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Dawoodi Bohra community
Dawoodi Bohras: A closely-knit community of entrepreneurs
Mohammed Wajihuddin, Madhavi Rajadhyaksha: TNN
Mumbai: Dawoodi Bohras are a sub-sect of Ismaili Shias based mostly in India, scattered across the western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. The word ‘Bohra’ itself is derived from Gujarati ‘vehwhar’, meaning trade. Little wonder then that most Bohras speak Gujarati and are successful traders and entrepreneurs.
While it is difficult to put an exact estimate to the size of the Dawoodi Bohra community in the country, Raghib Qureshi, a spokesperson for the community, estimates there are roughly five lakh Dawoodi Bohras across India, nearly 1.25 lakh of whom are based in Mumbai. “They were traditionally businessmen who dealt in glass and hardware. But the community has diversified significantly in recent times. Many Dawoodi Bohra members are now into IT, chemicals and electronics too,” he told TOI.
Dawoodi Bohra men wear a traditional white threepiece outfit and a white gold cap, while the women wear the rida, a distinctive form of the burkha. It’s different from the common veil in that it can be coloured and with patterns. The spiritual head of the Dawoodi Bohra community is called Al-Dai-al-Mutlaq (summoner with comprehensive authority). A closely-knit community, Dawoodi Bohras seek advice from the Al-Daial-Mutlaq in all matters spiritual and temporal.
Historically, the community goes back a long way. After Prophet Muhammad’s death in 632, a dispute arose over his succession. While the Prophet’s close companion Abu Bakr was declared the first caliph, a section of Muslims felt the Prophet’s successor should have been Hazrat Ali as he was from Ahl-ul-bait (Prophet’s bloodline). Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, was eventually made the fourth caliph, but the Shiat-e- Ali (followers of Ali later called Shias) felt the Caliphate was not the right order of succession and followed the Imamate, Hazrat Ali being their first imam. Those who believed in the Caliphate were called Sunnis. The Shias further split after the death of the sixth imam, Imam Jaffer Sadiq. One group followed Imam Muse Kazim till Imam Mahdi who, they believe is in occultation (ghaibat). For this group of Shias, the imamate stopped at the 12th imam.
The other group of Shias followed Hazrat Ismail as their seventh Imam and were called Ismaili Shias. The Dawoodi Bohras believe that the 20th Imam, Mansur Al-Amir, instructed his grand emissary Syeda Arwa Binte Ahmad to establish the office of the Al-Dai-al-Mutlaq. The Al-Dai-al-Mutlaq who is the representative of the Imam enjoys full authority to govern the Dawoodi Bohra community and choose his successor. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin was the 52nd Al-Dai-al-Mutlaq. He anointed his second son Syedna Muffadal Saifuddin as his heir-apparent, making him the 53rd Al-Dai-al Mutlaq.
Female genital mutilation
The Times of India, May 08 2016
Rival Syedna denounces female genital mutilation, kindles hope
At a time when women from the Dawoodi Bohra community have been rallying support against female genital mutilation (FGM), hoping to get authorities to ban this centuries-old practice that young girls of the Shia Muslim sect are still made to undergo, they may have found an ear. Rival Syedna Taher Fakhruddin on Saturday issued a statement exclusively to TOI condemning FGM and calling it “an un-Islamic and horrific practice.“
The rival Syedna's office stated that he was forced to take a public stand after several women from the community brought their plight to his notice, and the trauma young girls undergo when circumcision is carried out in an “irregular and im proper fashion“. Taher Fakhruddin is a claimant to the position of 54th Da'i al-Mutlaq of the Dawoodi Bohras.
Recently an audio clip of the 53rd Da'i al-Mutlaq or the current Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin's sermon at the Saifee Masjid where he made indirect references to the act of khatna and urged people to continue with the act was heavily circulated and discussed within the community . But Syedna Saifuddin's office remained unavailable for comment. In his statement, the rival Sy edna says, “In view of the trauma that many girls undergo when this procedure is carried out, and in keeping with the law of the land, khafz (khatna) of girls should only be allowed after they attain legal adulthood, after which they are free to make their individual decision whether to do the medically , legally and religiously sanctioned CDH or CHR procedures (analogous to khafz).“
He also claims that CDH (clitoral de-hooding) or CHR (clitoral hood reduction) are procedures that are “in line with the faith tradition which says that if the procedure is done, it should not be done when the girl is a minor.“
Clinically , clitoral de-hooding, is a minor genital surgical procedure to remove excess prepuce tissue or reduce the skin overhanging the clitoris to heighten sexual experience. This theory contradicts the rationale offered by those in favour of FGM who describe it as a means to curb sexual desire .
“The Syedna was concerned because this issue is affecting the community , the children and people's faith in tradition. He wanted to put things in perspective in order to protect the girl child and maintain the sanctity of the faith, both while keeping in mind the law of the land,“ explained Abdeali Qutbuddin, brother of Syedna Taher Fakhruddin.