Borhras and reform
How the 51st Dai was undermined by his sons
The year 1967 was a memorable year for Bohras in East Africa. That was the year when plans hatched by late Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin and his brother late Yusuf Najmuddin were finally enacted. That was the year when they would replace the 1955 Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat of East Africa Constitution with their own. The 1955 Constitution was developed with consultations with Syedna Taher Saifuddin and was adopted at meeting of East African Jamaats on 17 April 1955 in Dar-es-Salaam. The Constitution was subsequently sanctioned by Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb (A.Q.) as 51st Dai-el-Mutlaq. In the preamble to the 1967 Constitution, it states: more
A Manifesto on behalf of the Dawoodi Bohra Community
Succession disputes, i.e., claims and counter-claims, are a familiar theme in Islamic history. As soon as the Prophet breathed his last in 10 H./632 C. E., the Muslim community was divided on the question of his succession as the leader of the community or of the proto-Islamic Medinan state that had evolved during the last years of the Prophet’s life. In contra distinction to the Sunnis the Shia asserted Ali’s succession both in political as well as in religious spheres. This had grave consequences, at least in theory, such as over the interpretation of the shari’a (religious regulations laid down in the Qur’an and the Sunna) or its alteration if necessary. more
Who will save Dawoodi Bohras from themselves?
The expectation and longing for a Saviour is found among many communities. The Jews still await the Messiah. The Christians expect Christ to come again. The Hindus hope for an avatar of the Lord to destroy adharma and establish dharma. The Bohras also await the reappearance of the Imam in the progeny of lmam Taiyyeb who went into seclusion about eight hundred years ago. It's been a long wait. These yearnings are more articulate in times of acute distress and despair. The Saviour, however, in unlikely to succour a people who have despaired and resigned themselves to their fate. more
Vying for power: Old habits Dai hard
As if one Dai were not enough for Dawoodi Bohras. Now they are burdened with two. The dust on Sayedna Mohammed Burhanuddin’s grave has hardly settled and his family is at each other’s throats, vying for power. For the past two years there was the Mansoos (successor designate) Mufaddal Saifuddin. He was apparently conferred the Nass (investiture) by Sayedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. But following his death his younger half-brother and deputy Khuzema Qutbuddin has also staked a claim to Daiship. That he was in the running for the post was always suspected. But it is the timing of his announcement that has sent the Bohra world into a tailspin. more
The legacy of Sayedna Mohammed Burhanuddin
Sayedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, the 52nd Dai ul Mutlaq of Dawoodi Bohras passed away early Friday morning of January 17, 2014. Tens of thousands of Bohras from all over India – and abroad - converged on Mumbai for the funeral procession. The great crush of people overwhelmed the logistics it seems, and the stampede that followed reportedly killed 20 Bohras. This public frenzy, this mass hysteria, this great gathering and these needless deaths are a fitting legacy of Sayedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. His life’s work was on full display on his death: a community transformed into a hero-worshipping mob. more
Bohra clergy: the myth makers of our time
It is typical of our age that it considers the creative myths of antiquity as fairy tales when its myths are far worse: destructive and demonic. The Nazi myth of racial superiority and communist myth of a classless society were nightmares, destroying nations and communities. The capitalist myth of lasting prosperity through conspicuous consumption is equally destructive and wasteful of world's scarce resources. These and other similar myths have subserved narrow and sectarian group and class interests. Exploitation of a community for power and pelf is the concealed aim for the invention of these myths. more
Bohras and the scourge of social boycott
The Bohra priesthood has resurrected the technique employed by the rich pagan Arabs against the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) and the first converts to Islam: social and economic boycott. When inducements, including the kingship of Arabia, failed to dissuade the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) from his mission and threats failed to frighten the followers, the powerful mercantile class initiated a long period of persecution which eventually culminated in his epochal migration to Medina. In Mecca the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) and his followers were isolated, broken and all commerce prohibited with them. Abu Lahab, an uncle of the Holy Prophet (peace be on him,) even forced his two sons to divorce holy Prophet’s daughters. more
Ismaili Law: A case for reinterpretation
This is an article by Ismail K. Poonawala arguing how Ismaili Law as followed by Bohras is in dire need of reinterpration and revision as it does not meet the demands of modern times. The article is from The Study of Shi'i Islam: History, Theology and Law, edited by Farhad Daftary et al. (London: I.B.Tauris, 2013). The book will be officially released next month.

Ismail K. Poonawala writes, "Ever since its promulgation, most probably in 349/960, as the official code of the Fatimid empire, the Daāim has reigned supreme, particularly with the Mustalī-Tayyibī Ismailis of Yemen and the Indian subcontinent after the fall of the Fatimids in Egypt in 567/1171. However, this centuries-old law has not met the necessities of modern life for the Ismaili communities of the Dāudīs, Sulaymānīs and Alawīs who follow this school of Islamic jurisprudence. Those advocating the status quo (maintaining the traditional system), notably the conservative religious establishments of all the three above-mentioned communities, have had little to offer in terms of a constructive legal reform which might adapt Ismaili law as formulated by its founder, al Qāīdi al-Numān, to the modern conditions of life. more

An Islamic sect reduced to a cult
The Milli Gazette is a magazine widely read in the Muslim World. In its recent issue of 16-31 October, 2012 it has published an article “The Wizard of Gujarat” by Mr. Yunus Chitalwala. In this article the writer has said that “Bohras do not represent the mainstream Muslim community”. In other words, Dawoodi Bohras have separated themselves from the mainstream Islam. more
Erasing the memory of great Bohra philanthropists
Dawoodi Bohras are made to be proud of the majestic building standing opposite Charni Road Railway Station in Mumbai. They are told that this is “Saifee Hospital” that their late Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb had dreamt of. But on this majestic building there is no sign board saying “Saifee Hospital” anywhere. This is something unusual, especially in a city like Mumbai, and for Dawoodi Bohra establishment, as they leave no opportunity in glorifying the name of their last two Syednas! more
On the Dawoodi Bohra Reformist Struggle: Interview with Abid Adeeb
The Dawoodi Bohras, ethnic Gujaratis, are a roughly million strong group of the Mustalian branch of the Ismaili Shia Muslims. They are controlled by an elaborate hierarchy of priests, headed by the dai-e mutlaq, who claims to be the representative of the 21st imam of the community, who is believe to have gone into seclusion or ghayba in the eleventh century. Faced with stern Sunni opposition, the 24th dai of the community shifted to Gujarat in the twelfth century. The present dai, Syedna Burhanuddin, is the 52nd dai of the community, and this year he will celebrate his 100th birthday. more
Nikah according to Islamic and Isma’ili Shari’ah
According to Islam and the books of Ismaili faith, Ikhwanus-Safa, Rahatul-Aql, Da'aim-ul-Islam, Mjalis-e-Moiyyadiya and Kitabul-Fiqah, Nikah is a Marriage Contract (a Civil Contract not Sacrament) between an adult Muslim woman and an adult Muslim man, an agreement mutually signed by the bride and the groom in the presence of two male witnesses. more
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. more
Karbala and its relevance to Dawoodi Bohras: 3
This is the third part in a series discussing the relevance of Karbala to our community. Saifuddin Insaf argues that our present-day priesthood is completely out of step with the principles for which Imam Hussain sacrificed his life. more
Karbala and its relevance to Dawoodi Bohras: 2
This is the second part in a series discussing the relevance of Karbala to our community. Saifuddin Insaf argues that our present-day priesthood is completely out of step with the principles for which Imam Hussain sacrificed his life. more
Karbala and its relevance to Dawoodi Bohras: 1
The month of Moharram is of great signification in Islamic history. We Dawoodi Bohras being a sect of Muslims and more so as a sub-sect of Shia Muslims used to observe the first ten days of Moharram with great solemnity, but not anymore. more
Understanding Dawoodi Bohra faith
I have no hesitation in admitting that I am not an Islamic scholar. But since I have to defend my faith against un-Islamic practices and innovations introduced by the last two Dais (51st and 52nd), I have tried to understand our Shia-Ismaili-Mustalian-Tayyebi faith through authentic source books and discussion with learned mashaikh. At the age of 68, I want to share my understanding with other knowledgeable readers of this site. more
Bohras in South and South East Asia
The Bohras are a Shi'ah Isma'ili sect, which branched off from main Shi'ah community, known as twelver (Ithna Ashari) Shi'ahs around mid 2nd century of Islam (ninth century A.D.). All Shi'ah sects believe that the Holy Prophet had nominated his son-in-law Ali as his heir both in spiritual as well as political sense. more
Sayedna Taher Saifuddin in court: recollections
The longest case with which I was ever connected was a suit filed by me as Advocate-General against the Mullaji, or High Priest of the Dawoodi Borah Community, and certain of his followers. more
Why reformists are so misunderstood?
There is a great deal of disinformation being spread about the reform movement by powerful vested interests in the Bohra priestly establishment. The reason is obvious. They do not want truth to be known. Truth and vested interests do not go together. more
A new brand of leadership
If you ask a common man on the street the meaning of the word leader or "netaji", he will either laugh at you or take serious offence to your question. Day in day out he is confronted with this strange species among humans. more
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. more
Sayedna meets Modi... what's going on?
Dr. Sayedna Mohammmed Burhanuddin, head of the Dawoodi Bohra Community, met with the Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi on October 2, 2003. more
What makes Bohras such blind followers?
Some of us wonder why such dogmatic and blind following of the Da'i among the Bohras? Even highly educated and wealthy Bohras display such blind following. Is it so in the case of Bohras alone or is it a general trend among people? more
Fatimid Literature: Creation, preservation, transfer, concealment and revival
One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Fatimid Caliphate is that it was supported by a mission – a Daawa which not only brought the Fatimid state into being but continued to support it and guide it. It is when the Daawa declined and lost its purpose that the Fatimid state fell in 1171. more
Dawat in turmoil
Contrary to our tradition of the Dai appointing his successor, we understand that Mazoonsahib has declared himself the 53rd Dai. His announcement has caused rioting within our community and a number of Bohras have been injured. more
No separation please, we are Dawoodi Bohras
Anyone who has tried to argue the Bohra reformist case is sooner or later met with this response: if you have problems why don't you separate and start your own 'religion'. This response is typical of a mindset that's best captured by the cliché: "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." more
Dawat-e-Hadiyah (England) Act 1993 (c. x)
An Act to incorporate the Dai al-Mutlaq as a corporation sole; and for related purposes. [1st July 1993] WHEREAS His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin is the fifty-second incumbent in the office of the Dai al-Mutlaq, having been duly appointed by an act of designation in accordance with the canons and principles of the mission known as Dawat-e-Hadiyah: more
Why Bohras are reluctant to join the reform movement
From most of the reformist fora it is discussed what have we achieved? We are still so few and far in between. Why our number does not increase rapidly? Why so many people continue to flock around the Bohra priesthood? These are important questions, of course and need to be discussed dispassionately. more
An open letter to Sayedna Saheb
Dear Syedna Muhammad Burhanuddin Saheb
May Allah give you a long life
I am addressing this letter to you not as an individual. It, in fact, represents the point of view of thousands of Bohras, even those who are not formally reformists. The Bohras are going through a great turmoil both social as well as religious, under your leadership as a 52nd Da`i al-Mutlaq. more
21st Century and the Bohra reform movement
In the opening address Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer described in detail the various aspects of the Bohra reform movement. He said that the reform movement in the Dawoodi Bohra community started at beginning of 20th century on the issue of modern secular education. more
Fighting on
At the KC College public meeting (last month), they came with black masks. On Saturday (March 4, 2000), at the Kalina campus, though their faces were uncovered, they refused to give their full names. Yet, it is their steadfastness that keeps the Bohra Reformist movement alive. more
Dai and his qualifications
It is generally believed that a Da'i is as infallible as an Imam. Such a belief is certainly wrong. As far as the Ismaili beliefs go, there is no such belief about the infallibility of a Da'i. Only an Imam after Nabi and Wasi is believed to be infallible. more
The clergy and the courts
It is amazing that the clergy of a microscopic sectarian community should have fought numerous legal battles with its followers. These legal battles reveal the clergy's sense of insecurity, its greed and its desperation to find legal sanction for its astounding claims to absolute authority. more
Doctrine of infallibility in Islamili tradition
There is great deal of misconception about the doctrine of 'ismah (infallibility) and its precise meaning among the Isma'ilis, in general, and among the Dawoodi Bohras, in particular. The doctrine of 'ismah i.e. infallibility applies only to the Prophet in Sunni Islam and to the Prophet, his legatee (wasi) and imams in Shi'ah Islam. more
Challenge to sole-trusteeship is most hurting
Prior to late Syedna Taher Saifuddin the Bohra Dais were humble and poor. But he was different. As soon as he occupied the official seat of the Dai he started scheming to take absolute control over the trust properties and the trust funds of the Bohra Community. more
Reformists and their religious beliefs
It is often maintained by the Bohra priesthood and their orthodox followers that the reformists have gone astray and in some extreme cases some orthodox fanatics even maintain that the reformists have abandoned their religion. Is it really so? more
Dawoodi Bohras' world of secrecy
The Bohra Community faithfuls have for years been suffocating in oppressive activities under the guise of religious piousness, The Concord regrets to reveal today. The world of the Bohra community under the leadership of his Holiness Sayedna Mohammed Burhanuddin is both intriguing as it is amazing. From untold suffering, merciless vilification to outright extortion of its members, the list is endless. more
Code of conduct for the Dai
The Fatimid Khalifas have on various occasions declared that they are ordained to protect the Shariat. They were not Sahib-al-Shariat, and did not have the authority to make Shariat. Hence, what must one think of a Dai claiming to be over and above the Imams. more
Misaq or the oath of allegiance
One of the most serious complaints made by the reformers is that Misaq or sacred oath which is being administered to young Bohras by the high priest himself in a few cases and by the Amils or sub-Amils (who are representatives or deputies of Sayedna Saheb) in others, is the main instrument of their persecution. more
Bohras in Kenya - blessed with special attention
In the Kenyan coastal town of Mombasa, some 3,000 Bohras live - mostly of the orthodox group. In common with the Bohras elsewhere, they are a persecuted lot. However, compared with their counterparts in India, East African Bohras seem to have fallen into the priesthood's trap far more easily. more
Canadian Senate foils Sayedna's plans - Part 2
In 1992 Sayedna's attempt to become the sole owner of Bohra community's property in Canada (Bill S-13) was defeated by the Canadian Senate. Here we re-produce a petition sent by a Canadian progressive Bohra to Senator Corbin urging him to argue against Bill S-13. more
Canadian Senate foils Sayedna's plans - Part 1
In summer 1992, a notice by the Clerk of the Canadian Senate appeared in various Canadian Newspapers advising the citizens that the Sayedna had petitioned to the Senate to pass an Act (Bill S-13) to incorporate the Dai al-Mutlaq as a corporation sole in Canada. more
When Sayedna finally came to Udaipur
The visit of Sayedna Muhammad Burhanuddin to Udaipur in March 1999 was a milestone for the Bohra reform movement for reasons more than one. The Kothar has tried every trick up its sleeve to break the reform movement specially in Udaipur. more
Recommendations of the Nathwani Commission
The Nathwani Commission Report was published in 1979 highlighting violation of human rights of Bohras. Hundreds of people deposed before the commission and gave testimony to the cruel and callous behaviour of the Bohra priesthood. The following is a chapter from the report. more
The wretched of the Bohra commumity
The Bohra community at present is passing through a period of turmoil. (It was true in the early 80s when the book was written as it is now in the late 90s.) Many members of this community, especially those who have taken part in the rebellion against the authoritarian Bohra priesthood, are undergoing intense suffering and mental torture. more
The issues in the Bohra reform movement
Many questions often arise about the aims and objects of the Bohra reform movement. Some even go to the extent of saying that there are contradictory views and confusion. more
Reform and social change among Bohras - Part 2
The Bohra reform movement, as emphasized, earlier, is mainly directed against misuse of religion and religious authority and not at reforming the basic doctrines of the Shia Ismaili faith, much less reforming the religion out of existence. more
Reform and social change among Bohras - Part 1
Change is always painful, especially if what involved is faith, intellectual beliefs and traditions. One more aggravating factor is added if the group happens to be closely-knit and dominated by a religious hierarchy with the pretensions of being the sole-interpreter of the tradition and faith. more
Baraat: A cruel system of excommunication
There is no concept of baraat in the Qur'an or Hadith. Islam has never resorted to declaring social boycott against anyone. On the contrary it was the holy prophet who was subjected to social boycott by the kafirs of Mecca. more
Whither Bohra reform movement?
The bohra reform movement has been going on for more than two decades in its new phase. It gathered momentum when people in Udaipur revolted against the tyranny of Sayedna's establishment. more
The problems of the Bohra community
Modernisation and change has brought many problems in its wake. The change is hardly ever smooth though we often like it to be one. Many religious communities have gone or have been going through turmoil in this process of modernisation and change. more
Violations of rights: The Bohra case
The concept of perfect democracy can rarely be achieved in practice. In fact if perfect form of democracy could be realised in practice the concept of religious or linguistic minority-majority also would be superfluous. Many scholars argue that in democracy there could be nothing like religious minority or majority, but only political minority or majority. more
Sir Adamji Peerbhoy Sanatorium case
The Bohra clergy's animosity with Sir Adamji Peerbhoy is well known. But community will soon know the outcome of this animosity. The clergy has committed several crimes in order to wipe out Sir Adamji's name from his charity known as Sir Adamji Peerbhoy Sanatorium. more
Udaipur masjid case
The Udaipur masjid case has been pivotal for reformists to keep their fight alive and relevant against the Kothar. Here's a brief history and background of the landmark case. more
Udaipur masjid case judgement: A comment
The judgement delivered on 16th January, 1992 by the Rajasthan High Court on appeal by the reformist Bohras against the judgement given by the district court of Udaipur is significant in many respects. more
The Bohras: Religion and spirituality
The Bohras are convert from Hinduism to the Shi'ah Isma'ili sect of Islam. The conversion took place mainly in the twelfth century A.D. in Gujrat in India. more