The Tabligh Movement or Millions
of Bearded Militants on the March
Sita Ram Goel
The Sarva Panth Samãdar Manch is supposed to work for national integration. One wonders, however, if Dattopant Thengdi or any other stalwart of the Sangh Parivar cared to find out who Maulana Wahiduddin Khan was and what he stood for before they invited him to “sanctify” the Samadhi of Dr. Hedgewar by his “august” presence.
“Maulana Wahiduddin, currently the director of the Islamic Center, Delhi, resigned from a prominent position in the Jammat-i-Islami of India in 1960.”1 We shall take up the Jamaat-i-Islami at a later stage in this chapter. We have to take up the Tablighi Jammat first because it prepares the ground for the Jamaat-i-Islami or in other words the Jamaat-i-Islami takes over from where the Tablighi Jamaat leaves.
“The Tablighi Jamaat of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent constitutes one of the very few grass roots Islamic movements in the contemporary Muslim world. In 1926 the Jamaat began da‘wa work in the limited confines of Mewat near Delhi and consisted of a few dozen disciples of Maulana Mohammad Ilyas (1885-1944). Today the movement claims to have millions throughout the Muslim world and the West. Its 1988 annual conference in Raiwind near Lahore, Pakistan, was attended by more than one million Muslims from over ninety countries of the world. The Raiwind International Conference of the Tablighi Jamaat has now become the second-largest congregation of the Muslim world after hajj.”2
“It was because of his dissatisfaction with the madrasas that Maulana Ilyas resigned from a prestigious teaching position at Mazaharul Uloom Seminary in Saharanpur (Uttar Pradesh) and came to Basti Nizamuddin in the old quarter of Delhi to begin his missionary work. The Tabligh movement was formally launched from this place in 1926. Basti Nizamuddin later became the movement’s international headquarters.”3 Ilyas had returned from his second hajj in 1925 when he formalized the movement he had started earlier.4 “Jama’ats come to the markaz [at Nizamuddin] from all over [the world]; ten years ago a five storey building was erected to accommodate foreign jama’ats.”5
The first great achievement of the Tablighi Jamaat was the cold-blooded murder of Swami Shraddhananda. The swami had been lionized by Muslims when he supported the Khilafat agitation during the first Non-Cooperation movement (1921-22). “But as he was closely associated with the šuddhi movement… a section of Muslims cherished bitter hatred against him. On 23 December 1926, when the Swami after a serious attack of pneumonia was lying in his bed, a Muslim entered into his room on false pretext and stabbed him with a dagger.”6 It became well known very soon that the murderer had been hired by the Tablighi Jamaat headquartered at Nizamuddin.
Its latest triumph is recorded by Shail Mayaram in her book on Mewat published in 1997. “Around the corner from Basti Nizamuddin is the Masjid Panjpiran, now one of the centers of decision-making for Mewat. Maulvis, politicians, and chaudharis assemble here to discuss critical issues such as the outcome of December 1992 violence in Mewat… There is a growing currency of the word kafir with respect to non-Muslims. A Deobandi ‘alim in Punhana told me in the context of attacks on temples in December 1992 (in retaliation to the demolition of the Babri mosque) that this was an example of the age-old conflict between kufr (unbelief) and eternal Islam. A report on the rioting in Mewat that followed suggests the role of some maulvis in the organization of protest and later damage to temples, in five places. Some Meos explained the mobs, largely comprising young persons, in terms of the Otherness of the Hindu which had been brought about by the work of religious reform.”7
The “work of religious of reform” referred to in the above citation means, of course, the work of the Tablighi Jamaat. Wahiduddin Khan has narrated with overbrimming enthusiasm the story of how the “Otherness of the Hindu” was “brought about” in Mewat. We have to quote him at some length:
Ilyas undertook many tours in Mewat after his return from his last hajj in 1938. “A dislike for Hinduised garments was created and people began to dress themselves according to the specifications of the Shari‘at. Bracelets got removed from the arms and rings from the ears of men…”17 The first conference of the Jamaat was held in 1941 at Basti Nizamuddin. It was attended by twenty-five thousand people.18
Leadership of the Jamaat passed on to Muhammad Yusuf, the son of Ilyas, after the latter died in 1944. Yusuf intensified and extended the activities of the Jamaat by tours to all major cities in India and also many places abroad. “An international network was established which also evoked great interest among teachers and ulama of Arabia, who began coming to Nizamuddin and Deoband, where they too addressed gatherings. A vigorous pan-India and pan-Islamic movement had been constituted.”19
Partition in 1947 landed many Meos in refugee camps at Humayun’s Tomb, Purana Qila and several other localities around Nizamuddin. Yusuf sent activists of the Tablighi Jamaat to all camps. “The victims were told that their fate was the result of azãb (the worst possible punishment administered by God), incurred because they were not good Muslims. They were invited to turn towards God. Some months after Partition, Yusuf visited Pakistan. At a meeting organized by the Jama‘at-i-Lahore, he addressed the several hundred thousand refugees from India who had gone to Pakistan, telling them that to avoid khudrishti (fall from Grace) they must follow the path of God, and that alone will save the Muslim world. According to Hasani, the work of Tablighi Jama’ats resulted in a rise of morale among the depressed Mewatis.”20
“To the Maulana,” observes Wahiduddin Khan, “dominance on earth was subject to our leading reformed lives. And he said, 'Follow the pattern of the Prophet. Those who neither follow the path themselves nor let others follow it, will be shattered by God as He does the shell of an egg… No sooner had the people reformed themselves, through the efforts of the Prophet, then God sent His scourge upon the Romans and Persians. Those who did not capitulate before Him perished by His wrath.’”21
Those who want to promote national integration with the help of Wahiduddin Khan, will do well to read his chapter on “UMMAN-NESS” or “Islamic Brotherhood”. It carries the “text of a speech delivered by Maulana Mohammad Yusuf three days before his death on 30 March 1965, at Rawalpindi, Pakistan”. We are quoting a few key passages:
Patrons of Wahiduddin Khan in the Sangh Parivar should also note the thrill which the Maulana experienced when he first reached Basti Nizamuddin to join the Tablighi Jamaat:
Those who have not read the orthodox biographies of the Prophet will not suspect how despicably dishonest Wahiduddin can be. The Prophet is not known to have sent a single group of missionaries believing in methods of peaceful persuasion. What he had sent instead were military expeditions forcing one Arab tribe after another to embrace Islam at the point of the sword. Those who offered resistance were massacred, their properties were plundered, and their women and children were captured for being sold as slaves. Circumstances have changed but the intention remains the same. The Tabligh movement’s main aim is to prepare Muslims everywhere for taking up arms when the moment is ripe.
We are often
told by spokesmen of the Sangh Parivar that they are not opposed to Islam
as such but to Islamic Fundamentalism. We do not accept the distinction
because Islam by its very nature is Fundamentalist. But even if a distinction
can be drawn, we wonder why they refuse to read what Wahiduddin Khan has
himself written in so many words, and identify him as an Islamic Fundamentalist
sui generis. His mild manners and pretended humility should deceive
no one. In fact, he is far more vicious than the traditional or conservative
Islamic Fundamentalist. The traditional Islamic Fundamentalist is never
dishonest in his presentation of his faith. He never tries the tricks which
modernist Muslim apologists like Rafiq Zakaria or Ashghar Ali Engineer
have learnt from the Christian missionaries in order to conceal the real
face of Islam. But Wahiduddin has gone a step further. He has evolved a
double-speak - one for his die-hard co-religionists, and another for his
Hindu dupes like K.R. Malkani, Nana Deshmukh, and Dattopant Thengdi. He
is thus a doubly distilled poison.
Hitherto we have dealt with the Tablighi Jamaat as it grew after its foundation in 1926. But the Tabligh movement as such is much older. We have to go back into history and see the Muslim situation after the Mughal Empire broke down after the death of Aurangzeb (1707), and the invasions of Ahmad Shah Abdali in the second half of the eighteenth century failed to restore Muslim rule in India.
Muslim ‘community’ in India had remained sharply divided into two mutually exclusive segments throughout the centuries of Islamic invasions and rule over large parts of the country. On the one hand, there were the descendants of conquerors who came from outside or who identified themselves completely with the conquerors - the Arabs, the Turks, the Iranians, and the Afghans. They glorified themselves as the Ashrãf (high-born, noble) or Ahli-i-Daulat (ruling race) and Ahl-i-Sa‘adat (custodians of religion). On the other hand, there were converts from among the helpless Hindus who were looked down upon by the Ashrãf and described as the Ajlãf (low-born, ignoble) and Arzãl (mean, despicable) depending upon the Hindu castes from which the converts came. The converts were treated as Ahl-i-Murãd (servile people) who were expected to obey the Ahl-i-Daulat and Ahl-i-Sa‘adat abjectly.
“During the medieval period,” observes Professor K.S. Lal, “forcible and hurried conversions to Islam left most of the neo-Muslims half-Hindus. With his conversion to Islam the average Muslim did not change his old Hindu environment and tenor of life. The neo-Muslims’ love of Hinduism was because of their attachment to their old faith and culture. High class converted Hindus sometimes went back to Hinduism and the old privileges… Such a scenario obtained throughout the country…” He goes ahead and describes the state of neo-Muslims in the North-West, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Central India, Bengal, the Deccan and South India.29
Shah Waliullah (1703-62) and his son Abdul Aziz (1746-1822) were the first to notice this situation and felt frightened that the comparatively small class of the Ashrãf was most likely to be drowned in the surrounding sea of Hindu Kafirs. Abdul Aziz had converted his father’s jihãd against the Marathas and Jats into a jihãd against the British when he issued a fatwa that India under British rule had become a Dar al-Harb (zone of war). But jihãd against the British needed manpower which the Ashrãf were not in a position to marshal on their own. They had to turn to the neo-Muslims. The neo-Muslims, however, had little interest in waging wars for Islam. They had, therefore, to be fully Islamized, that is, alienated completely from their ancestral society and culture. That is why the Tabligh movement was started. But early leaders of the movement could not achieve much because each one of them clashed with the Sikhs or the British and got killed.
Syed Ahmad Barelvi (1786-1831), a devoted disciple of Abdul Aziz, travelled to Mecca and some other Muslim countries in 1822 and met masters of Islamic lore to learn methods of “purifying Islam” in India, that is, brainwashing the neo-Muslims and turning them into full-fledged Muslim fanatics. He labelled his Tabligh as Tariqah-i Muhammadiyyah. But he got himself entangled in a jihãd against the Sikh Kingdom in the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province and Kashmir, and was killed and burnt to ashes in 1831 by a Sikh battalion led by Kunwar Sher Singh.
Barelvi’s disciple Mir Nasar Ali of Barasat in Bengal, better known as Titu Mir or Titu Mian, tried to purify Islam in West Bengal. But he clashed with the British very soon, and was killed by a British military unit in 1831. Many of his followers were hanged. Around the same time, Shariatullah (1790-1831) started the Faraizi Movement in East Bengal after having spent twenty years in Mecca and Medina. But he died in 1837 without achieving significant results. His son, Muhammad Mohsin better known as Dhudhu Mian (1819-1860) carried on his father’s experiment. But he was caught by the British for numerous crimes committed against Hindus in the countryside and died in jail.30
Meanwhile, another Tabligh movement had arisen in Haryana under the leadership of Shah Muhammad Ramzan (1769-1825). “He found that the converted Rajputs and Jats… were in no way different from their Hindu counterparts in culture, customs and celebration of religious festivals… Shah Muhammad Ramzan used to sojourn in areas inhabited by such converted Rajputs, dissuade them from practising Hindu rites, and persuade them to marry their cousins (real uncle’s daughters which converts persistently refused to do). They equally detested eating cow’s flesh. To induce them to eat beef, he introduced new festivals like Maryam ka Roza and ‘Rot-bot’. On this day, observed on 17 Rajjab, a ‘pao’ of roasted beef placed on a fried bread was distributed amongst relatives and near and dear ones… Such endeavours ruled out the possibility of reconversion and helped in the ‘Islamization’ of neo-Muslims…”31 This leader of the Tabligh was killed not by the British but by some neo-Muslims who got enraged by his vituperation against their ancient ways.
The Tabligh movement had not been able to make much headway when the last jihãd against the British was launched in 1857.32 The British put it down with a strong hand, and the Ashrãf stood really scared for the first time. A way out of blind alley was found for them by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan who crawled before the British on behalf of his co-religionists. The Aligarh movement he started saw salvation for the Ashrãf in all-out collaboration with British imperialism. Henceforward, and till the second decade of the twentieth century, every member of the Ashrãf fraternity prayed and worked for the permanence of the British rule in India. By 1871 when Sir W.W. Hunter wrote his book, The Indian Musalmans, the Ashrãf had become the most obedient servants of Her Majesty, the Queen of England.
But the Ashrãf was far from being cured of its ingrained habit. Soon they felt strong enough to demand quid pro quo for their loyalty to the British. They tried to dictate British policies not only in India but also in the international field. But the British had their own compulsions. So the alliance broke down when the British annulled the Partition of Bengal in 1911 and imposed a peace treaty on Turkey in 1919 depriving the Sultan-cum-Caliph of a large part of his domain. The Ashrãf, therefore, decided to strike a deal with the Indian National Congress which had been seeking their support ever since it was founded in 1885. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi has summed up the situation as follows:
We do not want to go into the story of who had to suffer “misery and deprivation”, and who had the last laugh. What we wish point out here is that the Tabligh movement was revitalized by the Khilafat agitation led by the Ashrãf in India.
Mumtaz Ahmad has failed to mention the most important beneficiary of the Khilafat agitation, namely, the Jamiat-ul-Ulama-i-Hind which really fathered the Tablighi Jamaat and which still supplies most of its leaders to the latter. The Jamiat can also take credit for Islamicizing the Indian National Congress in cooperation with the Communists and Socialists of all sorts led by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi during the pre- as well as the post-independence period. It remains lodged in the heart of the Indian Republic like a cancer.
All these Muslim leaders - Maududi, Mashriqi, Ilyas and founders of the Jamiat-ul-Ulama-i-Hind - came to be known as “nationalist Muslims” during the Freedom Movement simply because they were opposed to the Muslim League’s demand for Partition. Nobody cared to find out the real reason for their opposition to the League, namely, that they wanted the whole of India and not only a part of it as Dar al-Islam. None of them ever believed that kufr and Islam could ever co-exist peacefully.
The Khaksars of Mashriqi have disappeared from the scene. Ilyas lived to found the Tablighi Jamaat which is still centered round his family at Nizamuddin. The Jamiat-ul-Ulama-i-Hind has continued to function in post-independence India, and grown from strength to strength. It is only Maududi, the founder of Jamaat-i-Islami in 1941, who left for Pakistan after Partition. But that has not prevented his Jamaat-i-Islami from cooperating with the Tablighi Jamaat in India as all over the world.
Maududi (1903-1979) like Mashriqi had come to believe that Islam in India should work out a strategy which had placed the Communists, Fascists and Nazis in power - the strategy of a mailed fist wielded by a determined minority. But unfortunately for him, the British decided to divide India and quit before he could mobilize the requisite manpower and assemble the arsenal needed. He moved his headquarters to Lahore in 1948 and his “Jamaat scored its first major victory in March 1949” when the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan passed the Objectives Resolutions proclaiming that country as an Islamic State. But the Jamaat-i-Islami which he left in India “is equally vigorous in defending secularism as a ‘blessing’ and as a ‘guarantee for a safe future for Islam in India’.”39
The work of the Jamaat-i-Islami and the Tablighi Jamaat is being coordinated by the Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow, presided over at present by Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi popularly know as Ali Mian.
The Tablighi Jamaat is busy world wide in recruiting soldiers for Islamic jihãd. The merit one earns by working for Tabligh is enormous.
And Islamic jihãd like Tabligh is now world wide because the whole world except some pockets where the Shari’a prevails, has become a vast spread of jãhiliyya.
Wahiduddin Khan spells out the meaning of Tabligh when he writes:
expect leaders of the Sangh Parivar to read a biography of the Prophet,
and find out what Hudaibiyya, Badr and Hunain stand for and what “peace”
and “defence” mean in the language of Islam, They are bent upon repeating
Mahatma Gandhi who refused to read the Dogmatics and Polemics of Islam
and claimed to know the “noble faith of Islam” better then those who had
studied this doctrine and its history from its primary sources. He harboured
a life-long illusion that the Maulanas of the Jamiat-ul-Ulama-i-Hind would
help him in bringing the Muslim masses into the national mainstream. They
helped him all right and to the hilt, but only in stamping out even the
least little voice of resistance to naked Muslim aggression. He ended by
becoming the Father of Pakistan, and a shahîd in the service
of sarva-dharma-samabhãva. We harbour not the shadow of a
doubt that the Sarva Panth Samãdar Manch is pushing on the same
path whatever has survived of Hindu society and culture in the shrunken
and shrinking Hindu homeland.
1 ‘Islamic Fundamentalism in South Asia: The Jamaat-i-Islami and the Tablighi Jamaat of South Asia’, by Mumtaz Ahmad in Fundamentalisms Observed edited by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, Chicago, 1991, p. 529, ftn. 125.
2 Ibid., p. 510.
3 Ibid., p. 512.
4 Shail Mayaram, Resisting Regimes: Myth, Memory and the Shaping of a Muslim Identity, OUP, Delhi, 1997, p.225. It may be remembered that the Wahabi movement of Syed Ahmad Barelvi (1786-1831) and the Faraizi movement of Shariatullah (1790-1831) and his son Mohammad Mohsin or Dudhu Mian (1819-1860) were also launched after each of them came back from hajj which was sometimes prolonged for a stay of several years in Mecca and Medina. (See Sita Ram Goel, Muslim Separatism: Causes and Consequences, Enlarged Reprint, New Delhi, 1995, pp. 59-63.)
5 ‘“Remaking Ourselves”, Islamic Self-Fashioning in a Global Movement of Spiritual Renewal’, by Barbara D. Metcalf in Accounting for Fundamentalisms edited by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, Chicago, 1994, p.720.
6 R. C. Majumdar (ed.), The History And Culture of the Indian People, Volume XI, Struggle For Freedom, Second Edition, Bombay, 1978, pp. 435-36.
7 Shail Mayaram, op. cit., p. 245.
8 Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Tabligh Movement, Al Risala Books, The Islamic Centre, Nizamuddin, New Delhi, Second Reprint, 1994, p.5. First published in Urdu in 1986, it was translated and published in English the same year. It is announced at the back of the title page: “No permission is required from the publisher for translation of the book and publication of the translation in any language. On application, permission will also be given to reprint the book for free distribution etc.” So the Maulana has not had to bother about further reprints.
9 Ibid., p. 6. Valliullah or Shah Waliullah of Delhi (1703-62) was the famous ‘alim and sufi who had invited Ahmad Shah Abdali to invade India, slaughter Hindus in general and Marathas and Jats in particular, and restore Muslim rule in India. See Muslim Separation, op. cit., pp. 51-56. “Taimur family’s wrong attitude towards religion” refers to the policy initiated by Akbar for making small concessions to Hindus in order to consolidate the Mughal empire in India.
10 Ibid., p. 7. Basti Nizamuddin with Nizamuddin Auliya’s (1238-1325) tomb at its centre has been a great centre for organizing jihãd since the days of Sultan Balban (1266-86). Chishtiyya sufis trained at this place fanned out to all parts of India, and invited as well as guided Muslim armies to invade Hindu Kingdoms everywhere. Some of the famous sufi dargahs in the North and the South stand on spots where these sufis settled down after destroying Hindu temples. Those sufis who actually participated in wars and got killed are known as shahîds. This place continues to be the greatest centre of Islamic Fundamentalism today. Muslim infiltrators from Bangladesh are helped from here.
11 Ibid., pp. 7-8. The Maulana does not mention that brutal force had been used by Balban, the Khaljis and the Tughlaqs to drag the brave Mewati Hindus into the fold of Islam. Nor does he mention that the Mewatis’ spontaneous reaction to namaz was the same as that of the Pagan Meccans when they saw the first converts doing this acrobatics in a valley near their city.
12 Ibid., pp. 8-9. Emphasis added in order to show the Maulana’s view of šuddhi which the Vishva Hindu Parishad now names more aptly as parãvartana.
13 Ibid., pp. 9-10. Growing a beard of the prescribed size has been the hallmark of Islam.
14 Ibid., p.10. Emphasis added. “Bad spheres of influence” means an atmosphere of tolerance. “New human beings” means their brutalization into fanatics.
15 Ibid., pp. 11-1 2. Emphasis added.
16 Ibid., p.12. Emphasis added in order to convey that the people of Mewat had been pulled out of their roots, brainwashed, and turned into blood-thirsty beasts. Wahiduddin Khan conceals the fact that this whole operation was financed by the Nizam of Hyderabad and many other Muslim princes and moneybags.
17 Shail Mayaram, op. cit., p. 226. She quotes from Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, Life and Mission of Maulana Mohammad Ilyas, Lucknow, 1983, p. 40.
18 Mumtaz Ahmad, op. cit., p. 512.
19 Shail Mayaram, op. cit., pp. 223-24.
20 Ibid., p. 227. Thus the criminals who had brought about the Partition and were responsible of holocaust for both Hindus and Muslims, came out in the new garb of saviours!
21 Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, op. cit., pp. 36-37.
22 Ibid., pp. 45-46. Emphasis added.
23 Ibid., p. 47. Emphasis added.
24 Ibid., p. 48.
25 Ibid., p. 51.
26 Ibid., pp. 53-54.
27 Ibid., p. 55.
28 Shail Mayaram, op. cit., p. 250, fnt. 26, with reference to ‘Living Hadith in the Tablighi Jama‘at’, by Barbara D. Metcalf in the Journal of Asian Studies 52 (1993), pp. 602-03.
29 K.S. Lal, The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India, New Delhi, 1992, pp. 310-14. The process of forcible conversions has been detailed by Professor Lal in his Indian Muslim: Who Are They, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1990, reprinted in 1993.
30 See Sita Ram Goel, Muslim Separatism: Causes and Consequences (1985), Enlarged Reprint, Voice of India, 1995, pp. 57-64.
31 K.S. Lal, The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India, op. cit., p.316. It speaks volumes of Wahiduddin Khan’s honesty that he conceals this core ceremony of Tabligh, namely, making neo-Muslims eat beef and marry their first cousins.
32 This jihãd which was joined by Hindu rebellions on the fringes was named as The Indian War of Independence, 1857 (London, 1909) by V.D. Savarkar. He had yet to learn the history of Islam in India. It is significant that ‘secularists’ and Muslim who hate Savarkar, hail the book as well as its name.
33 Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, Ulema In Politics (Karachi, 1972), First Reprinted in India, Delhi, 1985, pp. 259-60. Emphasis added.
34 Mumtaz Ahmad, op. cit., p. 511.
35 Ibid., p. 521.
36 Ibid., p. 524.
37 Shail Mayaram, op. cit., p. 235.
38 Ibid., pp. 235-36. Emphasis added.
39 Mumtaz Ahmad, op. cit., p. 479 and p. 505.
40 Shail Mayaram, op. cit., p. 241.
41 Ibid., pp. 241-42.
42 Barbara D. Metcalf, op. cit., p. 718. Emphasis added.
43 ‘The Worldview of Sunni Arab Fundamentalists: Attitudes toward Modern Science and Technology’, by Bassam Tibi in Fundamentalisms and Society, Chicago, 1993, p. 91.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, op. cit., p. 67.