It has been the tradition of the Du`aat Mutlaqeen to personally oversee the teaching and instruction of students who come to them in the search of it. Numerous instances of this are recorded in the historical tomes of the community – such as the epistles of the Du’aat and narratives such as Muntaza al-Akhbar.
In Yemen for example, the third Da`i, Syedna Hatim RA, gave sermons and lectures in a cove on a mountainside ledge known as ‘Kahf al-Na`eem’ in Hutaib situated high in the mountains of Haraaz. Later, after the seat of the D`awat had moved to India, the Du`aat continued this tradition of personal instruction, even during times of persecution. For example, in Ahmedabad, an important historical center for the Bohras, these lectures would sometimes take place on rooftops or underground – away from the prying eyes of hostile rulers.
Some years later, the 34th Da`i Syedna Ismail BadruddinRA took an oath that if he were to become the Da`i, he would cater to the lodging and boarding requirements of all the students who came to him. Upon becoming Da’i he (today’s Jamnagar) giving free boarding and lodging to the students – at a cost said to have been 200,000 Mahmudi of the time – from his personal funds. Not only did he himself keep this promise but it has also been kept by every subsequent Da`i since his passing in 1085AH/1674AD – close to 350 years. Today all students, faculty members and their families of the four Aljamea campuses (Surat, Mumbai, Karachi, and Nairobi) are provided cooked meals at lunch and dinner every day of the week throughout the academic year. This is a total in excess of 3000 individuals.
Elsewhere, Syedi Abdulqadir HakimuddinQR – mazoon of the 38th da`i Syedna Ismail BadruddinRA established similar schools in Ujjain and Burhanpur again providing for all lodging and boarding for students.
Then, in 1225AH/1810AD, the 43rd da`i, Syedna Abdeali SaifuddinRA expanded and institutionalized this instruction of students by establishing Al-Dars al-Saifee in Surat where no less than 200 students were maintained. Instruction was imparted on, among other subjects; theology, Arabic literature, mathematics and philosophy as treated by classical Arabic writers.
It was exactly a century later that the 51st da`i Dr Syedna Taher SaifuddinRA ascended the throne of d`awat and in 1381/1961 he completed the revamping of the Dars in Surat. Reflecting the changing of the times and in keeping with the Fatemi philosophy of preserving the ‘old and enduring’ whilst incorporating the ‘new and beneficial’ ; new educational practices and contemporary subjects were welcomed with the inclusion of courses in English, sciences and the humanities. Significantly, Syedna Taher Saifuddin RA invited the first female students to study in the institute as equals with their male peers. At the time female student numbers were sparse, they entered in small numbers and at advanced ages and often left after a short span. Up until the 1980s those that completed the eleventh year of the course would be in single figures if at all but today the ladies equal the gents and an increasingly large number of them stay the whole course for full graduation.
This transformation of Al-Dars al-Saifee was commemorated with a new name; Al-Jamea-tus-Saifiyah , ‘jamea’ being the Arabic word for university and ‘Saifiyah’ paying due tribute to the efforts of both Syedna Abdeali SaifuddinRA and Syedna Taher SaifuddinRA in the formation of the institute.
The 52nd da`i, Dr Syedna Mohammed BurhanuddinRA continued the development initiated by his predecessor. He widened the dimensions of teaching and learning and provided the campus with the latest technology and facilities. In 1396AH/1976AD His Holiness established an institute for the study of Quranic arts and sciences known as Mahad al-Zahra. His Holiness then endowed Mahad al-Zahra with a state of the art language laboratory that was used for language improvement as well as for enhancing the quality of Quranic recitation, a first in Quranic education.
In 1404AH/1983AD a new campus of Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah was established in Karachi by His Holiness which mirrored its sister academy in Surat. During this period, a complete renovation and refurbishment process was also undertaken for the Surat campus.
Nearly 30 years later, on the occasion of his 100th birthday, His Holiness announced the establishment of a third campus in Nairobi, Kenya. It is this campus that is set to be inaugurated in Rajabul Asab of this current year of 1438AH (April 2017). Thus, an educational movement that traces its heritage to the Fatemi imams of North Africa and Egypt, returns to the continent of its origin.
In his Golden Jubilee year, Syedna Burhanuddin’s son and designated successor, Syedna Mufaddal SaifuddinTUS announced – on his behalf – during the discourse on the occasion of Syedna Taher Saifuddin’sRA urs mubarak (death anniversary) ; that another campus of Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah would be constructed in the suburbs of the Indian metropolis of Mumbai in Marol. The original intent of a campus in Mumbai had been proposed by the 49th da`i Syedna Mohammed BurhanuddinRA and this wish was now brought to fruition by his grandson and namesake the 52nd da`i.
Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah, Nairobi, Kenya
The new campus in Nairobi has been under construction for 5 years and its architecture is intended to be a representation of multiple periods of the community’s history using elements and design motifs from North Africa, Egypt, Yemen and India.
Its central corridor runs East-West along the path of the Sun and is known as the radiant axis.
It has a large courtyard at its center evoking the Fatimi masjids of Cairo.
The Arabic scripts on major facades and walls celebrate the community’s leadership and heritage.
The planners have gone to great lengths to ensure harmonious integration of the campus with the existing Saifee Park neighborhood in the Langata area of Nairobi to strengthen the feeling of community.
The entire concourse has been laid out to enable one to walk ‘shoeless’ from one end of the campus to another using a series of covered walkways, corridors and bridges.
The campus will feature a Mahad al-Zahra Quran sciences building, science labs, arts and crafts studios, recording studio and smart boards in all classrooms. There will also be an indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, games room sports pitches for soccer and cricket and courts for racquet sports, volleyball and similar games. Archery and horse-riding will be offered as well.
A great deal of emphasis has been placed on landscaping so as to create a campus ‘within a garden’.
The campus has been designed to meet the environmental and sustainability requirements needed for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)accreditation. This includes rain water harvesting, composting, solar heating and photo voltaic panels for energy production.
Passive ventilation has been incorporated in almost every single building. Additionally the buildings maximize the use of natural light by means of large-scale glazing throughout.
The campus has also been designed to provide the latest in in-built technology infrastructure including a fiber-optic backbone, BMS technology, campus wide Wi-Fi, RFID access control systems, and AV broadcasting capacity.