Ex-servicemen belonging to Tablighi Jamaat meet in Raiwind ahead of its annual Ijtimah to discuss the party’s future agenda
By Waqar Gillani, The News
Ahead of the Tablighi Jamaat’s annual congregation in Raiwind near Lahore — one of the largest congregations of Islamic world attended by at least one and half million Muslims — there has been a day-long meeting of at least 50 former officers of Pakistan’s armed forces in Raiwind to discuss the future agenda of the rapidly-expanding movement.
Though party sympathisers term the meeting as ‘routine’, insiders claim these retired officers had travelled from across the country to attend this special meeting of “Halqa-e-Khawas” (group of special people) and were well-taken care of and hosted by the Ameer of TJ, Maulana Abdul Wahab. It may be interesting to note that Wahab is no seminary student but an ordinary landlord.
The annual congregation of TJ, which is considered a non-resistant and non-political Islamic revivalist movement, is scheduled from Nov 5-8, 2009.
The meeting, convened under the driving force of this group in Pakistan armed forces, Lt Gen (r) Javed Nasir, former director general Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), was attended by at least 50 former high-rank officers of the military including many generals, brigadiers and admirals and even top police officers etc. Apart from Lt Gen (r) Nasir, there were Lt Gen (r) Agha Masood Hasan, former naval chief Admiral (r) Karamat Rehman Niazi, Lt Gen (r) Aftab Ahmed and others.
The objective of this meeting was to discuss the possibility of politicising its agenda. Many retired army officers were convinced that the TJ now should have a political manifesto. Wahab, the head of TJ, reportedly related the first phase of the party to Prophet Muhammad’s time in Mecca where he tolerated all violence and criticism by infidels and patiently focused on preaching Islam. Wahab, who believes that one day the rule of Allah must be set up in the world, however, asked these retired armymen that being the main force of this party, they should start planning about the direction this gathering of millions gathering should take.
Insiders told TNS this kind of resistance and questions are being raised within the Tablighi Jamaat from time to time.
“There are thousands of serving armymen who have joined this party and no force disallows the soldiers from practicing their religion,” said a former army officers who was privy to this particular meeting. “If you want to know the depth of this party, you have to jump into it.”
The Jamaat is extending its influence throughout the world, especially South Asia. In Pakistan it has impressed people from all walks of life including soldiers, rulers, political leaders, scientists, businessmen, sportsman, showbiz people, singers, doctors, engineers, students and many other important professions.
TJ has a loose structure and a non-charismatic leadership. The leadership is so non-charismatic that the party has no official name. The name “Tablighi Jamaat” has been publicly adopted following their motives and the way their groups have been preaching street to street.
Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalawi [1885-1944], a student of Dar-ul-Aloom Deoband conceived this unmanned group, which later emerged as Tablighi Jamaat in Mewat (India) in mid-1920s. After completing his education at Deoband, Maulana Ilyas took up a teaching position at seminary Mazaharul Uloom in Saharanpur. He also prepared a team of young madrassa graduates from Deoband and Saharanpur and sent them to Mewat to establish a network of mosques and Islamic schools throughout the region.
According to historical accounts, the first Tablighi conference held in November 1941 in Mewat was attended by 25,000 people. Many of them had walked on foot for ten to fifteen miles to attend the congregation.
According to wikipedia: “TJ maintains a non-affiliating stature in matters of politics and jurisprudence to eschew the controversies which would otherwise accompany such affiliations. Although, TJ emerged out of sub-school in jurisprudence of , no particular jurisprudence or interpretation of Islam has been endorsed since movement’s inception. TJ has largely avoided any form of electronic media and has emphasised on personal communication as its preaching channel. Teachings of TJ are mainly rudimentary and Six Principles set by Muhammad Ilyas influence most of their teachings.
“Despite its pacifist stance, TJ has appeared on the fringes of numerous terrorism investigations. TJ gained much public and media attention, particularly in UK, when it announced plans for the largest mosque in Europe.”
TJ’s international headquarters is in Nizamuddin, Delhi. It has several national headquarters to coordinate its activities in over 80 countries and has a significant presence in North America, Europe, Africa, and Central Asia. Britain has remained a major focus of the movement. Press reports also pointed fingers at the party when the 23 accused of 7/7 (July 2007) London terror plot were found to have connections with it.
TJ has been facing a lot of criticism by other Deobandi factions of Islam, especially those in the business of jihad; their contention is that this non-resistant and consistently expanding humanitarian outfit should also gear up for jihad, one of the compulsory tenets of Islam. The party elders generally avoid responding to criticism from outside, though they are forthcoming to questions within the party.
In Pakistan, the family of political leaders like Nawaz Sharif are also great sponsors of Tablighi Jamaat. Mian Sharif, his father, is believed to be a prominent member and financier. He also managed to make his Tablighi friend Muhammad Rafiq Tarar president of Pakistan when Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister. In 1995, the military officers who hatched a conspiracy against the then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto were associated with Tablighi Jamaat. A coup was thwarted against many high-ranking military officers and civilians, all of whom were members of the Tablighi Jamaat.
An investigative report published in The News on Feb 13, 1995 discussed the connection between the Tablighi Jamaat and Harakat ul-Mujahideen, founded in 1980 and “their clandestine role in supporting Islamic extremist movements in different countries.”
Westerns press reports term this Jamaat as having a great potential for jihad. After more than 80 years of this ‘quiet revolution’, voices have started rising that this jamaat should do more to purge the world of infidelity, predicting another storm.