The little known yet the world’s largest organisation, The Tablighi Jamaat attracted significant public and media attention during the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic. Nizamuddin faction of the Tablighi Jamaat held a religious congregation in Nizamuddin West, Delhi at its international headquarters, called ‘Nizamuddin Markaz’. Weekly meetings were held during March. At least 24 of the attendees had tested positive for the virus among 300 who showed symptom by 31 March 2020.
It is believed that the sources of infection were preachers from Indonesia. Many had returned to their states and also provided refuge to foreign speakers without the knowledge of local governments these Tablighis acted as catalysts to spread Coronavirus across the length and breadth of the South Asian countries and in INDIA to Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka, Jammu, Kashmir and Assam.
Authorities in various states are appealing to people who attended the
Tablighi Jamaat gathering in New Delhi’s Nizamuddin to come forward and get themselves checked. Several Coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in the country have been traced to a religious gathering that took place in New Delhi’s Nizamuddin West in mid-March. The Nizamuddin area has been identified as one of the 10 “hotspots” where “unusual” transmission of coronavirus has been detected.
The organisation’s activities are coordinated through centres and headquarters called Markaz. Tablighi Jamaat is maintained from 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 200 countries to co-ordinate its activities. These headquarters organise volunteer, self-funding people in groups (called Jamaats), averaging ten to twelve people. The Ameer of Tabligh Jamaat is appointed for life by a central consultative council (Shura) and elders of the Tabligh Jamaat and the title is known as Amarat- Ameer.
The group began to expand its activities in 1946. The initial expansion within South Asia happened immediately after the partition of India in 1947, when the Pakistan Chapter was established in the hinterlands of Raiwind near Lahore, Pakistan. The Pakistan Chapter remained the largest until Bangladesh
became independent from Pakistan in 1971. Today, the largest Chapter is in Bangladesh followed by the second largest in Pakistan. Within two decades of its establishment, the group reached Southwest and Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America.
Tablighi Jamaat: General Information
- Tablighi Jamaat’s a conservative Muslim organisation set up in 1926 by Maulana Muhammad Ilyas in Mewat- Haryana and aims to spread religious knowledge among Muslims.
- The Emir presides over a council that plays the role of an advisory. “By the late 1960s, Tablighi Jamaat had not only established itself in Western Europe and North America but even claimed adherents in countries like Japan, which has no significant Muslim population,” (According to Alexiev).
- Tablighi Jamaat translates to “society for spreading the faith”, is a global educational and missionary movement whose “primary purpose” is to encourage Muslims the world over to be religiously more observant. According to the Pew Research Centre (PRC), it is currently operating in over 150 countries, including countries in Western Europe.
- The movement is believed to have stemmed from the Deobandi brand (most commonly practised form of Islam in South Asia) of Hanafi Sunni School of jurisprudence. (According to a report published in Stratfor)
- Tablighi Jamaat believes that merely political power is not enough to ensure the effective organisation of the Islamic social order.
While the other Islamist organisations believe that the acquisition of political power is the absolute requirement for the establishment of an Islamic society.
- The organisation is relatively unknown outside the Muslim world since the members consciously work to remain away from the gaze of the media. (According to Alex Alexiev who wrote in the Middle East Quarterly in 2005)
- They also do not publish the scope of their activities, their membership or source of their finances; though it is believed they do not rely on donations and are largely financed by their senior members. The reason the organisation can operate in near
secrecy is because the leaders of Tablighi Jamaat, since Ilyas, have been related to him by blood or marriage. (According to Alexiev)
Links to World of Global Jihad
- Tablighi Jamaat has its links to the world of Global Jihad. The report says that there is evidence of ‘indirect connections’ between the Jamaat and anti-Shiite sectarian groups, Kashmiri terrorists and the Taliban. The report said, “The Tablighi Jamaat organisation also serves as a de facto conduit for Islamist extremists and for groups such as al Qaeda to recruit new members.
- Significantly, the Tablighi recruits do intersect with the world of radical Islamism when they travel to Pakistan to receive their initial training.” Once the recruits are in Pakistan, terrorist outfits such as the Taliban, al Qaeda and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen try to woo them. (Stratfor report)
- The group has at times been accused of having ties to radical outfits, who, as per some observers, could take advantage of its loose organisational structure. The scope of the organisation, however, seems to be limited to spreading the Muslim faith. (According to the PRC)
Most of the followers of Tablighi Jamaat are of South Asian origin, “though there are Tablighis from many different ethnic and national backgrounds”. It is estimated that the organisation has somewhere between 70-80 million followers across the world, which makes it the biggest Muslim movement in the world. Outside of the Hajj, it is believed that its annual meetings in countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, bring together the largest congregations of Muslims. (According to the Stratfor report)
On 16 March 2020, Delhi Government ordered that no religious, social, political gatherings of over 50 will be allowed in Delhi till 31 March 2020. As of 30 March 2020, the entire Nizamuddin West area has been cordoned off by the Police and medical camps have been set up.
Delhi government, on 31 March 2020, ordered an FIR against Muhammad Saad Kandhlawi, the head of Nizamuddin faction of the Tablighi Jamaat and others under Section 3 (the penalty for offence) of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and Sections 269 (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease), 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease), 271 (disobedience to quarantine rule) and 120b (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.
The event has exposed our intelligence agencies failures and has proved that how much vulnerable we are. In the name of religious activities, one can do anything in our society. We still fail to keep a check on how foreigners and own nationals are travelling all over in the country. We have for months have seen the shifting of the ‘Law and Order’ Blame Game between Delhi’s Kejriwal government and the Centre.
Unbelievable that the local MLA, local SHO, the beat patrols and others were not aware of this Tablighi Jamaat’s Annual Religious Congregation at the Nizamuddin Markaz especially during the Coronavirus Shut Down. Delhi government and Law Enforcement agencies have failed to stop the deliberate spread of the Wuhan Coronavirus Jihad through the carriers across the nation.
Everyone needs to share the blame of this unpardonable failure of preventing the spread of CONVID-19 irrespective of party affiliations. Media Channels need to follow some basic ethics by exercising restraint in not inviting such instigators for their selfish TRP ratings. ‘Nizamuddin Hotspot’ curfew needs to be extended by another month. It is time to ban such organisations.
Sources: The Indian Express 02 April 2020 & Wikipedia.
Col RC Patial, SM, FRGS, PhD has served with the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) as a Senior Defence Specialist and has been the Chief Editor of Open Source Intelligence with the NTRO. He has served in active CI Ops across the country and in Sri Lanka. While serving in a Corps HQ in CI Ops, he was responsible for interacting with the Media of five NE states. He is an enthusiastic mountaineer and a trekker and is present, Headmaster, Amity Indian Military College, Manesar, Gurgaon.