The Dawoodi Bohra Calendar

Thirteen years after prophethood, the Prophet Mohammed migrated from Makkah and entered Madina on 12th Rabi al-Awwal. The Fatemi Dai and historian Syedna Idris Imad al-Din states that it was this day that marked the beginning of the calendar for all Muslims, literally the ‘first date’. Hence the Islamic calendar is known as the Hijri calendar because it commences with the Prophet’s ‘hijrah’ (migration) to Madina. The Holy Days for the Dawoodi Bohras follow the Hijri calendar. As 12 months of the Hijri calendar are lunar, the year is typically 11 days shorter than the Gregorian year and so the corresponding dates shift each year.  This page provides an overview of some of the most culturally significant occasions commemorated by Bohras over the Hijri calendar year. These occasions typically bring together members of the community for social activities, educational sermons and communal meals.

Urs (death anniversary) Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (16th Rabi al-Awwal)

Urs (death anniversary) Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (16th Rabi al-Awwal)
The urs of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, the 52nd dai, whose mausoleum is in Mumbai, India, occurs on the 16th of Rabi al-Awwal, the 3rd month of the Islamic calendar. He led the community for 50 years and ushered it into age of resplendence tempered with a resolute dedication to the tenets of Islam. His tenure saw the restoration of numerous Fatimid monuments and the building of masjids, community centres and housing projects on a scale never before witnessed in the history of the community. In addition to gaining material prosperity, under his visionary guidance, the community was able to safeguard its faith, culture and identity.

Urs (death anniversary) Syedna Taher Saifuddin (19th Rajab al-Asab)

Urs (death anniversary) Syedna Taher Saifuddin (19th Rajab al-Asab)

The urs of Syedna Taher Saifuddin, the 51st dai, whose mausoleum is in Mumbai, India, occurs on the 19th of Rajab al-Asab, the 7th month of the Islamic calendar. Leading the community for an unprecedented 53 years, through world wars and tectonic global shifts, he ushered the Bohras into an age of unparalleled growth in all aspects of life. His guidance enabled Bohras to embrace the best of modern and contemporary practises in education, business and other fields while remaining true to their Islamic roots, traditions and culture.

Urs (death anniversary) Syedna Qutbuddin Shaheed (27th Jumada al-Ukhra)

Urs (death anniversary) Syedna Qutbuddin Shaheed (27th Jumada al-Ukhra)
The urs of Syedna Qutbuddin Shaheed, the 32nd dai, whose mausoleum is in Ahmedabad, India, occurs on the 27th of Jumada al-Ukhra, the 6th month of the Islamic calendar. He was martyred in Ahmedabad as a result of false allegations and in defence of the Bohra faith. Dawoodi Bohras honour his sacrifice, fortitude and principled stand for justice.

Urs (death anniversary) Syedna Hatim Mohyuddin (16th Muharram al-Haram)

Urs (death anniversary) Syedna Hatim Mohyuddin (16th Muharram al-Haram)
The urs of Syedna Hatim Mohyuddin, the 3rd dai, whose mausoleum is in al-Hutaib al-Mubarak, Yemen, occurs on the 16th of Muharram al-Haram, the 1st month of the Islamic calendar. As one of the earliest leaders of the community following the retirement of the Fatimid imams from public view and the establishment of the office of al-dai al-mutlaq, Syedna Hatim led the community through a tumultuous formative period in its history and is credited with laying the foundation for its intellectual, cultural and religious growth and advancement.

Eid al-Adha (10th Zil Hijja al-Haram)

Eid al-Adha (10th Zil Hijja al-Haram)

The first ten days of Zil Hijja al-Haram, the final month of the Islamic calendar, are considered sacred and are connected to the hajj pilgrimage. The day of Arafat, when pilgrims journey to Mount Arafat, is characterised by fasting and extensive prayers and Eid al-Adha marks the end of the hajj. Both days are significant and celebrated by even those who have not gone for hajj. Eid denotes a celebration or feast and adha refers to the udhiyya or ritual sacrifice offered on this day. Members of the Dawoodi Bohra community gather for the early morning fajr prayers after which they engage in special Eid prayers similar to those offered on Eid al-Fitr. The tenets of Islam encourage Muslims to offer sacrifices on the day of Eid al-Adha and the three days after and partake in the rewards of feeding the hungry.

Eid al-Fitr (1st Shawwal al-Mukarram)

Eid al-Fitr (1st Shawwal al-Mukarram)
Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Eid denotes a celebration or feast and fitr refers to the breaking of the fast. As it is for Muslims across the world, Eid al-Fitr is a sacred and welcome celebration for the Dawoodi Bohras. Dressed in their best attire, community members gather for fajr (early morning) prayers on the day of Eid al-Fitr. Before the special Eid prayers commence, a ceremonial breaking of fast is done just after sunrise by consuming kharak (dried dates stuffed with a mixed dry fruit paste). Eid prayers and supplications are typically followed by a gathering where community members meet and felicitate each other. Throughout the day of Eid al-Fitr and in the few days after, community members dedicate time to visit their loved ones and friends.

Lailat al-Qadr

Lailat al-Qadr

Among the final nights of Ramadan is Lailat al-Qadr. The Holy Quran makes special reference to Lailat al-Qadr as the night in which the Holy Quran was revealed and the night which outshines a thousand months. As such, the night is a most sacred and hallowed occasion in the Bohra calendar. One of its most integral aspects is that community members, irrespective of their age, remain engrossed in prayer and supplication all the way until sunrise.

Ramadan

Ramadan
The ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar is Ramadan. Its hallmark is the fast, which begins shortly before dawn and ends at sunset and can vary across the globe from being akin to missing lunch, to stretching to 20 hours in the northern hemisphere summer. Community members make it a point to gather in their local masjids and community centres for imamat (communal prayers) in the early morning just before sunrise for fajr, in the afternoon for zuhr and asr and immediately after sunset for maghrib, after which they break the fast and isha al-akhira.   Perspectives change, as do priorities. Prayers are offered at their initial time, sleep patterns change and evenings are devoted to communal gatherings. Reading the Holy Quran, attending discourses and sermons and reciting supplications that may be neglected at other times of the year is a common practice among community members of all ages during Ramadan. Although the month is characterised by a break away from daily routines and a pushing of personal boundaries, the faithful find the strength to attend to their businesses, jobs and education.  Ramadan’s inherent spirituality naturally inspires the Dawoodi Bohra community to actively participate in a host of social initiatives during the Holy month. Food drives and food rescue partnerships aimed at feeding the less fortunate, fostership and upliftment campaigns striving to provide community members with a better future,  cleanliness drives that positively impact the health of the environment, all signal and enhance the heightened sense of self and spirituality.

Yaum al-Mabath (27th Rajab al-Asab)

Yaum al-Mabath (27th Rajab al-Asab)

Commemorated on the 27th of Rajab al-Asab, the 7th month of the Islamic calendar, Yaum al-Mabath is a celebration of the day on which the Prophet Mohammed received prophethood and hence the advent of Islam. Community members gather for a sermon during the day in which the prophet’s history, teachings and exemplary conduct are recounted. Special emphasis is placed on observing the day’s fast and even young children observe the fast to the best of their abilities. After sundown, these children are congratulated, presented with garlands and given gift hampers as a token of commendation and encouragement.

Milad (birthday) Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (20th Rabi al-Akhar)

Milad (birthday) Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (20th Rabi al-Akhar)

On the 20th of Rabi al-Akhar, the 4th month of the Islamic calendar, members of the Dawoodi Bohra community celebrate the birthday (milad) of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. It is a joyous occasion preceded by numerous days of activities and programmes ranging from asbaq (traditional gatherings for the dissemination of religious knowledge) to cleanliness drives, food drives, business expos, exhibitions and environmental awareness campaigns among others. After succeeding his late respected father as the head of the community, His Holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin resolved to celebrate his own birthday (milad) on his father’s birthday in his remembrance and as a testament to his 50 years of exemplary service to the community.

Milad al-Nabi (12th Rabi al-Awwal)

The green dome of the masjid of Prophet Mohammed in Medina
Celebrated on the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal, the 3rd month of the Islamic calendar, Milad al-Nabi refers to the birth of the Prophet Mohammed. Throughout the Islamic world, the birth of the prophet is considered an Eid – an occasion of special significance – and is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Dawoodi Bohras congregate in remembrance of the prophet and his teachings. They recite panegyrics in praise of the prophet and listen to melodious oral renderings of the holy Quran. Thereafter, they partake in a festive meal consisting especially of the traditional kalamro, a sweet dish which is synonymous with the occasion and is made from rice and curd and garnished with dry fruit and rose petals. 

Ashura (10th Muharram al-Haram)

Ashura (10th Muharram al-Haram)
The culmination of Ashara Mubaraka is the day of Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram, when Imam Husain along with his kith and kin, was martyred on the scorching sands of Karbala for the sake of Islam, truth, justice and humanity. In memory of the three days of thirst and hunger to which Imam Husain and all the members of his household were subjected, even his six month old son, Dawoodi Bohras observe a fast and spend the entire day gathered in remembrance and mourning. A few hours prior to sunset, the 10th and final congregation begins with a detailed retelling of the events that unfolded prior to Imam Husain’s arrival in Karbala and ends with a recollection of the manner in which each martyr was slain, finally leading to a heart wrenching narration of the martyrdom of Imam Husain.

Chehlum (20th Safar al-Muzaffar)

Chehlum (20th Safar al-Muzaffar)
Chehlum marks the 40th day following the martyrdom of Imam Husain. It is observed on the 20th of Safar al-Muzaffar, the 2nd month of the Islamic calendar. Dawoodi Bohras commemorate the occasion by gathering for the remembrance of Imam Husain and the atrocities that befell him, his family and companions. The Chehlum sermon recounts in particular the events that unfolded in the [forty] days after Imam Husain’s martyrdom, such as the desecration of the bodies of his family and companions and the cruel and inhuman treatment of their women and children. 

Ashara Mubaraka (1st – 10th Muharram al-Haram)

Ashara Mubaraka (1st – 10th Muharram al-Haram)

Ashara Mubaraka, or the Blessed Ten, is a period of ten days at the start of the Islamic new year that is dedicated to remembering the tragedy of Karbala and the plight of Imam Husain, his family and companions as well as their stand for Islam, justice, truth and humanity. Like millions of Muslims across the world, the Dawoodi Bohra community dedicates these days to the remembrance of Imam Husain and seeks blessings from this deeply spiritual event under the guidance and leadership of the 53rd al-Dai al-Mutlaq, His Holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin. For the Dawoodi Bohra community, Ashara Mubaraka is akin to a spiritual, educational and material journey of growth and development.

 

Every single Dawoodi Bohra community centre across the world hosts the event for its local congregation with a series of majalis (sing. majlis) or assemblies in the morning and the evening. In the morning majlis the congregation leader delivers a two hour sermon while the evening majlis is usually spent in collective recitation of elegies in which all those gathered for the occasion participate. With each subsequent day, having progressed through various themes in Islamic history and philosophy, the assembly moves closer to the day of Ashura when Husain Imam’s final journey to Karbala is narrated in great detail. Community members close shops and take leave from school and work to participate in these assemblies thereby committing themselves to this remembrance as a humble tribute to Husain Imam’s sacrifice.

 

The largest gathering within the Dawoodi Bohra community takes place at the venue where His Holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, the head of the Dawoodi Bohra community, leads the commemoration. The Ashara Mubaraka majalis, led by His Holiness himself, are conducted at a scale like no other and offer a truly unique experience for the tens, and sometimes, hundreds of thousands who attend. Continuing the time-honoured tradition of his forefathers, His Holiness chooses a different city as the venue for where he leads Ashara Mubaraka each year: many Bohras resolve to attend with His Holiness year after year.