The Prophet Mohammed SA has stated that it is obligatory on every Muslim man and Muslim woman to seek knowledge. This obligation is one the Bohras have taken to heart throughout their history.
For Dawoodi Bohras there is no discrimination against any knowledge or any faith. We see ourselves as honey bees – whose aim in life is to take the best that every flower has to offer and reconstitute it as pure and beneficial honey. To that end the Bohras’ core philosophy is to preserve the tried and true from the traditional and amalgamate it with the most beneficial of modern life.
The Bohras’ collective culture and focus on education has meant that in the last century the community’s literacy rate is close to 100%. The proportion of professionals, academics, high achieving businessmen and women is quite considerable.
This has been brought about in no small part particularly due to the efforts of the two da’is of the 20th Century, Dr Syedna Taher Saifuddin RA and Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA who have left a modern day legacy of education and learning – both religious and secular – through the establishment of numerous, community-wide institutions. Their successor, the present Syedna Saifuddin, continues to place great importance on education so that the legacy of learning and education is enhanced further.
One such undertaking addresses the need for basic religious instruction for children. This department, called Attalim, remains the most far reaching and has teaching centres in every town where Dawoodi Bohras live, with full-ﬂedged schools in several of them.
Another is a chain of schools called the MSB Educational Institutes, which provide both secular and religious education from primary to secondary level. There are now 22 such schools in cities all over the world. The children emerge, able to creatively meet the challenges of career and society, with their core Islamic values and beliefs strengthened.
The priests, teachers and administrators of the community are invariably drawn from the graduates of Aljamea-tus-Saiﬁyah, the prestigious, age-old Arabic academy in Surat, which remains the mainstay of the community’s learning tradition, producing individuals prepared for positions of community service and leadership. So great is the demand for enrolment that after a second campus was opened in Karachi in 1983, two additional campuses were founded within a short span of two years: a campus in Nairobi in 2011 and another in Mumbai in 2013. From after the fourth year of the eleven-year course, students aged between 15 and 17 are sent to lead congregations and deliver sermons. They bear the cloak of religious responsibility and experience the challenge of leadership.
For Bohras there is no discrimination between the education of boys and girls. All of the community’s madrasahs and schools and the Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah Academies cater to both and in virtually equal numbers. The same is true of the sons and daughters of Bohra parents in secular education. Girls are encouraged to pursue the highest level of education they wish as much as boys are. This has led to a high number of women from the community becoming professionals in a variety of fields, a great number of businesswomen and many, many more in gainful employment.
Women are unreservedly encouraged to pursue their education and careers whilst at the same time, in the family centric tradition of the Bohras, the women will always be the ‘masters’ of their household. Their value as homemakers, wives and mothers, stitchers of the fabric of society is one that the community is at pains to highlight and uphold.
For the larger society, a number of schools, colleges and faculties across South Asia, the Middle East and East Africa owe their existence to His Holiness RA, one of which is the Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin Department of Genetics at Karachi University. Three successive da`is, Dr Syedna Taher Saifuddin, Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin and Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin have all been elected as Chancellor to the renowned Aligarh Muslim University in India.
Thousands of students have beneﬁtted from these establishments and other educational endowments and trusts and continue to do so under the incumbent da’i Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin.