Borhras and reform
Dawoodi Bohras - Borhras and reform

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.

But of late the powers that be have reinforced the belief that a Da'i is infallible or near infallible. In fact, those who are well conversant with the D'awat-e-Hadiyah literature very well know that in the whole history of the Fatimi D'awat a Da'i was never taken as m'asum (infallible).

Only much later after the seat of the D'awat was transferred to India from Yemen and some dispute arose between the Da'i and one of his likely successors (who in fact claimed to succeed as Da'i) that the doctrine of Da'i being kal-m'asum was invented to save the situation.

Now while inventing this doctrine they were aware that they cannot call a Da'i m'asum as Da'i officiates while Imam is in seclusion and Imam is m'asum so there will be two m'asum at one time which is improper. Therefore another doctrine of kal-m'asum ( i.e. like m'asum, though not m'asum) had to be invented. It is not integral part of Ismai'li belief at all. It is a later invention to suit the circumstances.

Today it has almost become part of our belief that the Da'i is not kal-m'asum but m'asum which is totally uncalled for. We, therefore, would like to throw light on the qualification laid down for a Da'i in the Risalah Al-Mujazah al Kafiyah fi Adab al-Du'at which has been compiled by Syedna Ahmad bin Muhammad Nishapuri.

This Risalah is not available but Syedna Hatim had included it in his celebrated work Tuhfat al-Qulub. So there cannot by any doubt about its authenticity. Also, Syedna Hatim was a Da'i of the period of satr (i.e. when imam is in seclusion ) and the fact that he thought it necessary to include this Risalah on the qualification of a Da'i itself shows that the Da'i must possess all these qualifications even during the period of satr.

It is also obvious that if a Da'i does not possess these qualities he is not fit to be a Da'i. It is of course not possible to recount all the qualities of a Da'i mentioned in the Syedna Ahmad bin Muhammad Nishapuri's Risalah in this short piece but we will mention only the most important ones.

Syedna Hatim says in his Tuhfat al-Qulub that we have included this Risalah at the end of the book so that all Huded i.e. D'awat's office bearers, including Da'i, Ma'dhun and Mukasir should acquaint themselves with these (qualities so that it may act as bridle (zimam).

It will seen that it is an important statement of Syedna Hatim. He wants to act these qualities as bridle for all the hudud of the D'awat. The first important quality mentioned in this respect is the way a Da'i calls people towards the D'awah. In this respect he refers to the Qur'anic verse (16:125) call to the way of the Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in the best manner. Surely thy Lord knows those who go aright. (emphasis added). It will be seen that in this verse the emphasis is on wisdom and goodly exhortation (hikmah and mawazatul hasanah).

This is extremely important qualification for any missionary in the world. You can convince people only with knowledge, wisdom and goodly way of exhortation. Also a missionary must argue, in the best possible manner. It would impress the respondent (i.e. mustajib) and incline him towards accepting the call.

But if the Da'i is harsh, ill-informed and throws tantrums or resorts to coercion, it will put off the respondent. He/she may even reject the call for D'awah. This qualification derived from the holy Qur'an has been laid down in the Risalah because a Da'i has to see that people are attracted towards the D'awah. It is basic function of a Da'i. We should remember that D'awah is not merely an establishment it is a movement a mission in the way of Allah. However, the present set up of the D'awah has become a powerful establishment flush with money.

The Da'i today is not at all accessible. He is more like a feudal monarch rather than a missionary. A monarch enjoys power and is always trying to add to his power whereas a missionary renounces power and arrogance associated with power and displays more and more humility.

The holy Qur'an also strongly denounces istikbar (i.e. arrogance of power). Firan is described by the Qur'an as from amongst the mustakbirin and the holy Prophet is described as da'iilal haq (caller to truth). Our present Da'i hardly behaves as a Da'i, as a missionary. He, therefore does not accepts the Qur'anic way of preaching and convincing the people with wisdom and goodly exhortations nor he argues in the best possible manner.

He, on the other hand, uses coercion like a feudal lord. His whole establishment called the Kothar is a feudal establishment rather than a religious D'awah. Each member of this establishment naturally behaves in a most arrogant way. All of us keep on experiencing it every day.

Syedna Ahmad as reported by Syedna Hatim in his Tuhafat al-Qulub maintains that if a Da'i does not call people by wisdom and goodly exhortations (but through coercion) then it would not be Allah's D'awah but the D'awah of shaitan. These strong words themselves show how necessary for a Da'i it is to use the Qur'anic way of preaching and calling people towards Allah's way.

Syedna Ahmad then goes on to say that one who does not use hikmah and maw'azatul hasanah (i.e. wisdom and goodly exhortation ) cannot be a Da'i at all. He fails to fulfill the most basic qualification of being a Da'i. Then he quotes the Qur'anic verses (33:45-46 ), "O Prophet, surely we have sent thee as a witness and a bearer of good news and warner, and as an inviter to Allah by his permission and as a light giving sun."

Here the Prophet is described as a witness and his Da'i, by this logic, is also a witness and a witness has to be just and trustworthy. Thus a Da'i who is not just (adil) and trustworthy (amin) cannot be fit for being Da'i. And one who cannot give good news for this and the other world (mubasshir) for the righteous through his profound knowledge and so he cannot act as a Da'i at all.

Syedna Ahmad bin Muhammad also draws our attention to one more important aspect: a Da'i who attributes to himself the attributes of God, he is guilty of shirk and is ignorant of tawhid I.e. belief in unity of God. Such a person cannot be fit to be Da'i. We know from our own experience that the preceding and the present Da'is (ie. 51st and 52nd) attributed themselves with attributes of Allah like Qadi al Hajat etc. and make their followers perform sajda-e-ubudiyat before them which is open shirk and hence they cannot be fit to be Da'i as per the Risalah of Syedna Ahmad bin Muhammad Nishapuri.

Further on it is said in the Risalah that one who is incapable of bringing up his followers in the knowledge of theology and knowledge of Allah (ulum-o-maarif) cannot claim to be Da'i. Needless to say, the present hierarchy of Fatimi D'awah calling itself the Kothar is totally unconcerned with such knowledge. It is wallowing in luxury and is preoccupied with accumulation of wealth and inculcating blind belief. Such people can hardly remotely qualify for the august office of Da'i who is summoner to the way of Allah his Prophet and his family (ahl al-bayt).

According to the Risalah under discussion, a Da'i must be properly equipped with three types of siyasat: siyasat-e-khassa, siysat-e-hamma and siyasat-e-amma.

Siyasat-e-khassa is control of one's self. One should abide by all the shariah injunctions, practice what is good and keep away from what is forbidden. One should refrain from evil and should imbibe all that Allah attributes to m'umin in the Qur'an. In fact a Da'i has to be much more than a m'umin as he is to lead all of them along the straight path.

Siyasat-e-hamma is the control over one's own household, one's staff and servants. A Da'i has to see that his staff is properly trained in all the good qualities, is cultured and refined in every way. It should have abiding interest in and knowledge should keep away from lowly things and turpitude of character. It should be exemplary in its behaviour towards others.

The messenger of Allah has also said that one who trains people of his household properly will go to jannah along with them. Thus it behoves a Da'i that he should train people from his household and his staff properly and cultivate interest in knowledge and refine their behaviour. Again we know from our experience how the members of the Kothar behaves with us and how knowledgeable and refined they are. In fact, they are rude and violent towards the m'uminin. Thus ultimately it reflects on the Da'i and his abilities.

Siyasat-e-amma pertains to control of common people. One who is successful in this type of siyasat takes care of common peoples' requirements, their material and spiritual well-being. A successful Da'i should give attention towards cultivating the common people, making them happy and fulfilling their economic needs and refining them spiritually. He should prevent them from what is forbidden by the shariah and induce them to acquire more and more spiritual merits.

One who cannot conduct the affairs of siyasat-e-khassa, souasat-e-hamma and siyasat-e-amma cannot be fit to lead the affairs of D'awah. Then Syedna Ahmad bin Muhammad Nishapuri goes on to enumerate common requirements of a Da'i. He says:

  • A Da'i should be brave, generous, shrewd of sound opinion and capable of leadership.
  • A Da'i should be very just in managing the affairs of his people.
  • A Da'i should be mujahid completely in control of himself, as he is required to lead people in the way of Allah.
  • A Da'i should be like a doctor (tabib) with compassion towards the patient and he should be able to cure their (spiritual ) disease.
  • A Da'i is like a washerman as he removes the dirt of sins from people's soul. Thus he should have expertise of a washerman.
  • A Da'i should be capable of leading his people through darkness of night walking through thick forest since he is like a leader leading people along sirat-e-mustaqim.

It is highly necessary that a Da'i should be merciful and compassionate towards his followers as Allah says in the Qur'an that we have sent into thee (O Prophet) but as mercy for the world. Like the Prophet a Da'i should also be merciful. Allah also describes m'uminin in Qur'an as compassionate among themselves, thou seest them bowing down prostrating themselves seeking Allah's grace and pleasure( 48:29).

When the m'uminin are compassionate among themselves, a Da'i has to be compassionate. A Da'i must follow Allah for his mercy. The Prophet also despite people's refusal to follow him and his persecution at their hands did not give up mercy for them. Punishing others is not a good quality. Allah also does not punish to the fullest extent as the Qur'an says,"If Allah had punished people for their iniquities, no one would have been left on the face of earth, but he respites them till an appointed time" (16:16), thus Allah shows consideration towards sinners and Da'i should also show mercy towards them.

A Da'i according to Syedna Ahmad bin Muhammad Nishapuri, should be generous and not miserly. Allah does not like miserliness and he says that those who are miserly and advise others to be miser and try to hide what Allah has given to them with his grace, we have prepared painful punishment for them. Thus to be miserly is inviting Allah's punishment.

When ordinary man is required not to be miserly what of a Da'i who is to lead others. If a Da'i is miserly his followers will also become miserly and thus the needy and the poor will ultimately suffer. It is incumbent on a Da'i that he should spend generously on the needy and work for their welfare. The Prophet has also said that Allah has not created any Wali but on generosity.

A Da'i should also be truthful and courteous and lenient. If a Da'i is not truthful others will not be and whole system will be affected. Also courtesy and softness is part of one's iman. One must show these qualities. A Da'i should also be of sound opinion and a good administrator. The D'awah cannot be run without sound administration.

A Da'i should also fulfill his word. This too is very important for good behaviour. If a Da'i is found unfaithful to his words, his followers too would refuse to abide by their word and whole system will be corrupted. A Da'i should also be able to keep secrets because of running the system of D'awah through thick and thin one must be able to keep secrets.

It is also necessary for a Da'i that he should not be revengeful, prejudiced and quarrelsome. A respondent, for lack of sound knowledge and experience may be lacking in these qualities but a Da'i has to take care of such situations. A Da'i should also be capable of easily pardoning others.

A Da'i should have a sweet tongue and be highly courteous. He should also be an eloquent speaker, in order to influence others. Also, a Da'i should be very patient and capable of facing acute difficulties. If a Da'i has no patience and looses temper easily, people will run away from him. Thus Allah says in the Qur'an, "And hadst thou (ie. Prophet) been rough, hard-hearted, they would certain have dispersed from around thee. So pardon them and ask protection for them and consult them in (important) matters"(3:158), thus Allah requires his messenger also to be forgiving and patient, not rough and hard-hearted.

A Da'i should be courageous and independent. One who does not show courage in times of hardship and cannot take independent decisions in complex situation cannot be capable of running the affairs of D'awah. It is also necessary for a Da'i to have highest respect for the ulama from different fields of life. He should also be aware of their needs and requirements. He should be a great friend of the ulama. He should spend most of his time with them. It will benefit the Da'i and increase his own knowledge. Allah says in the Qur'an that he raises the status of those who believe and those who have been given knowledge. It is also in the interest of a Da'i to keep away from mischievous elements who can create severe problems for him.

It is also necessary that a Da'i should not be man of worldly temptations as temptation is root of many an evil. It is narrated from Amirul MÅ“minin Maulana Ali (A.S.) that when he was asked what is Din, he replied taqw and when he was further asked what is corruption of Din, he replied tama' (i.e. temptation). Thus a Da'i must keep away from all worldly temptations.

It is also emphasised in the Risalah that the D'awah is for Imamuz Zaman and that the Da'i should not ascribe it to himself. The misaq should also be attributed to Imamuz Zaman, and never to Da'i himself. Then the text of the misaq is given, which goes like this:

He should bind the respondent (mustajib, i.e. one who gives misaq) to belief in Allah, his angels, his apostles, the Prophet, the Imams and the Imamuz Zaman and that he would believe in Islam both manifestly and otherwise. And that he would not reveal the secrets of the faith to those who do not deserve it. And that he would not be untrustworthy to the faithful and that he should befriend those whom Imams befriend and should be hostile to those whom Imam declare hostile and keep away from enemies of Imams. (This was the text of the misaq).

Further Sayedna Ahmad adds, it is expected of the Da'i that he should be easily accessible to the people. He should keep his door open for others and he should not remain hidden from people so that both opponents and supporters can have access to him. If people cannot have access to him they will hate him. It is, therefore, also necessary that his ushers (darbans) should be polite and courteous. They should be pious and friends of m'uminin and should be respectful towards them. If they come at a time when they cannot be ushered in, they should keep talking to them politely until it is time to usher them in.

It is also necessary for a Da'i to do justice to all the believers and protect them from oppressors and tyrants. And if the believers develop differences among themselves he should resolve them in a wise manner. He should not allow the m'uminin to quarrel among themselves.

It is also necessary for a Da'i to take care of his companions. He should go and inquire about his health if one of the companions falls ill or should provide for the wife and children of one who goes out of town for work and when he returns from his travel he should give all his due. These are the things which bring pleasure to the faithful. According to the Hadith of the Prophet the best thing after salat is to put happiness in the mind of a m'umin.

We have recounted above some of the qualifications laid down for a Da'i by Syedna Ahmad bin Muhammad Nishapuri in his Risalah mentioned above and which has been included by Syedna Hatim in his Tuhfat al-Qulub. It will be seen that these qualification are most important for a Da'i if he wants to be successful and if he wants to reach and call people towards Islam.

However, we see that the present Da'i hardly fulfills any of these qualifications. He and his whole set-up negate all these qualifications and precisely for this reason we see today that the community is facing schism. The Da'i and Nizam-e-D'awat are quite indifferent towards the issues raised by the reformists. Had the Da'i fulfilled these qualification there would have been no need for the reform movement.

The reformists want these qualities to be imbibed by the Da'i so that its affairs will become smooth and unity and solidarity of the community will be strengthened. Today the whole machinery of D'awat has become coercive. It's very spirit of simplicity, renunciation, truthfulness, compassion and rectitude has been lost.

It is our wish that Bohras should read this write-up carefully and give a deep thought to it. Deep and sincere reflection is as meritorious as ibaadat. It will restore the community its spiritual health.