Borhras and reform
Dawoodi Bohras - Borhras and reform

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.

Nikah is not valid without: 1) the clear consent of bride, 2) consent of her Wali (father, grandfather or relative) and 3) two witnesses. Shari'ah is practical and easy to follow. For Nikah, the consent of the bride is most important. There is absolutely no need to take permission (raza) of any Imam, Dai, Amil or religious priest or even of the Prophet. Any Muslim man or woman knowledgeable of Shari'ah can perform the Nikah.

In the context of reformists, the fist historic mass marriage was organised on the 16th of March 1975 in Udaipur in which more than 100 couples were wedded. More than 50,000 people from all over the world took part in the Nikah and the wedding ceremony. Nikah were performed by Bohra, Sunni and Shia Kazis and were reported world-wide. The Nikah were solemnised without the raza of the Dawoodi Bohra Dai, Syedna Burhanuddin Saheb.

As expected, the Dai declared the Nikah void and claimed that the children born out of such wedlock would be physically and mentally handicapped. His claim proved baseless as the children born out of 1975 wedlock are today 30 to 35 years old and they are physically and mentally absolutely fit and fine.

The question now is whether Dai's or his Amils' permission (raza) is obligatory for the validity of Nikah? How much truth is there in such a claim?

In the history of the Dawoodi Bohra Community several Nikah were performed at the hands of non-Bohra Muslim Kazis and ordinary Bohras. But the first such Nikah recorded in 1937 was that of Sadiq Ali Gulam Husain Lenwala performed in Karachi by Sunni Muslim Kazi, Maulana Mohammad Sadiq and was opposed by the Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb, because he was one who harshly imposed the draconian practices of Raza, Misaq and Jamatkharij which meant withholding or denying marriages and burials. Such a thing was unthinkable in the times of earlier Dais. When late Syedna Saheb opposed such Nikah, the Dawoodi Bohra Ulemas who were well-versed in Shari'ah laws wrote extensively informing the community members about the doctrines of Ismaili Shari'ah. Once the truth was known several court cases were filed against late Syedna Saheb's administration.

The present-day Dawoodi Bohra generation is totally brainwashed and is unaware of Shari'ah laws and our Dawoodi Bohra history. So let's examine the issue of Nikah once again. To know and understand the proper Ismaili Shari'ah laws we have the Qur'an and the books of Ismaili faith like Ikhwanus-Safa, Rahatul Aql, Da'aim-ul-Islam, Majalis-e-Moiyyadiyah, Kitabul-Fiqah etc. in front of us.

These authentic books of our faith clearly state that the constitution of our community is the same as it was delivered by the holy Prophet Mohammed of Islam which was revealed to him by Allah through wah-yi and which later developed on the traditions (Hadise-Saqlen) of the holy Prophet. Imam Muhammad Baqir and Imam Jafar–as-Sadiq formulated the Ismaili Shari'ah based on the doctrines of the Qur'an, traditions of the holy Prophet and the practices of Ahle-Byte.

In the light of these sources and traditions let us ask these questions:

  1. Whether the raza of Dai or his Amils is required for Nikha?
  2. Whether Nikah solemnised by Muslims other than those persons appointed by the Dai is valid according to our Shari'ah?

First let us examine what the Qur'an says in this regard: In the second verse of Sura An-Nisaa after instructing not to usurp the property of orphans and widows, in the third verse men are asked to marry one or two or three or four women with the condition that they will not do any injustice with any one of their wives.

The verse 221 of Sura Baqarah and Sura Al-Mumtahan instruct not to marry the non-believers and idol-worshippers. The verse two to three of Sura Annoor instructs not to marry adulterers. The verse 222 to 242 of Sura Baqarah describes the laws of divorce. Islam advocates Muslims to live a married life and prohibits unmarried life.

Sura An-Noor verse 32 states: Wa ankihal - ayyamaa minkum wassaalihina min ibaadikum wa imaa-ikum: inyyakunu fuqaraa - a yugnihimullaahu min fazlih: wallaahu Waasi -un-Alim. This means: And marry such of you as are solitary and pious of your slaves and maid-servants. If they be poor, Allah will enrich them of His bounty. Allah is of ample means, be aware.

The Qur'an thus makes it obligatory on the leaders of society or community to provide facilities so that, rich or poor, no one remains unmarried. But it is unfortunate that in our Bohra community those who are supposed to be well-versed in the Quran and Shari'ah laws put hurdles (of raza, beard, dress code, payment of wajebat, sabeel, salaam etc.) in the path of those who want to get married. They are the ones who are violating Allah's commandments.

Now let us examine what the traditions and practices of the Prophet show us about Nikah: In Sura An-'Aam verse 50 Allah even instructs His Prophet, Qul-laa aqulu lakum indi khazaa-inul-laahi wa laa aqulu a - lamul-gayba wa laa aqulu lakum inni malak. In attabi-u illaa maa yuhhaa ilay. Qul hal yastaiwil-a-maal-wal-baseer. Afalaa tata-fak-karoon. Meaning, "Say ( O Mohammad): I say not unto you (that) I possess the treasures of Allah, nor that I have knowledge of the Unseen (Gayba); and I say not unto you: Lo! I am an angle. I follow only that which is inspired in me. Say: Are you the blind man and seer equal? Will ye not then take thought?

Aana Basharun Mislekum.That is, I am a human just like you except that Allah has chosen me His Messenger to warn you. Sura Saad verse 70 Annamaa ana Nazirum-mubeen - I am only a plain Warner. That means my job is only to warn you - I have no other power other than that.

Now examine the claims of absolute authority made by 51st and 52nd Dais. As against Allah and the Prophet's authority, they don't just warn Bohras but impose harsh and inhuman punishments on persons defying their dictates.


Now let us examine what the books of our faith say about raza and Nikah:An incident is reported in the book Mukhtasarul-Aasaar: Once the holy Prophet Mohammad heard the sound of a band being played in the house of Abu Zurayak tribe. When he was informed that a marriage function was going on, he said, "Toady they have perfected their faith. This is Nikah not Sifah (debauchery)".

Further it is reported that whenever the holy Prophet was informed that so and so of his companions got married, the Allah's messenger used to say, "His faith has been perfected."

These incidents clearly establish that for Nikah, raza of even the Prophet was not required. Then where is the question of Imam or Dai or Amil's raza? The second volume of Da'aim-ul-Islam, giving references of these practices of the Prophet, states that Eza ukhra annaa ardan min ashaabehi tazawwuz....., which means, "After the marriage was over when the Prophet came to know......" That proves beyond any doubt that in the time of the holy Prophet the concept of raza was unthinkable, because otherwise the Prophet would have definitely ordered his companions to take his raza, permission before solemnising any marriage.

It was late Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb who for the first time in Bohra history made Dai’s raza compulsory before carrying on any religious or worldly activity. There was no such practice in the times of Dais prior to him.

In regards to the role of wali, Da'aim-ul-Islam refers to the 25th verse of Sura An-Nisaa - Fa ankehu hunna be izne ahlehinna - and says that according to this mandate of Allah whenever one wants to marry a woman he should first take the permission her Wali. Therefore Shari'ah makes the raza of bride and her wali obligatory and not the raza of Dai or Amil.

According to Da'aim-ul-Islam: The Messenger of Allah, Hazrat Ali ibne Abi Talib and Imam Jafer as-Sadiq have specified that for a Nikah to be valid three things are necessary:

  1. Acceptance of would-be bride
  2. Acceptance of her Waali
  3. Witness of two male adult Muslims

Nikah will be void if these conditions are not met. Therefore the Nikah performed without Syedna or Amil's raza is perfectly valid as per Shari'ah. Those who insist on raza and create hurdles and declare it invalid are against Shari'ah.