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Not in God’s hands: Why Tabligh Jamaat’s actions are indefensible | Opinion

Tabligh Jamaat: A population that lacks scientific temper can create an unprecedented crisis for the authorities
People who took part in a TablighJamaat function beinig checked by a health team before being taken to a quarantine facility(Ajay Aggarwal/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Apr 06, 2020 08:38 PM IST
New Delhi | ByAvinash Mohananey

‘Jahiliat’ is the only suitable word to explain the indefensible actions of Tabligh Jamaat leaders and their followers, who became one of the main vehicles of the spread of Covid-19 cases across India. Ignorance is a much milder term for this South Asian organisation that has spread its tentacles in several countries across the globe. It is not only in India, but also in Pakistan that the organisation drew flak from its authorities after about 2.5 lakh Tablighis gathered at their headquarter at Raiwind near Lahore on March 11. The ijtema was finally called off the next day, packing off everyone back, but not without the expected fallout in terms of spread of the disease.

Bangladesh is also facing similar issues from this organisation, but fortunately for it the ijtema there was held in January this year. Tabligh holds the second largest gathering of Muslims after Hajj at Tongi in Bangladesh every year. But at the centre of Islam, Saudi Arabia, it remains banned, as the rulers there would find it inconvenient to deal and control its Ulemas, who are based in South Asia. Saudi Muftis allege it to be connected with Sufism and ask faithful to remain loyal to their form of puritan Islam by adhering to Ahle Hadis school, which they can easily handle by issuing fatwas as desired by ruling family.

The Tabligh movement, an offshoot of Deobandi school of Islam, was formed in 1927 in Mewat, Haryana, that called for Islamic answers to the challenges to the personal and collective life of Muslims under British imperialism. It rejected both the theories of either emulating western ideas or assimilating Islamic and western concepts, which several Muslim scholars, including Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, were propagating. The Tabligh founders then believed that their religion was under threat of western ideas and values on the one hand and Hindu revivalist movements like Arya Samaj on the other.


Unlike Hizb-ut-Tehrir and Muslim Brotherhood, Tabligh remains an apolitical and non-sectarian organisation thereby escaping suppression by wary autocratic rulers in Muslim world. Tabligh largely remains a proselytising organisation inviting (Dawah) people to Islam and also preaching the “true and puritan” form of the religion among the faithful. Its followers proceed for proselytisation and fan out in various mosques and Muslim localities. In India, it did not attract the attention of security agencies, as it did not play into the hands of Pakistan’s security apparatus for sponsoring ‘jehad’ against India or supporting its narrative on the situation of Muslims in India.

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But that should not be the reason to allow such organisations to continue preaching obscurantist thoughts among people irrespective of the religion to which they belong. In the time of Covid-19 pandemic, a population lacking scientific temper can create an unprecedented crisis for the authorities and put under strain the health infrastructure of any country. More so, that of a developing country like India.

The facts remain that Gods of all religions are shutting their doors to the faithful. The Vatican has issued a decree calling upon priests across the world to observe Easter (April 12) observation without gatherings. It says “in the countries which have been struck by the disease and where restrictions around the assembly and movement of people have been imposed, Bishops and priests may celebrate the rites of holy week without the presence of people and in a suitable place…”

Hajj, the largest gathering of Muslims at Saudi Arabia could be in peril, as the authorities there have asked faithful to delay plans to visit Mecca in late July. It is a rare occurrence with the last one being more than 200 years back. Mecca and Medina, the two cities pilgrims visit, have been closed down a month back with Saudis closing their borders for foreigners and restricting movements within the Kingdom.

The story is no different for Hindu shrines. Among the shrines that attract large crowds that have been shut are Vaishno Devi Shrine in Jammu, Tirupati Temple, Lord Jagannath temple in Puri, Kamakhya temple in Guwahati and Shirdi Sai Baba temple in Maharashtra.

So, there is no point looking towards heaven for some miracle to happen. If it happens, it will be in laboratories across the world where scientists are burning midnight oil to save the lives of people, irrespective of the religions to which they belong.

Like Tabligh, anyone preaching that everything is in God’s hands would be doing a disservice to their own community and humanity at large at this critical juncture. These thoughts can play havoc within their communities and those living in surrounding areas. A supportive population understanding the pitfalls of violating restrictions would be an asset to any government to deal with this unprecedented pandemic. A regular briefing by those in the frontline of fighting the disease is a better way of keeping people abreast of latest developments and keeping them well informed for better compliance. This will restrict the space for preachers of all religions to mislead the people.

(Avinash Mohananey handled Jammu and Kashmir and Operations desks in the Intelligence Bureau. He has also served in Pakistan and retired as DGP Sikkim)

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