Tablighi Jamaat has pockets of influence in North Karnataka

The Tablighi Jamaat Markaz mosque in Bidar.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Tablighi Jamaat may not have been a well-known sect until the recent instances of COVID-19 spreading from one of their conventions in New Delhi, but it has a following in small pockets, particularly in North Karnataka. As many as six couples from Indonesia, belonging to Tablighi Jamaat, were quarantined in Belagavi last month, while a group from Kyrgyzstan was camping in Bidar.

Syed Shabbir, a sect member from Belagavi, said that travelling in groups is a distinct feature of the sect. A typical Tablighi follower leaves home for 10 to 40 days a year, travelling long distances to spread the message of Islam among Muslims in other cities, States or countries. They are shoestring travellers and mostly use public transport. They stay in mosques in different cities and carry foodgrains and utensils, which they use to cook in the mosque for the group. They go door to door in Muslim colonies, inviting people to attend prayers at the mosque.

Scholars emphasise that people of the sect do not reach out to non-Muslims. “It is wrong to believe that they are an evangelical or proselytizing group. Their motto is ‘Muslims should become better Muslims’,” said Syed Ubaidur Rahman, a Delhi-based author and scholar of Islamic history.

Maqsood Chanda, a doctor from Bidar, said that while several other sects cater to the rich or the middle classes, Tablighi Jamaat works among the poor and the rural masses. “Such work at the grassroot level helps the poor identify themselves with the sect,” he said. He reasoned that awareness about COVID-19 among the sect members was low because most of them were illiterate or uneducated. “Their leaders usually don’t discuss issues other than religion. That has led to most sect members remaining oblivious to political developments or current affairs. That is one reason there is low awareness among them about medical emergencies,” he said.

Mohammad Yusuf Raheem, a writer and commentator on religious issues, concurred. “The term ‘Tabligh’ means to carry a message or outreach. ‘Jamaat’ means society. They are entirely apolitical. They don’t discuss issues of politics, unlike some other Jamaats. Their entire focus is religion.”

‘Not deliberate’

Moulana Shabbir Ahmed, public relations officer of the Tablighi Jamaat in Bengaluru, said those who attended the Delhi meeting may have displayed some irresponsibility, but it was because of lack of awareness, not a deliberate act.

He said that the Nizamuddin Markaz has only a small percentage of followers in Karnataka. Between 90% and 95% of Tablighi Jamaat members in the State follow the Shura sect of the Jamaat, which is distinct from the centre at Nizamuddin.

The Tabligh movement was founded in New Delhi around 1925 by preacher Mohammad Ilyas Al Khandalwi. He wanted Muslims to understand the basics of religion and practise rituals that would make them true Muslims. “He was a believer of the Deobandi school of thought. He and other leaders such as Moulana Zakaria wanted to start a reformist movement in response to the Shuddhi movement of the Arya Samaj. They are popular among the common man as they have simplified the tenets of Islam,” Mr. Rahman said.

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 3:05:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/tablighi-jamaat-has-pockets-of-influence-in-north-karnataka/article31382669.ece

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