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Bohra Global Conference 2019: festival of Ashara Mubaraka

Blessed brotherhood!

Muslims across the world have commemorated the martyrdom of Imam Husain during the festival of Ashara Mubaraka with the belief that doing so is a source of blessings and a means to achieve spiritual purification. That is why the 10 days of the festival are a period of blessings. The Dawoodi Bohra community, under the guidance and leadership of the 53rd and current Da’i al-Mutlaq Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, dedicates these days to the remembrance of Imam Husain and seeks blessings from this deeply spiritual event.

This festival of peace and love is significant to Sri Lanka, a country still recovering from the psychological wounds of the Easter Sunday bomb attacks. With wounds yet to heal, it seems that a certain kind of ethnic segregation has settled in following the catastrophe. As the nation is rebuilding the peace process, it is vital that we return to our normal life instead of dwelling on the aftermath of the bomb attacks.

The gates of our island nation opened for an influx of tourists as the Bohra Global Conference 2019 was launched recently.

Running from September 1 to 10, it is the biggest international event held in Sri Lanka following the April tragedy. As many as 21,000 Bohras travelled from over 40 countries, including South East Asia, Australia, Middle East, East Africa, Europe, the USA, and Canada, to take part in the annual convention held to mark Ashara Mubaraka during the first 10 days of the Muslim month of Muharram. This year marks the sixth time that the event will be held in Sri Lanka. It had been previously held in Colombo in 1970, 1991, 1999, 2007 and 2008.

Chaired by the Head of the Dawoodi Bohra community, His Holiness Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, the 53rd al-Dai al-Mutlaq, said that this religious event is not only aimed at chanting sermons but is also being held in Sri Lanka to re-establish the country as a safe tourist destination. This will be the first time that Dr Saifuddin will conduct the event in Sri Lanka.

Dr Saifuddin conducted waaz (sermon) in the Husaini Masjid in Bambalapitiya, which accommodated over 15,000 devotees.

Three more centres, with a capacity to accommodate over 6,000 devotees in Colombo, also relayed the live telecast of waaz from Husaini Masjid. Seating arrangements were planned for senior citizens and disabled devotees. Colombo city and its suburbs were separated into five zones to provide shelter to members of the community for the night sermons, close to their accommodation.

Hotels had their hands full receiving bookings from the formal sector as well as the informal sector. Apartments in the coastal areas, running from Negombo to Galle, were rented too for the occasion. Around 592 homes, belonging to the local community, and over 750 hotels and 480 private apartments and houses have been booked in Colombo and neighbouring areas.

A significant fact about this year’s event is that its theme is ‘Zero Waste’. This theme has been amplified in all the activities related to the event. Zero food and water waste, therefore, will play a significant role in the event. The authorities will take on the tasks of recycling, up-cycling and disposing of waste. Volunteers, 300 to 500 in number, from across the world were in the event to ensure smooth flow of the events.

Stressing on optimism and hope, His Holiness Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin noted that such emotions will be rewarded someday. “When one door closes there is always another door which the Almighty opens, and indeed even the toughest of circumstances ease away with time for those who stay true to hope,” he said.

Daily News encountered several key participants from the Bohra Community to explore how this grand and most meaningful festival transforms human life.

Hasan Kquaidjoher from Pakistan stated that this event is deeply meaningful and emotionally moving for all the Muslims involved. The event is a time of contemplation and looking inwards into one’s heart while looking outwards at the divine.

“This is a very important event for our Bohra community. We remember the sacrifice the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Imam Husain has done for humanity. The memory of his sacrifice strengthens us and helps us to overcome every hurdle in our life. We are ready to prosper in our lives. We remember this sacrifice by the guidance and leadership of His Holiness Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin who instils in us the teachings of Imam Husain in his life and during his last moments. The lessons Imam Husain taught us is being remembered by this event. So it is a very significant occasion and religious gathering for us,” said Kquaidjoher.

For Huzifa Sehorewala the period meant walking down memory lane.

“This is a religious gathering with so much to learn. The importance of this event is that it is relevant to all ages, from the young child to the elderly gentleman. We learn so many values in life and how we can implement that in our lives. Some of it we learnt as children and now we remember them. It is all about improving your character. The spiritual context is the most important. Imam Husain was beheaded and everything revolves around him and the focus is on him. So we observe this mourning. What I learn here is of great importance not only me but to my family, my wife and children. There is a lot of togetherness and I look forward to next year’s event,” said Sehorewala.

Haseena Vahanvaty, a female participant from Sydney, Australia, stated the experience is an unforgettable and thoroughly enriching experience.

“The significance is to be close to Mawla, and it is an international event. People from all around the world have come here. It is an amazing experience. Listening to the sermons of His Holiness Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin is a remarkable experience for our Bohra community. We get to learn a lot about our religion. Sri Lanka is a beautiful country and we have enjoyed our stay here,” said Vahanvaty

Aftav Vahanvaty called the event a life-changing experience that can happen to anyone as long as you are open to it.

“The overall objective of this event is to be with Mawla for the entire duration, and it is a yearly event that we all look forward to. And this time Colombo is hosting it. Being with Mawla is an experience which is really enriching to the mind and soul. If the teachings of Mawla are put into action, your life can change completely. It is that powerful. I am a person who has played very competitive sports, and last year when Mawla spoke about competition vs collaboration that changed my life. I have been working on myself for many years, but that one moment changed my entire thinking. It has enriched me tremendously,” said Vahanvaty. 

Pictures by Sulochana Gamage

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