Challenge of 2020
Like many faiths, this year has been a challenge for the Dawoodi Bohras. One of the holiest events in the Bohra calendar —Ashara Mubaraka—was observed at home, and not in their masjid. To comply with the pandemic restrictions, prayers and observances were online, just as they were for Ramadan and Eid in May. “People had a lot of anxiety as to how we were going to do it online,” Murtaza Khomusi, a spokesperson for the community, said. “They were worried — will it be the same experience? But we really enjoyed it. It was different, but there was that same sense of spiritual fulfillment.
Focus on social action
But the pandemic has not stopped the Dawoodi Bohra members from sustaining their commitment to the community.
For instance, in keeping with the tradition of the Ashara Mubaraka holiday to quench the thirst of others, 8-year-old Taha Hakimi set up a water and drinks stall in his driveway for neighbors and friends.
Fifteen-year-old Mustansir Attarwala organized meals for more than 40 front-line workers every day for a month.
A group of 20 women from the community sewed hundreds of cotton surgical masks at their homes as soon as the desperate need for PPE arose. The masks were donated to the East Brunswick Police Department, hospitals, and other organizations. A food drive also was held for hospital workers.
The Dawoodi Bohra community recently recognized the 75th anniversary of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization and celebrated World Food Day by organizing a contest where participants had to use locally sourced “seasonal and healthy” ingredients. Participants were encouraged to post pictures of the cooked dishes on social media, and tagging key World Food Day handles and their local farmer’s hashtags.
One group prepared homemade foods that were donated to Trinitas Hospital in Elizabeth.
Khomusi said it was all part of the community’s devotion to others. “No one knew what to expect, but from Day One, our spiritual leader was very adamant and very proactive about maintaining these important social ties,” he said. “Even in a different form. People were recognizing we were sitting in a place of privilege and we could help other community members and people around us as well.
“We were recognizing this was a history-defining moment where there is so much going on — health effects, social effects, mental effects, economic effects — there’s so much to do. There’s a responsibility on civil society and we try to fulfill our part.”
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