it is not obligatory to pay Nazar Mukam to the Amil or Sayedna.
Sabil: Of late there has been a rising resentment in the community over many-fold increase in Sabil. So let us understand the concept of Sabil. Sabil is not a part of Quranic injunctions or Islamic Shari’ah or Shia or Dawoodi Bohra faith. It is a very recent innovation introduced by Sayedna Taher Saifuddin since 1961.
In Dawoodi Bohra history during our 38th Dai Sayedna Ismailji Badruddin Saheb’s time his Mazoon, Sayedi Abdul Qadar Hakimuddin Ibne Mulla Khan Saheb who was born in Rampura (M.P.) but stationed at Burhanpur had introduced “Sabil” strictly for maintenance of old masjid in Burhanpur to be collected by the local Jamat and spend on masjid repairs. It was temporary measure just to serve a local purpose for a certain period. It was a very nominal (Re. 1 per family) voluntary donation.
Sabil literally means “way” or “offering help or drinking water to a passerby” is derived from Quranic world “Fi Sabilillah” (in the way or name of Allah).
The reform movement under the banner of “Madhyast Pragati Mandal” was at its peek in 1961 and had become source of embarrassment for Sayedna Taher Saifuddin as its voice had reached in the Indian parliament and reform movement’s mouth piece “Bohra Bulletin” was gaining popularity in the community. The Mandal was planning to hold a world Dawoodi Bohra conference in Bombay.
The shrewd and scheming Sayedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb called the then reformist leaders Noman Contractor and Fazle Abbas Zamindar and promised them that he (the Sayedna) will organize a world Dawoodi Bohra conference in Bombay to discuss and adopt reformists’ demands.
After that Sayedna Saheb separately called Fazle Abbas Zamindar and convinced him to stop Bohra Bulletin and dissolve Madhyast Pragati Mandal. Noman contractor refused to do so and Zamindar resigned from the movement. It was a major setback, but Sayedna had succeeded in breaking down the momentum of reform.
Sayedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb organized a one-day Convention on 5th June 1961 at Saifee Masjid Bombay. Noman Contractor and other reformists were not invited. Various schemes for welfare and economic upliftment of the community were put forward and sanctioned. Then Yusuf Najmuddin raised a question “For materializing these welfare schemes through out the community ‘large fund’ will be required, who is going to foot the finance?” Then after some close consultation with Sayedna Saheb, and after quoting from Quran at length he said “Allah helps those who help themselves” and with blessings and foresight of Aqa Maula he announced a new tax “Sabil" saying that the quantum of the tax would be decided by our Bawa Shafeeq.
Initially Sabil was charged on the basis of individual’s income, with a condition that the defaulter’s would be severely penalized and the amount would be recovered with penalty at the time of death or marriage. Thus a voluntary donation was turned in to compulsory (wajib) tax.
All the welfare scheme and economic upliftment was soon forgotten – but Sabil tax remained. Now even the earlier basis decided by Sayedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb on which Sabil tax was to be calculated has been forgotten and Sabil is imposed most arbitrarily.
Now Sabil is imposed even on business establishment, shops and factories to extort as much money in the name of Sabil as possible. The rate of Sabil is increased many fold years after year and it is collected most ruthlessly.
Again crores of rupees are separately collected in the name of renovation and maintenance of masjid through out the world.
It is important for Bohras to understand that the various taxes imposed on them are unjustified and unIslamic. It is their moral and religious duty to refuse to pay them. Accountability is a very important Islamic principle and it is the right of every Bohra to ask and question how their money is being spent.