Wa iny-yakaadul lazeena kafaroo la-yuzleqoonaka be-absaarehim lammaa same' uz-Zikraa wa yaquloona innahu la-majnoon. Wa maa huwa illaa zikrul lil 'aalameen: And those who disbelieve would almost stare at you with their evil eyes when they hear the warning, and they say: Most surely he is mad or possessed.  And it is naught but a reminder to the nations.

Allaah Ta’aala created humans as a final and complete being which is the sign of His Supreme Authority. The position of humans is above all His creations. Unlike others he needs society, education and work to survive. He, the Exalted made manifest from the hidden knowledge and the stored judgement in Aadam and Hawwaa (Eve), the two parents, a male and a female, as a cause for the creation of mankind and society to reveal His mighty power. He paired them and they procreated, and the children and the number increased. They were transferred through the chaste loins and pure approved wombs.  Alavi Society is based on 6 steps like everything which has 6 dimensions. These 6 steps is further rooted in 6 distinguished things created by Allaah Ta’aala for His divine mission-دعوۃ .

It is 1. Qur’an (القرآن ) – the divine book, 2. Nabi-نبي (warner) – prophet, 3. ‘Aalim-عالم (learned) – the vicegerent of the prophet, 4. Shaahid-شاهد (witness) – the imaam of the descendants of prophet, 5. ‘Aabid-عابد (pious man) – missionary in the place of imaam, and 6. Khalq-خلق (universe) – things into existence.

It is relayed by the eminent 15th century Sunni Egyptian author al-Maqrizi, Fatimid Caliph Imaam al-Mo'iz wished to impart the principles of compassionate society and governance to the leaders of the Kutama tribe and to deter them from an opulent lifestyle. He says, "I summoned you in my chamber so that you could see what I do when I am away from you and far from your eyes. My status exceeds yours only because I have responsibility over your affairs on earth and because Allaah Ta’aala has singled me out as your Imaam. I busy myself with letters that come to me from the east and west, to which I respond in my own hand."  This is how Imaam responded to each and every society members. The six dimensions or “M-م of the Alavi Society in place of above mentioned things are:

1. Madrasah (مدرسۃ ) – religious seminary: It stands for the teaching of the holy Book where children learn the basics of their community. It is the beginning of their involvement in the social development and relations. The first heavenly order that the Prophet Mohammad received at Mount Noor under the Hira cave was “to read”. So it became necessary for every believer to acquire knowledge throughout his lifetime from the designated person and the representative of Prophet Mohammad from his progeny. So, Madrasah is not only meant for children but it is the learning hub for those who are keen in knowing the realities of creation. Prophetic traditions says, "Seditions appear and crush believers-your only salvation is your learning." Social health based on the overall knowledge is served by this “M” of Madrasah. The importance of reading which is the stepping stone of any learning institution could be well found in the foremost Qur’anic verses, “READ in the name of your Lord who created. Created man from an embryo. Read, for your Lord is most beneficent. Who taught by the pen. Taught man what he did not know.”   (al-Quran 96-1)

2. Misaaq (میثاق ) – covenant: After completing basic religious and social learning, a learner or an ordinary Alavi initiate steps into puberty and towards intellectual advancement. Now in order to become a member of a community and begin his spiritual journey with an Imaam, he has to give unconditional and lifetime oath of fealty or the promise for loyalty to the Imaam’s representative i.e. Da'i al-Mutlaq. This divine tradition and sublime submission was initiated from heavens and will be continued till the last day of this creation. The Prophets took this oath from their respective people of their time and they commanded their missionaries to do so in order to protect their faith. The initiate is also bound by this oath to keep secret the esoteric knowledge imparted to him by a hierarchy of teachers authirized by the Isma'ili Imaam. He has to renew this oath to Imaam every year on 18th Zul Hijjah known as Eid e Ghadeer e Khumm-عید غدیر خم .

Once the believer had solemnly bound himself through the oath, he could undergo a step-by-step introduction into 'wisdom'-not all at once, for that would exceed his mental capacity. 'You are being put to a test,' the Da'i would say to his disciples, 'For you are beginners, and a beginner is like an infant: you should start first with milk and only later nourish yourselves with food.'  This “M” of Misaaq induces religious responsibility into faithful’s life and it helps to bring maturity for social well-being. For this Qur’an says that, “When We made the covenant with the Prophets, and with you (O Mohammad), as with Noah and Abraham, Moses and Jesus son of Mary, a binding covenant, (It was) so that Allaah Ta’aala may ask the truthful of their sincerity. As for the infidels, He has prepared a painful punishment for them.” (al-Quran 33-7)

3. Masjid (مسجد ) – mosque: After offering covenant to Da’i, the head of the community, An Alavi tries his level best to fulfill all its obligations and this begins at the very doorstep of a mosque. The centrality of the mosque is inevitable for a believer. Each and every socio-religious activity revolves around it. Prophetic traditions says, "The mosque is where the pious live."  A believer goes three times daily to offer prayers. There he is educated and informed about different social programs and being a part of a community how he should serve his fellow members and actively participate in the social and welfare activities. This “M-م of Masjid-Mosque proves to be a perfect training centre for creating responsibility, positivity, respect and thoughtfulness among people. Being a learned and authoritative person, a Da'i in his capacity trains his followers in maintaining social etiquettes and ethos by imparting necessary knowledge in his sermons. Da'i is the soul of the mosque and with his prostration, people in the mosque prostrates in front of Allaah Ta’aala. The Qur’an says about a mosque which is the best place for worship, that “O sons of Adam, attire yourselves at every time of worship; eat and drink, but do not be wasteful, for Allaah Ta’aala does not like the prodigals.” (al-Quran 7-31)

4. Mazaar (مزار ) – mausoleum: It is an important place for a believer that is filled with spirituality and devotion. A holy person having special designation conferred by an Imaam in the spiritual hierarchy is buried here. After offering prayers in a mosque people come to pay respect to the mausoleum and take waseelah-intercession while doing supplication to fulfill their wishes in front of Allaah Ta’aala. Usually mausoleum or tomb of a Da'i or a religious authority is situated besides the mosque. It plays a key role in social bonding as each and every community member visit it daily or weekly or when he wishes. If anyone visits a Rawzah-mausoleum of a particular Da'i then it is said that, he took blessings of all those people who were in the covenant of that Da'i. Mazaar of a Da'i is also called “Rawzah” as it is like a paradise and one can feel its fervor and freshness by spiritually attaching himself to Da'i. Every believer is a martyr-Shahid and the mausoleum of a Da'i is the master of all martyrs who were from his believers. Visiting mausoleum is like going to the entrance and gate of paradise. If one has learned Qur’anic recitation in Madrasah, gave Misaaq to his Da'i and has an habit of coming to a mosque for prayers, then surely he will visit Mazaar.

In this account, Imaam Ja'far as-Saadiq addresses Kufan people and encourages them to visit the tomb of al-Husayn b. 'Ali: 'If one of you performs the hajj in the course of your lifetime and does not visit the grave of al-Husayn, then you have departed from one of the duties and rights of Allaah Ta’aala and His messenger. It is the duty ordained upon every believer.' Qur’an reiterates that same thing that, “The greediness of plenitude keeps you occupied, till you reach the grave. But you will come to know soon; indeed you will come to know soon.”  (al-Quran 102-1)

5. Majlis (مجلس ) – religious gathering: an assembly or a special private audience accompanied with prayer where a discourse of a Da'i is held is generally termed as majlis. It begins with the praise and elegy relating to the household of Prophet Mohammad or a religious dignitary associated with them. Prophetic traditions says, "The most commodious assembly is best."  The main majlis is held during the first 10 days of Moharram in the commemoration of the martyrdom of the grandson of Prophet Mohammad, Imaam Husain. Throughout the year different types of majlis are held during the inauguration of any place, oath of fealty, marriage, birthday, sehra, ziyaarat, weekly lectures, madrasah or mausoleum. As per the occasion and time, every member of the community more or less participates in these majlis. It accounts to be a crucial cord of social harmony and awakening as one who attends it comes to know his roots, history, tenets, good-evil aspects of life, relations with others and social customs.

Under the Fatimids, these type of private lectures or teaching sessions were organized for different categories of participants in Cairo, including the initiates, courtiers, high officials, women and royal women.  During the reign of Fatimid Caliph Imaam al-Mustansir Billah, his Da'i al-Mu'ayyad leaves nothing to be desired in the field of knowledge and rhetorical skill through conducting various majlis. He continued to be honoured as the connecting link and catalyst of an unbroken religious and social tradition extending from Fatimid Egypt to Tayyibi Yemen and India. Right up until today, after more than a thousand years of history, the entire Tayyibi community still regards him as their spiritual ancestor and social torch-bearer.  The holy book Qur’an says this point in a very beautiful way, “O you who believe, when you are told to make room in the assemblies, then make room; Allaah Ta’aala will give you more room to spread. When you are told to rise, then rise; Allaah Ta’aala will raise those of you who believe, and those who have knowledge, in position. Allaah Ta’aala is aware of what you do.”  (al-Quran 58-11)

6. Maa’edah (مائدۃ ) – meals taken together by family or community members in a single big plate: This big dinning plate is also called “thaal” in which special Bohra dishes is served collectively and all those sitting around it on the floor takes their meals together. Maa’edah is kept on a little elevated tool called “taraqqi”. There is a custom of arranging a big thaal decorated with all types of dishes on the first night of a new year in which the entire family sit and eat and pray for the prosperous year. There are strict rules governing the etiquettes of eating or sitting in a "thaal". 7 people used to sit in it and they all begin by taking a pinch of salt and reciting “bismillaah”. Washing hands before and after sitting on the thaal is compulsory. One should lick his fingers after finishing his meal and he should never leave a bit of food in the "thaal". People sit in Maa’edah in Jamaa’at-khaana and take lunch or dinner on various social or religious occasions.

Sociability increases among community members as they often sit together and discusses current affairs of their interest in a "thaal". Prophet Mohammad and his household taught the tradition of Maa’edah. It has become an inseparable part of Alavi Bohras’ social life. One can find this in this Qur’anic verse, said Jesus, son of Mary, "O Allaah Ta’aala, our Lord, send down a table well laid out with food from the skies so that this day may be a day of feast for the earlier among us and the later, and a divine sign from You. Give us our (daily) bread, for You are the best of all givers of food.”  (al-Quran 5-114)

  Courtesy: Wikipedia article: Alavi Bohras
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