Lately, Tablighi Jamaat has been dominating the discourse in India amidst the nation battling the Coronavirus pandemic. The news of the participants from Tablighi Jamaat being super-spreaders has overtaken the mind space of millions of Indians who have joined hand and come together to do amazing work during this time of crisis. The positive news of pensioners donating their life’s saving, people contributing to kitchen run by volunteers which are feeding millions and individuals making efforts to supply PPE to hospitals in need have, unfortunately, taken a backseat with the Tablighi Jamaat members overwhelmingly turning out to be Coronavirus positive, and to a large extend, hindering the fight of the nation against Coronavirus.
From how the Nizamuddin Markaz had to be evacuated, the speech of Maulana (Emir) Saad to the volunteers of Tablighi who are constantly getting ‘Discovered’ from various mosques across India, the people saw it all. The news, highlighting the behaviour of the Jamaati’s is now known to everyone. What really is astonishing that there are people who are still defending it and calling the reporting on this issue as contributing to Islamophobia.
History of Tablighi Jamaat
What should be noted that despite being founded in 1926 which makes them a 104-year-old organisation, which is believed to have a presence in over 150 countries, was not known to a majority of Indians. Most people heard about Tablighi Jamaat only after it was reported that they had belittled India’s fight against Coronavirus.
This organisation was founded by Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Kandhlawi, an Islamic scholar from Deobandi School of thought from Saharanpur. This organisation was started in Mewat, where few Meo Rajputs had converted to Islam but had retained their cultural roots of Hinduism. Giving the slogan of: “O Muslims, become true Muslims.”, he based his organisation of six tenants of Islam as prescribed in Quran and Hadith. His idea was only to interact with converted Muslims and inspire them to the true form of Islam on how it was practised at the time of the prophet. This automatically meant that any other way like Sufism etc was not seen as a pure form of Islam. Also, it won’t be incorrect to say that the organisation goal was to cut the umbilical cord of the recent converts with their native culture and practices.
First spotlight – Swamii Shradhanand and more
The organisation usually worked very silently and much wasn’t known about it. Just before Tablighi was founded, Swami Shardhanand also known as Mahatma Munshi Ram Vij, who was an Arya Samaji educationist/Lawyer was running a “Shuddhi” movement apart from fighting the Indian Occupation via various forums. His “Shuddhi” movement was to facilitate the converted Muslims back to the Vedic fold. His programme became quite popular amongst the recently converted Meo Rajputs of Mewat. On 23rd December 1926, he was assassinated by Abdul Rashid, who visited him in Delhi, posing as a visitor. Mohamad Rashid was believed to be from Tablighi Jamaat, according to reports, and the organisation became embroiled into controversies the same year it was founded. While the security agencies pointed fingers at the Tablighi Jamaat, the alleged link could not be proven.
The involvement of this Jamat has surfaced many times in various terror activities across the globe. From bombing in Barcelona, Portland Seven, 2006 Transatlantic plot, 7/7 London bombings, Glasgow International Airport Attack to the famous charging of Zacarias Moussaoui in the twin tower attack in the US. While the organisation was under the radar of various authorities, such linkages were never discussed in the Indian domestic sphere.
Tablighi Jamaat does not believe in much interaction with non-Muslims. Its volunteers who have dedicated their time to the faith, travel to far corners of India and world t interact with Muslims only and convince them to practise the pure form. When they travel, their accommodation is usually arranged at the local mosques or by other volunteers, all of them belonging to the same school of thought (I’m purposely not using the word ‘faith’). Hence where they go their first and only point of contact are always Muslims. If whereabouts of the members are not shared with the relevant Authority and the Jamaatis do not come forward by themselves, the first victim of this infection will be Muslims themselves. As they travel to far corners, they will be infecting members from the Muslim community where the facilities of treatment/testing might not even be present, in which case the infection might turn deadly.
The disservice to Muslims by those who defend Tablighi Jamaat and their conduct
To say the least, Tablighi is a subsect of one school of thought in Islam. When people defend them or their behaviour by whataboutery are doing the biggest disservice to Indian Muslims, many of whom, might not even belong to this subsect. To the people who prefer to use ‘Single Source’ instead of Tablighi, you don’t realise that such generic term assists in generalising the whole community than a group of people from a particular organisation. Just like Indian Muslims should not bear the guilt of the acts committed by the fanatics in Twin-Tower attack, similarly, the vast majority on Indian Muslims should not be asked to bear the burden of a very secretive society, actions of which are just indefensible.
One thing to keep in mind is that the elite Muslims who defend the behaviour or the people who are not coming forward, are doing so from the comforts of their own homes, where they are maintaining isolation. They are no less than Hurriyat leaders who instigated the young Kashmiri Youth to come out on the streets and throw stones, while they themselves sat in the comfort of their homes and their kids acquired education in various prestigious schools and collages in India and abroad.
I would like to end with one irony. The Tablighi Jamaat was founded as an antithesis to Sufi Islam and had a huge role in eclipsing Sufism in South Asia. Today its international headquarters, the Tabligh Markaz at Banglewali Mosque is battling its own demons while the Sufi Mosque of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, which is located right across it stands tall.