Alavi Bohras are the Muslim-Shi'a-Isma'ili-Musta'alavi-Taiyebi community whose origin and spiritual ancestry is established and associated to the Five Spiritual Masters of Purity (Khamsat ul-Athaar or Panjatan Paak) which includes Mohammad Rasoolullaah (saws) – the Master of the Prophets (Saiyed ul-Ambiyaa); Ali ul-Murtazaa (as) – the Master of Vicegerents (Saiyed ul-Waseeyin), the vicegerent, cousin and son-in-law of Rasoolullaah
(saws); Faatemat uz-Zahraa (as) – the Master of the Women of all times (Saiyadah Nisaa il-Aalameen) and the daughter of Rasoolullaah (saws); Imaam Hasan (as) and Imaam Husain (as) – the Truthful Imaams (Imaama Haqqin) and the grandson of Rasoolullaah (saws) and the sons of Ali and Faatemah. After the vicegerency of Ali ul-Murtazaa (as), Imaam Hasan became the first imaam followed by his brother Imaam Husain who came second and then the succession took place in the descendants (aal) of Imaam Husain from father to son called Infallible Imaams (A'immat ul-Maa’sumeen) whose succession will continue till The Last Day (qayaamat).
Alavi Bohras are Isma'ilis because of the fact that they adhered to the spiritual succession (Imaamat) of the 6th Faatemi Imaam Isma'il, the son of the 5th Imaam Ja'far us-Saadiq (as) when the split occurred in the mainstream Shi'a resulting in Isma'ilis and Isnaa-Asharis. Alavi Bohras are Musta'alavis because during the reign of the 18th Faatemi imaam, Mustansir billah (as) (427-487 AH/1036-1094 AD), schism occurred in the mainstream Isma'ilis in Egypt, those who believed in the spiritual succession of 19th Faatemi Imaam Musta'ali, the son of Mustansir billah (as) came to be known as Musta'alavis. Their 21st Faatemi Imaam Taiyeb (as), the son of 20th Faatemi Imaam Aamir (as), went into seclusion (satr) from Egypt after 526 AH/1132 AD owing to growing fear from the enemies. They believe that the succession of Taiyebi Imaams (as), though in seclusion, will always continue in the progeny of Imaam Taiyeb (as) till the Day of Judgement, thus Alavi Bohras are called Taiyebis. The sole spiritual, religious and temporal authority after the seclusion of Imaam (as) got transformed in Yaman in 532 AH/1138 AD in the form of a missionary (da’i) who owed the allegiance of the believers to the noble progeny of Imaam Taiyeb (as). They continued their mission in Yaman in the name of Imaam of their time (imaam uz-zamaan). The succession of these missionaries is called as Du’aat-e-Mutlaqeen (Pl. of Da’i-e-Mutlaq).
In India, during the time of 18th Faatemi Imaam Mustansir billaah (as) around 486 AH/1093 AD, the designated learned people (wulaat) who were sent from Yaman by the celebrated missionaries (du’aat ul-balaagh) under the guidance of the manifest Imaam (as opposed to the imaam of the time of seclusion) established the foundation of Isma’ili-Taiyebi Da’wat in the region of Gujarat (Cambay or Khambhat). It was the result of their perseverance and efforts that people started believing and accepting the Isma’ili-Taiyebi principles and gradually the mission of Yaman gave birth to a new community in India – The Bohras. The succession of those designated learned people who worked as deputies of the missionaries of Yaman came to be known as Wulaat ul-Hind in India. They were all in close contact with the spiritual authority of Yaman i.e. the Da’i-e-Mutlaq after the seclusion of the Imaam Taiyeb (as).
Subsequently, split occurred at various instances in the mainstream Bohra community regarding the spiritual appointment (Nass) in the succession of Da’i-e-Mutlaq in Gujarat (Ahmedabad) between 825-1050 AH/1422-1640 AD. Two major splits during this period resulted in the formation of three major groups of Bohra community – Alavis, Dawoodis and Sulaymaanis. The tradition (sunnat) of the manifestation and the appointment of a Da’i-e-Mutlaq known as the Propagation of “Nass” is solely carried out by a former Da’i himself. Among Bohras, Alavis are the smallest minority who has independently survived all the vicissitudes of time. They believe in the Qur’anic Verse that, “On the path of truth, minority always win.”
Alavi Bohras, who are mainly traders, are peace-loving and harmonious people. The word ‘bohra or vohra or Vohorwu or Vyavahar' itself indicates maintaining relations and is derived from the Gujarati word ‘vohorvu’ or ‘vyavahar’, which means "to trade". Secondly its name reflects the characteristic of "al-Jamaa'at ul-Baaherah" meaning the extraordinary brilliant community with full of life and love. Their cultural and social upbringing is such that the values of peace and prosperity are in their blood and they do not believe in social discord or religious conflicts. Some of the groups or clans of Sunnis in Gujarat who also are traders and do not belong to the mainstream Bohras have adopted the name of Vohra or Vora, owing to the fame and respect of the name. But they never followed the basic doctrines and customs of the Isma'ili-Taiyebi Bohras. The early Indian converts of the 11th century AD during the reign of 18th Faatemi Imaam Mustansir (as) comprised a single group of Isma'ili Bohras owing allegiance to the missionaries (du'aat ul-balaagh) who conveyed spiritual orders of manifest Imaam (imaam-e-zaahir) to common believers in Yaman.