Modern Housing Society | By Sikander Ajam Khan Associates | Mohammadi Park | A Dawoodi Bohra Community Housing Scheme
|Project||Mohammadi Park | A Dawoodi Bohra Community Housing Scheme|
|Architecture Design Firm||Sikander Ajam Khan Associates
Under the guidance of His Holiness Dr. Syedna Aali Qadr Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS, the ‘Amatullah Aaisaheba Memorial Trust – Pakistan’ launched a closed Architectural design competition for Mohammedi Park, a modern, mixed-density gated housing scheme built from the ground up for the Dawoodi Bohra community. The 86.5 acre site is located in Malir, on Karachi’s rapidly developing eastern frontier.
It has been more than 50 years since the settlement of Shabbirabad in Gulshan Town, and Al-Mohallat-al-Burhaniyah in Hyderi, North Nazimabad. Both of these housing societies were originally envisioned in response to the need within the Dawoodi Bohra Community of Karachi to expand into planned societies which would offer members better standards of living than those of the increasingly congested old inner-city ‘mohallahs’ such as Sadar etc.
These newer mohallahs largely comprised of 400-1000 yd2 plots for single-family homes and, to a lesser extent, apartment buildings. Except for the Masjid complexes, almost no space was allocated for public use and recreation. Over time, many of the single-family units were torn down and replaced with multi-unit buildings and townhouses. Although plots were given exclusively to the Dawoodi Bohras to uphold their cultural identity, these mohallahs had no physical boundaries delineating them. Subsequent expansion around the fringes resulted in intermingling with other communities, which has affected the mohallah’s sense of self-identity.
Moreover, these mohallahs, while remaining relatively low-density, have since been saturated to the point that prices have skyrocketed. Although individual homes are large and relatively luxurious, lack of common recreational green spaces, society-level maintenance issues, and unforeseen developments in the surrounding areas have all had a negative effect on the quality of life of the inhabitants. As second and third generations grow in these mohallahs, as well as others throughout Karachi, so too grows the need for additional space to move into.
As the real estate market stands today, a Dawoodi Bohra searching for quality housing within his price range (regardless of what that may be) is faced with a choice of either a downgrade in quality of life or an exit from the existing community mohallas.
The Dawoodi Bohras are a sub-sect of Isma’ili Shia Islam. The word “bohra” is derived from the Gujarati word “vehvar”, or “trade”, in reference to the community’s traditional profession. The spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community is the Dai al Mutlaq, currently His Holiness Dr. Syedna Aali Qadr Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS.
The current seat of the Dai has remained in Mumbai, India for over a century after transferring from various Indian cities including Amedabad, Jamnagar, Burhanpur, and Surat over the last 500 years. Before then, it lay in the mountain fortresses and cities of Yemen from the 12th century to the 16th century, where it originated during the glorious years of the Fatimid Empire which was centered in Egypt and spanned much of North Africa and the Arab world from 900 AD to 1200 AD.
Because of its roots, the Dawoodi Bohra culture is a unique one that harks back to many others, including Yemeni, Egyptian, African, and Indian. They have their own language called Lisan ud Dawat, derived from Arabic, Gujarati, Urdu, and Farsi.
For Dawoodi Bohras, religion and culture are essentially one and the same. The roots of their rich religious and cultural heritage stem from the teachings of Rasulullah SAW and Amirulmumineen Ali Ibn Abitalib SA. It can be said that the formalization of the culture started as far back as the rule of the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt. The glorious empire was governed by the Fatimid code of conduct, religious tolerance, and patronage of learning that gave rise to a preeminent culture which was rooted in religion. These social, cultural, and religious constructs developed further and evolved in Yemen and India and are exercised today by the Dawoodi Bohra community under the guidance of His Holiness Dr. Syedna Aali Qadr Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS. For Dawoodi Bohras today, there continues to be a rigorous Islamic-centered approach in all aspects of life.
This lifestyle has manifested itself, to various degrees, in the environs of Dawoodi Bohras the world over. Philosophically, as well as practically, the Dawoodi Bohra mohallah is a micro-community establishment defined by a complex of four sacred spaces.