About the Dawoodi Bohras

Introduction

Dawoodi Bohra Muslims trace their heritage to the Fatimi Imams, direct descendants of the Prophet Mohammed, in Egypt. The Dawoodi Bohras throughout the world are guided by their leader known as the al-dai al-mutlaq (unrestricted missionary), who first operated from Yemen and then, for the last 450 years, from India.

The present leader is the 53rd al-Dai al-Mutlaq, His Holiness Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin. Syedna Saifuddin assumed office in January 2014, succeeding his father and predecessor, the 52nd al-Dai al-Mutlaq, His Holiness Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin.

The Dawoodi Bohras today are generally highly educated, thriving business people and qualified professionals in numerous fields. Aggregating to around 1 million members, the Dawoodi Bohras have settled in over 40 countries across the globe to practice their faith and lead meaningful and prosperous lives. Most Dawoodi Bohra community members live in India with large congregations also in Pakistan, Yemen, East Africa, and the Middle East as well as growing populations in Europe, North America, South East Asia and Australia.

The Dawoodi Bohras are united by a set of centuries old principles; an unwavering commitment to the faith, a genuine love for the countries in which they live, a belief in the value of society, education, women’s empowerment, engagement with other faiths, physical health and well-being, and a responsibility to care for the environment and all creatures that dwell within it. Bohras have always been loyal and law-abiding citizens wherever they live. They have maintained cordial relations with all manner of governments with an aim of fostering harmony and goodwill. From Mughal emperors to the British Raj as well as with modern day political parties, the dais have looked for common ground on which to lay the foundations for mutual understanding that can lead to betterment for all.

The Bohras’ unique blend of religiosity and modernity along with the way they contribute positively towards the development and prosperity of the places they live in gives them a special place wherever they may reside.

Faith

The foundation of the Dawoodi Bohra faith is based on peace, love and humanity. The Dawoodi Bohras follow the Fatimi Ismaili Tayyibi school of thought. Their faith is based on the belief in one deity; Allah Taʿala, in the Holy Quran as the word of Allah and in the sacred mission of the Prophets and their successors. They worship Allah for salvation in the hereafter by following the pillars of Islam and adhering to religious practices ordained by the sharia including reciting the Quran, the five daily prayers and fasting during the month of Ramadan.

It is a core belief of the Dawoodi Bohras to adhere to the imam of the time who is the righteous legatee of the prophet. When the imam chooses to seclude himself and retire from public view, his office is occupied by the al-dai al-mutlaq who, like the imam, preserves and protects the faith until his return. The Dawoodi Bohras follow the advice and pronouncements of the dai with unwavering devotion and attend to his call of living a life of piety, peace and harmony.

Belief in the ahl al-bayt (members of the Prophet Mohammed’s household) as the rightful successors of the Prophet and as guides of mankind is central to the faith of the Dawoodi Bohras. Their traditions, in common with all Shia muslims, proclaim that Mohammed was succeeded by his legatee, Ali bin Abi Talib, who explained and interpreted the revelation received by Prophet Mohammed. Imam Ali bin Abi Talib in turn chose his sons Imam Hasan and Husain as the first two imams to continue guiding the community of believers.

An integral article of the Dawoodi Bohra faith is that an imam descended from the Prophet through his grandson, Imam Husain, always exists on earth to continue the mission of guiding mankind. Son succeeding father, the imam, like the prophet, is believed to be sinless, inerrant, immaculate and sacred, the repository of prophetic knowledge and the final interpreter of religion.

Heritage

The foundation of the Dawoodi Bohra faith is based on peace, love and humanity. The Dawoodi Bohras follow the Fatimi Ismaili Tayyibi school of thought. Their faith is based on the belief in one deity; Allah Taʿala, in the Holy Quran as the word of Allah and in the sacred mission of the Prophets and their successors.

They worship Allah for salvation in the hereafter by following the pillars of Islam and adhering to religious practices ordained by the sharia including reciting the Quran, the five daily prayers and fasting during the month of Ramadan.

It is a core belief of the Dawoodi Bohras to adhere to the imam of the time who is the righteous legatee of the prophet. When the imam chooses to seclude himself and retire from public view, his office is occupied by the al-dai al-mutlaq who, like the imam, preserves and protects the faith until his return. The Dawoodi Bohras follow the advice and pronouncements of the dai with unwavering devotion and attend to his call of living a life of piety, peace and harmony.

Belief in the ahl al-bayt (members of the Prophet Mohammed’s household) as the rightful successors of the Prophet and as guides of mankind is central to the faith of the Dawoodi Bohras. Their traditions, in common with all Shia muslims, proclaim that Mohammed was succeeded by his legatee, Ali bin Abi Talib, who explained and interpreted the revelation received by Prophet Mohammed. Imam Ali bin Abi Talib in turn chose his sons Imam Hasan and Husain as the first two imams to continue guiding the community of believers.

An integral article of the Dawoodi Bohra faith is that an imam descended from the Prophet through his grandson, Imam Husain, always exists on earth to continue the mission of guiding mankind. Son succeeding father, the imam, like the prophet, is believed to be sinless, inerrant, immaculate and sacred, the repository of prophetic knowledge and the final interpreter of religion.

Office of the Al-Dai Al-Mutlaq

The foundation of the Dawoodi Bohra faith is based on peace, love and humanity. The Dawoodi Bohras follow the Fatimi Ismaili Tayyibi school of thought. Their faith is based on the belief in one deity; Allah Taʿala, in the Holy Quran as the word of Allah and in the sacred mission of the Prophets and their successors.

They worship Allah for salvation in the hereafter by following the pillars of Islam and adhering to religious practices ordained by the sharia including reciting the Quran, the five daily prayers and fasting during the month of Ramadan.

It is a core belief of the Dawoodi Bohras to adhere to the imam of the time who is the righteous legatee of the prophet. When the imam chooses to seclude himself and retire from public view, his office is occupied by the al-dai al-mutlaq who, like the imam, preserves and protects the faith until his return. The Dawoodi Bohras follow the advice and pronouncements of the dai with unwavering devotion and attend to his call of living a life of piety, peace and harmony.

Belief in the ahl al-bayt (members of the Prophet Mohammed’s household) as the rightful successors of the Prophet and as guides of mankind is central to the faith of the Dawoodi Bohras. Their traditions, in common with all Shia muslims, proclaim that Mohammed was succeeded by his legatee, Ali bin Abi Talib, who explained and interpreted the revelation received by Prophet Mohammed. Imam Ali bin Abi Talib in turn chose his sons Imam Hasan and Husain as the first two imams to continue guiding the community of believers.

An integral article of the Dawoodi Bohra faith is that an imam descended from the Prophet through his grandson, Imam Husain, always exists on earth to continue the mission of guiding mankind. Son succeeding father, the imam, like the prophet, is believed to be sinless, inerrant, immaculate and sacred, the repository of prophetic knowledge and the final interpreter of religion.

Culture & Traditions

Language

A unique cultural hallmark of the worldwide Dawoodi Bohra community is its distinctive language, Lisan al-Dawat. It is a language that combines elements of Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Gujarati, which began to emerge about a millennium ago, when the Dawat (mission) originally came to Gujarat, India through missionaries of the Fatimid Imams. In keeping with the community’s philosophy of blending venerated traditions with modern innovations, Lisan al-Dawat is a language that preserves the Dawoodi Bohras’ cultural and spiritual roots while continually evolving with the needs of the age.

Lisan al-Dawat takes its basic syntax and structure from the Gujarati language, but its script and a substantial part of its vocabulary consist of Arabic words. These elements give it an Islamic dimension that has facilitated the transmission of Quranic values and Fatimid heritage. For the community, it is a medium that enables it to articulate its Islamic roots while simultaneously serving as a link to its Indian heritage. Arabic continues to be the community’s lingua franca for religious scholarship and literature, but Lisan al-Dawat is its language in sermons as well as discourses and the medium of both official and day-to-day communication.

Dress

The Dawoodi Bohras are proud of their culinary reputation. Joining each other for meals is a particularly well known Bohra custom and therefore they have a unique system of communal eating in groups of eight or nine people seated around a thāl or a particularly large metal plate.

Each course of the meal is served for the people around the thal to share. The custom strengthens the family unit and the sense of solidarity between the people eating together. Traditional Bohra meals are often shared with local friends and neighbours while imparting a multi faith message of unity and peace.

Cuisine

A unique cultural hallmark of the worldwide Dawoodi Bohra community is its distinctive language, Lisan al-Dawat. It is a language that combines elements of Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Gujarati, which began to emerge about a millennium ago, when the Dawat (mission) originally came to Gujarat, India through missionaries of the Fatimid Imams. In keeping with the community’s philosophy of blending venerated traditions with modern innovations, Lisan al-Dawat is a language that preserves the Dawoodi Bohras’ cultural and spiritual roots while continually evolving with the needs of the age.

Lisan al-Dawat takes its basic syntax and structure from the Gujarati language, but its script and a substantial part of its vocabulary consist of Arabic words. These elements give it an Islamic dimension that has facilitated the transmission of Quranic values and Fatimid heritage. For the community, it is a medium that enables it to articulate its Islamic roots while simultaneously serving as a link to its Indian heritage. Arabic continues to be the community’s lingua franca for religious scholarship and literature, but Lisan al-Dawat is its language in sermons as well as discourses and the medium of both official and day-to-day communication.

Trade and Business

The Dawoodi Bohras are proud of their culinary reputation. Joining each other for meals is a particularly well known Bohra custom and therefore they have a unique system of communal eating in groups of eight or nine people seated around a thāl or a particularly large metal plate.

Each course of the meal is served for the people around the thal to share. The custom strengthens the family unit and the sense of solidarity between the people eating together. Traditional Bohra meals are often shared with local friends and neighbours while imparting a multi faith message of unity and peace.

Majlis (Congregations)

A unique cultural hallmark of the worldwide Dawoodi Bohra community is its distinctive language, Lisan al-Dawat. It is a language that combines elements of Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Gujarati, which began to emerge about a millennium ago, when the Dawat (mission) originally came to Gujarat, India through missionaries of the Fatimid Imams. In keeping with the community’s philosophy of blending venerated traditions with modern innovations, Lisan al-Dawat is a language that preserves the Dawoodi Bohras’ cultural and spiritual roots while continually evolving with the needs of the age.

Lisan al-Dawat takes its basic syntax and structure from the Gujarati language, but its script and a substantial part of its vocabulary consist of Arabic words. These elements give it an Islamic dimension that has facilitated the transmission of Quranic values and Fatimid heritage. For the community, it is a medium that enables it to articulate its Islamic roots while simultaneously serving as a link to its Indian heritage. Arabic continues to be the community’s lingua franca for religious scholarship and literature, but Lisan al-Dawat is its language in sermons as well as discourses and the medium of both official and day-to-day communication.

Ziyarat (Pilgrimage)

The Dawoodi Bohras are proud of their culinary reputation. Joining each other for meals is a particularly well known Bohra custom and therefore they have a unique system of communal eating in groups of eight or nine people seated around a thāl or a particularly large metal plate.

Each course of the meal is served for the people around the thal to share. The custom strengthens the family unit and the sense of solidarity between the people eating together. Traditional Bohra meals are often shared with local friends and neighbours while imparting a multi faith message of unity and peace.