The Tablighi Jama˓at ("the society for inviting or conveying") may be the most widespread movement of Islamic da˓wa ("call," "proselytism") in the world today. Annual congregations held in Tablighi centers in Raiwind (Pakistan) and Tungi (Bangladesh) are said to include perhaps two million participants each. Dewsbury (U.K.) serves as a center for Islamic education and tabligh activity in Europe. Its annual meeting attracts several thousand participants, as do annual meetings held in North America. Overall leadership is based at the Banglewali Masjid at Nizam al-Din in New Delhi, India, where the movement began.
The 1920s were a period of violent religious competition in northern India, spurred by the beginnings of mass politics. Muslims in Mewat, southwest of Delhi, were a particular target of Hindu "reconversion" movements. Maulana Muhammad Ilyas (1885–1944), the movement's founder, first encountered humble Mewati laborers in Delhi. He quickly realized the limitations of mere schooling in influencing them, and instead initiated a method of practical learning, encouraging even the uneducated to remove themselves from their environment and preach to others. Tabligh, he argued, was incumbent not only on the learned but on every Muslim.
The movement requires no bureaucracy and no paid staff. It depends on small groups or cells ( jama˓ats) of perhaps ten men, financing themselves, going out door-to-door and speaking in mosques. Participants ideally volunteer one day a week, one three-day period a month, one forty-day period a year, and one four-month tour at least once in a lifetime. Women do tabligh within their own circles and gather regularly for instruction with other women; they accompany a traveling jama at only if it includes one of their male relatives. Tablighis follow and teach "Six Points:" the attestation of faith (kalima), canonical prayer (salat), knowledge and ritual remembrance of Allah (˓ilm o zikr), respect toward all Muslims (ikram-e Muslim), sincerity (ikhlas-e niyyat), and volunteering time for tabligh (tafrigh-e waqt). Writings by Maulana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi (1897–1982), based on hadith and known as the Tablighi nisab (The tabligh curriculum) or Faza˒il-e a˓mal (The merits of practice), serve as the movement's vade mecum. Mutual consultation (mashwara) is a fundamental principle in allocating responsibilities and making decisions.
Partition spurred new centers in Pakistan and served as a fillip to the movement in places like Mewat, which saw virulent anti-Muslim devastation. Maulana Muhammad Yusuf (1917–1965), who succeeded his father as emir of the movement in 1944, toured actively throughout the subcontinent. The Jama˓at's activities increasingly spread to Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America.
During Maulana In˓amu˒l Hasan's leadership (1965–1995) worldwide activity increased dramatically, dependent in part on the growth of an Indo-Pakistani diaspora. This continued under the leadership of the council, which succeeded him. The movement more recently has taken root among North African immigrants to France and Belgium, as well as among Southeast Asian Muslims. Followers of the "Barelwi" school, who see Tablighis as Deobandis, as well as modernists, and state-oriented Islamist parties like the Jama˓at-e Islami, who reject Tablighi withdrawal from social and political activism, are their primary opponents. These latter critics deplore the narrowness of Tabligh teachings. The Tablighi Jama˓at's stance has, however, allowed it to operate without government suspicion across many countries.
Haq, M. Anwarul. The Faith Movement of Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas. London: George Allen, 1972.
Masud, Muhammad Khalid, ed. Travellers in Faith: Studies of the Tablighi Jamaat as a Transnational Islamic Movement for Faith Renewal. Leiden: Brill, 2000.
Metcalf, Barbara D. "Living Hadith in the Tablighi Jama˓at." Journal of Asian Studies 52, no. 3: 584–608.
Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi, Maulana. Teachings of Islam. New Delhi: Isha at-e-Islam, 1960.
Barbara D. Metcalf