Borhras and reform
Dawoodi Bohras - Borhras and reform

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.

Social boycott of reformists is also a powerful hurdle, which is deliberately resorted to so that truth does not get to other brothers and sisters of the community. It is a firm conviction of the reformists that no one can claim to be religious unless he/she has respect for truth. Allah is repeatedly referred to in the Holy Qur'an as Haq (Truth) i.e. Allah is Truth. Thus unless one practices truth one can be anything but religious.The Kothar, the reformists maintain, resorts to false propaganda to protect its own interests. Kothar thus ceases to be a genuine religious organisation.

The reformists want to practice religion based on the Qur'an as interpreted by Maulana 'Ali (A.S.) and the Imams from his progeny and Du'at al-Haq who rose to great height of learning like Syedna Moayyid Shirazi whom Imam Mustansir described as 'mountain of knowledge'. Syedna Hatim was another giant who wrote several books on Isma'ili religion and interpretation of the Qur'an. The reformists are not only proud of this heritage but also want it to be followed.

Isma'ilis produced great philosophers and religious thinkers. They were known for eminent learning and philosophical reasoning. It is well known that Rasa'il Ikhwanus Safa (Epistles of Brethren of Purity) were written and compiled by the da'is under Imam Husain al-Mastur and they contain encyclopaedic knowledge of subjects like philosophy, rational sciences, mathematics music, spiritual sciences and so on. One could be justly proud of such rich heritage.

However, all this has been totally forgotten today and our young generation is not even aware of such masterful compilations. The Kothar is busy amassing wealth and developing contacts with powers-that-be so that it can wield maximum influence and hold the community in awe of its worldly power. More wealthy our priests become in terms of material wealth, poorer they gets in terms of spiritual faculties. But for a religious person spiritual richness is far more important than material wealth.

In previous era the importance of religious hudud (the whole religious hierarchy consisting of Imam, dai, ma'dhun, mukasir, sheikh and mulla) were based on their religious significance and piety and knowledge and they commanded great respect in the community. Today Kothar gives title of Sheikh or Mulla not on the basis of knowledge and piety but on the basis of material wealth. Piety and spirituality counts no more. Those who are made Sheikhs and Mullas do not have elementary knowledge of religion. They are conferred these titles based on how much money they can pay. What deterioration! Many of them can't even recite the Qur'an, let alone understand it.

Today if one wants to endear oneself to the Kothar, one does not need piety or truthfulness but blind obedience and money. More money you can throw before them, closer you get to them. The Kothar has become so used to luxurious living that it has lost all sensitiveness to sufferings of the poorer sections of the society. The Kothar has become so power-conscious that it felicitated Narendra Modi twice in Surat who has committed such crimes against humanity. He has often been described as murderer of Gujarat, who was severely condemned by India's National Human Rights Commission and he had unleashed his marauding hordes on innocent Muslims, and several hundred Bohras were killed and lost all their properties in the carnage. And Kothar felicitated him. Why? Only to protect its wealth and properties in Gujarat.

Can we then describe the Kothar as being religious in any sense of the word? Yet they claim to be not only religious but true representative of the Fatimi Da'wah. It is for us to reflect how could it be? A truly religious person would never associate himself with perpetrators of violence in such flagrant manner. A religious person has to be peace-loving and avoid any form of violence, even violence of language.

Also, the Qur'an repeatedly declares that Allah is on the side of mustad'ifin (weaker sections), not with rich and powerful. Allah dislikes arrogant and powerful (i.e. mustakbirin). However, our Kothar has reverse priority. It tends to be with mustakbirin and keeps mustad'ifin at a yard's length. Only the rich and the powerful can go near the Kothar. This behaviour is totally un-Qur'anic and inhuman. The Qur'an says that those who rebuke poor and orphans (misin and yatim) Allah's wrath will descend on them.

The reformists want to restore these Qur'anic values and want the Kothar to be humane in its attitude and serve the poor and the weak. Arrogance cannot be the best virtue of a religious person. More religious a person more humble he tends to be. We find anything but humility in the members of the Kothar. The reformists want the Kothar to follow religious injunctions and develop these religious qualities.

Another important virtue of a religious person is honesty and transparency. The reformists want the Kothar to be accountable to the community. They collect crores of rupees every year on various counts. No one knows what happens to all the money. Syedna's family lives in high style which itself is negation of being religious. Humility and simplicity are important virtues. There is great deal of poverty in the community. Why welfare projects are not undertaken for those who live in dire poverty in the community. Thousands in Mumbai itself live in hutments in unspeakable conditions. There are instances of Bohra families living in water pipes by the roadside.

In all this the reformists are mainly using social issues. Their main aim is democratisation of Jama'at affairs and doctrine of accountability being accepted by the Kothar. The Da'i's duty is to guide the community in religious matter and live social and secular matters to the community to manage. The Kothar has, instead, established a firm grip over social and secular affairs of the community and deprived the community of all initiatives. The Bohras have been virtually enslaved. In this era of human and democratic rights such totalitarian regime cannot be accepted.

The reformists, therefore, are working for freer and more democratic functioning of the Jamaat affairs. But reformists are being depicted as ones who have ceased to be Dawoodi Bohras which is false. Unfortunately those who claim to be religious guides resort to such falsehood to retain their grip over the community. We appeal to our Bohra sisters and brothers not to be misled by such false propaganda and communicate with reformist leaders directly for clarification of issues. Reformists have not abandoned a single teaching of their religion. On the contrary, they are reinforcing true religious spirit in the community.