It was founded in the late 1920s by the Deobandi cleric Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalawi in the Mewat province of India. Maulana Ilyas put forward the slogan, ‘Aye Musalmano! Musalman bano’ (O Muslims! Be Muslims).
It is strictly a non political movement. The Tablighis work at grass roots level reaching out to Muslims across the economic and social spectrum.
Originally started in Delhi, India, the movement has spread to 150 countries and has an active following estimated to be between 70 to 80 million devout followers.
The Jamaat does not solicit or receive donations. Rather it is self funded by its members and operates on a very efficient model where administrative expenses are almost absent or taken care of by donations from senior members.
Ameer or Zimmadar
Ameer or Zimmadar are titles of leadership in the movement.
The first Ameer, also the founder, was Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalawi (Maulana Ilyas) (RA) (1885-1944). The second was his son Maulana Muhammad Yusuf Kandhalawi (1917-65) (RA). The third one was Maulana Inaam ul Hasan (Inamul Hassan) (1965-95) (RA). Now there is a shura which includes two leaders: Maulana Zubair ul Hasan and Maulana Saad Kandhalawi
Tabligh in Arabic means “to deliver (the message)” and Tablighi Jamaat strive to revive this duty which they consider as one of the primary duties of a Muslims. They encourage people to follow Islamic principles and the life of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
The movement asks the Muslims at-large to spend their time and money in spiritual journeys (called “khurooj” in Arabic) to seek religious knowledge (“Taleem”) and promote the faith. During these scheduled journeys (usually for a specified period of 4 months, 40 days, 10 days, or 3 days), members of each travelling group (called jama’ats) learn the basic tenets of Islam from each other. Apart from these, a list of desired qualities of the sahaba are studied and practiced.
1.Kalima Conviction of faith – Belief in the oneness of God. This is expanded to mean that the creation cannot do anything without the will of God, but God can do everything without the creation. It also has the adjunct of belief that complete success in this world and the hereafter is only achieved in following the way of life shown by the prophet Muhammad and every other way leads to failure in this world and the hereafter.
2.Namaz Humility & Devotion in Salah – Perfection in observance of prayers.
3.Ilm-o-Zhikar Acquiring knowledge about Islam and the Universe and remembrance of God.
4.Ikram-e-Muslim Good behaviour towards Muslims, and others. Sacrificing ones own needs in order to fulfil another’s needs. Includes respecting ones elders and showing kindness to somebody younger.
5.Sa-hih-Niyyat (Also referred to as Ikhlas-e-Niyyat) Correction and Purity of intention. Meaning that all good actions should be solely for the pleasure of God and not for fame or materialistic gain. At the beginning, during and at the end of a good deed, the intention should be checked and corrected.
6.Da’awat-Il-Allah Inviting to God – Spending ones time and money in the “Path of God” (Invite towards good action e.g. charity, prayer and calling people towards God). This task is a must for every Muslim as Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was the last messenger of God and no further messengers will come to preach the message of Islam.
Constitution and activities
Members of any given Jama’at usually hail from varied backgrounds. Each Jama’at is usually constituted in a village or town mosque. They decide upon a route and time period of the Journey by Mash’wara or group counselling.
Each Jama’at has 8 to 15 members with one leader or Amir who is usually chosen by the members themselves before the actual journey. They stay in Masjids (Mosques) along the way, and preach to the people who attend the Mosque. During the day, members of the Jama’at visit Muslim houses door to door and roam the markets of the town or village they have stayed in and exhort Muslims to lead a pure religious life and invite them to attend a sermon in nearby Mosque after certain prayers. Usually after the sermon, they encourage the attendees to come forward and join them on the spiritual journeys for a number of days they can spare.
Since they encourage other Muslims to join in their spiritual journeys, any Muslim can easily join. There is no strict membership rules to be part of Tablighi Jamaat. In fact there is no ‘membership’ at all and there is no background check for newcomers. Almost any Muslim can join the group in a mosque.
The Jamaat as a missionary organization is popular in South Asia and has many adherents internationally. The main headquarters for Tabligh Jamaat (known as a Markaz) is in Nizamud-deen,India. Europe’s main Markaz is in Dewsbury, England. East Asia’s main markaz is located in Jakarta, Indonesia. The main African markaz is in Johannesburg, South Africa. The group has also given lectures in the majority of mosques in the world.
When a “Tablighi” returns from his journey, he should try to implement what he has learnt into his life. He should also invite others towards it so they can also spiritually benefit from it. Daily Taalim (which means teaching and learning) is recommended to be done at home so that the women folk and children can also benefit from what the men have learnt. However there is a Jamat for women called a Masturat Jamat. Unlike the men, the women stay outside the mosque in the house of a well known tablighi worker following full sharia’h rules with pardah and learn and also teach the women of that locality who may come to join them. Men do not join the Masturat Jamat as they are separate and stay in nearby mosque.
Apart from preaching, followers are also encouraged to spend 2.5 hours every day serving others. Typically this involves encouraging other Muslims to join the effort. These ‘hours’ are also used to meet sick people and help the needy. In the local mosque, there is a daily ‘Taalim’ (which means teaching or learning) and one person reads from a book. ‘Taalim’ is also done in homes with wife and children. This teaching is generally done with a few books, but is not limited to (Fadail-e-Ammal or virtues of deeds by Maulana Zakaria and Riyadhus-Saleheen) and also the book of selected Ahadith called “Muntakhaba Ahadees” and it covers the basic tenets of Islam. Then there is a ‘Mashwara’ where planning for the effort is done. They also do a weekly program called “Joula” where they go door to door meeting people and inviting them to mosque for prayer etc
Most hamlets in the Indian subcontinent usually have a mosque called the Markaz, or centre, where weekly meetings occur. Preachers during these meetings urge people to go in Jama’at for as many days as their condition permits. The recommended period (but not necessary) is four months once in a life-time, a periodic planned tour schedule of 40 days in a year and 3 days in a month.
A strong grassroots support for the movement can be found in India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Central Asian countries, East Asian countries, North and Central African countries, South American countries and the Gulf countries.
In Pakistan the movement is based in Raiwind, near Lahore. The annual Tablighi congregation in Bangladesh, the Biswa Ijtema, attracts over 3 million devotees from around the world. A large participation in Tabligh efforts are also seen in Europe, North America, South Africa, North Africa and East Asian Muslim countries.
Political & Celebrity links
The Tablighi Jamaat is a professedly non-political movement. Despite this, due to its popular stature, many prominent politicians in Muslim and non-Muslim countries from both the right and the left associate themselves with the Tabligh. Many entrepreneurs in the Muslim world have been Tablighis. Among others, former Pakistani Prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and former Pakistani President Muhammad Rafiq Tarar have been associated with the Tablighi movement. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency was formerly headed by Javed Nasir, also a Tablighi.
Other than politicians, many celebrities in Pakistan have also associated themselves with the Tablighi Jamat. Acclaimed musician Junaid Jamshed reverted to Islam through the Jamat. Members of the Pakistani cricket team, including Saeed Anwar, Mohammad Yousuf (convert-formerly Yousuf Youhana), Inzamam-ul-Haq, Saqlain Mushtaq, Salim Malik, Mushtaq Ahmed & Shahid Afridi frequently attend the Jamat’s lectures.
In Indonesia, Tabligh has also touch the life of Sakti, a member of Sheila on 7, a famous Indonesia Pop Band. During 2006 he has conducted a four months journey to International Markaz in Nizzamudin, New Delhi, India. He already quit the band completely, and practices the amalan maqaami and amalan intiqaali quite intensively.