Bishwa Ijtema: The great point of unity
A quarter now tries to create a crack
Tablighi Jamaat is a global Islamic organization founded in North India in 1926 by Muhammad Ilyas al Kandhlawi. The main aim of Tablighi Jamaat is Islamic spiritual reformation by working at every level reaching out Muslims across all social spectrum to bring them closer to Islam. The annual gathering of this Jammat is called Ijtema.
The principle reason if this organization was the fear of the Muslims of India in general that the dominant Hindu culture would gradually render the loss of Muslim culture and faith. The religious leaders of the Muslim community then decided that there ought to be a strong platform to motivate the Muslim population to learn about Islam, Muslim culture and Islamic brotherhood.
Initially, it was called Tahriki Imaan, but no formal name was given to the movement. It is a by- product of Deobandi movement coming as a reaction to the Hindu reform movements all over India at that time. Graduating from local to national and then to transnational movement the Tabligi Jamaat now has followings in over 150 countries.
The interesting part of this movement is that the leaders/founders have not allowed any particular interpretation of Islam in this fold. They have kept it above controversy and are greatly removed from the glitters and controversy of media. It rather prefers personal communication for proselytizing.
The simple aim of this movement was to bring the Muslims closer and impart lessons to inspire them to be good humans and spread the teachings of Islam around the globe. This unpretentious call has now become a global appeal and enjoys a fervent entreaty in the hearts of Muslims. Ijtema takes place in many countries of the world.
This Ijtema came to Dhaka in 1946. This occasion of the faithful Muslims have been gaining the ground. It has not only soared to a high demand and popularity, it also managed to influence the people of this faith that this collective actions, discussion, motivation lectures by educated priests, meditation and prayers is a great celestial gathering to win the blessings of the Almighty Allah.
The annual event is held every year in Dhaka during this time of the winter. Earlier there was only one such arrangement for three days, to be concluded by 'Akheri Munjat' (the final prayer) led by a selected Imam, local or foreign.
With the gradual increase in numbers of people in the congregation, the authorities have now decided to hold this Jaamat in two phases to reduce the intensity of crowd pressure, accommodation and avoid shortage of available resources at the venue.
So now there this three day ritual takes place in two phases having equal time and programmes. This allows more people to take part and the management is easier than before. By now the Tablighi Jamaat as acquired a great spiritual importance for the Bangladeshis and Muslims from across the world.
The Dhaka Ijtema happens to be the largest in the world where some three million people gathers at the bank of Turag River in Tongi, in an area of 160 acres in the outskirts of the capital. It is also attended by a large number of devotees from around the world.
The preparation takes a lot of time, labour, logistics and security support. The government lends all out backing to the organizers of this meet. On the final day people from all walks of life, including the President, Prime Minister and other high ups raise their hands to the heavens as party to the 'Akheri Munajat' to seek forgiveness and blessings from Allah.
Hundreds of thousands of people volunteer their support in all forms to make the event a success, from arranging proper sleeping and washing places, to cooking foods and toilets -- all these are settled in a short time. The whole area, a long stretch of covered camps, looks like an Arabian landscape. It reminds us of places in Makkah and Madinah.
What happens here at the congregation: Unlike the annual Hajj (which is made obligatory for those who can afford to) this meet do not have any particular rite or rituals to be completed. There is no fast rule to be followed while staying at the venue.
The only thing that happens here is the religious motivation lectures, teachings of Quran and Sunnah and a call upon all to spread these messages of peace and brother hood across the world. So far, every year we had witnessed a peaceful Ijtema taking place since 1946. We don't know of any controversy or incident that threatened this great event to take place.
The current controversy: This year a group of organizers of Ijtema (followers of Deobandh fraternity) objected to one Mowlana Saad from India to attend and lead the final prayers. Reportedly, Mowlana Saad has been attending Ijtema in Dhaka for several years now with honour and dignity and delivering heart rending lectures.
Mawlana Saad was obstructed at the airport entry. The protesting members were against his entrance into Bangladesh. They went up the airport terminal and created a huge disorder to normal activities of the airport operations and to passengers at the waiting areas.
This not only caused confusion and fear amongst the people present there, it also projected the poor mindset of the Islamic organizers who claims to represent the right school of thoughts in Islam. The leaders in any field, should set examples, especially religious leaders.
However, after much hara-kiri, Mawlana Saad, who was also a guest in Bangladesh, was whisked away by the law enforcers to Kakrail Mosque, the headquarters of Tablighi people. Even there he was denied entrance by a group of trouble makers. However the home minister assured all that Mawlana Saad will not take part in the Ijtema and will fly back home at a convenient time.
The group of protestors claim that Mawlana Saad had given sermons which are not in tune with the correct meaning of Islam. In other words, he gave orations against the Islamic values and beliefs with wrong interpretations.
The concern now: Islam is basically a religion of peace with no official or designated class or division in its ranks and files. The Prophet and his immediate followers never made any classification in the followers of Islam.
All were equal in their eyes as ordained by Allah and his prophet. Different school of thoughts, followings, divisions and practices that rose long after the passing away of great Khalifas left Muslims in a state of confusion. History of Islam clearly reveals that there was no recognized mazhab (group) in the religion. This was done by the later Imams and their excited followers.
Today we have number of groups with different interpretation of Islamic rules and sunnah. Even, at times, the Quranic interpretations differ. More disturbing is the gradual intolerance that persists among these groups of leaders and their followers. The differences reached to an extent that now verges on enmity.
There has been controversies revolving the correct and incorrect views expressed by different religious leaders. This needs to be addressed immediately. Today we stand at a critical juncture with regards to our Bishwa Ijtema. This year we have rejected a person on allegations that may not be correct. Tomorrow there will be counter statements coming in favour of Mawlana Saad.
So this is likely to go on. Once the controversy takes ground and makes the round, the Ijtema, the participants and the leaders of the congregation will be made controversial, just for no good reasons.
Bangladesh needs to be out of this dirty and dangerous politics of disunity and conflict. The government and the concerned learned religious leaders should take up the matter seriously as to what exactly is the problem with Mawlana Saad's alleged observations of certain verses of Quran and Sunnah. Why there has been the allegation of misinterpretation by him? Who are those who challenge him and what's their remark about this? We need to know.
Bangladesh is a land of communal harmony. The large majority are God fearing Muslims. We hold the Quran and Sunnah to our hearts. After Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Azha, Shabe Qadr, Rabiul Awwal and Ahsura, this congregation of Tablighi Jamaat attracts thousands of people in their prayers. Here we gather to find solace for our own selves, our community, our nation and the Muslim brethren around the world.
This is a global religious event after holy hajj that brings together so many Muslims from across the world. This makes us globally important, mainly as a peaceful nation with faith in Allah. We should not allow a certain quarter inside and outside the country to effect a wedge in the solid belief of ours. We should not allow the destroyers to sabotage this unity and great peaceful gathering.
Mohammad Ali Sattar is a
columnist and biographer
Email: [email protected]