After much consideration I felt very much duty bound and obliged to pick up my pen following Paul lewis’ groundbreaking expose on the activities of members of the Tablighi Jamaat. (The Guardian- 19.08.06 http://www.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,,1853800,00.html )
The effort of Tabligh has been described (http://www.icna.org/tm/greatmovement3.htm ) ‘as one of the most influential grassroots Islamic movements of the twentieth century South Asian subcontinent.’
The jamaat (group) has been under close spotlight since the atrocities of 9/11. The New York Times stated that an FBI official had claimed the jamaat to be a recruiting ground for Al-Qaeda. Police in the UK also carried out interrogations based on information that Mohammad Sidique Khan, leader of the London bombers of July 7 2005, had frequented the Tablighi headquarters in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. After converting to Islam Lindh met members of Tabligh. Attracted to their proselytising ways, he took part on a Tablighi tour of preaching. Lindh’s lawyer George Harris said; "John's experience of the Tablighi is that they are what they say they are. They are apolitical. And he found that an extreme position that he didn't find particularly attractive. He wanted guidance as to political and spiritual issues."
Online encyclopaedia Wikipedia accurately depicts Tablighi Jamaat as a ‘Muslim missionary and revival movement. They usually limit their activities to within the Muslim community itself, their main aim being to bring spiritual awakening to the world's Muslims.’
The Jamaat, which boasts former Pakistan cricket captain Saeed Anwar and singing sensation Junaid Jamshed amongst it’s adherents, is far from the shrinking violet type. It is one of the most avant-garde Islamic movements in the world. Those who participate in the approved traditions of the Jamaat describe it as a non political group, shunning violence, and engrossed in nothing more than proselytizing and calling Muslims to return to Islam.
Incidentally, the Jamaat does not like to be seen as a group or sect, rather as simple Muslims striving hard to be firm on their faith.
The refusal of the group to indulge in political discussions has always ensured that those with strong political or radical opinions have moved on very swiftly.
Contrary to common perception Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalawi (1885-1944) is not the founder of the Tablighi Jamaat. He is primarily held responsible for the revival of the effort of Tabligh from Mewat, a province in India. Diagnosing Muslims to be in general ill health, he called global Muslims to return to the basic tenets of Islam from which he believed Muslims had deviated, thus encouraging Muslims to concentrate on their own personal spiritual and moral development. M.S Agwani in Islamic fundamentalism in India likened Muhammad Ilyas’ task to the tilling of land and irrigating it (Islamic fundamentalism in India).
Paul Lewis’ article contained a number of factual errors. Tabligh is not influenced by Wahhabism, and Saudi Arabia is one of the countries that does not support the effort, either morally or financially. Tabligh is not a formal organisation and amazingly there is not one paid member or participant anywhere in the world. The bedrock of the effort is based purely on the participant utilising their own health, wealth and time in the pursuit of moral and spiritual development. For many years some Muslims in the UK and abroad have accused Tablighis of being too passive and being out of touch with reality (with regards to current affairs) because of their shunning of all forms of politics.
The Thursday evening gatherings mentioned have been taking place in the UK since the 1950’s and this is not a new phenomenon by any stretch of the imagination. The number of attendees and the popularity of the activities of the effort have increased ten fold, but the peaceful message of self rectification ant the call towards good remains very much the same.
With regards to the security barrier, it is open knowledge that the Markaz operates a completely open door policy. Mr Lewis states that; ‘men in fluorescent jackets waved through those who are known to the Tablighi hierarchy.’ This is strictly untrue and on the contrary nobody is refused entry to gatherings. The Jamaat has never been a secretive or draconian body, with a hidden agenda. There are no lodges, secret meetings, rituals or golden and coded handshakes. The Markaz is open to the public 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The fact of the matter is that a very large group of people that are non political, and are perceived to be low profile because of lack of media coverage until now, are now being openly accused in many quarters of acting as a conscription bureau for Al Qaeda.
For a good few years the location of the Markaz (Tabligh’s London headquarters), has courted controversy, surrounding planning permission and preparations for the 2012 games. The site for the Markaz was purchased in 2000. It was perceived to be worthless due to the fact that the said land posed a toxic threat. This was way before the success of the 2012 Olympic. Amongst popular consensus, a large number of Muslims find it intriguing that with the Olympics looming large that there is talk of the possibility of looming Islamic terrorism in Newham.
The Newham Labour Council has thus far refused planning permission regarding the construction of a building, (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1892780,00.html ) which is very likely to bring considerable benefit to the area.
Over the weekend a source from the Markaz who I spoke to expressed his disappointment at what he referred to as, ‘a very ill conceived and poorly researched article by Lewis.’
The member accused the Author of using racist stereotypes, when writing the article in question. ‘People who go to Church carry out atrocities. Does this mean that the Church is a terrorist body? Far from it’ said the member. ’This highlights astounding levels of ignorance and a complete lack of understanding of our peaceful nature.’
In a nutshell Tablighi excursions usually involve a group of Muslims retiring to a Mosque for a few designated days. Activities involve teaching and learning the tenets of faith, enjoining fellow Muslims towards good by addressing them in lectures in the Mosque or one to one discussions at their residence, business, even on the street. Preaching focusses on increasing piety through devotion to God, thus maintaining positive change within an individual.
An essential feature is encouraging Muslims to join the effort of preaching good.
Why is there so much focus on Tabligh? Has the effort taken the place of Opus Dei as the new target of ridicule and suspicion? Tablighi activities are the most transparent of any organisation in the world. People involved with the effort have had to live with being villifiesd by fellow Muslims for many years, with accusations of being boring, to harping on with the same repeated messages, and leaving their homes to fulfill so called ‘missionary roles ( http://www.forum.mpacuk.org/showthread.php?t=99 ). Members have for many years also had to live with the laughable notion that members are CIA agents, with the large (Ijtema) gatherings being funded by Western governments. It’s a lose, lose situation either way.
Tabligh is a truly global effort and accusations regarding the Jamaat’s links to terror groups are largely misconstrued. Scrutiny is not alien to the Jamaat, which has been under close monitoring for many years. There is nothing to hide. Do we really believe that members have only been under scrutiny in recent years. Monitoring has been taking place for years on end.
There is a quote attributed to Umar Ibn Khattaab the second Caliph of Islam who said:
"The one whom I fear most for this Ummah is a man who is an Aalim (learned person) with his tongue, but a Jaahil (ignoramus) in his heart."
This description fits those who make negative and false accusations towards this benevolent effort and this has led to unstable and theoretical ramblings. The solution to all this very clear; laying down the gauntlet, I would now like to advise anybody in doubt and seekers of truth like Paul Lewis, to pack their bags and spend 3 or 10 days with a travelling group to see for themselves what all the fuss is all about.
The second option is to cut out the James Bong intelligence farce ands use a more sophisticated and old fashioned method of investigation; Pop into the Markaz in Newham or room 5 at the Markaz in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, knock on the door and ask for yourself.
Extract from Tablighi preaching:
Hadhrat Nuúmaan bin Basheer (Radhiallaahu Ánhu) says that Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) gave an example of people sailing on a boat having an upper deck and a lower deck. The people from the lower deck require water and request water from the people of the upper deck. The people from the upper deck refuse water so the people from the lower deck decide to make a hole on the floor of the ship and get water from the sea. Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) said, "If the people from the upper deck don't stop the people at the bottom from making a hole, the ship will sink and all the people travelling will drown." (Mishkãt vol. 2 p. 436)Similarly, if people do not prohibit evil and sin in the society, the entire society - innocent and evil - will equally suffer.