By Tamjid Alkohali
As a part of their annual religious rituals, the current Sultan Bohra Mufaddal Saifuddin, accompanied by more than a thousand people from the Bohra sect, visited the tomb of Queen Arwa Ahmed Alsoliehi in Jabla village of Ibb governorate. The visit was accompanied by intense security, as well as armored cars and military escorts.
Jabla is considered to be an important place for the Bohra sect, due to the tomb of Hatem al-Hadrat in the Haraz area. Queen Alsoliehi ruled Yemen for many years (1098 to 1138 CE) and made Jabla her capital. She appreciated the Bohra sect deeply, and supported the Fatimid state and Ismaili advocacy.
Sultan Saifuddin also visited Aden, where the Bohra Mosque is in Crater. There was a large ceremony put on by the residents. One citizen in the ceremony was proud to see this event occurring again, after decades of not happening during the period of Southern independence. The event emphasized that Aden is a beacon of religious tolerance, coexistence, and acceptance. It also gave traders hope that they could return to depending on trade and tourism generated by the Bohra
Sultan Saifuddin promised to build a hospital in Aden, and help some patients travel to Mumbai for treatment. After that, he met with President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in which President Hadi expressed his sadness for the death of the Sultan’s father Mohammed, who died on January 17. The President emphasized the excellent relations between Yemen and the Bohra, and welcomed any investments that they may offer.
The Bohra, or “al-mkarma” as they are called in Yemeni slang, is a peaceful Fatimid sect that does not intervene in political affairs. They are heavily employed in trade, particularly in the Gulf. There are about 1.5 million people in the sect, many of whom are concentrated in Mumbai and Haraz.
On the other hand, Jabla residents have noticed differences in Bohra worshipers over the years. Until recently, Bohra worshippers were coming from Haraz and other areas in Yemen to quietly pray in one of the mosque‘s corners near Queen Arwa’s tomb. They read about her history, kiss her tomb, and put flowers, perfumes and lute at the door of the tomb, then go.
“But, today they do strange things. When they visit the tomb of Queen Arwa, they stay in the mosque alone from the morning to the night without allowing any person who doesn’t belong to the sect to join them. They do strange rituals and kneel in front of the Sultan as if he is God.”
Yemenis are also worried that the Bohra sect will spread and become politicized. Mohammed Qaeed, a community leader in Jabla, says that until now, the Bohra sect hasn’t done anything bad. It is a peaceful and introverted sect. At the same time, they are growing rapidly, and must be careful.
Yemenis still wonder: will the Bohra sect stay peaceful, or will they try to establish and extend a Bohra state in Yemen?
By Tamjid Alkohali