My Tryst with Tabligh

I was 11th grader when a local “Social Reconstruction Organization” conducted a talent hunt test at my school – Government (Boys) Higher Secondary Institute, Baramulla. “The Sealed Nectar” – a book written on the life and times of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was awarded to winners. I read it quickly. No sooner I finished my schooling, I started a year-long research on religions. I visited Churches, Temples, Masjids, Gurduwaras, shrines etc. I met Barelvis,  Ahl-e-Hadith, and Shia Muslims etc. Finally in 2011 fall, two men from Dawat-o-Tabligh visited my home, one fine afternoon. They briefed me about the life-hereafter and what can we do in this “temporary bus-stop” to make our eternal journey smooth. I was convinced. “We all have this moral responsibility to spread the message of Allah and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), so we request you to spend three days (Sehroza) with us.” I packed my bag and left for Markaz – where we were supposed to assemble. I was escorted to a local mosque where some fifteen saathis (companions) were sitting in a circle. I was curious to know what they do in mosques round the clock. As I neared, they stood up, shared hugs and handshakes, prepared tea as a goodwill gesture. I volunteered to spend 120 days – a complete course of spiritual awakening as per the doctrine of Dawat-o-Tabligh. I had no idea what will transpire in next four months.

Moulana Ismail started living near Chounsat Khamba building in 1876 at Mirza Ilahi Baksh’s property near Nizamuddin. His son, Moulana Ilyas was born in 1880. In 1912, he got married. He started convincing Meo community laborers that they should visit Banglawali Masjid and learn ablution, the basics of Islam and he will pay them daily wage.  He used to pay them 2 Aannas a day. In 1925, he left for pilgrimage to Makkah.  It is believed that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) guided him in a dream. In 1926, he came back to India to start the proceedings again. First mass gathering (Jod) was held in 1944 near Nuh, Mewat Haryana. In 1964, first group of four Tablighees went to Uganda. Now, from Fiji to Hawaii to Djibouti to any remotest corner of the world, they go to spread the mission. Thus, this Sunni Islamic missionary movement is going global. It is not a sect. It is a movement of faith. It is not a party with scripted mission to add Arkaan (members).  They welcome anybody in the fold. They believe humanity is the passport and love is the visa for Paradise.

Jurf was the first formal Markaz when Hazrat Anas (r.a) volunteered to assemble one lakh companions who were divided into six platoons. They were sent to Syria, Palestine, and Damascus, Iraq under the leadership of Khalid bin Waleed and Musanna bin Harissa, Yazid bin Abu Sufyan, Amar-ibn-Aas, Shurabeel bin Hassan and Abu Ubeda bin jarrah. This is the model of Tablighi Jamaat. The aim of this migration was not war but to spread the message of love and peace. Dawah Methodology is as old as mankind.  Dawat-o-Tabligh is the core responsibility of every believer. Adam and Jesus didn’t preach from pulpits. Top preachers of 20th century like Abul Kalam Azad, Habib-u-Rehman Ludhianvi, and Azizu-Rehman Seyuharwai did preach but Dawah is not sermonizing.

Messengers have been sent to keep calling us towards good. Quran clearly commands us that best among you are those who propagate goodness and refrain from evil. Moulana Ilyas did it as the replica of Prophet’s time. With no banner, no flag, no website, no membership, this sufi-style of propagating the word of Allah in this chaotic and depressed world is something extraordinary. Once ill-treated, abused and called Virus vectors, the same Tablighees turned up to donate their plasma. This is what Islam teaches – do good to those who do bad to you. The fake-news saga against Tablighees embarrassed India and dented its democratic image on global level.

Back to Kashmir, Tablighees converged at a local Markaz for Shabguzari (spending night in a mosque). It was an impressive gathering. Quiet and serene. This peacenik team prayed for the peace and prosperity of Humanity in the dead of the night.  Love was the drug here. Next morning, the head of the group (Ameer) briefed us about the manners of Travelling (Aadaabi-e- Rawangi). It was the beginning of the training course. We were told exactly what is being suggested during road safety week. “Walk in pairs like army does. It is the disciplined way. Anything harmful on the road should be kept aside. Keep left.”  In Islam, walking on the right side of the road is Sunnah (what prophet practiced). Then, why they strongly persuaded us to keep left? I learnt later they respect the laws of the land.

We were taught that we should lower our gaze, smile, help elderly and women to be seated in a public transport. We were repeatedly told that we must pray for every human being irrespective of religion, caste, color or social strata. Da’wah methodology requires them to leave homes for various lengths of time, travelling cities, villages to preach and practice the fundamental tenets of Islam. The issue of character and conduct (Ikram-i-Muslim) is given utmost importance.

Beside other lessons, they teach how to sleep, attend nature’s call, eat, take shower etc. When I leafed through the pages, it is all scientifically proven and fruitful for the healthy mind and body. They teach obedience and self-service. Respecting elders and be compassionate with younger ones. Don’t take any intoxicant. Tabligh prohibits unlawful activities. They don’t believe in camera charity. They sincerely help the deserving. They call it Ikhlasi-Niyyat.  One important factor is Tarki-layaani, whatever is useless, avoid it. Learning correct pronunciation (tajwid) of Quran is the first exercise every day. It is believed that if these principles are followed with conviction and commitment, practicing the commandments of Islam will become easy. The sum and substance of Dawah is to reunite the Muslims with God-the Almighty. The key purpose of their endeavor is to integrate the Ummah. Tablighi squad is apolitical unlike other religious organizations. The strong non-political approach has helped them not to slacken their work. During afternoons, a special class on how to live an ideal life is delivered. “Don’t be spendthrifts, we don’t entertain bad-mouthing, and begging is discouraged.” During Gasht and Mulaqaat, they go door-to-door to convince people for Sehroza/Ashra/ Chilla for spiritual awakening. Quarterly Halqa Jod (mass gathering) is held area-wise to access the work they do. There is no separate women-wing. Immediate male members accompany women.

Nigraan, one companion is given responsibility to help others to get up for pre-dawn prayers. The duty changes daily. It gives us the sense of responsibility. Once the Muezzin would pitch for Azaan from the mosque loudspeaker, we would get busy in Zikr-o-Azkaar and Durood-sharief  (remembrance of Allah and the Prophet).Whatever was read in Taleem from the book Fazayil-e Aamal was exceptionally awesome. I was impressed to know that it was a Sufi Islam they preached. No radical thoughts, no lunatic/fundamental approach. Great Sufi saint Ibn-Aarabi once said that patriotism is part of faith. Tablighees are the most patriotic people. They represent the slow and soft form of Islam. Islam is not bombing and target killing. Tablighees preach not to harm even an insect. How come can they preach violence? Not even once I heard anyone talking tough. I travelled to meet Maulana Tariq Jameel and late Haji Wahab Sahab at Raiwand Markaz, Lahore. Tablighees treat every religion equally. They don’t look down upon anyone.

After the successful completion of the course, our group-head told us during the last speech (Wapsi), “We should use our tongue for kindness, ears for compassion, hands for charity, mind for truth and heart for love.” The dramatic changes happened inside masjids. I have seen drug addicts, thieves and individuals with heinous crimes, those beating elders and harassing girls, now taking care of the poor and needy. It was alike a rehab center for them. They trained us mentally, physically and socially. This silent revolution is gathering momentum.

They follow the philosophy of renunciation and spirituality. Now Indian media has made them scapegoat. The venom spread by yellow Journalism against them has turned into ocean. This has to stop. Covid-19 knows no religion. But corporate media labelled it “Corona Jihad”. In media schools, we are taught ethics of reporting the facts but “objectivity” is a myth. This virtual lynching of Muslims and treating them as second class citizens is nothing but the downfall of the great democracy. Muslims are the bonafide residents of this country. Tablighees are peace-mongers. Banglawali Masjid was not the hotspot of this outbreak. Why is only Tablighi Jamaat being targeted? This nation was known for its composite culture. Not anymore. Fellow countrymen live horror, feel unsafe now. The ruling party legislator accused Muslim vendors of infecting vegetables with saliva. This is the amount of hate brimming in a particualr camp.

Author is a TERI Media Fellow and a member of Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) India chapter.