Understanding the Tablighi Jamaat (Group)

coronavirus tablighi

Coronavirus has become global pandemic without any viable treatment, only practical solution to contain is to social distancing and for the same almost whole world is under lockdown including India. But unfortunately, Tablighi Markaz failed to do unintentionally but communally charged mainstream media appears to portray it as a deliberate action.

Presently world is facing Novel Coronavirus which has engulfed numerous lives globally and declared global pandemic by WHO. It has hit China, Italy, Spain US, UK and it is increasing day by day. To contain it most of the world is under lock down including India, where first Prime Minister asked people to follow self restriction for one day and referred it as ‘Janta Curfew’  and further on 24th of March declared complete lockdown till fourteenth of April 2020 and all mode of transportation is suspended creating huge problem to people particularly to unorganised labourers who failed to reach their respective home and still suffering immensely.

This unplanned lockdown has left all programme including religious suspended but there are many cases of violation including the major error of judgement committed by Tablighi Jamaat in the Nizamuddin Markaz (Centre) in New Delhi, where people were stranded and apparently failed to maintain social distancing required for containing Coronavirus. This is mistake and needs to be criticised but to utter dismay in the India media this was portrayed as if it was deliberately done to harm the Indians and referred it as slur ‘Corona Jihad’ which needs to be declined as malicious and particularly meant for dehumanising Muslim community (Republic, 2020; Siddiqa, 2020). Specially since the 2014 after advent of Narendra Modi government Muslims in Indian media day in day out for one reason or the other were targeted and all sort of rubbish were attached to them. Mistakes of Muslims are blown out of proportion.

Here I would like bring to the informed Indians about who are the Tablighi people because I followed most of the print media and TV media and inferred that most of the narratives which are presented are problematically ill informed. Even most of the alternate media people appears to be utterly poorly informed about the largest unregistered Muslim organisation which came into the existence during British India around the period when last Muslim empire Khilafat-ul-Osmania (Ottoman Empire) was ended. During independence movement particularly Indian Muslim leader worked for its continuity and lead a Khilafat Movement even supported by Mahatma Gandhi.

This was the period in Indian subcontinent for the Muslim intelligentsia of great frustration and they were apprehensive about their cultural and religious identity, it was in this background when Tablighi Jamaat came into existence. Here I do not intent to support or criticise what had happened in Nizamuddin Markaz, it is just to bring the brief history of this Jamaat to which I too spared time.

This group emerged as an apolitical transnational Islamic revivalist movement, in India in 1927 among the Meos/Mewati of Mewat (in present Haryana) to cleaning Muslim society of un-Islamic beliefs and rituals. Maulana Muhammad Ilyas from Kandhla (Muzaffarnagar), the founder of the Tablighi Jamaat, acknowledged this as a big Muslim tragedy and recognized the prevailing conditions of Meos/Mewati to the disappearance of Islam from their lives. To counteract this great Muslim tragedy, he devised a modest but operative plan to return to the basics of Islam which has ever since branded as the Tablighi Jamaat (Group for Dissemination) interestingly this name was given by the people since they worked in group not by the Maulana.

It was about in 1918 Muhammad Ilyas was made the Imam at the Nizam-ud-din Masjid and started teaching at the Madrasah. He thought that by opening centres of religious instruction, the young generation could be reformed. Maulana started establishing Maktabs (Primary schools for Islamic teachings) and madrassas in Mewat. He paid his personal income for this.  But he in a little while became disheartened with the madrasa approach to Islamisation and being conscious of the slow coverage of the fundamental principles of Islam in Mewat and the presence of syncretic elements in Meo/Mewati living, Ilyas boarded on the pursuit for a better way of restoring the Mewatis who had deserted the essential Islamic principles. Subsequently, in the course of his second Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca) in 1926, Ilyas’s understanding was directing him to a greater divine course and after returning this expressed in the form of the Tablighi Jamaat (Nadwi, 1986).

In Mewat, he preached by sending small groups of Tablighis to preach in many neighbouring villages and subsequently to villages outside Mewat. Maulana was very organized in his work of Tabligh in Mewat. A number of jamaats were set up, which integrated non-Meo Muslims, and began touring the villages in Mewat. In this way he brought the Muslims of diverse communities together, hopeful to bring them closer culturally.

One must note that the Tablighi Jamaat emerged in Mewat in an up-front reaction to the rise of Hindu Arya Samaj sect. They were engaged in largescale efforts to bring back drifted Hindus who accepted Islam during Muslim political control in India over a period of many centuries (Sikand, n.d.). In order to respond Arya Samaj preaching amongst the Meos/Mewati, the Tablighi Jamaat boarded on the mission of Islamic faith rekindling and awareness among the Meos/ Mewati of Mewat and the larger Muslim population of India. The Tablighi Jamaat comprehended that the true teachings of Islam had been completely neglected by the Muslims, particularly those living in India. The Ulema’s negligence generated a gap between the learned and the lay Muslims which led to many Muslims questioning the validity of Quranic injunctions. This trend only endangered further weakening of Islam in India. To respond this division between scholarly and ordinary Muslims he invoked the vital principles of Islam in these communities. He contended that the responsibility of spreading Islam was not confined to the ulema but was obligatory on every Muslim.

Six Principles of Jamaat

First is the Shahadah, (Article of faith), which is an avowal that there is no god but Allah and that the Prophet Muhammad is his final messenger. The second is the five times a day Salaats/Namaz (Prayer). These are most vital to an everyday life and they open the door to pious elevation and piety in actions. The third is Ilm and Dhikr (Eulogize) (knowledge and remembrance of God). The fourth part is Ikram -E-Muslim (respect every Muslim). Honour and deference need to be demonstrated toward fellow Muslims and character building. The fifth is Ikhlas- E- Niyat (sincerity in deeds). A Muslim must accomplish every single human action for the sake of Allah. The sixth is Tafrig-E-Waqt (to spare time). The sparing of time is associated with the concept of khuruj (religious travelling), which is presently under extensive discussion in Indian media (Khandhalvi, n.d.).

Who are Tablighi Partakers?   

In this group one doesn’t need to be an Alim (Scholar) to participate in the Tablighi work. The Muslims who join the Tablighi Jamaat starts with a short time of commitment and steadily build on their involvements and eventually become fully fledged Tablighi. Within India, the Tablighi Jamaat has regional headquarters in the capital cities and towns of almost all states. Unlike the enlarge Nizam-ud-din headquarter, these are humble arrangements usually in the small back rooms of those mosques whose members have friendly rapport with the Tablighis or are lenient of Tablighi work.

Transnationalization of the Tablighi Jamaat  

The Tablighi Jamaat has always had a transnational focus ever since its inception. This is evident in the fact that the group did not only see Meos/Mewati or more specifically British India in crisis but the entire ummah (nation) was soaked in jahiliyah (ignorance). Today, the Tablighi Jamaat members are spread across the globe in about 165 countries. Its major impact has been felt in Muslim communities, for instance, in larger Asia including South East Asia, Middle East, North America, South Pacific including Australia, Belgium, France, and Britain. In West, where Muslims make up only a marginal in the form of migration communities without established Islamic institutions and sufficient resources, the influence and popularity of the Tablighi Jamaat is opportune. It proves a vitally important venue for Islamic learning and practices. It also fills in the many social and cultural blankness created by migration. This has helped the Muslims in acquiring the understanding of the fundamental principles of Islam and doing so helped the movement establish and strengthen its preaching networks in these countries.

Therefore, employing itinerant preaching method the Tablighi Jamaat has thus become an important religious training ground for aspiring Muslims among the small-town shopkeepers, school teachers, government clerks, artisans, and professionals in the private sector.  In this way the drive considers that the people will become good Muslims not merely by reading books but by receiving the message through personal contacts and by active participation in dawah (preaching) work.

The Jamaat has looked as the most popular global Islamic revivalist movement in the world today with a membership spread to almost all countries. Contrasting many other Islamic revivalist movements, the Jamaat’s growth and success lies in its aloofness from politics and a focus on tabligh, that is, a face-to-face preaching.

Though the political decline of Muslim power in India and the establishment of British colonial rule provided the wider context for the advent of the Jamaat, it was in fact in the light of the proselytizing efforts of the Shuddhi and Sangathan movements in the 1920s that the Jamaat found a more specific context to launch its Tablighi work (Jan, 1990).

We are in extra ordinary condition fighting Coronavirus globally which requires good health infrastructure and mutual cooperation not the witch-hunting of a particular community. The mistake committed by any one must face the due course of action through the agencies but it is painful to see happening otherwise through vested interested media and utterly communally charged different communities through social media.




Jan, A. . (1990). Islamic Revivalism: Encounter the Modern World (A Study of the Tabligh Jama‘at). Sterling Publisher Private Ltd, New Delhi.

Khandhalvi, Z. (n.d.). Fazail-e-A’mal. New Delhi: Idara Isha’at-E-Diniyat (P) Ltd.

Nadwi, A. (1986). Saviours of Islamic Spirit (Volume 1). Lucknow(U.P): Academy of Islamic Research and Publications.

Republic, M. (2020). Arnab Goswami’s Lead Story – Markaz Lockdown Violation: How Can One Group Put All At Risk? – YouTube. Retrieved April 5, 2020, from RepublicTV website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=564jlHlzfNE

Siddiqa, A. (2020). Like India, Pakistan has a Tablighi Jamaat Covid-19 problem too. But blame Imran Khan as well. Retrieved April 5, 2020, from The Print website: https://theprint.in/opinion/pakistan-tablighi-jamaat-covid-19-problem-blame-imran-khan-as-well/394229/

Sikand, Y. (n.d.). Muslim reactions to the shuddhi campaign in early twentieth century North India. Retrieved from The Milli Gazette website:http://www.milligazette.com/Archives/ 15012001/Art26.h

Dr Amir Hussain, [email protected], Guest Faculty (Contractual) MSW Programme, DSB Campus Kumaun University, Nainital (U.K), 263001


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