Al-Multaqa al-Fatimi al-ʿIlmi: A Spiritual Revival for the Dawoodi Bohras

The late His Holiness Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin opens the Multaqa al-Fatimi conference at Surat
Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin addresses community members in the Multaqa al-Fatimi conference at Surat.

For the global Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community, the advent of the 15th Islamic century (1979-1980) brought with it a spiritual and cultural renaissance. Key to that revival was the historic al-Multaqa al-Fatimi al-ʿIlmi, a seminal Dawoodi Bohra educational conference presided over by His Holiness Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin that shaped and defined the present-day identity of the community. 

As the turn of the Hijri century drew near, several major Islamic conferences and seminars were held around the world to help Muslims understand how to follow Islamic teachings in the modern-day context. Recognised as a true Islamic leader, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin was invited to speak at several of these conferences, such as the International Islamic Conference held in London during the World of Islam Festival in 1976.

It was against this background of Islamic cultural revival that al-Multaqa al-Fatimi al-ʿIlmi, a landmark gathering unique amongst its kind, was held in Surat at Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah in the Hijri year 1399, or 1978-79, drawing Dawoodi Bohra delegates from around the world. Translated as the “Fatimi Educational Gathering”, its purpose was to bring Dawoodi Bohras closer to their Islamic faith and Fatimi heritage and education. 

For the more than 3,000 community members who attended from all over the world, al-Multaqa was a life-changing event. Bohras resolved to commit to Islamic cultural and ethical principles in all aspects of life, including attire, language, and business ethics, especially the eschewal of interest and participation in Qardan Hasana, or interest-free lending.

The central theme throughout the four-day educational conference was the philosophy of Islam from a Fatimi perspective. Attendees learned about the comprehensiveness of the Islamic sharia and the philosophical and intellectual aspects of Islam, and discussed contemporary social and economic issues through an Islamic lens. 

The purpose of the Islamic sharia, it was elaborated, is to ensure spiritual and physical well-being and prosperity, the greater good of humanity. For Muslims, it is not only a source of spirituality, but a complete constitution for life: encompassing faith, knowledge, acts of worship, lifestyle choices.

Al-Multaqa revitalised the Islamic and Fatimi principles at the heart of the community’s identity and defined the direction it would take in contemporary times—embracing modernity without compromising on the community’s core ethos and values. 

The legacy of al-Multaqa al-Fatimi al-ʿIlmi, inherent in the teachings of His Holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, guides the Dawoodi Bohra community to this day—more than an event, it is a perpetual revival of mind and spirit, as well as a stimulus to come together to benefit the individual, the community and humanity.