Her mother died when she was eleven, and she remembers vividly the commotion that followed. The argument, she recalls vaguely, was of religious nature, something to do about burial. Farzana wanted those people, those angry voices to go away, leave her in peace. This encounter with religion was not a happy one. It seared her… Read More


Tell the auto rickshaw driver to drop you off at the Red Tower in Zampa Bazar, that is the only tower in Surat, he will know, she said. Fifteen minutes later I arrived in a busy street swarming with people and traffic, a typical late-morning rush of any mid-sized Indian city. There she was, standing… Read More


As if one Dai were not enough for Dawoodi Bohras. Now they are burdened with two. The dust on Sayedna Mohammed Burhanuddin’s grave has hardly settled and his family is at each other’s throats, vying for power. For the past two years there was the Mansoos (successor designate) Mufaddal Saifuddin. He was apparently conferred the… Read More


Sayedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, the 52nd Dai ul Mutlaq of Dawoodi Bohras passed away early Friday morning of January 17, 2014. Tens of thousands of Bohras from all over India – and abroad – converged on Mumbai for the funeral procession. The great crush of people overwhelmed the logistics it seems, and the stampede that followed… Read More


I vividly remember the day, some 30 years ago, when the cover story by Asghar Ali Engineer was published in the Illustrated Weekly of India. With Sayedna Moahammed Burhanuddin’s picture on the cover and the title “A Law Unto Himself”, the article created a sensation. Nobody had dared to challenge Sayedna Saheb so openly so… Read More


On a cool December morning I knock on the door of a house in a posh Los Angeles county. A diminutive man opens the door. He is Ismail K. Poonawala, former professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at UCLA. There is renovation going on in the house, Prof. Poonawala apologises for the mess. We make… Read More


A bride walks across at the jamatkahna in Udaipur after a wedding feast.[/caption]Although food is integral to human survival, for Bohras it boils down to much more. After faith and culture, it is food that binds them together, brings them together. In fact faith would have little currency without that inevitable jaman. Food, or at… Read More


It was small hours of the morning. A boy of 16-17 was poring over his books, engrossed in his studies. There is a knock on the door. A man in a simple Muslim garb enters, tells the boy that Hazur-e-aali wants to see him. They exchange a few words, and the boy is driven to… Read More