The holy month of Ramadan is usually a time for communities to get together, listen to the invocations of the Quran, engage in ibadah (prayer) during the late nights, and to breakfast with good company at sunset. But with the entire world entering into the lockdown due to COVID-19 gatherings were put on hold to maintain social distancing.
Emphasizing that physical distance need not result in a spiritual disconnect, Syedna Taher Fakhruddin, leading his community of international Dawoodi Bohra congregants during a live sermon from Bakersfield, California, says “Wherever each and any of you may be, I am with you". This brought immense joy amongst the worshipers who attended the online sermons by Syedna Fakhruddin in large numbers, hailing from the Indian subcontinent, Europe, North America, East Africa, Far East, and Middle East, amongst others.
This year has provided even more spiritual and social benefits to Dawoodi Bohra community members. In the wake of coronavirus, the Dawoodi Bohra community members witnessed the daily knowledge, philosophy, and motivational sermons through live broadcasting with the help of the internet by Syedna Taher Fakhruddin Saheb and his Mazoon, the second in hierarchy after him. Earlier this year, Syedna Fakhruddin Saheb began an initiative to broadcast weekly sermons named ‘Wisdom Seminars’ (Majalis al-Hikma) in three languages (Gujarati, English and Arabic), in order to maximize the reach and viewership especially among the younger community members for whom English may be a first language.
Syedna Fakhruddin advised community members how to weather the COVID-19 pandemic “focus on your family. If you have more time now, spend [it] with your family. That can be a source of comfort.” He continued to counsel “An idle mind is not a good thing. Seek knowledge. In today’s world you can learn so many things – there are so many resources.”
Followers from all over the world were able to join and participate in daily Quran recitations, listen to daily sermons, and also seek blessings from Syedi Dr. Abdeali Bhaisaheb, deputy and Mazoon of Syedna Fakhruddin who also led the community in daily prayers from Mumbai.
The daily sermons of Syedi Dr.Abdeali Bhaisaheb Saifuddin were broadcast on YouTube on the Fatemi Dawat channel – which during Ramadan crossed a milestone of receiving over 4 million views to date. Those who engaged in prayer online expressed a strong connection to Syedi Abdeali Bhaisaheb, as if they were attending his majlis in person. “Every day at 6:30pm our family would get ready, sit on our prayer mats, and eagerly wait for the start of Quran Majeed Recitation and Sermons on Zoom,” said Yusuf Arsiwala, a community member from Mumbai.
The community’s online presence, the Fatemi Dawat website (www.fatemidawat.com) has always had prayer details available online, even prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, so the community was already well positioned to attend online prayer meetings.
With the dangers of COVID-19 looming, cities and countries under lockdown, schools and places of worship closed, and breadwinners being forced to work from home, this Ramadan had the potential to be a difficult one, especially with community members keenly awaiting the outcome of the ‘Syedna’ case filed at the Bombay High Court. However, under the guidance of Syedna Taher Fakhruddin Saheb, for Mumineen, as the Dawoodi Bohra community members are known, it was a month of piety, solace, and renewal.