Heritage

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The Dawoodi Bohra community have inherited a distinguished heritage and rich historical legacy which traces to the Fatimi imams, direct descendants of the Prophet Mohammed through Imam Ali bin Abi Talib, son in law of the Prophet, and Fatima, daughter of the Prophet and wife of Imam Ali bin Abi Talib.

The Fatimi imams, adopting their name from Fatima, functioned first from Medina, spreading over to North Africa and Egypt in later centuries. During the 10th – 12th centuries, they ruled over large parts of the Islamic world extending from North Africa in the west to as far as Pakistan in the east.

The Fatimi imams of every era protected their community and strengthened the religious traditions established by the Prophet.

They were inspired leaders, great builders and also lofty thinkers, scholars and writers. Their eras saw unrivalled efflorescence of thought, art and culture. Reigning in glory in Egypt, they founded the city of Cairo, started the celebrated centre of learning, al-Azhar University, which is the oldest institution of its kind in the world and wrote into Egyptian history the unforgettable Fatimi era. Their great kingdoms fostered noble traditions of thought and philosophy, produced and guarded the immense wealth of literature, established the resplendent civilisation and pursued the wise way of life.

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The Masjid of Imam al-Hakim bi Amr Allah in Cairo

In 1132, the 21st in the line of the imams chose complete seclusion, and ever since, the imamat continues to be run in a line of succession from father to son.

In 1132, the 21st in the line of the imams chose complete seclusion, and ever since, the imamat continues to be run in a line of succession from father to son. It is through belief in this line of succession that the Dawoodi Bohras are said to belong to the Shia Fatimi Ismaili Tayyibi branch of Islam. Although the imamat is still functional in seclusion, the 20th imam had instructed his grand emissary, Sayyida Arwa bint Ahmed, the queen of Yemen, to establish the office of al-dai al-Mutlaq to represent the imams and lead the faithful.

The origin of the name ‘Dawoodi Bohras’ is interesting. The right of the 27th Dai Syedna Dawood bin Qutubshah to the office of dawa (mission) was contested by a certain Suleman and the dispute assumed serious proportions.

The matter was ultimately submitted to the authority of the Emperor Akbar. He invited Syedna Dawood to Kashmir where the Emperor was encamping and after making necessary investigations, upheld the claim of Syedna Dawood and recognised him as the rightful 27th dai. Akbar’s farman (royal decree) giving this decision is still in the possession of the present Syedna. The followers of Syedna Dawood since began to be called Dawoodi, the term Bohra being a Gujarati word for traders and businessmen.

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