Streets of Saddar area nowadays are more crowded than normal. Market glimpses are dominated with men in silky beard, wearing starched caps and long white attires while women could be seen wearing multicolor loose outfits leaving their faces visible and rest of the body covered. They are people from Dawoodi Bohra community who have come here for “Ashara Mubaraka”.
Followers from Bohra community have gathered in metropolis after 21 years for annual religious rituals to be performed in the first Islamic month i.e. Muharram. Their spiritual leader Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin (the 53rd al-Dai al-Mutlaq) has already arrived from Mumbai. In Karachi, he is the state guest. His presence makes these rituals extremely special for Dawoodi Bohras.
His Holiness Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin
‘Dream comes true’
Among thousands of Bohras from around the world most have come from India, which is also their headquarters. They found Karachi a loving and peaceful city.
“Hum Jodhpor, Rajishtan se aye hain…. Baharat se… (We have come from Rajhistan, India). It is my first time that I got Pakistani visa. I cannot describe my feelings. I so wanted to visit Pakistan since my childhood and now I am here in the month of religious significance”, a pilgrim in 30s entering Tahiri Masjid expressed his overwhelming sentiments.
Bohras call their spiritual leader “Syedina”. Syedina Mufaddil is staying in Bohra Palace, which is yards away from the Karachi Club. He is conducting “Majalis” (religious sermons) daily till Ashura (10th Muharram) at Tahiri Masjid, the biggest prayer place in Karachi. Here, elaborate arrangements are made for the security and for the assistance of people. Burhani Guards can be seen guiding people and taking care of everything from security to cleanliness of the streets.
“Every year Bohra community gather somewhere in the world to observe Muharram. The place is decided by the spiritual leader and his closed aides”, Syed Murtaza Abedali, an organizer at Bohra Palace told The News. “We mourn how the family of Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was set to face atrocities in Karbala. Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA) sacrificed his everything but did not kneel before vice.”
“Last year, these rituals took place in Brunei and before that in Houston, USA. Karachi is hosting such important gathering after 21 years”, Abedali told us, “two decades earlier, Syedina’s father (Syedina Burhan Uddin) came to the port city”.
“Finally, law seems to be in order here in the city years after making the mammoth gathering possible. It’s the biggest honor for us. Approximately 25,000 followers are here from 30 countries.”
Pakistan is the second biggest home of Bohras outside India, having around 30,000 followers.
The huge influx of visitors for more than a week in Karachi is also generating a big economic activity in the vicinity. All hotels in the adjacent areas are fully booked. Hostels are also already occupied. Getting accommodation was the toughest task for visitors and organizers alike.
Bohra visitors at a shop in Saddar.
“One of my friends in US wanted to join us in Karachi. He asked me to find a suite for him at any cost. After two days of hardship, I was unable to find one for him. He missed it”, shared Adnan Shabbir, a worshipper from Islamabad.
Business has increased significantly in commercial centers of Karachi. Shopkeepers are closing their shops late in nightbecause of soaring demand.
“Let us suppose if a visitor is spending as low as Rs.500 per day. We have 12.5 million rupees coming in Karachi every single day from 25 thousand visitors. If they spend 10 days, the business will climb up to 125 million rupees”, commented Khalil Ahmed, a Karachi-based economist.
All connected streets to main Tahiri Masjid are being manned by the personnel of law enforcement agencies. Police and paramilitary personnel have taken positions in surrounding areas to avert any mishap.
Policemen deployed around Tahiri Masjid.
While talking to The News, members of Bohra community showed their satisfaction on security arrangements so far. The sect has been attacked twice in last five years in Karachi.
In September 2012, terrorists hit them with twin blasts in Bohra majority neighborhood of North Nazimabad. Another bomb attack in 2015 outside Saleh Masjid after Friday prayers near Pakistan Chowk left two persons dead.
Members of Burhani Guards
“Our worshippers will not be carrying out processions on roads. We will perform our rituals inside Tahiri Masjid”, said Mustafa Abedali.
“Provincial and local authorities are cooperating with us. We have confidence in their arrangements. Everything is smooth and peaceful. Bohras from all over the world will start returning to their home after Ashura – 10th Muharram”, concluded Abedali and took his way to administration office, located in Bohra Palace.