The Taiyebi Alavi Bohras community traces its spiritual heritage from Saiyed ul-Ambiyaa Muhammad Rasoolullaah (SAWS) and his vasi Ameer ul-Mumineen Maulana Ali (AS), son-in-law of the Prophet, and continuing through their successors, the Imaams (pl. A'immat), who were functioning first from Madinah, spread over to North Africa and Egypt in succeeding centuries.
11th Faatemi Imaam Maulana Mehdi Billaah (AS) set out for North Africa and established his religious authority and hukoomat in Tunisia and the adjacent territories. He was succeeded by three Imaams and the fourth, the most celebrated Imaam Moiz Le-deenillaah (AS) established his seat of authority in Egypt during the course of his Imaamat from 341 to 365 AH.
The great kingdom these Imaams founded, the noble traditions of thought and philosophy they fostered, the immense wealth of literature they produced and guarded, the resplendent civilization they established and the wise way of life they pursued have all come to be called "Faatemi" after Maulatana Faatimah (AS), the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) and the consort of Maulana Ali (AS), thus linking two venerable and noble personalities together.
The Faatemi Imaams, reigning in glory in Egypt , founded the city of Cairo, started the renowned centre of learning Al-Azhar University , which is the oldest institution of its kind in the world to exist to this day, and wrote into Egyptian history the unforgettable Faatemi era. This period and its unrivalled efflorescence of thought, art and culture owe everything to the Faatemi Imaams who were inspired leaders, great builders and deep thinkers, eminent scholars and writers.
Seat of Da'wat's authority in Yemen
From Egypt the centre of Faatemi authority and activity shifted to Yemen . When the 20th Imaam Maulana Aamir (AS) decided that time had again come to keep away from public eye, he made elaborate preparations for enabling his successor Maulana Taiyeb (AS) to go into seclusion ( satr ) with very trusted and close associates Ibn-e-Madyan and Abu Ali (RA) at the appropriate moment and also for the preservation and continuation of the Faatemi traditions, from a amiable new centre in neighboring Yemen, and on a new basis.
For this purpose he directed his grand emissary in Yemen , to establish the institution of the vicegerency of the Imaam of which dignitary was to function as the sole deputy of the Imaams in seclusion, exercising all their powers to the fullest extent. The vicegerent came to be known as "ad-Da'i ul-Mutlaq" or "Da'i uz-Zamaan" whose office necessitates the unfailing discharge of two obligations, viz.; that the Da'i ul-Mutlaq would take care to appoint a successor in time and that he would always carry on his mission in the name of the Imaam uz-Zamaan with all the authority and power inherent in that high office.
When the 21st Imaam Maulana Abul Qaasim Taiyeb (AS) went into seclusion in 528 AH/1132 AD, on the authority of the Imaam, the institution of Da'i ul-Mutlaq was established in 532 AH on the hands of Hujjat ul-Imaam Maulana Aamir (as) Maulatana Hurrat ul-Malekah (QR), which continues spiritually without interruption to this day. The first to enter upon the august office was Saiyedna Zoeb bin Moosa (QR) in all 23 Du'aat ul-Mutlaqeen who functioned in Yemen before the seat of the Da'wat authority was shifted to India.
Seat of Da'wat Shifted to India
Already ties of friendly intercourse, exchange of thought, culture and trade had existed for long periods between Yemen and India . The Da'is also had representatives on the Indian soil to attend to the needs of their followers. When extreme persecution of the Faatemi followers on the ground of differing beliefs and adherence to the successive Faatemi Imaam and Da'is led to a sense of insecurity, the Da'is chose India for the transfer of the Da'wat in the knowledge and belief that this country was receptive and tolerant towards varying faiths and creeds. The first Da'i to hold office in India was Saiyedna Yusuf Najmuddin bin Sulaymaan (QR) in the year 946 AH/1539 AD. He commenced his mission in Gujarat and gradually the followers spread to other parts of India.
The Faatimid sovereignty extended over a vast kingdom and the seat of its authority shifted over the centuries from the Arab countries to North Africa , then Yemen and India . In this way the impact of the Faatemi traditions, culture and heritage became impressed on the history of many continents and lands and in each of these a considerable followers settled to carry on the traditional Faatemi way of life. Thus the community spread and was diversified.
Flourishing trend of the community
Following this pattern of history, there was yet another factor which led the members of the Alavi Bohra community to settle in more and remote countries. The last 800 year history of the community shows the Da'i ul-Mutlaq, the religious leader of the community intuitively sensing difficulties in given situations or anticipating spheres of greater opportunity elsewhere and preparing the ground for easy access to them has been the moving force behind the steady dispersal of community members throughout the world. It is on the basis of this personal involvement in the lives of the followers who are advised, encouraged and assisted by the Da'i that the community spread and flourished and today enjoys an enviable position of prestige and respect.
Urged by the Du'aat ul-Mutlaqeen and actuated by their interest in trade and commerce, the Alavi Bohras have traveled to all corners of the globe. They are to be found predominantly concentrated in Gujarat . Although a minority in every land, the Alavi Bohras have successfully preserved over the centuries their identity and their traditional philosophy and culture. In their case, complete identification and fulfillment of the obligations and responsibility implicit in national attachment has never proven to be incompatible with the practice of their religion and devotion to their culture and way of life.
The Taiyebi Alavi Bohras profess Islam and belong to the Shi'a Ismaili Taiyebi sect of Muslims. They are called "Taiyebi" after Imaam Taiyeb (AS), the 21st Imaam, who went into satr and was followed by a chain of Du'aat ul-Mutlaqeen (RA). After the death of the 26th Da'i ul-Mutlaq in 999 AH/1588 AD, the followers of Saiyedna Dawoodji bin Qutub Shah (RA) came to be called Dawoodi Bohras, and after the death of 28th Da'i ul-Mutlaq in 1030 AH/1619 AD, the followers of Saiyedna Ali bin Ibraaheem ash-Shaheed (RA) came to be known as “Alavi” Bohras, the term "Bohras" reflecting their hereditary calling of trade.
The Alavi Bohras believe that:
There is One God, Allah Jalla Shaanohu
Muhammad Rasulullah (SAWS) is His Prophet to whom He revealed the Holy Book (Qur'an Shareef)
Ameer ul-Mumineen Maulana Ali is the Vasi of the Prophet Muhammad
Maulana Ali (AS) was succeeded by a line of Imaams in his progeny, each of whom was appointed by his immediate predecessor, son after father
An Imaam always exists though at times one from amongst the unbroken line of successive Imaams may decide to keep away from public
the 21st Imaam Maulana Taiyeb (AS) went into satr (seclusion) and his descendants, one after the other continue to function in that manner till the Day of Judgement
Today there is an Imaam on this earth who is the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), whose mission is being accomplished through his vicegerent, the Da'i ul-Mutlaq.
The Imaam is the fount of law and the ultimate authority. His supreme position and law giving authority is fundamental to and inherent in the faith and belief of the Bohras. All attributes dedicated to Allah are embodied in the holy self of Imaams. As supreme religious leaders, they lay down a code of ethical rules; prescribe rituals and observances, mode and manner of prayer and exhibit traditions and practices which are integral parts of the faith, creed and religion.
The Da'i ul-Mutlaq
The Alavi Bohras further believe, that so long as the Imaam should remain in seclusion, his appointed representative, the Da'i ul-Mutlaq, conducts on behalf of the Imaam his mission (Da'wat) and administers and receives from the faithful an oath of allegiance. That as an Imaam cannot die without leaving a successor Imaam, his direct descendant, so too the Da'i ul-Mutlaq cannot die without appointing a successor. The first Da'i ul-Mutlaq was Saiyedna Zoeb (RA) and the 43rd Da'i ul-Mutlaq in the unbroken line of succession stretching over a span of nine centuries was Saiyedna Yusuf Nuruddin Saheb (RA), who appointed Saiyedna Abu Haatim Taiyeb Ziyauddin saheb (TUS) as the 44th Da'i ul-Mutlaq.
The Da'i ul-Mutlaq is the representative and the deputy of the Imaam on earth in seclusion enjoys and exercises all the powers and authority of the Imaam. The position of the Da'i ul-Mutlaq is an essential part of the creed of the Alavi Bohras. Faith in his spiritual mission and in the efficacy of his administration is one of the bonds that hold the community together as one entity and identity. He ensures the purity of the fellowship and preservation of the brotherhood.
The Alavi Bohras form part of the world Muslim Ummah. They comprise of followers of the Faatemi Imaams who founded the kingdoms, fostered noble traditions of thought and philosophy, produced and guarded an immense wealth of literature, and established a splendid civilization and the wise way of life with Islam as the bedrock.
Inspired and encouraged by their supreme leaders, the Du'aat ul-Mutlaqeen, members of this enterprising community traveled to different shores in search of new avenues of trade and commerce. The Da'i ul-Mutlaq is constantly in touch with the believers and keeps each one with a strong bond of imaan with an active nursery of religious strength and discipline by identifying with their needs, hopes and aspirations.
The satisfactory achievement of a united community life and its happy fusion with the laws and traditions of the country in which the community is settled, is the result of the existence and the uninterrupted functioning of a historical central organization known as the Da'wat-e-Hadiyah. It has over a period of eight centuries been able to provide spiritual and moral cohesion as also practical guidance to foster and strengthen modestly but effectively the fundamental unity of purpose which is the keystone of human progress and stability.