Shubhra Tandon

They are sub-sect of Shia Muslims

HYDERABAD: They are only a million in number throughout the world, but still Dawoodi Bohra community is going strong.

On the occasion of Muharram, the community in Hyderabad is currently congregating to listen to the sermons of Syedi Abizer Bhaisaheb Husamuddin Saheb.

A closed knit community, Bohras consider their younger generation as real strength. "Like all communities, in Bohra community too, the younger generation is playing a pivotal role in keeping the traditions and culture alive," says Mohsin Noble, a Bohra engineer-businessman.

The Bohras are a sub-sect of Shia Muslims. Their origins can be traced back to Gujarat, where they first settled about 1,000 years ago. They have their own language called Lisanu I-Dawat, written in Arabic script but derived from Urdu, Gujarati and Arabic. In India, Bohras are predominantly settled in Gujarat, Mumbai and parts of Andhra Pradesh. "There are around 10,000 Bohras spread across Hyderabad, Secunderabad and Vishakhapatnam in the State," says Q.A. Tapia, a community member.

Traditionally a traders' community, Bohras are spreading their wings into other professions too. "Education is of prime importance. The members of the community, including women are encouraged to instruct themselves in both religious and formal education," says Mr. Noble. The community runs a school for the purpose that is affiliated to ICSE, CBSE and the State board.

Coming to Bohra women, they are allowed inside mosques, however they have separate enclosures. "There is no imposition on wearing a veil, but normally women wear. The colour too need not be black," says Mr. Noble. While, the normal procedure of Nikaah is followed, there is no system of dowry, he adds.

Charitable activities

As regards their religious practices, Syedna is the Dai or spiritual leader of the entire Bohra community across the world, says Mr. Noble. "Starting from naming the child to the decision of marrying off children, all the decisions take place with the raza or permission of Syedna," he adds. However, an Aamil heads every jamaat or congregation of people in a city.

"There are three mosques in Hyderabad and one in Secunderabad. A jamaat khana attached to the mosques is the centre of all religious activities. During the holy month of Ramzan, food is served for the whole month from Syedna's side. In addition to that, Syedna acts as a catalyst to bring up not just Bohra community but also others through various charitable activities," says Tapia.