Mumbai, March 23 (IANS) It will be a historic day for Dawoodi Bohras across the world when the small, but prosperous, community marks the 100th birthday of its spiritual leader, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, Friday. The million-strong community has decided to make it a memorable occasion with a host of celebrations.
Festivities have been underway since the past fortnight, including social, cultural and religious events.
The community launched campaigns such as the one for providing care to the humble house-sparrows, on environment protection and reached out to the poor and needy.
At 100, Syedna, the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq (direct in the line of descendents of the Prophet Mohammed), is a frail man. But his inspiring spiritual personality continues to radiate piety, devotion, sincerity, service to the cause of Islam and humanity at large.
His public and private discourses convey the prayer for world peace. Dawoodi Bohras across the world listen to him with rapt attention when the amazing oratory completely hide the signs of fatigue natural to his age.
Born March 06, 1915, as per the Egyptian Muslim calendar, in Surat in Gujarat, his illustrious father, the late Syedna Taher Saifuddin, personally supervised Burhanuddin's early education, upbringing and tutelage to the lofty future causes he was destined for.
When he turned 53 in 1965, Burhanuddin succeeded his father to head the community.
Long before this, he had already attained recognition worldwide as a scholar par excellence in Arabic literature and theology.
As a Hafiz-al-Quran (person who has memorised Holy Quran in full), he became the driving force of the community in academics.
Under his guidance and financial support to academic pursuits at all levels, the Dawoodi Bohra achieved 100 percent literacy through 400 educational institutions all over the world.
The Syedna always emphasised secular and scientific studies.
'The Syedna has constantly emphasised on religious and moral studies, secular and scientific subjects in all the community-managed institutions worldwide,' said his media advisor Shaikh Qureish Raghib.
'The two century old Al-Jamiah Al-Safiah Arabaic Academy in Surat, for example, imparts advanced religious and secular studies to students from all over the world,' he pointed out.
The academy was expanded in 1983 with a new campus in Karachi built by the Syedna, who was the chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University.
Recognising that a mosque is a sacred and integral part of a Muslim's daily routine, the Syedna has stressed the need for community members to revive, preserve or construct mosques wherever they reside.
He himself undertook the mammoth task of restoring and repairing the Mosque of Imam Hakim (AS), Al-Jame Al-Anwar in Cairo, one of the most enduring legacies of the 9th century Fatimi era and recently, the restoration of the Al-Masjid Ali-Moazzam Bil-Kufa in Iraq.
The Syedna also oversaw the restoration and renovation to their original and majestic splendour several other mosques of the 10th to 12th century in Yemen and Syria, which were ravaged by time and weather.
A symbol of pride is the Raudat Tahera in Mumbai, the marble mausoleum of the Syedna's father. Its white marble walls are inscribed with the entire Holy Quran in letters of gold and precious stones.
It is billed as an exclusive architectural achievement of the Syedna in the entire Islamic world and serves as an unprecedented example of Fatimi art and architecture.
Setting the community on the path to economic progress in tune with the global economy, the Syedna has always called upon the community to carry on their modern business in consonance with Islamic principles.
The concept of Qardan Hssana (interest-free loans) is granted through the Burhani Qardan Hasana Trust and similar others worldwide, which has helped usher unprecedented business activity among the people.
Simultaneously, the newly-established Burhaniyah Business Counselling Centre (BBCC) imparts knowledge of modern business facilities and services to Dawoodi Bohra entrepreneurs worldwide.
The Syedna has constantly strived for conserving nature by supporting projects on agriculture, horticuldure, apiculture and eco-friendly initiatives through the Burhani Foundation set up 1992.
In fact, his 100th birthday celebrations started with dedication to the tiny sparrow which is facing a tough challenge from the modernization activities around the world, and urging people to protect the environment.
The Syedna has institutionalized the Rasme Saifee, or mass marriages through the International Taiseerun Nikah Committee, and pioneered low cost housing schemes for several thousand Dawoodi Bohras to have their own home.
He is currently engaged in a major redevelopment project in south Mumbai which would benefit over 4000 community families with quality housing and modern infrastructure free of cost.
On his 92nd birthday, the Syedna launched a unique concept - the adoption of 9,200 Dawoodi Bohra families by their prosperous brethren, imparting them knowledge and finances to set up a business and develop a permanent source of livelihood.
Through scores of public trusts, the community runs hospitals, clinics and health centres, including the ultra-modern Saifee Hospital in Mumbai to provide top quality healthcare facilities and regular medical camps.
Honours have conferred on the Syedna from far and wide.
He was awarded The Order Of The Star of Jordan and Vishah Al-Neel of Egypt, besides honorary citizenship of the US and Canada.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)