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Tabligh, or the enigma of revival
Sameer Arshad, TNN Jul 22, 2007, 12.10am IST
NEW DELHI: Maulana Mohammed Ilayas, who exhorted Muslims to become true Muslims ( Aye Musalmano, Musalman bano ), founded Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) in 1920s in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area. TJ has since emerged as a leading Muslim revivalist movement with presence in nearly 80 countries.
Though it is difficult to put a number to the growing Tablighis, some idea about its reach and influence can be had from the fact that at least 100 of their Jamaats – each comprising 10 to 12 members – fan out of the Markaz (the international headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat in Nizamuddin) to different parts of the country, and overseas every day.
Throughout its seven-decade existence, Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) has sought to discreetly go about its business – which requires its members to travel to different places for missionary activities.
But, now that it has come under international scrutiny for alleged links to global terror, TJ has turned somewhat introvert, wary of too much contact with the outside world.
The Markaz, which is stone’s throw from the mausoleum of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, is a four-storeyed structure with space for prayers on all the floors. It has a modest office, a madarasa and rooms for guests from India and abroad.
The complex remains cramped, and is packed to capacity throughout the year. The third floor of the complex is exclusively for foreigners.
It is from the Delhi Markaz that Jamaats (groups) are sent across the country to remind Muslims of the need to persist on the path of Allah.
The duration of a Jamaat work varies from three to 40 days. During tours, they remain inside mosques and go door-to-door, asking people to come for prayers and listen to bayan (sermons), so that they develop the urge to follow the path of salvation. Every Jamaat is led by a leader or Emir.
The Markaz keeps a record of every Jamaat in the country, and is a strongly centralised group headed by a two-member Shura. The Shura comprises Maulana Saad Kandhalawi and Maulana Zubair.
The destination of a Jamaat is decided through Mashwara (consultation) with the Shura.
Tablighis say that Sunati Rasullaha (Prophet’s way of life) is the Jamaat’s code of conduct. While dress code isn’t binding, they prefer to clothe themselves in the style of the Prophet: Loose overalls.
While the Tablighis claim that anybody can join a Jamaat, the process, in reality, is cumbersome: A prospective member must have his identity verified from his local mosque.
Maulana Yousuf Saloni of the Delhi Markaz describes Tabligh centres as spiritual hospitals. “Why do you go to a hospital? Hospitals treat medically unwell people. Similarly, we treat spiritually sick people.”
Asked about the alleged Tablighi connections of Kafeel Ahmed, who was pulled out of a burning jeep in the failed UK terror plot, Saloni says, “You can’t understand religion in days or weeks. It takes years to understand religion. These terrorists don’t understand the message of the Almighty and resort to violence. They have no understanding of the religion, that’s why they are bringing a bad name to religion.”
According to Saloni the hard times facing the Muslims worldwide is God’s way of teaching them a lesson. “They are moving away from God and his religion, and are hence being subjected to humiliation, suspicion and disgrace, all over the world.”
Most people who come to the Markaz are well off; it is not an organisation of illiterate and poor; among its main promoters are well-known religious scholars, businessmen, executives, professors, doctors, engineers, government servants and students.
A Tablighi says, “Let me give you an example of what Tabhligi life is like: we have a member, who retired as chief vigilance officer of the DDA. At the time of his retirement, he had nothing – no car, no house, even as his juniors have amassed ever material comfort. A Tablighi remains steadfast on the path of Allah and does not seek personal fortune.”
Twenty-one-year-old Shahid Azam from Gorakhpur says there’s no reason for one to believe the propaganda against Tabligh.
Of the Tablighis, he says, “They are trained to be mild-mannered. What they will do is just greet you, and enquire about the reasons of your absence from the mosque, and ask you to come to the mosque for prayers.”
While most members are reluctant to speak to the media, Dawood, an Ethiopian, is more candid. He says that TJ is about religion and nothing else. “The Jamaat will come to you. They will tell you some disciplines of Islam – how a true Muslim should live.”
He says that whatever is being done in the name of Jihad is terrorism.
“This has put us in deep trouble. People don’t trust us. I have come to Delhi from Hyderabad, to renew my passport. But, nobody is willing to give me a hotel room. It is clearly mentioned in Quran, come what may, you can’t attack non-combatants, women and children. There is no religion that tells you to kill innocent people. The business of international terror is for land and not religion.”