By Tamjid Al-Kohali
Through the journey among the Haraz villages the naked eye can notice the harsh reality in which people suffer within these suburban and impoverished neighborhoods merely by their torn clothing, their primitive life and the lack of important services that we take for granted such as; electricity, water, hospitals, schools, parks and so on. However, in the distance among these ancient villages in Haraz’s high mountains, there is a land full of greenery, colorful flowers, surrounding parks and a quiet atmosphere where only birds are chirping, this haven is known as Al-Hutaib Village.
Behind the existence of this village is a story that goes back thousands of years. This story was narrated to the National Yemen staff by an elderly man living in Haraz, he said, “Bohra sect (or al- mkarma as Yemenis call them in slang language) appeared in Egypt during the Fatima era, but when the Fatima era ended they migrated from Egypt onto the rest of the Middle East and Asia until they settled in south India.
“Bohra” means trade, they called the Bohra sect because they are famous in trade, so by that time Bohra sect began moving to the Gulf States and into Yemen to practice their work in trade.” The old man continued, “while they are in Yemen there were a lot of preachers for this sect, the most famous one is Ibrahim ibn Hatim al-Hamdani who could establish a place for them on one of Haraz’s mountains in the beginning of the twelfth century which is known as al-Hutaib Village today.
The old man said “After al-Hamdani died in 1162, he was a holy person for them, so they buried him inside a park within “al-Hutaib”.
Actually the Bohra sect was attacked by Yemeni tribes because they did not accept its vision, traditions, and beliefs. However, this sect got the freedom to live in the village and to practice their rituals freely during the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh on the condition that they do not enter into political affairs.
The Bohra sect used to sanctify any person worked to preserve this sect, so the people in al-Hutaib village rebuilt al-Hamdani’s tomb in a way to make it one of the most important monuments in Yemen today.
Sect raised the tomb to about three Meters, it re-wrote the Prayers which encrypted the tomb in the Persian language. After they brought three doors from pure silver from India and put them in the southern, northern and western sides, and installed a wooden door for the eastern side.
Al-Hamdani’s tomb exists today inside a very beautiful park in the village. Tourists from around the world come to see this tomb as well as people who belong to this sect come every year to take their blessings and to cry over it.
Behind the beauty of this village there is a secret known by all of the people in and outside the village. It’s “Mohammed Burhanuddin” the absolute Preacher for the Bohra sect. Burhanuddin is a very rich man, a Muslim from India, and he supported all the Bohra sects around the world in order to preserve it, but unfortunately he died in the 17th of January, 2014, and his sons continue on with his work until now.
Karim a citizen in al-Hutaib villages said that Mohammed Burhanuddin was a great and influential person. He called us to plant coffee in the villages instead of planting Qat, and he was visiting us to see the situation within the village and our needs from time to time.
“Burhanuddin entered a lot of services into the villages such as electricity, water, parks, hotels, vegetation, infrastructure and helping the poor people in the village.” In return, people in the village are good in trade and are known traders in Yemen as well, so they pay taxes to Burhanuddin annually.
In the village, there are two schools but there isn’t a university. People who would want to complete their studying would have to move into Sana’a.
There are also about two hotels within the village but not just any one can stay in the hotel, just the people who belong to the sect.
People in the village differ from clothing than other villages in Haraz, for example, women style themselves in two pieces, the first one worn from up to cover the body from the head to waist, while the second piece can be a long skirt that covers the body from the waist to the feet.
One of the woman in the village said that they don’t believe in wearing clothing in black because it indicates to the sadness and bring banshee.
The woman emphasized that no one can wear this clothes in the village if they don’t belong to the sect. They bring these clothes from India or they demand it from Sana’a. In addition, all the married women in the village must cover their faces while the girls whom are single have the choice to cover up or not.
The clothes of men are also different, men characterized by wearing a white hat and white robe while some of them may grow long beards.
In addition, the Religious rituals of Bohra sect are so different and disliked by most of the Yemeni people.
People of Bohra sect look like the other Muslims in apparent, but inside them, they have different beliefs. Actually, they do not like to talk about their beliefs loudly, and they do not accept anyone from the sect to practice their religious rituals with them unless he or she is over 25 years of age and are sure in his/her believing on their beliefs.
Bohra sect doesn’t pray in the public mosques like other Muslims, instead they pray only in special mosques where they do not allow anyone to enter their place of worship. Bohra sect gather in a place every year to express their sadness about the death of their tutors in the past “Ali, al-Hassan, al-Hussein, and Fatima”. In that place they cry, shout, and hit their shoulder. This day is known as Ashura.
However, the Bohra sect in al-Hutaib Village have some similarities in some traditions with other Yemeni villages such as; wedding parties, occasions, and food.
Al-Hutaib Village is not the only one with the Bohra sect, it also exists in Hamedan and the Yarim Villages. However, they do not have the freedom to practice the Religious rituals as the people in al-Hutaib Village, so they go to al-Hutaib Village or practice their religious rituals secretly when needed.