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The Prophet Mohammed states: ‘The pursuit of knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim man and woman.’ He also states that: ‘There are four things obligated upon every intelligent and sensible person in my community; attentively listening to knowledge, retaining it, acting in accordance with it and disseminating it.’
In addition to being a source of enlightenment for the intellect and nourishment for the soul, the Prophetic tradition mandates that education must necessarily be coupled with action. In an address delivered during the centenary celebrations of Aligarh Muslim University, the Chancellor of the institute, His Holiness Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin stated: ‘The very purpose of education within the Islamic tradition is to put what one knows into practice and derive innovative solutions to local and global challenges, thereby benefiting the societies within which we live. An education which one does not put into practice and with which one does not benefit others is not an education at all.’
The Fatimi imams from the Prophet’s progeny and their representatives the duat mutlaqin, leaders of the Dawoodi Bohra community, have expended great effort to ensure that this Islamic legacy of learning and education continues to flourish throughout the ages. The educational institutes established by the Fatimi imams and their enduring philosophy of safeguarding the time tested old and embracing the beneficial new, are embodied in the numerous educational institutes of the Dawoodi Bohra community today. These institutes aspire not just to transfer knowledge but to transform students into intelligent, cultured, faithful, responsible and upstanding members of society. As a result, Dawoodi Bohras are generally well educated and accomplished in a wide variety of fields. They understand that the pursuit of knowledge is a lifelong journey and make the most of every opportunity to keep learning as a means of individual and collective growth, betterment and progress while inspiring and facilitating those who lack the means to do the same.
The community runs hundreds of educational institutes across the world catering to students from every age group. A shared ethos of effectively synthesising tradition with modernity binds these various institutions of learning in a cohesive approach defined by the guiding words of Imam Ahmed al-Mastur who states: ‘It befits our brethren, may Allah give them strength, to not despise any field of knowledge, or shun a particular book, or bear prejudice towards a certain faith. Indeed our philosophy and our faith encompass all faiths and all knowledge.’
The Prophet Mohammed states: ‘Seek treatment, for Allah has not sent down an ailment but He has sent down with it a cure.’ Islam places great emphasis on the need for every individual to safeguard their overall health in order to lead a productive life by fulfilling both religious as well as worldly obligations in the best possible manner.
Fatimi philosophical traditions speak of safeguarding existing health and striving to recover lost health. They provide an extensive blueprint of how good physical, mental and spiritual health can be achieved and maintained through proper diet, religious piety, physical activity, preventative measures as well as medical and pharmaceutical
intervention when needed.
A Quranic verse quotes the Prophet Ibrahim as stating: ‘And when I fall sick, it is He who cures me,’. Drawing inspiration from this, the Dawoodi Bohra community operates numerous hospitals, clinics and medical facilities such as ambulances and paramedic services in towns and cities worldwide, offering quality medical services to all. In rural areas where proper medical facilities are scarce, regular community organised medical camps offer basic examination and check-ups for prevalent conditions as well as free medication.
To inspire healthier living and create awareness about lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease, the community frequently organises free check-up and screening camps, informative seminars, marathons, walks and other sporting events that raise funds for research and treatment.
Among members of the Dawoodi Bohra community, as among Muslim communities across the world, food is considered one of the most venerated of Allah’s blessings. Hosting another for a meal or providing food to others is seen as one of the highest and most noble of deeds. The impetus to feed others stems from an age-old tradition that was enshrined by the forefathers of the Prophet Mohammed and has continued to flourish throughout the history of Islam. The Prophet Mohammed states, ‘There is no deed greater than feeding the hungry.’
The Fatimi Imams, descendants of the Prophet and legatee, were renowned for their generosity and prepared mawaid (platters filled with food) for the masses in celebration of various occasions throughout the year. Most noteworthy among them were the iftar (breaking of fast) meals served during the holy month of Ramadan which culminated in the Eid al-Fitr feast. Simat (also food platters) filled with lavish servings of numerous savoury and sweet dishes were laid out for all to come and partake of, irrespective of social or financial standing.
Drawing inspiration from and continuing these traditions, the 52nd al-Dai al-Mutlaq Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin initiated the ‘Faiz al-Mawaid al-Burhaniyah’ (FMB) programme in 2011. This initiative established community kitchens in the towns and cities where Dawoodi Bohras reside, with the primary aim of providing at least one wholesome and nutritious meal a day to every community household.
FMB has expanded to include numerous sustained efforts to provide food to the hungry and impoverished as well as aid and relief supplies during times of need. In collaboration with its sister initiative known as Dana Committee, which aims to eliminate food loss and waste by ensuring that every single dana (grain) is accounted for, FMB continues
to work towards the United Nations’ sustainable development goal of ensuring food security for all and a world without hunger.
Islam greatly emphasises the environmental responsibility that falls upon every Muslim. From the Prophetic tradition that exalts cleanliness as integral to faith, to the civic tenets of the sharia that forbid polluting water sources and the unnecessary felling of trees, Islam inspires an outlook that is truly comprehensive vis a vis its emphasis on conservation. The Prophet Mohammed states: ‘All of Creation is a family dependent upon Allah, the most beloved to Him, therefore, is the one who benefits His family the most.’
The Bohra community has long advocated for environmental responsibility and conservation. The bounties of nature are gifts from the Almighty and safeguarding those bounties for future generations is considered a responsibility that falls upon every individual. The community’s environmental awareness arm, Burhani Foundation (India), has actively undertaken initiatives towards a greener, cleaner world since its inception in 1992. The foundation seeks to address all forms of environmental concerns from tree plantation drives to cleanup activities to wildlife conservation exercises.
With the world’s oceans increasingly coming under the grip of plastic pollution, there is an immediate need for individuals and collectives across the globe to join forces in this fight against plastic pollution. Realising this urgent need for action, the Bohra community joined forces with UN Champion of the Earth, Advocate Afroz Shah in implementing a water body cleanup movement titled ‘Turning the Tide’ against plastic pollution.
The Prophet Mohammed states: ‘In the shade of the Throne, on the day there is no other shade, will be the man who leaves his home to trade and seek sustenance from Allah’s grace. He does this to prevent himself from asking of others and to provide for his family.’ Within Islamic traditions, business is not seen merely as a worldly and material
occupation but one which inspires faith in the Almighty and instils values such as bravery, trust, perseverance and honesty. It is ultimately an act of religiosity and worship which reaps benefits in both this life and the next.
Business mindedness and entrepreneurialism are defining traits of the Dawoodi Bohra community. The name Bohra itself, which is derived from Gujarati and denotes ‘trader’ or ‘businessman,’ is a testament to this spirit. Through centuries of adherence to the Islamic business code of conduct, diligence, and hard work, the Bohra community’s men and
women have cultivated a reputation for honesty, trustworthiness, and morality among the societies in which they live and work.
One of the fundamental Islamic tenets that governs all commercial pursuits is the complete and absolute eschewal of interest and usury in all its forms. The Dawoodi Bohras diligently adhere to this tenet making certain that their business ventures are free from interest above all. In a modern-day business arena which is pervaded by interest-based practices, this approach is not without substantial challenges, prime among which is access to interest-free capital and loans. In order to provide community members with ready access to interest-free loans and capital, the 52nd leader of the community, His Holiness Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin institutionalised the Islamic practice of giving al-qard al-hasan (the good loan) into a worldwide network of organisations that give out interest-free loans to community members for a variety of purposes.
The community’s Department for Business and Economic Development endeavours to enable existing businesses to grow and flourish in today’s market through counselling and professional consultation. It also aims to facilitate budding entrepreneurs with the necessary tools and guidance to succeed in their ventures.