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Walking out of the Bohra falsehood


I was born in India in a small village more than 40 years ago into a Bohra family. I came with my family to Malaysia when I was only 4 years old. I grew up like any normal Bohra surrounded by the richness of the Bohra culture and rituals. My religion was primarily restricted to namaz and learning to read the Qur’an.

All the waiz [with the delicious Bohra food which is the signature of the Bohras] taught me only their version of religion after the death of Nabi Muhammad.

Note, I knew very little about Nabi Muhamamd who brought the religion of Islam. I knew more about the ahlul bait. Strange that the man without whom there can be no Islam was given so little attention. I therefore, followed the Bohra version of Islam like a good Bohra girl, happy to be a Bohra and playing by all the rules. Through my teens I remained loyal to my ahlul bait, and enjoyed the Muharram waiz and joined in the crying and show of sorrow and even the matam.

Later on I picked up more information in my religious classes in a government run school in Kuala Lumpur. While studying Islamic history in school I did come across the differences in the reports. I asked my mother (she was not educated and my father had passed away when I was 12) about the differences. She said, "Apne alag che. Apna log Ali na mane che. Bahar na log Ali na dushman che" not a very logical answer and certainly not based on any proof. Actually my mum could not have done any better than this and she can be forgiven for her lack of knowledge. I just accepted the answer; after all I was a Bohra, that’s it. At that time there was no cause to do otherwise.

I had never met the Mawla, the Sayedna but had heard about him. When I was told negative things about him especially about his increasing coffers and the lack of accountability and the rule of never questioning them and I asking people about this, they would say that the ‘Mawla’ is not to be blamed, it is the political struggle between family members that was causing the problem. I was told the chamchas, the people around him were causing the problem.

So I asked why the Mawla could not solve the problem. I was told that the "Mawla’s life was in danger and therefore he had to keep quiet." This sounded very strange to me. He is spiritual leader who is supposed to guide his people and not be afraid of death like Imam Hussein who fought till death overtook him to uphold the truth. Here was a man who preferred to protect his life and allow mismanagement and misdirection all for his own survival. Strange, very strange.

There was certainly something not quite right about that. My logical mind could not accept that. And yet I quietly continued to be a good Bohra girl.

When in 1979, the Sayedna came to Malaysia; I got the first glimpse of him and his family. I noted that his family was very proud, arrogant, down right rude and expected to be treated in a very special way. They regarded themselves as royalty and they believed they were better than the commoners. They were rude and impatient. Again this surprised me as I had heard that the ahlul bait were simple people who treated the Muslims kindly, patiently and humbly and lived simple lives.

I saw the arrogance in the Kothar that was very unbecoming of a family led by a spiritual leader. They were supposed to be role models (upon the lives of the ahlul bait), and yet they displayed a character, which was just the opposite. It appeared to me they did not live up to what they preached. Somehow arrogance and pride and religion do not walk hand-in-hand. This really disappointed me as I was looking up to them for guidance and as role models of humble character.

On one occasion I witnessed the departure of the Mawla and I saw someone bring his slippers. A few women rushed to kiss his jooti. This was done in the clear view of the Mawla did not make any attempt to stop this practice. During the time of Rasulullah if someone did something out of the practice of Islam, Rasulullah would put a stop to it immediately. Now this incident of kissing the jooti was obviously wrong as it showed reverence to the ‘Mawla’ to a point not accepted by Islam. Besides, it was not hygienic.

You would never catch the modern Bohra women ever doing that. So why didn’t the ‘Mawla’ stop this? He could have stopped it there and then or condemned it in a waiz. Since these women hold on to his words they would have listened and stopped such a ridiculous practice. Was it because the Mawla actually condoned such behavior as he wanted focus on himself and not what he was preaching?

When Rasulullah visited anyone’s home he never demanded a salaam. And yet I saw this happening in Kuala Lumpur. There was a demand session on how much salaam had to be made before Mawla would consent to visit a family to give his blessings. It appeared that there was a price on blessings. The blessings were not given free. They were instead sold like a commodity in the market. Therefore, the poor would not be able to buy this blessing and thus this special blessing would be the domain of the rich.

Islam is a religion that does not differentiate between the rich and poor, but here was a clear example of the rich been favored for their money. Money talks, well it certainly buys you blessings from certain Mawlas.

Why was this happening? My young educated intelligent mind was trying to make sense of all this. This sounded more like the Kothar was a business enterprise that was trying to maximize its profiles. It appears that the salaam rate increases by the year. A price tag of RM 25,000 per visit makes the blessings a very expensive commodity. It seems the inflation at the Kothar is far above that of the world economy.

All these incidents created questions and doubt in my mind that were not explained intelligently and logically. And yet at that time I continued to be a ‘good’ Bohra, checking myself and being on ‘best behavior.’

After finishing my education in London, I started working as a lecturer in costing in Kuala Lumpur. I thus became too occupied with my own life and my links with the Bohras began to wane. I was disappointed with the society as I saw lots of back-biting and not enough caring.

Allah was very compassionate and merciful to me at this time and by His will I was guided to Him. One day I received a parcel of two books that would be the turning point in my life. Someone from India sent me two books. One was on "The Bohras" by Asghar Ali Engineer. The other was a book on Islam also by Asghar Bhai.

As you all know in the Bohra community what is abundant is ignorance. There is no library that can help you understand and get deeper knowledge even in their version of Islam. It seems that is exactly what they want; people who are ignorant. You can control a group better if they are ignorant. So I never had access to books to enlightenment me. So when I received these two books I started reading them. Actually I am reader and so I would read all kinds of books and let my intelligence decide on the worth of a book. In this case of course it was Allah who was guiding me. I read the first book. However, since I already had numerous question in my mind about the Bohras and had already begun to notice discrepancies in the practice of the religion I was therefore of the mind that the book held a lot of truth.

Now the second book was an account of Islam. It was just one page that roller coasted me in my road to seeking knowledge. At this time I was very attracted to reading about groups of people that cared about society and took efforts to better the society. I did not see this in the Bohra community, there was no effort to better the society. All they did was take great pains in making successful jamaats with lots of delicious food. But no practical steps were taken to help the individuals or the group.

At this time I was constantly reading about groups of people around the world who were caring and helpful. So when I read in the second book about how Rasulullah came to the Makkan society level as well as on an individual level, I was very impressed by that. I suddenly realized that, that which I was seeking was right at my doorstep in the religion of Islam. It is just that it was not practiced.

So my thirst for knowledge began and I soon read up every book in the library at the college I was teaching. Soon I went looking for more books and I started reading the Qur’an [English translation] day and night and could not put it down. The Qur’an seemed so amazing to me and I absorbed its message like a wet sponge. In the beginning I did not realize how wrong the practice of Islam in the Bohra community was as no outsider had ever come to bring this to my attention. I never knew how grave and soul threatening this practice was. It was only the mercy of Allah that guided me to search for the truth, through that one page of the book that was not even the core of Islamic teaching. But then Allah knows best (Wallahu ’Aalm) how He guides each of us to His truth.

I had started going for classes at Outreach in Kuala Lumpur (a Dawah centre) every Sunday, and I just loved it. Thus, began the changes internally and externally to understand the true deen of Islam, which seemed so simple and beautiful without the innovations and deviations of corrupted leaders.

By the will of Allah I married a non-Bohri Muslim and continued my single-minded pursuit of the one and only goal that is worship of Allah in the correct way and to make my life worship to Him.

All through this time I kept contact with Bohras through my small group of friends. I no longer went to any of their functions as my husband and I understood that their practices were steeped in deviations that were at the level of kufr.

As I was born in the Bohra community I felt sad when I saw my friends practicing Islam in the wrong way. I understood that they were doing so due to sheer ignorance as I had been doing before Allah guided me. Nonetheless remembering them and their misled practices would reduce me to tears. Very often I would catch myself in tears, during or after salat, intensely making dua for them, that Allah does not seal their hearts and close their minds to the truth.

In the first nine years I did soft dawah to my Bohra friends, inviting them to look into the Qur’an but not mentioning that their version of Islam would lead them to the Hellfire. However, there was a part of me that knew that the only way to do dawah was tell the truth. I also realized that I had to write articles that were supported with proof from the Qur’an to highlight the deviated and innovated practices of the Bohras. I knew that before I died I had to tell the truth.

So I began writing articles that told the truth as it was, with no sugar coating. I remember reading about how Rasulullah went to his kaum and told them just that. Stop worshipping idols, worship the one only God Allah. When the Quraish were asked who created man and the moon, they would say: Allah. They believed in Allah as God the Creator. So when they were asked, "So why do you worship the idols." They said, "Oh we do not worship the idols we just use them as intercessors between us and Allaah."

Have not heard this before? Yes, you must have. It is what the Bohras say: "We only use the Mawla, Ali, Hussain, ahlul bait, the dais etc as intercessors between us and Allah. What do you know?" History is repeating itself. Allah sent Rasulullah to bring the people out of shirk and to teach them Tawheed. And here 1400 hundred years later we have the Bohras steeped in practices of shirk, all over again. They rejoice in that which they believe in even if it is wrong. Shaitan makes them think that what they are practicing is right.

Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 46 Surah Ahqaf verses 4-6: Prophet, say to them, "Have you ever seen them with open eyes those whom you invoke instead of Allah? Show me what they have created in the earth? Or have they any share in the creation and control of the heavens? Bring me a Book revealed before this, or produce some remnant of knowledge in support of your beliefs if you are truthful."

Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 16 Surah Nahl verse 20-21: "All the other beings, whom the people invoke with Allah, create nothing! Nay, they are themselves created. They are DEAD, not living, and they do not at all know themselves when the small again be raised to life!"

I thus felt that I had to tell my friends the truth even if meant losing them, as the gravity of their wrong worship was overwhelming. If I considered them my friends then nothing but the truth was good enough for them. It was difficult saying things like if you continue worshipping like the Bohras do then it amounts to shirk and that Allah does not forgive shirk, as He would forgive anything else even murder, but not shirk.

But I had to say that which was the truth even if it was painful to do it. Thus began my writing to say it as it is. For articles that I have written, contact me at: Dawah to Bohras Al Yaqin. Your privacy will be totally guaranteed, Insha Allah.

Comments (7) | Write a comment

Comments
Saira/ Saturday, July 7, 2012 | 11:43 PM
Salams, I live in the bohri hub of Karachi and its very alienating and difficult to struggle with the questions that you grew up with as a youngster. At 32 years of age I have stopped going to the masjid or the jamat and pray five times instead of the 3 times. I do come across bohris who are straying from the "path" but find it difficult to completely break free as the social net is too strong, so they quietly do what they perceive is right. Hanging in between is the worst thing. Based on your knowledge, is it possible to just be a Muslim and not a shia or a sunni?
waqas/ Friday, September 28, 2012 | 10:27 AM

@ Saira ..Based on your knowledge, is it possible to just be a Muslim and not a shia or a sunni?

It would be very diffcicult to be just a muslim and not a Sunni or a Shia In order to Worship allah you would find it diffciult to not folow one madhab or another.

IT maybe possible to for people to be super-spiritual like Guru Nanak or Bulle Shah. But for this you have to give up your identiy and your ideas and soemtimes this can lead to excesses like some people in the past thought that there were exempt from sawm or salah and just did Zikr.

There maybe a middle way if you Remember allah often and hold fast on to the word of allah and indisputed ahadith. As for that which what you are not sure about or what does not come from allah leave it.

zahabia/ Sunday, October 14, 2012 | 1:04 AM
shamima, i am just 17 years old and i really liked your article. i am a bohri too inspite which i say that i