Tablighi Jamaat

Tablighi Jamaat
Tablighi Jamaat
تبلیغی جماعت
2009 Malaysian Tablighi Ijtema.jpg
2009 Malaysian Annual Congregation of Tablighi Jamaat
Sepang Selangor, Malaysia
Muhammad Ilyas
Regions with significant populations
 India [1]
 United Kingdom
 South Africa [2]
 Sri Lanka
 France [3]
 United States [4]
Sunni Islam
(Predominantly Deobandi)
Liturgical: Arabic
In Bangladesh: Bengali
In Pakistan and India:Urdu
In the diaspora: In UK: Respective regional languages

Tablighi Jamaat (Urdu: تبلیغی جماعت, Arabic: جماعة التبليغ‎, English: Society for spreading faith)[2] is a transnational religious movement which was founded in 1926 by Muhammad Ilyas al-Kandhlawi in India.[5] The movement primarily aims at Islamic spiritual reformation by working at the grass roots level, reaching out to Muslims across all social and economic spectra to bring them closer to the practices of the Prophet Muhammad.[4][6]

Tablighi Jamaat came forth as an offshoot of the Deobandi movement. Its inception is believed to be a response to Hindu reform movements, which were considered a threat to vulnerable and non-practicing Muslims.[7] It gradually expanded from local to national to a transnational movement and now has followers in over 150 countries.[4]

Tabligh Jamaat maintains a non-affiliating stature in matters of politics and fiqh (jurisprudence) so as to eschew the controversies that would otherwise accompany such affiliations.[8] Although, Tabligh Jamaat emerged out of the Deobandi sub-school in the Hanafi fiqh, no particular interpretation of Islam has been endorsed since the beginning of movement.[8][9] Tabligh Jamaat has largely avoided electronic media and has emphasized a personal communication for proselytizing. The teachings of Tabligh Jamaat are mainly rudimentary and the Six Principles put forward by Muhammad Ilyas influence most of their teachings.

Despite its pacifist stance, Tabligh Jamaat has appeared on the fringes of numerous terrorism investigations. Tablighi Jamaat's role as a springboard to terrorist organizations has been questioned several times but there is no evidence that the Tabligh Jamaat deliberately act as a recruiting arm for Islamic militant organizations.[4][10] Tabligh Jamaat attracted significant public and media attention when it announced plans for the largest mosque in Europe to be built in London, United Kingdom.



Deobandi movement

Key figures

Qasim Nanotvi · Rashid Gangohi
Husain Madani · Mehmud Hasan
Shabbir Usmani · Ashraf Ali Thanwi
Anwar Kashmiri · Ilyas Kandhlawi
Ubaidullah Sindhi · Taqi Usmani

Notable Institutions

Darul Uloom Deoband, India
Mazahirul Uloom Saharanpur, India
Hathazari Madrassah, Bangladesh
Darul-uloom Nadwatul Ulama, India
Darul Uloom Karachi, Pakistan
Jamia Uloom ul Islamia, Pakistan
Jamiah Darul Uloom Zahedan, Iran
Darul Uloom London, England
Darul Uloom New York, United States
Darul Uloom Canada
Madrasah In'aamiyyah, South Africa


Tablighi Jamaat
Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam
Tehreek-e-Khatme Nabuwwat

The emergence of Tablighi Jamaat represented the intensification of individual reformation aspect of the original Deobandi movement. It was also a continuation of the broader trend of Islamic revival in India in the wake of the collapsed Muslim political power and the consolidation of the British rule in India in the mid-nineteenth century. This emergence also coincides with the rise of various Hindu proselytizing movements which launched massive efforts in the early twentieth century to reconvert Hindus who had previously converted to Islam and Christianity.[11] Notable among these Hindu revivalist movements were Shuddhi (purification) and Sangathan (consolidation) movements. The Tabligh movement aimed to reaffirm Muslim religiocultural identity of these borderline Muslims who still carried customs and religious practices from Hindu past. Unlike common proselytizing movements, TJ never strove to convert non-Muslims to Islam, rather it exclusively focused on making Muslims 'better and purer'.[12][13]


Tablighi Jamaat originated in 1926 in Mewat, in north India, which was inhabited by Rajput tribes known as Meos. 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. [14][15]

There is evidence that several Meos converted to Islam, followed by re-conversion to Hinduism when Muslim political power declined in the region. The Meos were generally benighted Muslims before the emergence of Tabligh Jamaat, and lacked the necessary acumen required to resist the cultural and religious influence of Hindus.[16]

Muhammad Ilyas, the founder of Tabligh Jamaat, wanted to set forth a movement that would exemplify the Qur'anic decree of 'enjoining good and forbidding evil'.[17][18] The inspiration for devoting his life to Islam came to Ilyas during his second pilgrimage to the Hejaz in 1926.[19] He initially strove to establish a network of mosque-based religious schools to educate the Mewati Muslims about correct Islamic beliefs and practices. Shortly afterwards, he was disappointed with the reality that these institutions were producing religious functionaries but not preachers.[20]

He abandoned his teaching profession at Madrasah Mazharul Ulum in Saharanpur and started on his life as a missionary. He relocated to Nizamuddin near Delhi, where this movement was formally launched in 1926.[20] When setting the guidelines for the movement, he sought inspiration from the practices adopted by Muhammad at the dawn of Islam.[18] Muhammad Ilyas put forward the slogan, Urdu: "!اﮮ مسلمانو! مسلمان بنو", "O Muslims! Become Muslims". This expressed the central focus of Tablighi Jamat; their aim to renew Muslim society by uniting them in embracing the lifestyle of Muhammad. The movement gained a phenomenal following in a relatively short period and nearly 25,000 people attended the annual conference in November 1941.[20]


Bishwa Dhaka Ijtema in Banladesh

The group began to expand its activities in 1946, and within two decades the group reached Southwest Asia and Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America.[21] Tabligh Jamaat's aversion to politics helped it enter and operate in societies where politically active religious groups faced severe restrictions.[22] Initially it expanded its reach to South Asian diaspora communities, firstly in Arabic countries, and then in Southeast Asia. The first foreign missions were sent to Hejaz and Britain in 1946.[23] Before entering Europe, the movement first established itself in the United States. It established a large presence in Europe during the 1970s and 1980s.[14] The construction of the Markazi Masjid in Dewsbury, England commenced in 1978 which subsequently became the European headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat. This centre holds one major gathering annually, generally in Dewsbury itself. It has also constructed a busy madrasah, called the Institute of Islamic Education.[24]

Introduced in France in 1960s, it grew prominently during 1970-80s.[25] Tabligh Jamaat declined around 1989, although some members still represent it in the French Council of the Muslim Faith.[14] In the few years before 2006, Tabligh Jamaat's influence has exponentially grown in France, which now has around 100,000 followers.[1] However, the United Kingdom is the current focus of the movement in the West, primarily due to the large South Asian population that began to arrive there in the 1960s and 1970s.[26] By 2007, Tabligh members were situated at 600 of Britain's 1,350 mosques.[24]

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the movement made inroads into Central Asia. As of 2007, it was estimated 10,000 Tabligh Jamaat members could be found in Kyrgyzstan alone.[2] The FBI believes that nearly 50,000 members of Tablighi Jamaat are active in United States.[4] By 2008, organization had a presence in nearly 213 countries and with a global following of 100 to 150 million people, it has now become the largest Muslim movement in the world. However, it maintains a majority presence in South Asia.[4][27]

Beliefs and objectives

Following the fundamentals of Sunni Islam, every member is allowed to follow his own fiqh as long as it does not deviate from Sunni Islam.[8][26] Tablighi Jamaat defines its objective with reference to the concept of Dawah which literally means 'to call' and connotes to an invitation to act. In religious context, it implies to a call towards prayer which may also refer to a 'mission' if used in reference with religious prophets and people who were assigned such mission. Tabligh Jamaat interprets Dawah as enjoining good and forbidding evil and defines its objective within the framework of two particular Qur'anic verses which refer to this mission.[28] Those two verses are:[29]

Who is better in speech than one who calls (men) to Allah, works righteousness, and says, "I am of those who bow in Islam"?
—Qur'an, sura 41 (Fussilat), ayah 33[30]
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 3 (Al-i-Imran), ayah 104[17]

Tabligh Jamaat encourages everyone to fulfill the Islamic requirement of da'wa 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 erudites. Tabligh Jamaat also negated the prevailing idea that the highest standards of Islamic scholarship and ethical standards were pre-requisites for proselytizing; and promoted da'wa as a mechanism of self-reform.[31]

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. They encourage Muslims to spend time out of their daily routine in the tablighi activities so that the rest of routine could be harmonized with Islamic lifestyle. They insist that the best way of learning is teaching and encouraging others.[7]

Tablighi ethic discourages social enmeshments in customary and ceremonial rituals which are usually extravagantly followed in South Asia. For example, in such annual congregations and other similar mass meetings, marriages are performed by dozens sans the costly celebrations.[32]

Six Principles

Muhammad Ilyas devoted to what he described as "the mission of the Prophets". The method adopted by him was simple. It was to organize units (called jamaats, Arabic: جماعتِ ‎ meaning Assembly) of at least ten persons and send them to various villages. This unit jamaat, would visit a village, invite the local Muslims to assemble in the mosque and present their message in the form of Six Principles.[33] Muhammad Ilyas articulated six demands in the form of Six Principles which are quintessential to Tabligh Jamaat's teachings. These six principles are:

  1. Kalmah: An article of faith in which the tabligh accepts that there is no god but Allah and the Prophet Muhammad is His Last messenger"
  2. Salah: "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. The congregation will also use these sessions to eat meals together, thus fostering a sense of community and identity"
  4. Ikraam-e-Muslim: "The treatment of fellow Muslims with honor and deference"
  5. Tas'hih-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"
  6. Dawt'o' Tableegh(Dawah): "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"[26]


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

Tablighi Jamaat follows an informal organizational structure and keeps an introvert institutional profile. 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.[34][35] As an organization, Tabligh Jamaat does not seek donations and is largely funded by its senior members. Since there is no formal registration process and no official membership count has ever been taken, the exact membership statistics remain unknown.[36] The movement discourages interviews with its elders and has never officially released texts. 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.[7][37] 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-e-Ahadis).[38]

The organization's activities are coordinated through centers and headquarters called Markaz. Tablighi Jamaat maintains 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 213 countries to coordinate 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 God.[27] These jamaats and preaching missions are self funded by their respective members.


Ameer is the title of leadership in the Tabligh Jamaat and the attribute largely sought is the quality of faith, rather than the worldly rank.[32] The ameer of Tabligh Jamaat is appointed for life by central consultative council (shoora) and elders of Tabligh Jamaat.[37][39] First ameer, also the founder, was Muhammad Ilyas, second was his son Muhammad Yusuf Kandhalawi and the third was Inaam ul Hasan.[21] At present, there is a council of two people — Zubair ul Hasan and Saad Kandhalawi — acting as ameer.[27]

Activities and traditions

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[40]

The activism of Tabligh Jamaat can be characterized 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 organization. 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.[40]

This withdrawal is generally compared to the Hijra, where Muhammad and his Sahabah (Arabic: "!الصحابة", "companions") left behind their worldly pursuits for religious concerns and migrated to the city of Medina in 622 CE. 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.[4][32]

Khurūj - proselytizing tour

Tabligh Jamaat encourages its followers to follow the pattern of spending "one night a week, one weekend a month, 40 continuous days a year, 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.[32] These members use mosques as their base during this travel but particular mosques, due to more frequent tablighi activities, have come to be specifically associated with this organization. These mosques generally hold the periodic, smaller scale convocations for neighborhood members.[7]

During their stay in mosques, these jamaats conduct a daily gasht, which involves visiting local neighborhoods, preferably with the help of a guide.[26] 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.[41][42]

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.[32] 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.[4][27] Members of a jamaat, ideally, pay expenses themselves so as to avoid financial dependence on anyone.[32]

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.[1] 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.[7] The oldest ijtema of the World started in Bhopal, capital city of Madhya Pradesh, India.[citation needed] It attract people from all over World. Almost 2 Million people gather the this annual Gathering. The largest of such annual gatherings are held in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Bengali gathering, called Bishwa Ijtema (World Gathering), converges followers from around the world in Tongi near Dhaka, Bangladesh and with an attendance exceeding 3 million people, it is assumed to be the second largest annual Muslim gathering in the world after Hajj.[43][44] The second largest Tabligh Jamaat gathering takes place in Raiwind, Pakistan which was attended by approximately 1.5 million people in 2004.[45]

Role of women

Women were encouraged to participate since the beginning of the movement. Some scholars objected on the participation of women but Muhammad Ilyas slowly gained their support and the first jamaat of women was formed in Nizamuddin, Dehli.[32] Accompanied by a close male relative, 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.[1][32] Jamaats of women sometimes participate in large annual meetings; otherwise, they commonly hold neighborhood meetings. Since South Asian Islamic culture discourages women to go to the mosque and saintly shrines, these venues offer an opportunity for women to pray together and congregate religiously.[32]

In many modern Islamist movements, women have been relegated to a domestic role. Tabligh Jamaat tends to blur the boundaries of gender roles and both genders share a common behavioral 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.[32] Women do not play any role in the higher echelons of the movement[1] but they may assume roles of leadership in the their own gatherings.[32]


Abbey Mills Mosque

The new Abbey Mills pumping station, which is adjacent to the proposed site of the Mosque

Tablighi Jamaat gained much media and public attention in Europe, particularly in United Kingdom, when it announced the plans for an 18-acre (73,000 m2) mosque near  Olympic Park in east London. This mosque was to have a capacity in excess of 70,000 people making it the largest religious building in United Kingdom and the largest mosque in Europe. The scope of project raised much criticism and concern among the general public.[4] However, the mosque was downsized in its revised project plans for a capacity of 12,000 people.[46]

The plan sparked controversy for various reasons including its initially reported size, the possible chemical contamination risk associated with the site, the uncertainty as to the sources of funding that will be used by Tabligh Jamaat, and alleged links between Tabligh Jamaat and Islamic terrorism.[47][48][49] Mosque officials are engaged in resolving the controversies, as well as countering the perception implied by the term "mega-mosque".[50] Public response to the mosque and associated controversies has included online petitions, various public talks, debates, speeches, and websites, and even apparent threats against people opposing the mosque.[51] With the expiration of the permit to use the site, and neither a current plan permission nor application for a mosque, the building's future remains uncertain.[52][53]

Allegations of terrorism

Although Tabligh Jamaat has claimed a pacific stance since its inception, after the 9/11 attacks in the USA, concerns have risen about its role as a springboard to terrorist organizations. It was cited on the cases of John Walker Lindh,[54] and dozens of the captives the USA holds in extrajudicial detention in its Guantanamo Bay detention camps, in Cuba, had their continued detention justified in part through their alleged association with the Tabligh Jamaat.

A December 2001 article by the Boston Herald cited Indian security concerns branches of the jamaat were related to al-Qaeda. Yet "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid apparently did not remain with the group because they were not violent enough.[55] , passed into Bangladesh under the guise of members of Tabligh Jamaat.[56] "We have a significant presence of Tablighi Jamaat in the United States," the deputy chief of the FBI's international terrorism section said in 2003, "and we have found that al-Qaeda used them for recruiting now and in the past."[57]

A report by International Crisis Group titled Islamist terrorism in the Sahel: Fact or Fiction?" described Tabligh Jamaat as "strictly non-political, and has never been linked directly to violence." and further explained that no interviewed source could identify an instance where Tabligh Jamaat members broke the law or engaged in specifically political activity in Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania.[58]

Also, some notable people hold opinions contrary to terrorism allegations.

"peaceful and apolitical preaching-to-the-people movement."[59]
—Graham Fuller,  a former CIA official and an expert on Islam, (author of The Future of Political Islam)
"completely apolitical and law abiding."[60]
Olivier Roya prominent authority on Islam at the French National Centre for Scientific Research
"an apolitical, quietist movement of internal grassroots missionary renewal"[7]
Barbara D. Metcalf, University of Michigan,  (While comparing its activities to the Alcoholics Anonymous for the efforts to reshape individual lives)


Due to the orthodox nature of Tablighi Jamaat, they have been criticized for being retrogressive. The women in the movement observe completest hijab for which the Tablighi Jamaat is accused of keeping women "strictly subservient and second string".[1]

Tablighi Jamaat has also been criticized within the Islamic circles and the major opposition in the Indian subcontinent comes from the Barelvi movement. One of the main criticisms against Tabligh Jamaat are that the men neglect and ignore their families, especially by going out on da'wa tours. Tabligh 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 to Tabligh and that men should facilitate women's participation by providing childcare.[32]

Many critics, especially those from Hizb ut-Tahrir and Jamaat-e-Islami, criticize Tabligh Jamaat for their neutral political stance. They say that Islamic forces, during their decisive conflicts with un-Islamic forces, could have gained reinforcement from the Tabligh Jamaat followers. They criticize the Tabligh Jamaat's neutral attitude towards crucial issues like the introduction of an Islamic constitution in Pakistan (1950s), Islam vs Socialism (1969–1971), communal riots in India in 1970s and 1980s, the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Movement (1974), and Nizam-e-Mustafa Movement (1977).[61] Tabligh Jamaat, in contrary, asserts that it is only by avoiding the political debates that the Tabligh Jamaat has been successful in reawakening the spiritual conscience of the followers. The apolitical stance also helped them operate in the difficult times, such as of Ayub Khan (1960s) and Indira Gandhi (1975–77), when other sociopolitical Islamic groups faced the restrictions.[61]

The difference of opinion regarding political participation also marks the fundamental difference between Tabligh Jamaat and Islamist movements. While the Islamists believe the that the acquisition of political power is the absolute requirement for the establishment of a pristine Islamic society, the Tabligh Jamaat believes that merely the political power is not enough to ensure effective organization of the Islamic social order.[62] The exclusive focus of Tabligh Jamaat's attention is the individual and it believes the reformation of society and institutions will only be effective if it is through education and reform of individuals. They insist that the nations and social systems exist by the virtue of individuals who form them; therefore, the reform must begin at grassroots with the individuals and not at the higher level of political structure.[63]

Notable members

The Tablighi Jamaat has no membership lists or formal procedures for membership which makes it is difficult quantify and verify affiliations.

Notable members include former presidents of Pakistan, Muhammad Rafiq Tarar and Farooq Leghari. Former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif lives in the town of Raiwind and has attended Tabligh Jamaat's activities on occasions. The first President of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was strong supporter of tablighi. He gave land near Turag river when he was in power. Former President of Bangladesh Ziaur Rahman has been a supporter and member, and popularized Tabligh Jamaat in Bangladesh.[citation needed]

Former singer and pop star Junaid Jamshed has close links with Tabligh Jamaat, and his departure from professional singing career is attributed to his inclination towards this movement. Famed singers, actors and models, including Attaullah Essa Khailwi,[64] Gulzar Alam,[65] Shahensha Bacha, Alamzeb Mujahid,[66] and stage performers like Javed Kodu, Jawad Waseem and Moin Akhter, 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 became a member of Tablighi Jamaat during his service.[67] Tabligh Jamaat also has a notable following among Pakistani professional cricketers Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Yousuf; and the former cricketers Saqlain Mushtaq, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mushtaq Ahmed, Saeed Anwar, Saleem Malik, Waqar Younis are active members.[68] Mohammad Yousuf's conversion to Islam is widely attributed to the influence of the Tabligh Jamaat.[69]


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Coordinates: 31°15′25″N 74°13′22″E / 31.25694°N 74.22278°E / 31.25694; 74.22278

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