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Last Updated: 2010/01/27
Summary of question
Who are the Ismaeili Bahreh Shias and what do they believe in?
Who are the Ismaeli Bahreh Shias and what do they believe in? How many Shia denominations are there?
Concise answer

The "Bahreh Davoodis" are a branch of the "Ismaili" sect. The "Ismailis" believe Ismail, the son of Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) which passed away during his father's lifetime, to be the seventh Imam. The followers of this sect have unique beliefs that we will explain in the detailed answer. Of course there are some Hindus and Sunni Muslims known as the "Bohras", but in India the term "Bohra" is mostly used to refer to the "Dawoodi Mosta’leyah Ismaeilis", however they prefer to be called the "Tayyebi Ismaeili Shia Society".

Their center is located in the city of Bombay in India.

For information about the different sects of Shia Muslims you can refer to Question 922 (website: 1382) The major sects of the Shia.

Detailed Answer

"Ismail" the elder son of Imam Sadiq (as) which was a great individual in his time passed away five years before the martyrdom of his father and was buried by the command of Imam Sadiq (as). His grave lies in the Graveyard of "Baqi’" in Medina. The imam (as) had told the people that his other son "Musa" would be the Imam after him. Some of the Imam's companions opposed this decision and stressed that Ismail should be the next Imam. Some even claimed that Ismail had not died and the ceremony was a form of taqiyyah (dissimulation) to protect him from the harm of his enemies. Later on they claimed that Muhammad the son of Ismail was the Imam to follow thus making their branching off from the common Shia belief official, forming a new sect.

After the death of Muhammad the Ismailis began to promote their beliefs and thoughts, but it was not until the rise of the Fatimids that they gained much strength and sent preachers to all Muslim countries.

After the death of "Al-Mustansir", the eighth khalifah from the Fatimid dynasty, there were different opinions about the next Imam, some believed that "Nazar", the eldest son of " Al-Mustansir " should be his successor while others maintained that "Mosta'liyah", his younger son should be the next Imam. This matter gave rise to a serious conflict and as a result the Ismaelis were divided into two sects. From then on those who followed "Nazar" were known as the "Aghakhanis" ("Hasan Sabah" was their most famous leader that lived in the sixth century, he rose against the "Saljughian" in Iran and he chose the castle of Alamut as his base) and those who followed "Mosta'liyah" were known as the "Mosta'leyn", today the "Mosta'liyun" are known as the "Bohras".

In the sixth century the "Mosta’leyun" traveled to Yemen, and then immigrated to India. Finally in year 1538 and after the death of their twenty-sixth ’Dai’, Dawud Ibn Ujb Shah, there was a disagreement about who the next Dai should be, but finally "Dawud Borhanuddin Ibn Qotb Shah" was chosen as Dai Mutlaq in the city of "Sidhpur" of India. Little after becoming Dai Mutlaq in India, the representative of the twenty sixth Imam that was in Yemen, Suleiman Ibn Alhasan, claimed that he was secretly appointed by Davood Ibn Ujb Shah as the Dai Mutlaq during his life, therefore he too claimed to be Dai Mutlaq. This led to a schism, from then on the "Tayyebis" of Yemen were known as the "Soleimanis" while the "Tayyebis" of India were known as the "Dawoodis".[1]

Since the "Dawoodis" were mostly merchants and tradesmen they were called the "Bohra" (profit) sect. Although some Hindus and Muslims are known as the "Bohras", but in India the Bohra is mostly refers to the "Dawoodi Mosta’liyah Ismailis", however they prefer to be called the "Tayyebi Ismaili Shia Society".

Their fundamental beliefs:

1- There is only one God.

2- The Quran is the book of the Bohra Shias and all of them must strive to learn its teachings, however it is only the Dais and a number of their high ranking spiritual individuals that truly understand the deep meanings of the Quran.

3- Muhammad is the prophet of Allah and Ali is his true successor.

4- The imams complete the mission of the prophets; the prophets bring religious rulings to the people, while the imams teach the core and soul of religion.

5- The current Shias are the descendants of Ali (as) which deserves the most respect after the prophet of Islam.

6- After Ali (as) which bears a higher status than being just an imam (this status is called ‘Asas’), the Imams of the Bahreh Shias are as follows: Imam Hasan, Imam Hosein, Imam Sajjad, Imam Muhammad Baqir, Imam Jafar Sadiq, Ismael, Muhammad Ibn Ismael, Abdollah, Ahmad, Hosein (Mastoor), Mahdi Obeidollah, Al-Qa’im BeAmrillah, Almonsooro Bellah, Almoezzo Lidinallah, Alazizo Bellah, Alhakemo BeAmrellah, Al-Dhahirul-I’zaz Dinollah, Almostansaro Bellah, Almosta'liyo Bellah, Alamero Beahkamellah and Abolghasem Al-Tayyeb.

The Bohras believe in these Imams until Alamero Beahkamellah and do not accept the four next Khalifs of the Fatimyid dynasty as Imams, meaning Alhafezo Ledinillah, Athafero Beamrellah, Alfa’ezo Bellah and Al’adhedo Ledinillah. Instead they believe that the twenty first Imam was Abolghasem Al-Tayyeb and that he disappeared.

7- The position of Ismail was higher than all the other Imams, because every seventh Imam is greater than the six Imams before him.

8- All prophets have committed sins, because they have asked Allah to reach a status they did not deserve. But on the other hand Ali (as) and the Imams after him never committed a sin, because they never asked Allah for anything they did not deserve.

9- Satan has died, but anyone who opposes the Imam of his time is a Satan.

10- If an Imam commits a sin or does an evil deed he will still maintain his position as imam.

11- The beginning of the emergence of the imams was from Medinah but later on between the years 1000 to 1200 (the period in which the Fatimid dynasty was established) they began to rise from the city of Cairo.

12- All Imams after the twentieth Imam were commanded to live secretly and far away from the community.

13- Due to the fact that the Imams after the twentieth Imam were living secretly their representatives that were called "Dai Mutlaq" would guide the Muslims and preside over the Muslim Ummah.[2]

For information about the different sects of Shia Muslims you can refer to Question 922 (website: 1382) The major sects of the Shia.

[1] Tayyeb is the twenty-rist imam of the Bohras who according to them is in occultation.

[2] Adopted from the book: Shi’ayane Bohre Davudi of Dr. Amir Bahram Gharb Ahmadi.

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