Watched by the country’s intelligence agencies, an estimated seven to eight lakh religious preachers and lay Muslims from around the world will gather in little-known Sarai Mir town in eastern Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh district on December 29.
The three-day congregation of the Tablighi Jamaat, a Muslim revivalist movement spread across the globe, will be the largest ever such international gathering in India and will end with a mass prayer to bring in the new year, preceded by a mass nikaah (marriage).
<b1>Tablighi Jamaat groups from Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and the UK are already in Azamgarh, where a mini township has been erected over 40 lakh sq ft in Serwan village.
Several thousand organisers have been preparing for months by building basic amenities, makeshift homes and even a mosque.
Similar congregations were hosted in Dhaka, Bangladesh, last year and in Jaunpur, eastern Uttar Pradesh, in 1995.
Maulana Bismillah, of Azamgarh, said: “There are no written invites. The Tablighi Jamaat, which cuts across sects and moves in groups all over the world to popularise Islam, has spread the message.” He said the meet would be purely religious in nature, avoiding all discussions on politics and communal issues. “We are all living in an examination hall. Those who pass Allah’s exam will go to heaven, others to hell.”
However, the meet won’t avoid current issues altogether. Maulana Khalid Rashid, of Firangi Mahal, a religious school in Lucknow, is leading a delegation to Chief Minister Mayawati to protest the arrest of Maulana Tariq Kasmi, a management committee member, in connection with the recent serial blasts in Uttar Pradesh.