Borhras and reform

Making a tamasha of Moharram in Mumbai


The month of Moharram in the Islamic calendar commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (A.S.), the grandson of the founder of Islam, the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). Imam Hussein is widely revered by all Muslim communities without any exception.

Even many Hindus in India mourn with high emotional intensity, the tragic death of Imam Hussein and his 72 relatives and companions who were brutally killed on the 10th day of Moharram. But it is most unfortunate that the Dawoodi Bohras who are Shi'as and have great devotion for Hazrat Ali (A.S.) and his son Imam Husain, now-a-days under the leadership of their religious head, Sayedna Mohd. Burhanuddin, literarlly celebrate the solemn days of Moharram rather than commemorating them.

As if it is a day of Eid, they happily call the 10th of Moharram as 'Ashara Mubarak' and celebrate it with fine colorful dresses (Indian Express describes them as "Women made a pretty picture in their colorful ridas - in baby pink, pale green, baby blue, lavender - embroidered with intricate floral patterns), lavish food with chicken biryani, ice-cream and sweets.

No Muslim leader anywhere in the world makes such vulgar show of his personality as Sayedna does, by stopping vaiz every where and compelling the followers to gather at just one place where he is delivering his sermons. Bohra shop owners are compelled to close down their shops, businessmen to suspend their business and students to miss their classes and exams for 9 days of Moharram and be present in the mosques to hear Sayedna's discourses. Crores of rupees are spent on relaying Sayedna vaiz in Bohra-populace all over the world. In Mumbai itself the discourses were relayed via satellite to more than 30 centers through 660 TV sets and 74 giant screens.

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Bohra men and women kneeling down on the road at Bhindi Bazar, Mumbai with folded hands on Sayedna's arrival for vaiz. Mid-Day - March 10, 2003.

Sayedna's establishment invited media and TV channels persons with their cameras inside the mosques to cover the occasion and give it as much publicity as possible. The whole atmosphere in the Bohra locality was heavy with the cult and personality of Sayedna. No one, not even his representatives while sending press release ever talk about the tragedy of Karbala. They only talk about the Sayedna, falsely claiming that he is most concerned for India, for Muslims, for love, peace integrity and well-being of every individual in the world.

The fact is that Sayedna is not bothered even about the sufferings of his own followers. He and his establishment leave no occasion to exploit and squeeze money from his followers. Even for his Moharram sermons he charges amounts in crores of rupees as his Salam and then only he agrees to deliver his sermons at a place of his choice. Red carpets are rolled out all over the path for Sayedna, as if he were a monarch and not a religious leader.

As in an RSS (the fundamentalist Hindu grassroots organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) camp the followers worship weapons like swords and trishool, Dawoodi Bohras worship Sayedna and Sayedna worships power and those who are in power.

Otherwise what was the reason of inviting the Chief Minister of Maharashtra Shushil Kumar Shindhe alongwith other politicians inside the Bohra Mosque, interrupt Moharram sermons and allow them to speak over the mike showering praises for Sayedna, and that too on the 7th day of Moharram, when supply of water was stopped for the martyres of Karbala? On behalf of Sayedna the Chief Minister was thanked for moving the dates of S.S.C. and H.S.C. board examinations so that Bohra student can have 'didar' of their Sayedna.

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'In this feast a community remembers a martyr.' Indian Express - March 10, 2003

Again India is a secular country. It is against the basic norms of secularism if the prime minister, or chief ministers and other ministers of the country become party to religious activities of one religious group or other and allow themselves to be 'used' by religious leaders.

The headings in the Indian Express in its 10th March 2003 issues says: 'At this feast, a community remembers a Martyr's death'. A large photograph of Bohras enjoying the feast is given. In another heading 'Reaffirming faith in a spiritual leader'. What a mockery of Moharram! Where is the concern for the greatest sacrifice Imam Husain and his supporters made for the cause of upholding principles of Islam? Where is the mention of simple God-fearing lifestyle of Ahle-bait?

In fact Yazid was condemned as he became the tyrant and exploited the followers of Islam for his personal glorification. Imam Husain opposed him sacrificing his life to expose him. Dawoodi Bohras should realise that Moharram is a month of condolence, reflection and humility not celebration. Other Shi'a vaizeen have criticised Sayedna in their speeches. Sayedna's luxurious lifestyle and exploitative way of functioning against the grain of a religious or spiritual leader. Who can be a true religious and spiritual person? History provides many examples from among earlier Bohra Dais as well as Muslims saints.

Take for example the life of a great Indian saint, Hazrat Nizamuddin Olia of Delhi. Even today he is revered with great respect by large number of Hindus and Muslims. A railway station in Delhi has been dedicated in his name. All through his life he followed the life of Hazrat Ali (A.S.). He used to observe fast in the daytime and used to eat pieces of dry breads dipped in water at night.

Renowned historian, musician and poet, Amir Khusro was a great devotee of Hazrat Nizamuddin. At the same time he was the courtier of various Sultans at Delhi. Hazrat Nizamuddin had seen the reign of five Sultans who tried their best to see that Nizamuddin Olia visit their Dabar. But like Hazrat Ali (A.S.) he had given triple divorce to this world, its wealth and its power. He refused the invitation and offer of everyone who was in power. Ultimately one Sultan suggested that as Nizamuddin Olia is not ready to come to his darbar he himself would go and pay a visit to Olia.

Khusro was asked to convey this message. When Khusro told Hazrat Nizamuddin he said "Khusro go and tell your Sultan that my Khankah (settlement) has two doors. If your Sultan enters from one door I will walk out from the other.

This is how a true religious and spiritual person remains away from worldly desires and pays no heed to those who are in power. They do not fear anyone except God and do not seek favour from any one except from God. They remain careful in not getting corrupt by any worldly power. Once Khusro asked Hazrat Nizamuddin as to why he eats dry bread pieces when in his own Khankah delicious foods are cooked and distributed among people. Hazrat replied, "This food is supplied by the rich and wealthy in your Sultan's court. I have nothing to gain from them. So why should I take their obligation?"

Compare Sayedna's royal lifestyle with Hazrat Ali-like-life of Nizamuddin Olia and decide for yourself who is right?