Ramadan News

The Bohras have a unique iftar custom

asmaalizain@khaleejtimes.com Filed on June 12, 2016 | Last updated on June 12, 2016 at 10.48 pm
The Bohras have a unique iftar custom

Huzaifa Mohsin, Ali Asgar Huzaifa (son) and Arva Huzaifa break their fast after the iftar prayers
(Photos by Juidin Bernarrd)

NA100616-JB-HUZAIFA- Huzaifa Mohsin prays during the iftar time on Friday 11, June 2016. Photo by Juidin Bernarrd

Asma Ali Zain gets to end fast in a tradition that's centuries old

The Bohras have a unique iftar custom (https://images.khaleejtimes.com/storyimage/KT/20160612/ARTICLE/306129929/H1/0/H1-306129929.jpg&MaxW=300&NCS_modified=20160612215829

It's with a pinch of salt and bismillah that Arva Huzaifa and her small family, that includes her husband Huzaifa Mohsin and son Ali Asghar, break their day long fast following their community's centuries long custom.

A tradition that is unique and different from many other customs during this month where most Muslims break their fast with dates and water, the Bohra community starts all edibles - even sweets - with a little salt which they believe gives protection from several diseases.

Each year and every day of Ramadan, the family - originally from India - breaks their fast at the Bohra Community Centre at Business Bay under the guidance of the community leader late Dr Syedna Mohammed Buranuddin who has now been succeeded by his son Dr Syedna Aali Kadar Muffadal Saifuddin.

"Our leader says that cooking should be avoided at home in Ramadan since this month is for praying and Quran reciting only," says Arva.

The Bohras have a unique iftar custom (https://images.khaleejtimes.com/storyimage/KT/20160612/ARTICLE/306129929/V2/0/V2-306129929.jpg&MaxW=300&NCS_modified=20160612215829

Taking a break from the centre for a day, Arva set up a special Ramadan feast for Khaleej Times at her home and also explained how the fast is broken at the centre. "It is a very communal feel to break the fast at the centre where we meet with many other people...this has helped us develop a strong community bonding," she explains while her son burns some incense.

Looking elegant in their traditional attire, Arva greets us wearing the traditional dress Rida while her husband and son are dressed in white Sayo Kurtos and woven white and gold topis (head coverings).

Soon after breaking the fast with salt, dates and a drink and after prayers at home, Arva serves Bohra delicacies in a traditional thaal (a big, flat dish that holds a number of dishes).

"A family that eats together stays together," she says explaining the community belief.

The thaal is set with a tantalising menu of two sweet dishes including mango falooda and ladoo, chicken seekh kabab, Russian chicken cutlets as starters, dry fruit including dates alongwith a sweet drink called gudd sharbat traditionally called gol nu paani with sabz seeds.

The Bohra eat in a sequence which all visitors dining with them for the first time will find interesting. In gathering of more people, they seat themselves in a not more than eight people around a thaal. Food is not served until there are eight people around so that there is no wastage. The sweet is eaten before the savoury dish following which the sweet is eaten again before moving to the final course after which the meal is ended with a pinch of salt.

"At the centre, we are all given the food packets that contain dates and biscuits which we keep at the prayer mat waiting for the azaan," says Arva. Many members of the community also go to the mosques in Ghusais or Naif area depending on proximity in case the Busines Bay centre is too far for them.

"This is followed by dates and biscuits along with warm badam pista (almonds and pistachio) milk called harira or tea - whatever your preference is," she says.

The Bohras have a unique iftar custom (https://images.khaleejtimes.com/storyimage/KT/20160612/ARTICLE/306129929/H3/0/H3-306129929.jpg&MaxW=300&NCS_modified=20160612215829

Soon after Ishaa prayers at the centre, the community shuffles into groups of eight - men and women separately - and seat themselves around the thaal to feast on other delicacies such as rice, daal and palidu (drumsticks made of gram flour and semolina) among other dishes on the thaal.

Each year, the children are given a chance to give the Azaan sermon at the centre. "This year, I have registered Ali's name as well," she says.

The family sees us off with the same warmth that we were welcomed into their home.


Bohras mainly reside in the western cities of India and also in Pakistan, Yemen and East Africa. The main language of the community is a dialect of Gujarati with inclusions from Arabic, Urdu and other languages.

When in communal attire, a Bohra male has a form of tunic called kurta equally lengthy overcoat dress called Saya and an Izaar typically donned underneath, all of which are mostly white, along with a white and golden cap called topi. A Bohra woman wears a two piece dress called a Rida. It is mostly a business community.


Asma Ali Zain

Associated with KT for 15 years. Covers health issues, Pakistan community, human interest stories as well as general topics for daily news or features.

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These prayer timings are for Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman. For Abu Dhabi, add four minutes. Deduct four minutes for Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain, and six minutes for Fujairah.

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