Sunni Cleric Provides One Perspective on Bohras in Kuwait

News article, posted 03.24.2010, from Kuwait, in:
Kuwait Times

KUWAIT: Sunni cleric Sheikh Mohammad Al-Hamoud, who is a member of the Jamiyat Ahiya Al-Torath, a local Salafist organization, spoke to Kuwait Times about the Bohra religion and some of the practices which separate it from the mainstream Muslim community.

Last week, the Municipality denied a request made by the government on behalf of local Bohras, who number somewhere between 25,000 to 50,000, to be allocated government land to build a house of worship. The request to build a Bohra place of worship raised a controversy, with Islamists arguing that the request should be denied based on the fact that no Kuwaiti nationals were members of the Bohra sect as well as the fact that residents in Ardiya opposed the building in their area. The unspoken reason for the opposition was more than likely based on the fact that local Muslims do not believe Bohras to be a legitimate sect of Islam.

Bohras (which is linguistically traced to the Gujarati word meaning 'to trade') have roots in Gujarat, India where they were converts to Ismaili Shiism. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, they broke from the branch following the Fatimi Tayyibi dawah of Yemen. They then broke into several offshoots on multiple occasions and came to be known as Aliyah Bohras, Dawoodi Bohras, Jafari Bohras and Sulaymani Bohra among others.

Bohras believe in seven pillars of their religion and not the five pillars of Islam which are mentioned in the Holy Quran. The first and most important of their seven pillars is that of walayah, which is love and devotion for Allah, the Prophets, the Imam, and the da'i.

Sunni Muslims do not believe in the worship of any God but Allah and do not call on followers to devote themselves to anyone but Allah. Sheikh Mohammad said the group has historically brought with it "a lot of movement that has harmed Islam in the past and present". "The Ismailia sect, which Muslim scholars believe is a sect which has strayed, believe in an imam who is without sin," he said. This belief is contrary to the belief of Sunni Muslims that only the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was sinless. "They bel ieve the imam is a descendant of Imam Ismail bin Jaafar," he added.

Notably, the current da'i or leader of the Dawoodi Bohras, Sayyedna Mohammad Burhanuddin, is 52nd in a long line of da'i mutlaqs which can be translated to 'absolute preacher or summoner'. He is revered for his supposed ancestry and position which is contrary to Sunni beliefs, which do not allow religious reverence for anyone but Allah.

Sheikh Mohammad stated that the Bohras believe, "Whomever does not know the Imam of his time will die as a non-believer and non-Muslim." This belief flies in the face of Sunni Muslim beliefs which do not require reverence for imams or any religious heads as a prerequisite for being a Muslim. "They do not pray in Sunni or Shiite mosques (because) either they do not believe we are Muslims or they do not believe these are legal mosques," the cleric said.

Notably, among differences in Islam and Bohra beliefs is their belief in reincarnation. On Bohra beliefs on reincarnation, Sheikh Mohammad said, "If someone is righteous and he dies, Bohras believes his spirit will live on in another person." As to the possibility of Bohra building a place of worship in Kuwait, Sheikh Mohammad summed up the issue stating: "If these are their beliefs, then we should not help them build a temple because this is opposite to Islam and there are fatwas forbidding this." Specifically, he noted that a fatwa was issued by a religious committee in Saudi Arabia. "Their belief is a mixture of philosophy, interpretations, and Shiite practices," he said. Huthayif Yusef, a spokesman of the local Bohra community, refused to comment on any of the topics discussed in this article.