Celebrating the spirit of Ramazan, Bohra style!

From our colourful floral Ridas to our finger licking thaals and fixed prayer spots, experience Ramazan the Bohri way!

Sakina Nanabhai July 29, 2013
As the clock strikes 6:00pm, we jump out of our beds from our two-hour long afternoon nap. It's time to get dressed; I choose an appropriate Rida from the colourful collection I possess and start to get ready for the masjid. Meanwhile, my dad irons his plain white Sayo Kurto - the same kind he wears every day.   

I always wonder how boring it is for Bohra men to wear the same kind of Sayo Kurto to the masjid every time – no matter if it is a big occasion or just an ordinary day. At least, us, women have the liberty to choose from the variety of colours and floral patterns that are available to us. The latest trends of Ridas include vegetables and fruits, but to be quite honest, I am not interested in looking like a fruit basket or a freshly picked strawberry so, I'll just stick to my one coloured, standard attire.

Anyway, I check my phone. To my horror, it's already 6:15pm, and we were still all over the place looking for matching Musallahs (prayer mat) and handbags to carry to the masjid!

Finally, after a tug here for the pink Rida, and a fight there for a blue Mussallah, we have made it to the masjid on time. Right at the entrance  two little children dressed in the traditional crisp, white Sayo Kurto and hand woven white and golden topis, hand us pre-packaged Iftar; a ticky pack of biscuit and a khajoor (date.)

Tucking this modest Iftar in my handbag, I walk to the first floor to take my prayer spot, right in front of the entrance and spread my Mussallah facing the Qiblah. My sister and I had inherited our prayer spots from our grandmother and her sister, and we switch alternatively.

There is still a little time left for the azaan, so I take out my tasbeeh and start reciting a few short prayers that I know at the back of my hand. There are around 10 minutes left and people are still pouring in. Women in colourful Ridas, along with their young kids trudging along behind them, are seen hunting for their fixed prayer spots. Occasionally, there are even a few arguments among women for their prayer spots if they get less space to spread their Mussallahs or if they see someone else taking over the space that they have been praying at for years. These arguments usually only last a few minutes and when it's time for the Maghrib azaan, the women obediently squeeze in and start praying.

Today is just like any other day.

After the Maghrib prayers and a recitation of a few duas by the Amil Sahab, a few young lads in the traditional Bohra attire come in with crates full of hot teacups and serve everyone individually at their prayer spots. I take out the packet of biscuit and khajoor to break my fast, and return the cup to the boys who wait to fill in the crates with the empty teacups so they can make it back in time for their Isha prayers.

The Isha prayers are followed by a short khutba by the Amil Sahab and right after this, we all rush to the Jamaat Khaana. Over there, we make a circle of at least eight people and get ready to be served our food in a huge thaal.

Food for the Bohra community is essential for all kinds of gatherings. Every time there is a Bohra event in the masjid, there can hardly be a possibility of no food being served, and why should there even be such a possibility? We love food and it is evident through our customs and traditions!

When it comes to talking about food, we have this unique way of seating ourselves and serving the food too. In case you are invited to a Bohra wedding in the coming days, here is a brief guide of your dos, don’ts and must-knows.

Thaal manners:

1)  Make yourselves seated in a circle of at least eight people, as I stated above, or else one of the volunteers might yell at you for committing a major ‘don’t.’

2) Second, once you get your thaal, taste a little salt first and then begin with your meal. And, you don’t just start eating whatever you like first, there is sequence to eating the food – you start with something sweet, then head for the savoury, then again something sweet (a bohra thaal usually has a pair of sweet dishes) and then lastly, go for the rice.

3) You can ask for extra servings of rice along with the curry or soup whatever is served alongside. Usually volunteers carry huge buckets of soup/curry to refill your bowls or hand over plates of rice according to how much you need.

4) Make sure you only order enough food for the whole thaal that can be easily consumed by its members. Wasting of food is loathed among the Bohra community.

5) Once you are done with your meal, you again taste a little salt to end your meal.

Following this guide of thaal manners, I successfully finished my dinner. My meal included a jalebi and a small bowl of rice pudding for dessert, a plate of white karhai and biryani with clear soup for the savoury bit.

I, along with my sister and mother quickly made my way out of the Jammat Khanna to wash my hands and head home.

This was just a usual day in Ramazan.

Sigh, how much I love this sweet month of blessings!
Sakina Nanabhai A Mass Communication student from Karachi University, aiming to become a journalist.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


nunu | 9 years ago | Reply @Gaurav: women go to the mosque all the time, pictures are not taken in the ladies side of the masjid due to respect as they are covered
Insaan | 9 years ago | Reply Bohras moved to India like Zoroastrians to save their lives. Bohras tend to be very peaceful people, unlike some other jihadi people. They do follow a religious leader. The Dawoodi Bohra trace their belief system back to Yemen, where it evolved from the Fatimid Caliphate and where they were persecuted due to their differences from mainstream Sunni Islam and Zaydi Shia Islam. Dawoodi Bohras have a blend of cultures, including Yemeni, Egyptian, African, and Indian. In addition to the local languages, the Dawoodi Bohras have their own language called Lisānu d-Dā‘wat ("language of the Dā‘wat") which is written in Perso-Arabic script.
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