The Tablighi Jamaat was founded in the late 1920s by the Deobandi cleric Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalawi in the Mewat province of India. The inspiration for devoting his life Islam came to Ilyas during his second pilgrimage to the Hijaz in 1926.Maulana Ilyas put forward the slogan, ‘Aye Musalmano! Musalman bano’(in Hindi \ Urdu) which translates O Muslims! Be Muslims(in English).
The group originally started out with the aim of being a non political movement, with the main aim being to work at the grass roots level reaching out to Muslims across the economic and social spectrum.
For nearly two decades, the Tablighi Jamaat operated mainly within South Asia. With the ascent of Maulana Yusuf, Ilyas’ son, as its second emir (leader), the group began to expand activities in 1946, and within two decades the group reached Southwest and Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. Initially it expanded its reach to South Asian diaspora communities, first in Arab countries then in Southeast Asia. Once established, the Tablighi Jamaat began engaging local populations as well. Although the group first established itself in the United States, Britain is the current locus of the group in the West, primarily due to the large South Asian population that began to arrive there in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Jamaat is a strictly a non political movement. The Tablighis work at grass roots level reaching out to Muslims for spiritual development.
The Jamaat claims that it does not solicit or receive donations. Rather it is self funded by its members and operates on a very efficient model where administrative expenses are almost absent or taken care of by donations from senior members. As early as 1978, the World Muslim League subsidised the building of the Tablighi mosque in Dewsbury, England, which has since become the headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat in all of Europe.
Ameer or Zimmadar are titles of leadership in the movement.
The first Ameer, also the founder, was Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalawi (Maulana Ilyas) (1885-1944). The second was his son Maulana Muhammad Yusuf Kandhalawi (1945-65). The third one was Maulana Inaam ul Hasan (Inamul Hassan) (1965-95). Now there is a shura which includes two leaders: Maulana Zubair ul Hasan and Maulana Saad Kandhalawi.
In Britain, they have gained press attention in their attempts to build the London Markaz, Europe's largest mosque in Newham next to the site for the London 2012 Olympics.
The six principles:
Tabligh in Arabic means "to convey (the message)" and Tablighi Jamaat strive to revive this duty which they consider as one of the primary duties of a Muslim. They encourage people to follow Islamic principles and the life of the prophet Muhammad through his teachings. Going out for months or years was not a way he practiced or encuraged to become an anchorite. However, sharia law doesn't prohibit going out for months in this way.
When an individual goes out to Jamaat, he tries to bring 6 qualites into his life, which were commonly found in all the sahabas, if one brings these into his life, then following complete Deen will be made easy for him. These 6 qualities are:
|Firm belief in the Kalimah||An article of faith in which the tabligh accepts that there is no god but Allah and the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam is His messenger. and that Allah can do each and every thing without the help of the creation, and the creation cannot do anything without the help of Allah|
|Concentration and Devotion in Salaat||Five daily prayers that are essential to spiritual elevation, piety, and a life free from the ills of the material world. To build a conection with Allah(SWT) and to gain from his unlimited treasures|
|Ilm and Dhikr||The thirst for knowledge and remembrance of Allah conducted in sessions in which every individual contributes whatever knowledge which one can regarding performing prayers, reciting the Quran and reading Hadith and to gain the rememberance of Allah in every action make Dhikr by reciting 3 Tasbihaat, Third Kalima, Durood Sharief and Istighfaar.|
|Ikram-i-Muslim||The treatment of fellow Muslims with honor and deference, to love the youngsters and respect the elders and have special respect for the scholars of islam|
|Ikhlas-i-Niyyat||Reforming one’s life in supplication to Allah by performing every human action for the sake of Allah and toward the goal of self-transformation|
|Tafrigh-i-Waqt||The sparing of time to live a life based on faith and learning its virtues, following in the footsteps of the Prophet, and taking His message door-to-door for the sake of faith. since Nabi(SAW) was the last and final prophet, it is our duty to now carry on this work of the prophets, ie. call others towards good and prevent evil|
Constitution and activities:
Members of any given Jama'at usually hail from varied backgrounds. Each Jama'at is usually constituted in a village or town mosque. They decide upon a route and time period of the journey by or group counselling.
Each Jama'at has 8 to 15 members with one leader or Ameer who is chosen by the members themselves before the actual journey. They stay in mosques along the way, and preach to the people who attend the mosque. During the day, members of the Jama'at visit Muslim homes, door to door, and roam the markets of the town or village they have stayed in and exhort Muslims to lead a pure religious life and invite them to attend a sermon in nearby Mosque after certain prayers. Usually after the sermon, they encourage the attendees to come forward and join them on the spiritual journey for a number of days they can spare.
Since they encourage other Muslims to join in their spiritual journeys, any Muslim can easily join. There are no membership rules to be part of Tablighi Jamaat.
The Jamaat as a missionary organization is popular in South Asia and has many adherents internationally. The main headquarters for Tabligh Jamaat (known as a Markaz) is in Nizamuddin, New Delhi, India. Europe's main Markaz is in Dewsbury, England. East Asia's main markaz is located in Jakarta, Indonesia. The main African markaz is in Johannesburg, South Africa.
When a "Tablighi" returns from his journey, he should try to implement what he has learned into his life. He should also invite others towards it so they can also spiritually benefit from it. Daily Taalim (which means teaching and learning) is recommended to be done at home so that the women folk and children can also benefit from what the men have learnt. However there is a Jamat for women called a Masturat Jamat. Unlike the men, the women stay outside the mosque in the house of a well known tablighi worker following full sharia'h rules with pardah and learn and also teach the women of that locality who may come to join them. Men do not join the Masturat Jamat as they are separate and stay in nearby mosque.
Apart from preaching, followers are also encouraged to spend 2.5 hours every day serving others for the sake of Allah. Typically this involves encouraging other Muslims to do join the Tabligh effort and call others toward Allah and towards the prophet's sunnah. These 'hours' are also used to meet sick people and help the needy. In the local mosque, there is a daily 'taalim' (which means teaching or learning) and one person reads from a book. 'taalim' is also done in homes with wife and children. This teaching is generally done with a few books, but mostly Fazai'l A'amal is used.
Most hamlets in the Indian subcontinent usually have a mosque called the Markaz, or center, where weekly meetings occur. Preachers during these meetings urge people to go in Jama'at for as many days as their condition permits. The recommended period (but not necessary) is four months once in a life-time, a periodic planned tour schedule of 40 days in a year and 3 days in a month.
A strong grassroots support for the movement can be found in India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Central Asian countries, East Asian countries, North and Central African countries, South American countries and the Gulf countries.
In Pakistan the movement is based in Raiwind, near Lahore. The annual Tablighi congregation in Bangladesh, the Biswa Ijtema, attracts over 3 million devotees from around the world. A large participation in Tabligh efforts are also seen in Europe, North America, South Africa, North Africa and East Asian Muslim countries.
A paper published by the South Asia Analysis Group identified the Tablighi movement with inheritors of Muslim traditions whose pactices differed from those of Muslims who were converts to Islam, or traced their traditions from converts to Islam. According to the article the traditions the Tablighi wanted to root out included; veneration of sufism, the mystic orders (pirs), spiritual mentors ("gurus") and saints and the tradition of visiting the graves of their mentors, saints and relatives on important occasions."
Governments normally intolerant of independent movements often make an exception for Tablighi Jamaat. Pakistani military officers, even allow Tablighi missionaries to preach in the barracks. The main reason is that Tablighi jamaat preach such a image of Islam that it is totally acceptable to ruling elite whether in Muslim countries or non-Muslim countries. Their preaching is limited to the six points mentioned above and that's it. As described, it is encouraged as a religious party so that Muslims learn about true nature of Islam and how it solves the problems of not only common people but also of the society.
Criticism within Islam:
Some groups within Islam, such as the Salafis (Salafism) and the Jamaat-e-Islami, criticize Tablighi Jammaat for its policy of refraining from warning its followers of activities that could be labeled as forms of shirk (polytheism) in Islam. On the other hand, groups such as the Barelwis accuse the Jamaat of propagating the "Wahabi" beliefs and associating with them.
The Jamaat adheres to and follows Ahlus'Sunnah, and all its teachings are found to be within shari'ah permissibility.
The book used by Jamat for "Taalim" (or teaching) Fazail-e-Amaal is criticized by Salafis and Wahabis for it's weak hadiths and other contents. Tablighis refute the charge saying that weak hadith narration is allowed for teaching virtues of already established practices in Islam.
US intelligence suspicion of the Tabligh movement:
American counter-terrorism analysts are suspicious of the Tabligh movement. Dozens of the captives the USA holds in extrajudicial detention in its Guantanamo Bay detention camps, in Cuba, had their continued detention justified through their alleged association with the Tabligh movement.
The American counter-terrorism analysts who prepared the allegations against Yasim Muhammed Basardah wrote:
"The detainee was recruited by Jamaat Tablighi (sic), a group that recruits young men for Jihad in Afghanistan. Many of these young men are poor and on drugs. The detainee attended meeting sponsored by Jamaat Tablighi (sic) for two months."
The allegations prepared for Saad Masir Mukbl Al Azani's Administrative Review Board hearing, stated:
"Jama'at Al Tablighi (sic), a Pakistan-based Islamic missionary organization, is becoming increasingly radicalized, and is being used as a cover to mask travel and activities of terrorists including members of al Qaida."
Fayad Yahya Ahmed asked his Personal Representative to provide him with a document explaining how al Qaida was related to Tablighi Jamaat.
His Personal Representative replied:
"We searched for a document to show that there is a connection but did not find one."
Murat Kurnaz's lawyers prepared a long dossier for his Administrative Review Board hearing, that included letters from three American professors of Religion, who assured his Board that the Tabligh movement was founded on a principle staying out of politics.
|Barbara D. Metcalf||
“I will also attempt to explain why it is implausible to believe that the Tablighis support terrorism or are in any way affiliated with other terrorist or ‘jihadi’ movements such as the Taliban or Al Qaeda.”
|Jamal J. Ellias.|
Comments by prominent personalities:
Graham E. Fuller, a former CIA official and expert on Islam, (Author of "The Future of Political Islam") characterized Tablighi Jamaat as a "peaceful and apolitical preaching-to-the-people movement."
Barbara Metcalf, a University of California scholar of South Asian Islam, called Tablighi Jamaat "an apolitical, quietist movement of internal grassroots missionary renewal" and compares its activities to the efforts to reshape individual lives by Alcoholics Anonymous.
Olivier Roy, a prominent authority on Islam at Paris's prestigious Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, described Tablighi Jamaat as "completely apolitical and law abiding."