Ahmad Al Sarraf, an eminent writer in Arab dailies took to expressing his views on the practice of permission/eligibility for burial of a member of the Dawoodi Bohra community.
"…the person in charge of them tried to refuse to bury the deceased in the group’s cemetery, which is located within the Al-Ja’afari cemetery in Sulaibikhat, and this is an arbitrary practice that I did not accept at the time in the cemetery" – Ahmad Al Sarraf, in the Arab Times (17 November 2021)
His arguments come in the light of a recent situation that alarmed him – when the leaders of the Dawoodi Bohra community in Kuwait refused to permit burial of a community member in the community cemetery at Al-Ja’afari in Sulaibikhat, Kuwait. Quoting...
"...we call on the Municipal authorities to take action and prevent the practice of such illogical actions against this peaceful group. The desire to bury in a specific place may be a person’s last wish before his departure, and it is a logical wish, so how can he/she be deprived of it because of a difference of opinion?"
In his article in the Arab Times, AlSarraf gives a brief history of the 5 million strong Dawoodi Bohra community, highlighting their strong bent towards faith, education, business, humanitarian work, way of living, etc. In the same breath, the writer speaks about oppression in terms of obligatory extraction of money in the pretext of funding the activities of the sect in every country, and the lack of transparency in how these funds are utilized. Quoting...
"…the bad side in this matter, in the view of some, is that the money collected from those who are able to pay, in Kuwait, for example, is almost obligatory. Without it, it is impossible to finance the needs of the members of the sect in every country, but the lack of transparency regarding the manner of disposing of these funds made some object on the method"
As he speaks about the oppression and lack of transparenc, he goes about to mention that leaders of the community did not accept questioning on the lack of transparency on disposing of these funds and that those who objected were excluded from the main stream (this called Excommunication). Why the mention of this story on this platform? Actually, this is exactly where Udaipur comes in to the picture. The small city of Udaipur has been the hub of activity when it comes to the initiation of social reform in the Dawoodi Bohra community, that of demanding transparency and not accepting other imposed conditions on clothing and carrying oneself. A large section of the members of the Dawoodi Bohra community in Udaipur were the ones that raised their voice against this oppression - it began in the 1940's and gained momentum and recognition in the mid 1970's.
Ahmad AlSarraf in his post mentions that the person in question - whose burial was refused, belonged to the reformist section of this community - she hailed from Udaipur and was a person of exceptional social standing in Kuwait, the land she and her family chose to make home. He says that the person in charge of the community affairs in Kuwait refused to bury the deceased arguing that the person was not committed to the community or did not pay money to the officials of the group. This was when the writer intervened and ensured that the burial takes place in the same cemetery as per the wishes of the family. Quoting...
"...the fact that the deceased was not committed, according to their request, or did not pay money to the official of the “group”, does not justify the refusal of burial"
The above story is not new to the community. These cases and many similar others have been occuring in Udaipur as well as other cities of India as well as abroad, populated by members of the Dawoodi Bohra community. The mention of this episode and the stand taken by Ahmad AlSarraf who stands neutral, highlights the oppresive practices predominant in this community, which is currently in the midst of a crisis where the "spiritual" leadership stands to be decided by the Court of Law.