Ever since its inception, the Upliftment movement has functioned under one all-encompassing vision: to elevate and uplift every aspect of a Dawoodi Bohra community member’s life.
The movement draws inspiration from one of the most fundamental teachings of Islam, that a balanced and well-rounded approach to life, which leads to both temporal as well as spiritual growth and advancement, is something each individual should strive for. The term ‘uplift’ itself, specially chosen as an identifier for this movement, is a Quranic reference to the term yarfaʿ and denotes both a physical upward momentum as well as a spiritual and moral rise.
Allah will exalt those who believe among you, and those who have knowledge, to high ranks.
It is the Almighty who elevates and exalts. What the Upliftment movement does, is to rejuvenate faith and belief, facilitate access to knowledge, and inspire positive action in accordance with that knowledge, cementing the groundwork for a holistic uplift.
Describing the exemplary lives of those who successfully managed to strike this balance between material and spiritual existence, Imam Ali bin Abi Talib AS states: ‘they inhabited the earth under the best possible conditions in which it could be inhabited.’ Alluding to the notion that a comfortable and dignified lifestyle should go in tandem with religious piety and morality.
As such, the duʿat (plural of daʿi: spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community) have endeavoured through the ages to make certain that every community member has the motivation, opportunity and support to uplift their own living standards as well as those of their fellow brothers and sisters along with mankind at large. Staying true to the Prophetic tradition: ‘Prefer for others what you prefer for yourself.’
The late His Holiness Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA institutionalised the long-standing upliftment movement into a dedicated department that sees to the various aspects of upliftment throughout the year. His son and successor, His Holiness Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS building upon the legacy of his predecessors initiated a five day annual uplift drive which effectively focuses the resources of the upliftment department in concert with various other departments and the community at large, into a well planned and managed grassroot mobilisation that can achieve impactful and lasting results in a short span of time. Perhaps the most important role of the upliftment department and the uplift movement, is its ability to provide a platform for all the concerned departments and volunteers from the community to channelise their strengths in a synergetic effort capable of bringing about positive change.
The annual Upliftment drive which begins after the commemoration of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin’s RA urs (death anniversary) witnesses a large number of dedicated volunteers mobilising across India, Pakistan and East Africa. Community members from all walks of life and across the world join the cause with great enthusiasm and fervour. In a sense they themselves feel uplifted as a result of taking part in the drive, owing in large part to the understanding instilled by the Prophet Mohammed’s SAW saying: ‘Allah TA will come to the assistance of he who assists his brother.’
Volunteers include regional representatives of His Holiness TUS, teachers and instructors in religious as well as secular subjects, civil servants employed in the various departments of the administration, faculty and students from all four campuses of the community’s principal educational institute Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah and community members from a broad spectrum of professional backgrounds. Each category contributing its varied expertise and experience as well as resources and funding towards a unified approach.
Formulated on the basis of years worth of data, statistics and research the concerned departments map out a feasible trajectory for each aspect of the uplift drive, which is then communicated to the volunteers who see to its implementation.
The formative stage of each year’s drive witnesses a crucial element known as khabargiri (inquiring into another’s wellbeing). Underpinned by the Islamic concept of silat (connecting with loved ones), volunteers go from door to door with a simple agenda. To ask their brothers and sisters how they are doing and what they require, while assuring them of a continued presence and sustained support structure. In a world increasingly characterised by fraying communal bonds and depleting human contact, khabargiri serves to rejuvenate the social fabric of Bohra communities around the world, and in turn, inspire others to follow suit.
Every year, the annual Upliftment drive functions under a predetermined theme which not only sets the tone for the entire drive, but gives insight into the intricate parameters by which assessments are made and upliftment is put into effect. Successively redefining what it means to uplift another and making the drive as inclusive and wholesome as possible, this year a total of 53 aspects will be tended to. These are contained within the broader scope of six general categories which include housing, livelihood, education, nourishment, health and religious matters.
The drive covers a wide range of aspects, from those related to marriage such as counseling, wedding customs and exorbitance in ceremonies, to matters of purity such as the cleanliness of self and environment, the purity of education and principle, along with the responsible use of social media. Issues of practical betterment such as self assessment, reading and research, exercise, nutrition and general self care are also stressed, complementing the comprehensive approach of the drive.