By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam
Surprisingly enough, Darul Uloom Deoband, has shut its doors on its own ideological offshoot—the Tablighi Jama’at (TJ)—for the first time in its hundred-year-old history. According to the media reports, the TJ has been restricted from conducting any activities inside the "four walls" of the Darul Uloom. Recently, the seminary's administration announced that any student found involved in the TJ’s movement, in any way, would face punitive action, as widely reported in the Urdu press on August 10.
Of late, Darul Uloom Deoband issued a strongly-worded fatwa declaring the Tablighi Jama’at "misguided" and the “preacher of perverted views". Deoband seminary has also urged the current chief of the Tablighi Jama’at, Maulvi Sa'ad Kandhalvi to ‘repent in the court of God’. Accusing him of ‘an ideological perversion, misinterpretation of Islamic texts and desecration of Prophethood’, the fatwa pronounced by the Deoband clergy has stated: “It is our religious duty to warn Muslims particularly those with the Tablighi jam ‘at that Maulvi Sa'ad Kandhalvi, the current chief of the Jama’at, is misinterpreting Quran and Hadith”.
The Darul Ifta’a (committee of fatwa-issuance) of Darul Uloom Deoband cites various statements attributed to the Tablighi Jama’at’s chief, Maulvi Sa'ad Kandhaulvi in his speech delivered at Tablighi Jama’at’s large-scale congregation (Ijtema) held in Bhopal. Maulvi Sa'ad Kandhaulvi spoke many things which went against the canonical understanding of Islam, according to the Deoband’s Muftis. Their fatwa in Urdu is entitled as:
“مولانا محمد سعد کاندھلوی کے بعض غلط نظریات و افکار کے سلسلہ میں دارالعلوم دیوبند کا متفقہ موقف"
(The consensus of Darul Uloom Deoband against the erroneous ideas and thoughts of Maulvi Sa'ad Kandhaulvi)
This detailed fatwa has been made public officially by the Darul Uloom Deoband on its website. Here is the source: www.darulifta-deoband.com/home/ur/Dawah--Tableegh/147286.
A key allegation in the Deoband’s Fatwa against the TJ is that Fazail-e-A’amaal (the virtues of Islamic actions)—the text book Tablighi Jama’at preaches to its followers—contains many things antithetical to the Quran and the authentic prophetic traditions (Hadith). Such objections over the TJ and its preaching style have been repeatedly raised in the past as well. The Darul Uloom itself confessed that the seminary’s clerics have received such complaints earlier too, from various sources including those in Bangladesh and Pakistan, in which ‘the perverted views of the TJ chief’ were spelled out.
But one wonders why the TJ has been left unchallenged over its more grievous stands which are cultivating the ideological Jihadism inherent in its curriculum. Like various texts of “Fazail-e-A’amal”, another textbook entitled “Taleem-e-Islam” (the teachings of Islam), contains pro-Jihadism exhortations. But both textbooks are valued by the TJ followers as significant as the Quran and Hadith—the two primary Islamic texts. In fact, the common followers of the TJ literally place these books at a pedestal above the Quran. One of the founding ideologues of the TJ writes in the book "Teachings of Islam" explaining the Jihadi doctrine: “Jihad is spreading the kalmia (word of God) and enforcing Allah's Commandments."
In reality, spreading word of God is not confined to the TJ. All Islamic, Christian, Jewish and other evangelical organisations based on preaching and proselytizing are doing almost the same. But what is quite staggering is the TJ’s overt exhortations towards “enforcing Allah's Commandments”.
In the canonical Arabic etymology, Kalima is the first article of Islamic faith which enjoins a Muslim to testify that “there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the last messenger". But it has got an antagonistic connotation after it has been weaved into a 6-point curriculum of the TJ as mentioned in its textbook ‘Fazail-e-A’amal’. “Muslims are in a constant state of Jihad in the sense of fight against evil. Their weapon is Da’wa (proselytisation) and their battles are won or lost in the hearts”, reads a passage in the book.
Barring Ulema and a few preachers associated with the Jama’at, nearly all TJ members have confined their job to reading out Fazail-e-A’amalto the common Muslims. The Tablighi preachers captivate their audiences—mostly uneducated and gullible Muslim youths—with whimsical tales and fabricated hadith reports falsely attributed to the Prophet. A considerable number of Islamic researchers have stated that the entire Tablighi curriculum in general and Fazail-e-A’amal in particular are replete with concocted Hadiths (Maudu’aat).
The thrust of Fazail-e-A’amal is that leading a true Islamic life is not possible without harbouring hate and animosity towards this world. In fact, the entire life before death is considered futile and worthless. “This world (Dunya) is similar to a toilet or a prison”, as is written in the book Fazail-e-A’amal. The gravity of this belief can be gauged by the fact that most Tableeghi preachers literally place this textbook at a pedestal above the Quran. Consequently, the TJ preachers pride themselves on the notion that they ‘talk only of what is in the heavens above or in the grave below and nothing at all about the world in between”. Such zealot religious thoughts are actually antithetical to the spirit of the Quranic verses that explicitly forbid asceticism (Rahbaniyat).
The entire edifice of the TJ is based on the six points which were propounded to initiate the “Tahrik-E-Iman” (faith movement). The points are: (1) Iman (faith), (2) Namaz (Islamic prayer), (3) Ilm-O-Zikr (the knowledge and remembrance of Allah), (4) Ikraam-e-Muslim(respect for Muslims), (5) Ikhlas-E-Niyyat (sincerity of intention) and (6) Tafarrugh-E-Waqt (the sparing of time for the Da’wah or preaching and proselytisation)”.
In the textbook, “Taleem-e-Islam” under the sub-heading "General Principles", the TJ author comments on the six points: "No points of secondary importance should be discussed at any time. Confine all talk to the main points of the Tabligh…..There is no gain, honour, happiness, peace or tranquillity in this life without adopting and firmly holding on to the work and system of the Tablighi Jama’at."
Thus, in its 6-point curriculum, the TJ declares its core objective as Da’wa (proselytisation) which is based on an exclusivist notion of “enforcing Allah's Commandments”. The ideologues believed that Muslims joining the TJ would act upon the Quranic commandment of “enjoining good and forbidding evil” (Amr bil Ma'ruf wa Nahi an al Munkar). They derived it from the Quranic verse which reads: “Ye are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah” (3:110).
Tellingly, the way today’s literalist Islamists are enjoining “the right” and forbidding “the evil” is sometimes obnoxious. An instance can be seen in the recent incident in Mecca, Saudi Arabia which was lambasted in some progressive Saudi newspapers, though not in the mainstream media. On 11 March, 2002, the Mutaween—the Islamic police in Saudi Arabia—did not allow schoolgirls to escape a burning school, because ‘the girls were not wearing Hijabs or Abayas’, and were not ‘accompanied by a male guardian’. In this show of “enjoining right and forbidding evil”, fifteen young girl students died and fifty more were injured, as reported in the Saudi Arabic daily Okaz.
Founded in 1926 by a UP-based Islamist cleric Maulvi Muhammad Ilyas Kandhaulvi, the TJ aims at reverting what they call “misguided” or “deviant” (Bid’ati) Muslims into ‘puritan’ believers. According to the Pew Research Centre’s Religion and Public Life, the TJ spreads across more than 150 countries with numbers ranging from 12 to 80 million. The TJ came into media limelight only after the central Asian countries Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, once part of the USSR, banned it accusing that the TJ preaches a retrogressive strain of religiosity.
Many progressive Islamic scholars in the subcontinent assert that Islamist supremacism and retrogression emanate from the retrogressive movements of preaching and proselytising like the Tablighi Jama’at (TJ). “Faith-Based Violence and Deobandi Militancy in Pakistan”, a ground-breaking book explores various shades of the Tablighi extremism and its implications for faith-based fanaticism. “This dimension of radical Islam remains largely ignored or misunderstood in mainstream media and academic scholarship”, writes Arshi Saleem Hashmi who contributed a chapter in this book on the historical roots of the Deobandi version of fanaticism.
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a regular columnist with newageislam.com, scholar of classical Arabic and Islamic Sciences, cultural analyst and researcher in Media and Communication Studies at Centre for Culture, Media & Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia.
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