Established By: Muhammad Ilyas al-Kandhlawi;
Also Known As: TJ, Society for spreading faith;
Country Of Origin: India;
Leaders: Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Sa’ad Kandhlawi;
Key Members: Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Sa’ad Kandhlawi;
Operational Area: Worldwide;
Number Of Members: Between 12million-150 million;
Involved In: Spreading Hate;
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- Global leadership split in Tablighi Jamaat echoes in San Francisco Bay Area The Tablighi Jamaat, a non-political group which concentrates on individual… [+]
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Tablighi Jamaat is a non-political global missionary movement that focuses on urging Muslims to return to Practicing Islam, and particularly in matters of ritual, dress, and personal behavior. The organisation is estimated to have between 12 million and 150 million adherents (the majority living in South Asia), and a presence in somewhere between 150 and 200 countries. It has been called “one of the most influential religious movements in 20th century Islam”.
The movement was founded in 1927 by Muhammad Ilyas al-Kandhlawi in India in accordance to the teachings and practices that take place in The Prophet’s Mosque and Ashabus Suffah Tabligh. by sending students of the religion to learn the religion around the world. Its stated primary aim is spiritual reformation of Islam by reaching out to Muslims across social and economic spectra and working at the grassroots level, to bring them in line with the group’s understanding of Islam.
The teachings of Tabligh Jamaat are expressed in “Six Principles” (Kalimah (Declaration of faith), Salah (Prayer), Ilm-o-zikr (Knowledge), Ikraam-e-Muslim (Respect of Muslim), Ikhlas-e-Niyyat (Sincerity of intention), Dawat-o-Tableegh (Proselytizaton)). Tablighi Jamaat believes that Muslims are in a constant state of spiritual Jihad in the sense of fight against evil, the weapon of choice is Dawah (proselytization) and that battles are won or lost in the “hearts of men.”
Tablighi Jamaat began as an offshoot of the Deobandi movement, and a response to perceived deteriorating moral values and a supposed negligence of aspects of Islam. It expanded from a local to a national to an international movement. Tablighi Jamaat denies any affiliation in politics and fiqh (jurisprudence), focusing instead on the Quran and Hadith, and states that it rejects violence as a means for evangelism,(although some members have become involved in politics in Pakistan).
Tablighi Jamaat has claimed to avoid electronic media and in favor of personal communication for proselytising, although prominent Tablighi personalities such as Tariq Jameel are featured on an extensive range of Internet videos and often appear on TV. Tablighi Jamaat attracted significant public and media attention when it announced plans for the largest mosque in Europe to be built in London, United Kingdom.
The emergence of Tablighi Jamaat represented the intensification of individual reformation aspects of the original Deobandi movement. It was also a continuation of the broader trend of Islamic revival in India in the wake of the collapse of Muslim political power to the Maratha Empire and the subsequent consolidation of the British rule.
The emergence of Tablighi Jamaat also coincided closely with the rise of various Hindu proselytizing movements such as Shuddhi (purification) and Sanghatan (consolidation) which launched massive efforts in the early twentieth century to reconvert Hindus who had converted to Islam and Christianity.
The practices and teachings in the prophets mosque in madina and asabus Suffah Muhammad Ilyas, the founder of Tablighi Jamaat, wanted to create a movement that would enjoin good and forbid evil as the Qur’an decreed, as his teacher Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi dreamed of doing. The inspiration for this came during his second pilgrimage to Mecca in 1926. What he lacked in scholarly learning, presence, charisma or speaking ability, he made up for in zeal. He initially tried to establish a network of mosque-based religious schools to educate the Mewati Muslims about Islamic beliefs and practices. Shortly afterwards, he was disappointed with the reality that these institutions were producing religious functionaries, but not preachers.
Muhammad Ilyas abandoned his teaching post at Madrasah Mazahir Uloom in Saharanpur and became a missionary for reforming Muslims (but he did not advocate preaching to non-Muslims). He relocated to Nizamuddin near Delhi, where this movement was formally launched in 1926, or 1927. When setting the guidelines for the movement, he sought inspiration from the practices adopted by Muhammad at the dawn of Islam. Muhammad Ilyas put forward the slogan, Urdu: “!اﮮ مسلمانو! مسلمان بنو”, “O Muslims, become [true] Muslims!”. This expressed the central focus of Tablighi Jamat: their aim to renew Muslims socially by uniting them in embracing the lifestyle of Muhammad. The movement gained a following in a relatively short period and nearly 25,000 people attended the annual conference in November 1941.
At the time, some Muslim Indian leaders feared that Muslims were losing their religious identity to the majority Hindu culture. The movement was never given any name officially, but Ilyas used to call it Tahrik-i Imaan. The Mewat region where TJ started around Delhi was inhabited by the Meos, a Rajput ethnic group, some of whom had allegedly converted to Islam, and then re-converted to Hinduism when Muslim political power declined in the region, lacking the necessary acumen (according to one author, Ballard) required to resist the cultural and religious influence of Hindus, prior to the arrival of Tablighi Jamaat.
The group began to expand its activities in 1946. The initial expansion within South Asia happened immediately after the partition of India in 1947, when the Pakistan Chapter was established in the hinterlands of Raiwind town near Lahore, Pakistan. The Pakistan Chapter remained the largest until Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan in 1971.
Today, the largest Chapter is Bangladesh followed by the second largest in Pakistan. Within two decades of its establishment, the group reached Southwest and Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. The Tablighi Jamaat’s aversion to politics, and also its lack of any direct and practical economic-political-social viewpoints, like the occupation of Palestine, helped it enter and operate in societies, especially western countries and societies where politically active religious groups faced restrictions.
The first foreign missions were sent to the Hejaz (western Saudi Arabia) and Britain in 1946. The United States followed and during the 1970s and 1980s the Tablighi Jamaat also established a large presence in continental Europe. In France it was introduced in the 1960s, and grew significantly in the two decades following 1970.
In Europe Tablighi Jamaat focused on marginalized populations — “migrant workers deprived of any cultural access to European society, `lost` teens, drug addicts”. It peaked in popularity and numbers in Europe between the mid-1970s and mid 1980s, and declined thereafter (in France it reportedly started to decline around 1989) as young people from Muslim families, educated in Europe, began to seek “a more intellectual framework for their faith”, and moved toward Salafi Islam.
In France, as of 2004, it was represented on the French Council of the Muslim Faith. During the first half-decade of the 21st century Tablighi Jamaat went through a major revival in France, reaching 100,000 followers by 2006. However, the United Kingdom is the current focus of the movement in Europe, primarily due to the large South Asian population that began to arrive there in the 1960s. By 2007, Tablighi Jamaat members were situated at 600 of Britain’s 1,350 mosques.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the movement made inroads into Central Asia. As of 2007, it was estimated that 10,000 Tablighi Jamaat members could be found in Kyrgyzstan, that was largely driven by Pakistani members initially.
The FBI estimates that nearly 50,000 members of Tablighi Jamaat are active in the United States. As of 2008, according to one estimate the organization had a presence in nearly 200 countries and a total following of between 100 and 150 million people. By some measures this made Tablighi Jamaat the largest Muslim movement in the World. The majority of the followers of the Tablighi Jamaat live in South Asia. Another source (Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life project) estimates there are between 12 and 80 million adherents, spread across more than 150 countries.
An attempt at Salafist expansion among the Muslim Chams in Vietnam has been halted by Vietnamese government controls, however, the loss of the Salafis among Chams has been to be benefit of Tablighi Jamaat.
Beliefs and objectives:
Members of Tabligh Jamat are allowed to follow their own fiqh as long as it does not deviate from Sunni Islam. Tablighi Jamaat defines its objective with reference to the concept of Dawah, the proselytizing or preaching of Islam. Tablighi Jamaat interprets Dawah as enjoining good and forbidding evil only and defines its objective within the framework of two particular Qur’anic verses which refer to this mission. Those two verses are:
Who is better in speech than one who calls (men) to Allah, works righteousness, and says, “I am of the muslims (those who submit to Allah) “?
— Qur’an, sura (chapter) 41 (Fussilat), ayah (verse)
Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity.
— Qur’an sura (chapter) 3 (Al-i-Imran), ayah (verse) 104
Tablighi Jamaat encourages everyone to fulfill the Islamic requirement of dawah even if the person falls short of strong religious intellect. This was different from the other Islamic movements which were mainly ulama-led and extended their leadership roles to the religious scholars. Tablighi Jamaat also disagree with the prevailing idea that the highest standards of Islamic scholarship and ethical standards were prerequisites for proselytising, and promote dawah as a mechanism of self-reform.
Like Salafists, Tabligh seek a “separation in their daily life from the `impious` society that surrounded them”. The only objective of Tabligh Jamaat, overtly stated in most sermons, is that Muslims adopt and invite for the Islamic lifestyle, exemplified by Muhammad, in its perfection. This involves a detailed orthopraxy: “followers must dress like the Prophet, sleep as he did on the ground, on one’s right side”; enter bathrooms leading with the left foot, but put pants on leading with the right foot; do not use a fork when eating, instead use your index finger, middle finger and thumb; men shave their upper lips, but let their beards grow; their pants or robes should be above the ankle “because the prophet said letting clothes drag on the ground is a sign of arrogance”.
The movement encourages Muslims to spend time out of their daily routine in the tablighi activities so that the rest of routine could be harmonised with Tablighi lifestyle. Adherents are also encouraged to enroll in Deobandi madaaris (found around the world) to deepen their faith. The method adopted by Muhammad Ilyas was to organise units (called jamaats, meaning Assembly) of at least ten persons and send them to various villages or neighborhoods to preach. These outings, Dawah tours (see below), are now organized by TJ leaders. In these tours, emphasis is laid on “A hadith about virtues of action” (imitating Muhammad).
In the ahadith (reported sayings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad) of fazail (virtues) these has been called Eemaan (faith) and Ihtisab (for the sake of Allah) and TJ believes this is the most vital deriving force for reward in akhirah (afterlife). TJ founder Ilyas preached that knowledge of virtues and A’amalu-Saliha (Good Deeds and Actions) takes precedence over the knowledge of Masa’il (jurisprudence). Knowing jurisprudence detail (Fara’id (mandates) and Sunan (traditions) of Salat) is useful only if a person is ready to perform rituals such as offering Salat. They insist that the best way of learning is teaching and encouraging others, with the books prescribed by Tabligi Jamaat Movement in the light of Quran and Hadith stories of Prophets, Sahaba (Companions of Prophet) and Awlia Allah (“Friends of Allah”).
Even though there are publications associated with the movement, particularly by Zakariya Kandahalwi, the emphasis has never been on book learning, but rather on first-hand personal communication. A collection of books, usually referred as Tablighi Nisaab (Tablighi Curriculum), is recommended by Tabligh Jamaat elders for general reading. This set includes four books namely (Hayatus Sahabah, Fazail-e-Amaal, Fazail-e-Sadqaat and Muntakhab Ahadith).
Tablighi ethic discourages social engagement or participation with some non-orthodox customary and ceremonial rituals which are usually extravagantly followed in South Asia. For example, marriages are performed en masse at annual congregations and other similar mass meetings, so that the costly celebrations common in South Asia are avoided.
In its early days and in South Asia, the Tabligh movement aimed to return to orthodoxy and “purify” the Muslim religio-cultural identity of heterodox or “borderline” Muslims who still practised customs and religious rites connected with Hinduism. Especially to counteract the efforts of Hindu proselytising movements who targeted these often recently converts from Hinduism.
Unlike common proselytising movements, has TJ mostly focused on making Muslims ‘better and purer’ and ideally “religiously perfect”, rather than preaching to the non-Muslims. This is because (it believes) dawah to non-Muslims will only be effective (or will be much more effective) when a Muslim reaches “perfection”. In this background TJ suggest a series of books comprising Riyadus Saliheen, Muntakhab Ahadith (Collection of authentic Ahadith without commentary), Hayatus Sahaba and Fadhaa’il A’maal Vol 1 & 2 and other books.
TJ visits a village or neighborhood, invites the local Muslims to assemble in the mosque and present their message in the form of Six Principles. These six principles were derived from the lives of the companions of Muhammad. It is stated in one narration, “My Sahabah (companions) are like [guiding] stars, whosoever follows [any] one of them will be guided.” Muhammad Ilyas articulated six demands in the form of Six Principles which are quintessential to Tablighi Jamaat’s teachings. These six principles are:
1. Kalimah: “Imaan – An article of faith in which a Muslim accepts that there is no worthy worship but Allah and Muhammad is his last messenger”.
2. Salat: “Prayer – Five daily prayers that are essential to spiritual elevation, piety, and a life free from the ills of the material world”.
3. Ilm and Zikr: “The knowledge and remembrance of Allah – conducted in sessions in which the congregation listens to preaching by the emir, performs prayers, recites the Quran and reads Hadith from the books comprising Riyadhu As-Salehin”, Muntakhab Ahadith (Collection of authentic Ahadith without commentary), Hayatus Sahaba and Fadhaa’il-e A’maal Vol 1 & 2 among other books.
4. Ikraam-e-Muslim: “Honoring a Muslim – The treatment of fellow humans with honor and deference”.
5. Ikhlas-e-Niyyat: “Sincerity of Intention – 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”.
6. Dawat-o-Tableegh (Dawah): “Inviting and Preaching – The sparing of time to live a life based on faith and learning its virtues, following in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad, and taking His message door to door for the sake of faith.”
Tablighi Jamaat follows an informal organizational structure and keeps an introvert institutional profile. It has been described as “a free-floating religious movement with minimal dependence on hierarchy, leadership positions, and decision-making procedures.” It keeps its distance from mass media and avoids publishing details about its activities and membership. The group also exercises complete abstinence from expressing opinions on political and controversial issues mainly to avoid the disputes which would accompany these endorsements.
As an organisation, Tabligh Jamaat does not seek donations and is not funded by anyone, in fact members have to bear their own expenditures. Since there is no formal registration process and no official membership count has ever been taken, the exact membership statistics remain unknown. The movement discourages interviews with its elders and has never officially released texts, although there are publications associated with the movement (usually referred as Tablighi Nisaab (Tablighi Curriculum). The emphasis has never been on book learning, but rather on first-hand personal communication.
The organisation’s activities are coordinated through centres and headquarters called Markaz. Tablighi Jamaat is maintained from its international headquarters, called Nizamuddin Markaz, in the Nizamuddin West district of South Delhi, India, from where it originally started .It also has country headquarters in over 200 countries to co-ordinate its activities. These headquarters organize volunteer, self-funding people in groups (called jamaats), averaging ten to twelve people, for reminding Muslims to remain steadfast on path of Allah. These jamaats and preaching missions are self funded by their respective members.
Amarat- Ameer is title of supervisor(doyen) in the Tabligh Jamaat and the attribute largely sought is the quality of faith, rather than the worldly rank. The ameer of Tabligh Jamaat is appointed for life by a central consultative council (shura) and elders of the Tabligh Jamaat. The first ameer was Maulana (cleric) Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalawi, later succeeded by his son Maulana (cleric) Muhammad Yusuf Kandhalawi and then by Maulana (cleric) Inaam ul Hasan.
During sometime in 1992, 3 years before the time of his demise, Maulana (cleric) Inaamul Hasan, formed a 10-member Shura (committee) to appoint an ameer. This 10 member shura committee consisted of Maulana Saeed Ahmed Khan Sb, Mufti Zainul Abideen, Maulana Umar sb palanpuri, Maulana Izhar ul Hasan, Maulana Zubair ul hasan, Miyaji Mehraab sb, Haji Abdul Wahab Sb, Haji engineer Abdul Muqeet sb, Haji Afzal sb and Maulana Muhammad Saad Kandhalwi.
In 1995, after the demise of Maulana Inaamul Hasan sb, this shura consulted in Markaz Nizamuddin for the selection of Ameer, but instead of one ameer entire shura agreed upon that there will be 3 faisals. Namely : • Hazrat Haji Abdul Wahab Sahab, • Hazrat Maulana Zubair-ul-hasan Kandhlawi • Hazrat Maulana Saad Kandhlawi. After the demise of Hazrat Maulana Zubair-ul-Hasan Kandhlawi, the Ameer appointed by Mashwara (discussion) is Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Sa’ad Kandhlawi.
Activities and traditions:
The activism of Tablighi Jamaat can be characterised by the last of the Six Principles. This principle, Tafrigh-i-Waqt (English: sparing of time) justifies the withdrawal from World, though temporarily, for travelling. Travel has been adopted as the most effective method of personal reform and has become an emblematic feature of organisation. They describe the purpose of this retreat as to patch the damages caused by the worldly indulgence and occasionally use the dry-dock parable to explain this.
These individual jamaats, each led by an ameer, are sent from each markaz across the city or country to remind people to persist on the path of God. The duration of the work depends on the discretion of each jamaat. A trip can take an evening, a couple of days or a prolonged duration.
Khurūj (proselytising tour)
Largest Islamic movement, Tabligh Jamaat encourages its followers to follow the pattern of spending “three nights a month (Seh Roza),40 continuous days a year (Chilla), and ultimately 120 days at least once in their lives engaged in tabligh missions”. During the course of these tours, members are generally seen dressed in simple, white, loose-clothing, carrying sleeping bags on their backs. These members use mosques as their base during this travel but particular mosques, due to more frequent tablighiyat activities, have come to be specifically associated with this organisation. These mosques generally hold the periodic, smaller scale convocations for neighbourhood members.
During their stay in mosques, these jamaats conduct a daily gasht, which involves visiting local neighbourhoods, preferably with the help of a guide. They invite people to attend the Maghrib prayer at their mosque and those who attend are delivered a sermon after the prayers, which essentially outlines the Six Principles. They urge the attendees to spend time in tabligh for self reformation and the propagation of Islam. Also the regular activities like eating, sleeping etc. are also carried out in the mosques.
Generally, the assumed role of these jamaat members cycle in a way that they may be engaged as a preacher, a cook or as a cleaner at other times. Among Tabligh Jamaat members, this is generally referred to as khidmat which essentially connotes to serving their companions and freeing them for tablighi engagements. The members of the Jamaat are assigned these roles based on the day’s mashwara. The markaz keeps records of each jamaat and its members, the identity of whom is verified from their respective mosques. Mosques are used to assist the tablighi activities of individual jamaats that voluntarily undertake preaching missions.[ Members of a jamaat, ideally, pay expenses themselves so as to avoid financial dependence on anyone.
Ijtema (annual gathering)
An annual gathering of followers, called ijtema, is summoned at headquarters of the respective countries. A typical ijtema continues for three days and ends with an exceptionally long prayer. These gatherings are considered moments of intense blessings by Tabligh Jamaat members and are known to attract members in excess of 2 million in some countries. The oldest ijtema of the World started in Bhopal, capital city of Madhya Pradesh, India. It attracts people from all over World. Almost 2 million people gather for this annual gathering. The largest of such annual gatherings is held in Bangladesh.
The Bengali gathering, called Bishwa Ijtema (World Gathering), converges followers from around the World in Tongi near Dhaka, Bangladesh, with an attendance exceeding 3 million people. In 2018 there was an ijtema in Aurangabad in India which changed the whole scenario of tablighi with minimum attendance of 4 million people gather from around the world under the patronage of Maulana saad khandalwi ameer tablighi jamaat of nizamuddin markaz. The second largest Tabligh Jamaat gathering takes place in Raiwind, Pakistan which was attended by approximately 1.5 million people in 2004. In 2011 Pakistan divided the Ijtema into two parts and total 1 million people attended each of the two Ijtema.
Role of women:
In TJ women are encouraged to stay home, and to choose a life of “segregation between female and male”. However they also proselytize, discussing among themselves in small groups the basics of Tabligh and traveling with their husbands or Mahram on proselytizing trips. Tabligh inculcates in them that dawah is also important alongside taking care of their spouses or taking care of their children.
According to a 1996 study by Barbara Metcalf, in TJ women were encouraged to participate since the beginning of the movement. Some scholars objected to the participation of women, but Muhammad Ilyas slowly gained their support and the first jamaat of women was formed in Nizamuddin, Delhi. Accompanied by a close male relative, (محرم), that is husband, brother, father or son, women are encouraged to go out in jamaats and work among other women and family members while following the rules of modesty, seclusion and segregation. They observe strict rules of hijab by covering their faces and hands. Jamaats of women sometimes participate in large annual meetings; otherwise, they commonly hold neighbourhood meetings. Since South Asian Islamic culture discourages women from going to the mosque and saintly shrines, these venues offer an opportunity for women to pray together and congregate religiously.
In many modern Islamist movements, women have been relegated to a domestic role. Tablighi Jamaat tends to blur the boundaries of gender roles and both genders share a common behavioural model and their commitment to tabligh. The emphasis is on a common nature and responsibilities shared by both genders. Just as men redraw the gender roles when they wash and cook during the course of da’wa tours, women undertake the male responsibility of sustaining the household.
Women do not play any role in the higher echelons of the movement, but their opinions are taken into due considerations. Women and the family members are being to told to learn Quran and follow 5 Amaals in every day life, Taleem of Ahadees, Quran recitation,6 Points muzakera, and mashwara for daily life work and fikr for the whole world as people from around the world will be coming and they are the one who has to learn before they teach.
Alleged connections to terrorism:
In France, as many as “80% percent of the Islamist extremists have come from Tablighi ranks, prompting French intelligence officers to call Tablighi Jamaat the ‘antechamber of fundamentalism.'”Among those who have been members of TJ in France are Zacarias Moussaoui (the only person to be charged in the United States in the September 11 attacks), Hervé Djamel Loiseau, a young Frenchman who died fleeing the 2001 American bombardment of Tora Bora in Afghanistan, and Djamel Beghal, an Algerian-born Frenchman and admitted member of Al Qaeda who was convicted in 2005 of plotting to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Paris.
In a foiled January 2008 bombing plot in Barcelona, Spain, “some media reports” stated that a Muslim leader in the city stated that the fourteen suspects arrested by police in a series of raids (where bomb-making materials were seized) were members of Tablighi Jamaat. Other terrorist plots and attacks on civilians that members of Tablighi Jamaat have been connected with include the Portland Seven, the Lackawanna Six, the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot, the 7/7 London bombings, the 2007 London car bombs, and 2007 Glasgow International Airport attack.
Former Department of Homeland Security employee Philip Haney described Tablighi Jamaat as part of a “trans-national Islamist network” that was also affiliated with the Dar Al Uloom al Islamiyah mosque in San Bernardino, which terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook attended frequently. Assistant FBI Director Michael Heimbach said “We have significant presence of Tablighi Jamaat in the United States and we have found that al Qaeda used them for recruiting.”
The American Foreign Policy Council’s report on Tablighi Jamaat states:
“The available data today indicates that TJ, at least in the preponderance of locations around the World where it is found, can be considered ipso facto a passive supporter of jihadist groups via its reinforcement of strict Islamic norms, intolerance of other religious traditions and unwavering commitment to Islamizing the entire planet. . . However, its eschewal of politics (at least publicly) has enabled TJ, in most venues, to escape suppression by wary government organs.”
According to French Tablighi expert Marc Gaborieau, its philosophy and transnational goals include the “planned conquest of the World”.
Many outside observers have described the group as “apolitical” at least in part because it avoids media and government notice, operates largely in secrecy, and has missionaries that lead austere lifestyles with principled stands against social ills. Three western experts on Islam, for example, have described it as a:
“peaceful and apolitical preaching-to-the-people movement. —Graham E. Fuller, a former CIA official and an expert on Islam, (author of The Future of Political Islam)”
“completely apolitical and law abiding. —Olivier Roy, a prominent authority on Islam at the French National Centre for Scientific Research”
“an apolitical, quietist movement of internal grassroots missionary renewal (While comparing its activities to the Alcoholics Anonymous for the efforts to reshape individual lives)” — Barbara D. Metcalf, University of Michigan.
Another describes it as having an “apolitical stance” which:
“has helped it to penetrate and operate without hindrance in Muslim and non-Muslim societies where politically activist Islamic groups face severe restrictions.” — Mumtaz Ahmad
However, Tablighi Jamaat members have been involved in politics in Pakistan, and in the West, a number of young men have passed through the group on their way to an extreme, militant interpretation of the religion.
In Pakistan, prime minister Nawaz Sharif (whose father was a prominent Tablighi member and financier) helped Tablighi members take prominent political positions. For example, in 1998, Muhammad Rafique Tarar, a Tablighi sympathizer, took the ceremonial presidency while, in 1990, Lt. Gen. Javed Nasir assumed the powerful director-generalship of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s chief intelligence agency.
In 1995, after Benazir Bhutto, who was less sympathetic to Islamist causes, returned to the premiership, the Pakistani army thwarted a coup attempt by several dozen high-ranking military officers and civilians, some of whom were members of the Tablighi Jamaat and some of whom also held membership in Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, a U.S. State Department-defined terrorist organization. In January 2016, in what was “probably the first time that any restriction has been placed on Tableeghi Jamaat” in Pakistan, the Punjab government banned preaching on university campuses, and banned Tableeghi Jamaat (and other non-students) from preaching and staying in campus hostels.
Due to the orthodox nature of Tablighi Jamaat, they have been criticised for being retrogressive. The women in the movement observe complete hijab for which the Tablighi Jamaat is accused of keeping women “strictly subservient and second string”.
Tablighi Jamaat has also been criticized within Islamic circles and the major opposition in the Indian subcontinent comes from the Barelvi movement. One of the main criticisms against them is that the men neglect and ignore their families, especially by going out on da’wa tours. Tablighi Jamaat participants, in response, argue that both genders should be equally engaged in Tabligh. They further say that women, like men, are also urged to carry the responsibility of Tabligh and that men should facilitate women’s participation by providing childcare.
Many critics, especially those from Hizb ut-Tahrir and Jamaat-e-Islami, criticize Tabligh Jamaat for their neutral political stance. They say that Islamist forces, during their conflicts with secular or non-Islamist opponents, could have been helped by Tablighi Jamaat followers. Specifically they criticize the Tabligh Jamaat’s neutral position towards issues in South Asia such as the introduction of an Islamic constitution in Pakistan (1950s), Islam vs Socialism (1969–1971), communal riots in India in the 1970s and 1980s, the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Movement (1974), and Nizam-e-Mustafa Movement (1977).
The Tablighi Jamaat, in response, states that it is only by avoiding the political debates that the Tablighi Jamaat has been successful in reawakening the spiritual conscience of the followers. The apolitical stance also helped them operate in difficult times, such as during the governments of Ayub Khan (1960s) and Indira Gandhi (1975–77), when other sociopolitical Islamic groups faced restrictions.
The difference of opinion regarding political participation also marks the fundamental difference between the Tablighi Jamaat and Islamist movements. While the Islamists believe that the acquisition of political power is the absolute requirement for the establishment of an Islamic society, the Tablighi Jamaat believes that merely the political power is not enough to ensure effective organisation of the Islamic social order.
The exclusive focus of the Tablighi Jamaat’s attention is the individual, and members believe the reformation of society and institutions will only be effective through education and reform of individuals. They insist that nations and social systems exist by the virtue of the individuals who form them; therefore, the reform must begin at the grass-roots with individuals and not at the higher level of political structure.
TJ have also been accused of insufficient orthodoxy and association with Sufis. Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz, the former grand mufti of Saudi Arabia is reported to have said that “Jama’atul-Tableegh … have many deviations. They have some aspects of bid‘ah and shirk, so it is not permissible to go with them,” Another Wahhabi cleric, Falih Ibn Nafi Al-Harbi, has reportedly complained that TJ “are the originator of fictitious tales and baseless stories and people of bid‘ah.” The elders of Tablighi Jamaat are of the view that there are different schools of thought in Islam (like other religions), so emphasis on differences rather than unity will segregate (disamalgamate) and weaken the Ummah.
The Tablighi Jamaat has no membership lists or formal procedures for membership which makes it difficult to quantify and verify affiliations.
Former President of India, Dr. Zakir Husain (politician) was associated with this movement. The former chief minister of Punjab Pervaiz Elahi is also a strong supporter of the Tablighi Jamaat. During his tenure in 2011, 75 kanals of land were purchased for a Tablighi Jamaat mosque at the Raiwind Markaz.
Maulana (cleric) Tariq Jameel is a prominent member of Tablighi Jamaat.
Former singer and pop star Junaid Jamshed had close links with Tabligh Jamaat, and his departure from his professional singing career is attributed to his inclination towards the movement.
Singers, actors and models, including Attaullah Essa Khailwi, Gulzar Alam, Bacha, Alamzeb Mujahid, are also affiliated with the movement.
Former Lieutenant General, and heads of Inter-Services Intelligence, Javed Nasir and General Mahmud Ahmed of the Pakistan Army both became members of Tablighi Jamaat during their service. The Tablighi Jamaat also has a notable following among Pakistani professional cricketers: Shahid Afridi, Mohammad (formerly “Youhana”) Yousuf and the former cricketers Saqlain Mushtaq, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mushtaq Ahmed, Saeed Anwar and Saeed Ahmed are active members. Mohammad Yousuf’s conversion from Christianity to Islam is widely attributed to the influence of the Tabligh Jamaat. Other members included are Haji Saifullah, cricketers Hashim Amla, Moin Ali and many more.