Friday, September 18, 2009

Tagblighi Jamaat

Throughout the late 19th and early 20th century Hindi nationalism gathered force as India sought ways to arm itself in its fight for independence. One of the manifestations of this nationalism was a reformist movement, both ascetic and militant in nature, the Arya Samaj. Among many aims, the movement sought to draw back to Hinduism various groups that had converted to Islam as a way of escaping their low caste status. In response to this an influential maulvi, or Muslim priest, of a reformist school of Islam, the Deoband school of North India, started a movement in Mewat in South Haryana, near Delhi, to defend the Islamic status of those that the Arya Samaj were trying to reconvert. Tagbligh means to deliver a message, or to educate, Jamaat, Jamat, or Jamiat, a gathering of Muslim elders or clerics.

This movement, Tablighi Jamaat, is intended to draw away from politics, and to act as a support to, those transitioning from rural to urban living, and on a grander scale from national to international life, while remaining within the boundries of their religion. It has grown and spread far beyond South Asia to Africa, America and Europe. It is looked on by some as being perhaps the most approachable face of modernizing Islam, with its broad spread of charitable and educational organizations. Others regard it as being a carefully promoted cover for various militant operations around the world. Some countries now have Tagblighi Jamaat on their antiterrorism list, while others welcome it on the basis of its charitable work and its modernity- there is even a rap group in America, boys with beards saying in their way while embracing their membership in Tagblighi.

The organization's European headquarters is based in the English town of Dewsbury in West Yorkshire. The mosque there is one of the largest to have been built in Europe since the 19th century. There is a school associated with the mosque where affluent residents of the Kashmir Valley sometimes sent their children, away from the persistent school closings and fear generated by civil conflict in that state since the early 1980s.

As that latent fear grew through the late 80s, Tagblighi Jamaat called for an international gathering of its members in Kashmir in 1988. Over a thousand leading members of the organization came to Srinagar from their centers all over the world. They met at Eid Ghar, the prayer field for Eid. Thousands of Kasmiris came to pray with them, and listen to their discourses on how to live a good Muslim life. Tablight members encouraged people to pray, to do good work, not to waste money on lavish weddings but to keep them simple, and within the bounds of what they could afford ( in the past lavish weddings could put Kashmiris in debt for a lifetime).

In a time of unrest, and in the face of a doubtful future, growing numbers of people were drawn to the way of life Tablighti Jamaat was preaching and promoting. It seemed to offer a safety blanket, an emotional support and structure, when an old way of life seemed to be collapsing.

Justine Hardy,"In the Valley of Mist"

photo by Muhammad Hamza; Information : Malaysia Jamaat Tablighee Ijtima' ( World ) Location : Sepang Selangor Malaysia Date : 9 ~ 12 July 2009 Additional Information : Attended by more than 200,000 thousand Muslims from around the world.

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