Tablighi Jamaat

Tablighi Jamaat (lit.'Society of Preachers',[5][6] also translated as "propagation party" or "preaching party")[2] is a transnational Sunni Islamic missionary movement[2][3][4] that focuses on exhorting Muslims and encouraging fellow members to return to practising their religion as per the Islamic prophet Muhammad,[7] particularly in matters of ritual, dress and personal behaviour.[8][9] The organisation is estimated to have between 12 to 80 million adherents worldwide,[1] with the majority living in South Asia;[10] their presence is attested in 150 countries,[3][4] whereas other estimates attest an approximate number between 180[11] and 200 countries.[9] It has been deemed as "one of the most influential religious movements in 20th-century Islam."[12]

Tablighi Jamaat
2009 Malaysian Tablighi Ijtema.jpg
2009 Malaysian Annual Congregation of Tablighi Jamaat
Sepang Selangor, Malaysia
Total population
12 to 80 million[1]
Muhammad Ilyas Kandhlawi[2]
Sunni Islam[2][3][4]
Quran, Hadith, and Sunnah

Established in 1926 by Muhammad Ilyas al-Kandhlawi in Mewat region of India, it began as an offshoot of the Deobandi movement, and as a response to perceived deterioration of moral values and a supposed neglect of the aspects of Islam.[2] The movement aims for the spiritual reformation of Islam by working at the grassroots level.[9][13] 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), and Dawat-o-Tableegh (Proselytizaton).[14]

Tablighi Jamaat denies any affiliation in politics and involvement in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence),[15][16] focusing instead on the study of the sacred scriptures of Islam: the Quran and the Hadith.[15][17] However, the group has been accused of political links.[9] The U.S. Government has closely monitored Tablighi Jamaat since September 11, 2001.[18] This has revealed that there are no direct links between Tablighi Jamaat and Islamic terrorism, although Islamic terrorist organisations have recruited from them.[3][4][18] Tablighi Jamaat leaders have denied any links with terrorism.[18] Tablighi Jamaat strictly avoids political activities and debates, and instead focuses on religion only.[18] Tablighi Jamaat does admit that it attracts all sorts of individuals, regardless of their social or political standing and doesn't control its membership.


The emergence of Tablighi Jamaat represented the intensification of individual reformation aspects of the original Deobandi movement.

The emergence of Tablighi Jamaat also coincided closely with the rise of various Hindu revivalist movements such as Shuddhi (purification) and Sanghatan (consolidation) launched in the early twentieth century to reconvert Hindus who had converted to Islam and Christianity.[19]


Maulana Muhammad Ilyas, the founder of Tablighi Jamaat, wanted to create a movement that would enjoin good and forbid evil as the Quran decreed,[20][21] as his teacher Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi dreamed of doing.[22] The inspiration for this came during Ilyas's second pilgrimage to Mecca in 1926.[23] What he lacked in scholarly learning, presence, charisma or speaking ability, he made up for in zeal.[24] He initially tried to establish a network of mosque-based religious schools to educate the Mewati Muslims about Islamic beliefs and practices.[25] Shortly afterwards, he was disappointed with the reality that these institutions were producing religious functionaries, but not preachers.[26]

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,[26] or 1927.[27] When setting the guidelines for the movement, he sought inspiration from the practices adopted by Muhammad at the dawn of Islam.[21] 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.[26]

At the time, some Muslim Indian leaders feared that Muslims were losing their religious identity and were heedless of Islamic rituals (mainly daily prayers). The movement was never given any name officially, but Ilyas called it Tahrik-i Imaan.[28][29]

The Mewat region where Tablighi Jamaat started around Delhi[27] was inhabited by the Meos, a Rajput ethnic group, some of whom had 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 majority Hindus, prior to the arrival of Tablighi Jamaat.[19]


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.[30] 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.[12]

Foreign missionsEdit

The first foreign missions were sent to the Hejaz (western Saudi Arabia) and Britain in 1946.[31] The United States followed and during the 1970s and 1980s the Tablighi Jamaat also established a large presence in continental Europe.[28] In France it was introduced in the 1960s, and grew significantly in the two decades following 1970.[32]

In Europe Tablighi Jamaat focused on marginalised 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[28]) as young people from Muslim families, educated in Europe, began to seek "a more intellectual framework for their faith", and moved toward Salafi Islam.[33] In France, as of 2004, it was represented on the French Council of the Muslim Faith.[28] During the first half-decade of the 21st century Tablighi Jamaat went through a major revival in France, reaching 100,000 followers by 2006.[34] 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.[35] By 2007, Tablighi Jamaat members were situated at 600 of Britain's 1,350 mosques.[36]

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,[37] that was largely driven by Pakistani members initially.

Pew Research Center estimates there are between 12 and 80 million adherents, spread across more than 150 countries.[11] By some measures this made Tablighi Jamaat the largest Muslim movement in the World.[citation needed] The majority of the followers of the Tablighi Jamaat live in South Asia.[9][10] It is estimated that nearly 50,000 members of Tablighi Jamaat are active in the United States.[9]

An attempt at Salafi expansion among the Muslim Chams in Vietnam has been halted by Vietnamese government controls, which has been of benefit to Tablighi Jamaat.[38]

Beliefs and objectivesEdit

Members of Tabligh Jamat are allowed to follow their own fiqh as long as it does not deviate from Sunni Islam.[15][35] 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.[39] Those two verses are:[40]

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) 33[41]

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[20]

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.[42]

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";[43] 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 hand; and more.[32] 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.[43]

The method adopted by Muhammad Ilyas was to organise units (called jamaats, Arabic: جماعاتِ‎ 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 organised by Tablighi Jamaat leaders.[43] In these tours, emphasis is laid on "A hadith about virtues of action" (imitating Muhammad). In the ahadith (reported sayings of Muhammad) of fazail (virtues) these has been called Eemaan (faith) and Ihtisab (for the sake of Allah) and Tablighi Jamaat believes this is the most vital deriving force for reward in akhirah (afterlife). The Tablighi Jamaat 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.[44] 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").[45] [Note 1] 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.[45][47] 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).[48]

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.[49]

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.[50] Unlike common proselytising movements, Tablighi Jamaat has 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".[50][51]

  1. ^ In this background Tablighi Jamaat 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[44] and other books.[46]' etc.

Six Attributes (Sifāt)Edit

Six Principles of Tabligh Jamaat

Tablighi Jamaat visits a village or neighborhood, invites the local Muslims to assemble in the mosque and present their message in the form of Six Attributes.These six Attributes 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."[24] [(Sahih Muslim 6466; 207-(2531) Darussalam ed.), Used in notable Fiqh books for 'judging' purpose]. Muslim's believe, they were the best human beings after Muhammad.Muhammad Ilyas just articulated six demands in the form of Six Sifāt which are quintessential to Tablighi Jamaat's teachings. Its basically a discussion about 6 special Attributes that one have to achieve, which will just make it Easy to follow the entire Dīn. According to them, the objectives are:

  1. Kalimah/ ʾīmān [believe with conviction]: 'lā ilāha illā -llāh (There is) No god but Allah, Muḥammadur rasūlu -llāh; is a sacred pledge of man with GOD (believe with conviction & adopt the lifestyle) which should transform one's Certainty, Lifestyle & Affection [from Creation to Creator ; Other's to Sunnah & Worldly to Afterlife].
  2. Namaz/Salah [Performing the prescribed prayers]: Achieve sahaba standard salah & certainty so that one can get spiritual elevation, piety and a life free from the ills of the material world .
  3. Ilm with Zikr [Knowledge with Remembrance]: One have to achieve enough wisdom so that (A) able to differentiate between what is permissible-impermissible, purity-impurity, legitimacy-illegitimacy in all aspects of his/her life (B) Know that, at any given moment, in one's 24-hour existence, what GOD wants of him/ her. Ilm, Dhikr are interconnected & to get benefit one have to achieve them simultaneously. At each moment in one's worldly existence he/she have to achieve, a conscious awareness, nearness, a ta’aluq [relationship] and Ma'rifa [knowledge] of GOD.
  4. Ikram al-Muslim [Honoring Muslims]: Treat fellow Muslims with honor and deference. with all the rest of the Ummah (and by extension, all of creation) – be based on love, compassion, honor, generosity and respect. Instead of demanding them, one should not only forgo his/her rights, but become deeply concerned with giving others at least their due (rights stipulated by the Sacred Law).
  5. Sahih Niyyah/ Ikhlāṣ [Only for GOD]: Sincerity of Intention – Reforming one's life in supplication to GOD by performing every human action (especially ibadah & Muamalat) for the sake of GOD and toward the goal of self-transformation".
  6. Dawah & Tabligh/ Tabligh-i-waqt [Invitation and Conveyance]: Inviting and Preaching – The sparing of time to live a life based on faith and learning its virtues, following in the footsteps of Muhammad, and taking His message door to door for the sake of faith, so that (A) All of humanity (Including Oneself) until the Day Reckoning embodies the first five of the Six Attributes & (B) All of humanity attains salvation, saved from Hellfire by achieving Heaven.[35]


Kakrail Mosque, Dhaka. The Tablighi Jamaat movement in Bangladesh is mostly based here.

Tablighi Jamaat follows an informal organisational 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."[52] 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.[53][54] 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.[30] 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.[45][47]

The organisation's activities are coordinated through centres called Markaz. Earlier Tablighi Jamaat was maintained from its centre, called Nizamuddin Markaz, in the Nizamuddin West district of South Delhi, India. It also has country wise centres in over 200 countries to co-ordinate its activities. These centres organize volunteer, self-funding people in groups (called jamaats), averaging ten to twelve people, for reminding Muslims to remain steadfast on path of Allah.[10] These jamaats and preaching missions are self funded by their respective members.

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.[49] The ameer of Tabligh Jamaat is appointed for life by a central consultative council (shura) and elders of the Tabligh Jamaat.[47] 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 the current Ameer is the great grandson Maulana Saad Kandhalawi. 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 Muhammad Saad Kandhlawi.[55]

Activities and traditionsEdit

Dry-dock parable:
Man is a ship in trouble in tumultuous sea. It is impossible to repair it without taking it away from the high seas where the waves of ignorance and the temptations of temporal life assail it. Its only chance is to come back to land to be dry-docked. The dry-dock is the mosque of the jamaat.

— from the book Travellers in Faith[56]

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.[56]

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.[9][49]

Khurūj (proselytising tour)Edit

largest Islamic movement, Tabligh Jamaat encourages its followers to follow the pattern of spending "ten nights a month (Ashra),120 continuous days a year (Teen Chilla), and ultimately 150 days (5 Maah- Beroon) 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.[49] 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.[45]

During their stay in mosques, these jamaats conduct a daily gasht, which involves visiting local neighbourhoods, preferably with the help of a guide called as rehbar.[35] 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.[57]

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.[49] 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.[9][10] Members of a jamaat, ideally, pay expenses themselves so as to avoid financial dependence on anyone.[49]

Ijtema (annual gathering)Edit

Bishwa Ijtema (World Gathering) of Muslims at Tongi, Bangladesh

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.[34] 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.[45] The oldest ijtema of the World started in Bhopal, capital city of Madhya Pradesh, India.[citation needed] 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 of nizamuddin markaz.[58][59] The second largest Tabligh Jamaat gathering takes place in Raiwind, Pakistan which was attended by approximately 1.5 million people in 2004.[60] In 2011 Pakistan divided the Ijtema into two parts and a total of 1 million people attended each of the two Ijtema.[61][62]

Role of womenEdit

In Tablighi Jamaat, women are encouraged to stay home, and to choose a life of "segregation between female and male". However they also engage in proselytizing activities, discussing among themselves in small groups the basics of Tabligh and traveling with their husbands (or another mahram) on proselytizing trips.[63] Tabligh inculcates in them that dawah is also important alongside taking care of their spouses or taking care of their children.[63]

According to a 1996 study by Barbara Metcalf,[49] the Tablighi Jamaat has encouraged women 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.[49] Accompanied by a close male relative, (mahram), 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.[34][49] 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.[49]

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.[49] Women do not play any role in the higher echelons of the movement,[34] 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.[49]


Mushawara after Bayan Subh at Tablighi Jamaat center in Cot Goh, Montasik, Aceh Besar, Aceh


Due to the orthodox nature of Tablighi Jamaat, it has 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".[34] Tablighi Jamaat has been banned in some Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, where its puritanical preachings are viewed as extremist.[64]

Tablighi Jamaat has also been criticised 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.[49]

Many critics, especially those from Hizb ut-Tahrir and Jamaat-e-Islami, criticise 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 criticise 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).[65] 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.[66][65]

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 mere political power is not enough to ensure effective organisation of the Islamic social order.[67] 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.[68]

The Tablighi Jamaat has also been accused of insufficient orthodoxy and association with Sufis.[69][70] 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,"[71][72] Another Salafi scholar, Falih Ibn Nafi Al-Harbi, has reportedly complained that Tablighi Jamaat "are the originator of fictitious tales and baseless stories and people of bid‘ah."[73]

Allegations of extremismEdit

The U.S. Government has closely monitored Tablighi Jamaat since September 2001.[18] According to US officials, though the Tablighis do not have a direct link with terrorism, the teachings and beliefs of Tablighi Jamat have been a cornerstone for joining in radical Muslim groups. Rizwan Farook, one of the perpetrators of the 2015 San Bernardino attack, was a student of the teachings of Tablighi Jamaat.[18] Tablighi Jamaat leaders have denied any links with terrorism.[18] The Tablighi Jamaat generally avoids political activities and debates, and instead focuses on religion only.[18] The Jamaat does admit that it attracts all sorts of individuals and doesn't control its membership.[74]

According to Pakistani security analysts and Indian investigators, the founders of terrorist group Harkat-ul-Mujahideen were members of the Tablighi Jamaat. The intelligence estimates that over 6,000 Tablighis were trained in Harkat-ul-Mujahideen terrorist camps in Pakistan.[75]

Some of the terrorist involved in the 9/11 terrorist attack had stayed in the premises of the Tablighi Jamaat centre in New Delhi. The Tablighi Jamaat was also suspected of involvement in the Godhra train burning in 2002, whick killed 59 Hindu pilgrims.[75]

Following the 2010 Ahmadiyya mosques massacre in Pakistan, the minister of law in Punjab, said the attackers had stayed with the Tablighi Jamaat.[76]

In February 2020, a counter-terrorism operation in Russia led to the arrest of seven Tablighis and dismantled the terrorist cell affiliated to the Tablighi Jamaat. According to Russian intelligence, the terrorist cell was involved in dissemination of materials and radicalization. The Tablighi Jamaat has been banned in Russia since 2009. The Supreme Court of Russia also recommended the Tablighi Jamaat to be included into the list of terrorist groups monitored by the Kremlin.[77]

The Tablighi Jamaat rejects secularism and believes in strict allegiance to Islamic lifestyle.[78][79] Some have compared the group's ideology to Khawarij whereas others point out that the Tablighi Jamaat takes a "traditionalist" approach to Islam in contrast to Khawarij puritanical approach.[80][79][81][82]

Law enforcement officials says that Tablighi Jamaat's presence all around the world and its apolitical stance have been exploited by militant groups.[83] A former homeland security employee described Tablighi Jamaat as a "trans-national Islamist network".[84] The Tablighi Jamaat has been described as "a conduit and a fertile recruiting ground for jihadi organizations such as Al-Qaeda and Lashkar-i-Taiba".[82][85][page needed][86] However, Tablighi Jamaat itself has not been accused of terrorism by US officials.[18][87] Leaders of the Tablighi Jamaat have denounced Al-Qaeda.[83] According to Alex Alexiev, "perhaps 80% percent of the Islamist extremists have come from Tablighi ranks, prompting French intelligence officers to call Tablighi Jamaat the 'antechamber of fundamentalism.'"[86][88][89]

Tablighi members who have been charged with terrorism include: Zacarias Moussaoui (charged in the United States in the 11 September attacks), Hervé Djamel Loiseau (French citizen found in Afghanistan), and Djamel Beghal (Algerian-born French citizen and Al Qaeda member who was convicted of plotting to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Paris),[32] Syed Rizwan Farook.[84] 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 the Tablighi Jamaat.[9][90] 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.[9]

According to the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC), the Tablighi Jamaat teaches that jihad is "primarily as personal purification rather than as holy warfare".[91] Because of its disavowal of violent jihad, the Tablighi activities have been banned in Saudi Arabia and some Islamist groups have accused the Tabligh of weakening support for jihad amongst Muslims.[92] On the other hand, AFPC concludes, the group bears similarities with Islamist groups in that it adheres to strict Islamic norms and seeks to spread Islam to the whole world.[91]

The Tablighi Jamaat tried to expand the Abbey Mills Mosque into the largest mosque in the United Kingdom. The plan attracted controversy,[93] and the Tabligh was denied permission.[94]

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.[86] Three western experts on Islam, for example, have described it as a:

peaceful and apolitical preaching-to-the-people movement.[86][95]Graham E. Fuller, a former CIA official and an expert on Islam, (author of The Future of Political Islam)

completely apolitical and law abiding.[86][96]Olivier Roy, a prominent authority on Islam at the French National Centre for Scientific Research

an apolitical, quietist movement of internal grassroots missionary renewal[45]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.[12] —Mumtaz Ahmad

Tablighi Jamaat is an extremely secretive group and the core of the group does not disclose how it operates. Despite claims of being apolitical, it has ties with the political and military sector of countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh.[82][86]

The Tablighi Jamaat operates in every sense as a secret society in this country [Britain], as much as elsewhere [...] Its meetings are held behind closed doors. We don’t know who attends them. How much money it has. It publishes no minutes or accounts. It doesn’t talk about itself. It is extremely difficult to penetrate

— TJ scholar, Dr. Patrick Sukhdeo, the director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, [82]

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.[97]

COVID-19 pandemicEdit

Tablighi Jamaat attracted significant public and media attention during the COVID-19 pandemic.[98][99][100]


Between 27 February and 1 March 2020, the movement organised an international mass religious gathering at the Masjid Jamek in Sri Petaling, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The Tablighi Jamaat gathering has been linked to more than 620 COVID-19 cases, making it the largest-known centre of transmission of the virus in Southeast Asia.[101][102] The Sri Petaling event resulted in the biggest increase in COVID-19 cases in Malaysia, with almost two thirds of the 673 confirmed cases in Malaysia linked to this event by 17 March 2020.[103] Most of the COVID-19 cases in Brunei originated here, and other countries including Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines have traced their cases back to this event.[104][105][106] By 20 May 2020, Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah confirmed that 48% of Malaysia's COVID-19 cases (3,347) had been linked to the Sri Petaling tabligh cluster.[107]


Despite the outbreak, Tablighi Jamaat organised a second international mass gathering on 18 March in Gowa Regency near Makassar in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Though the organisers initially rebuffed official directives to cancel the gathering, they subsequently complied and cancelled the gathering.[108][109]


Yet another gathering was organised in Pakistan near Lahore at Raiwind, for 250,000 people.[110][111] The event was "called off" in response to the officials' requests, but the participants had already gathered and communed together. When they returned, the virus travelled with them, including two cases in the Gaza strip.[112] During testing, around 40 members of the Tablighi Jamaat were found to be COVID-infected. Another 50 people including four Nigerian women, suspected to be the carriers of the virus were quarantined 50 km from Lahore. In Hyderabad, Sindh, 38 members of the organisation were found to be positive for coronavirus. Raiwind, the place where the event was held has been locked down by Pakistani authorities and the police arrested Tablighi Jamaat members from their offices in Sindh and Punjab for violating the law.[113]

A member of the organisation stabbed a policemen while trying to escape from an isolation facility.[114][115][clarification needed] Ninety-four more Tableeghi Jamaat members tested positive for the coronavirus on 31 March 2020 in Hyderabad, in the Sindh province.[116][unreliable source?]


The Tablighi Jamaat wanted to arrange the program somewhere in Vasai, Maharashtra. After the outbreak of COVID-19 in Maharashtra, the Government of Maharashtra and Mumbai Police called off the meeting. After the rejection from the Government of Maharashtra, the Nizamuddin faction the Tablighi Jamaat held the religious congregational program (Ijtema) in Nizamuddin West, Delhi.[117][118][119] The Delhi Government's order of 13 March that no seminars, conferences or any big event (beyond 200 people) are to be held was apparently ignored by the organisation, and the Delhi Police also failed to enforce it.[failed verification][120][121] There were also other violation of rules by foreign speakers including misuse of tourist visa for missionary activities and not taking 14-day home quarantine for travellers from abroad.[122]

The Nizamuddin Markaz Mosque added that the officials there"met the Ld. DM and apprised him of the stranded visitors and once again sought permission for the vehicles arranged by us," to clear the Markaz premises and take the devotees back home.[123]

"Under such compelling circumstances there was no option for Markaz Nizamuddin but to accommodate the stranded visitors with prescribed medical precautions till such time that situation becomes conducive for their movement or arrangements are made by the authorities," the Tablighi Jamaat HQ said.[123]

On March 21 the Markaz directed everyone "not to venture out until 9 PM as desired by the Hon’ble Prime Minister, therefore the plans to move back to their native places by way of means other than railways also did not materialise."[123]

At least 24 of the attendees had tested positive for the virus among the 300 who showed symptoms by 31 March 2020.[124] It is believed that the sources of infection were preachers from Indonesia.[125] Many had returned to their states and also housed foreign devotees without the knowledge of local governments.[126] and eventually started local transmissions especially in Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka, Jammu and Kashmir and Assam. The entire Nizamuddin West area has been cordoned off by the police as of 30 March, and medical camps have been set up.[127] After evacuation from the markaz, of the scores of jamaat attendees, 167 of them were quarantined in a railway facility in south east Delhi amid concerns over their safety and transmission of the virus. The Tablighi Jamaat gathering emerged as one of India's major coronavirus hotspots in India,[128] after 1445 out of 4067 cases were linked to attendees according to the Health Ministry.[129][130] On 18 April 2020, Central Government said that 4,291 cases (or 29.8% Of the total 14,378 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in India) were linked to the Tablighi Jamaat, and these cases were spread across 23 states and Union Territories.[131]

Questions have been raised as to how the Delhi Police, which under direct control of the Union Home Ministry headed by the Home Minister & the then Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah allowed this event to proceed in the midst of a pandemic,[132] while a similar event was prohibited in Mumbai by the Maharashtra Police.[133] Once the COVID lockdown came into effect in Delhi from 22 March onwards, the missionaries remaining in the Nizamuddin Markaz were trapped, and the functionaries began to seek assistance from the authorities for their evacuation.[134] As of 4 April, more than 1000 cases, representing 30% all confirmed cases in India, were linked to the Nizamuddin event. Some 22,000 people that came in contact with the Tablighi Jamaat missionaries had to be quarantined.[135] On 31 March 2020, an FIR was filed against Muhammad Saad Kandhlawi and others by Delhi Police Crime Branch.[136][137][138] On 8 April 2020, the Delhi Police traced Tablighi Jamaat leader Maulana Saad Kandhalvi in Zakirnagar in South-East Delhi, where he claimed to be under self-quarantine.[139] Many other members of the missionary group have also been booked for allegedly helping spread the disease, including by hiding in mosques, a police official claimed. However, the Government of India has denied that it is singling out Muslims.

People associated with the ruling Hindutva-aligned Bharatiya Janata Party called out Indian Hindus to socially boycott Indian Muslims.[140] This drew criticism from Arab leaders and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation; the Prime Minister Narendra Modi responded: "the virus did not discriminate between people on the basis of faith, community, race or nationality".[141][142]

On 12 October 2020, Mumbai court discharged the members with the order stating they didn't act negligently to spread COVID and didn't disobey to the orders of the Indian authorities.[143]

Notable membersEdit

The Tablighi Jamaat has no membership lists nor formal procedures for membership, which makes it difficult to quantify and verify affiliations.[144]

The former chief minister of the Pakistani province of Punjab, Pervaiz Elahi is also a strong supporter of the Tablighi Jamaat. During his tenure in 2011, 75 kanals of land (3.8 ha, 9.4 acres) were purchased for a Tablighi Jamaat mosque at the Raiwind Markaz.[145]

The Former Pakistan Presidents- Farooq Leghari and Muhammad Rafiq Tarar were believed to be associated with the movement, the Indian president Dr Zakir Hussain was also affiliated with tabligh jammat[146]

Singers, actors and models, including Attaullah Essa Khailwi,[147] Gulzar Alam,[148] Bacha,[145] Alamzeb Mujahid,[149] are also affiliated with the movement.

Former Lieutenant General and head of Inter-Services Intelligence Javed Nasir and General Mahmud Ahmed of the Pakistan Army both became members of Tablighi Jamaat during their service.[150] 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.[151] Mohammad Yousuf's conversion from Christianity to Islam is widely attributed to the influence of the Tabligh Jamaat.[152]

See alsoEdit


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