The Holy Quran: The Guiding Light of the Dawoodi Bohras
The Quran, the holy book of the Islamic faith, holds a cherished place in the hearts of the Dawoodi Bohra community. Like all Muslims, Bohras revere the Holy Quran as the fount of all knowledge and the primary source of divine guidance. It was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed over a period of 23 years. The epitome of eloquence, its inimitability in words and meaning is considered the greatest miracle of Islam and a testament to the prophethood of the Prophet Mohammed.
The Quran employs the power and depth of the Arabic language to convey the divine message, expounding on themes such as Islamic monotheism and theology; the creation of the natural world and humankind; the history of past prophets and civilisations; the prophethood of Prophet Mohammed; the tenets of faith and Sharia; enjoining good words and deeds; and life, death and the Afterlife.
The Holy Quran also forms the foundation for numerous fields of knowledge, from Arabic grammar, semantics and rhetoric to Islamic jurisprudence and historiography. The Quran has been the inspiration for a number of arts, most notably calligraphy and architecture.
For the Dawoodi Bohra community, the Holy Quran not only holds great significance as an article of faith, it is an integral part of everyday life. Reciting, memorising, and taking inspiration and guidance from the Quran are a gateway for spiritual and material well-being and prosperity.
His Holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin has expressed his desire that every Dawoodi Bohra household should have at least one hafiz, someone who has memorised the entire Quran. From six-year-olds to undergraduates to septuagenarians, Dawoodi Bohras around the world have overcome great challenges to memorise the Holy Quran and strive to live their lives in accordance with its knowledge and teachings.
Reciting and Memorising the Holy Quran
Hifz or memorisation of the Holy Quran, a sacred tradition from the beginning of Islam, is a time-honoured part of Dawoodi Bohra culture. Esteemed figures of Islamic history, such as members of the Ahl al-Bayt, (the Prophet’s family) , and his Companions, were known to have memorised the Quran in its entirety. A notable hafiza in early Islamic history is Sayyida Nafisa, a female member of the Ahl al-Bayt.
Leaders of the Dawoodi Bohra community have always emphasised daily recitation of the Quran. In addition to being an essential feature of namaz (salah), the five daily prayers, reciting the Quran every day is part of the daily schedule for many Bohras, and especially so in the holy month of Ramadan. Bohras recite the Quran with great reverence, maintaining etiquette such as sitting respectfully, covering one’s head, and remaining in a state of ritual purity.
From a young age, community members learn the traditional rules of Quranic recitation, which entail melodious intonation with the correct articulation and characteristics of each letter and letter combination, while following a proper rhythm and speed in the recitation—the purpose being to facilitate comprehension and contemplation in the words and meanings of the Holy Quran.
For Bohras, reciting and memorising the Quran is encouraged for both spiritual purification and to imbibe its teachings.
Mahad al-Zahra: A Quranic Institute
The 52nd leader of the Dawoodi Bohras Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, who himself had memorised the Quran at a young age, expressed a wish that students of Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah, the premier educational institute of the Bohra community, memorise the Quran in its entirety. Subsequently, in 1976, Syedna Burhanuddin established Mahad al-Zahra, an institute under the auspices of Aljamea dedicated to Quranic education.
The institute of Mahad al-Zahra, first initiated and constructed at the campuses of Aljamea, utilises traditional and modern tools and methods to facilitate learning the art of recitation and memorisation of the Quran. It also provides education and training in various Quranic arts and sciences.
Today, Mahad al-Zahra has achieved international reach, catering to Dawoodi Bohra students of different backgrounds and ages all around the world. In addition to campuses of Aljamea, Mahad al-Zahra has initiated residential and non-residential hifz al-Quran programmes, schools and camps in India, Kenya, Kuwait, Pakistan, Tanzania, UAE, UK, USA and Yemen. Along with in-person training, Mahad al-Zahra also offers online learning programmes for those who wish to pursue memorisation of the Quran from their homes. Its “e-Learning Quran” programme was the first of its kind in the history of Quranic education.
Following the guidance of His Holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, thousands of women, men and children today are pursuing Quranic education and memorisation. To date, Mahad al-Zahra has certified over 6,500 huffaz (sing. hafiz), who have memorised the entire Quran: all 114 chapters, comprising more than 77,000 words spanning over 6,000 verses.
The guiding light of the Dawoodi Bohras, the Holy Quran illuminates their lives and shapes their identities, inspiring Bohras to be virtuous and productive citizens of the world.