What Is The Tablighi Jamaat
The Tablighi Jamaat is one of the largest Muslim movements in the world. From its origins in the Indian sub-continent, it has spread to the U.S., has a strong base the U.K. and Canada, and is thriving in the Caribbean and South America. There is even a burgeoning Tablighi Jamaat movement in parts of Africa.
Generally, any country that has been touched by the Indian diaspora should have some elements of the Tablighi Jamaat. Mostly because it originated there, and it primary proponents are from that area of the world or their descendants.
I don’t have to give a full account of the history of the Tablighi Jamaat. You can get all the information you need from Wikipedia.
And for full disclosure, I was once pretty active with the Tablighi Jamaat. However, work, kids, family, and other interests prevent me from participating as much as I would like to these days. And while I don’t agree with everything everyone who is associated with the Tablighi Jamaat does, I have an overall favorable opinion of the movement.
I have heard some people say things against them, some of which are not fully true, some of which is true, and some of which is absolutely false.
What Does The Tablighi Jamaat Do?
Let’s talk a little about what this movement is about.
From what I understand (and this is what I’ve gathered from my personal interactions with the movement, not from reading Wikipedia) the primary goal of the Tablighi Jamaat is to bring wayward Muslims back into the fold.
As we all know, there are Muslims who are just Muslim in name. For whatever reason, they are not practicing Islam, or are not praying consistently.
What the Tablighi Jamaat will do, is organize small groups (called Jamaat) and go traveling to different communities. These may communities may be within their local area or outside. Some Jamaats even go to different countries!
When they arrive at the local community, the Jamaat typically resides in the Masjid, and make intention to remain in the Path of Allah (Fee Sabeelillah) for the stated period of time.
During this time, the Jamaat will network with the leadership of the local community to identify any wayward Muslims in the area. The Jamaat will then organize to go out and invite (Tabligh) these people to visit the Masjid and listen to an Islamic lecture.
There are a few more details, but this is the gist of it.
Misconceptions About The Tablighi Jamaat
The primary charge against the Tablighi Jamaat is that what they’re doing is bid’ah (innovation).
This is a hard one for me to swallow.
Unlike other deeds of worship for which there are authentic hadith that dictate how they should be done (for example, dhikr, or remembrance of Allah), is there only one single method to call wayward Muslims back to the straight path?
If you, me, and your brother get together and say: “Let’s go visit Mr. Abdullah and encourage him to come back to the Masjid” can someone really say that is haraam and innovation?
The Tablighi Jamaat does this same thing, just in a much more detailed and organized manner.
Certainly, there are some individuals within the movement who may take their activities to the point where there is some innovation. But I do not believe this was part of the original intent of the group, nor is this the behavior of the majority.
One of the biggest issues some people have is that the Tablighi Jamaat has established a certain number of days for which people are expected to go Fee Sabeelillah. Members are encouraged to start out by going 3 days a month, and then try to do 40 days at least once a year, and then if they can, an entire year at least once in a lifetime. (I may have the numbers mixed up; like I said I haven’t done this in a while).
Truthfully, I think some of these expectations are far-fetched. To encourage people to travel around the country (or the world) and live in one Masjid after another for a whole year is a bit much.
Because of these expectations, there have been stories about some members neglecting their family to participate in Jamaat activities. So you’ll hear tales of young Muslim men spending months bouncing from one Masjid to another while his wife and kids are at home with no money, living off her parents, and wondering when he’s coming back.
I think that’s an exaggeration and even if it’s true, it’s the exception, not the norm.
Praying Before Graves
One person, who was obviously anti-Tablighi, once told me that he heard the Tablighi Jamaat prays before graves (similar to some Sufi groups). Of course, this person had never personally spent time with the Tablighi Jamaat.
I can tell you now, this is not true. Perhaps there are individuals within the movement who do these things, but praying before graves is not a common practice.
Perhaps they might visit a Masjid that is built near a cemetery or that has tombs built within it.
Unfortunately, this is a phenomenon common throughout the Muslim world and really has nothing to do with the Tablighi Jamaat.
Unqualified to Give Da’wah
Another comment I heard someone say against the Tablighi Jamaat is that their members are often not qualified to give Da’wah.
First of all, when has lack of knowledge ever stopped any Muslim, from any background, from giving Da’wah?
I’ve heard Muslims with less than a year of Islam under their belts, who can’t even read Arabic, quoting hadiths and verses of Quran and spouting Fiqh like they’re Muftis (Muslim Judges).
You don’t need to be a scholar to give Da’wah. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) sent Abu Dhar Al-Ghifari to his tribe to spread Islam after only one meeting!
Of course, people shouldn’t speak on things which they have insufficient or little knowledge about. But you don’t need a degree from the University of Medina to explain Tawheed.
Furthermore, the system the Jamaat uses helps to prevent really abhorrent mistakes.
People generally don’t go out by themselves; they go out in groups. So there’s always someone to correct mistakes.
Also, there is always an Ameer (commander) of the Jamaat; a person who is in charge of the group. It is his job to coordinate their activities so as to keep individuals from running amok and doing their own thing.
Finally, the Tablighi Jamaat doesn’t really focus on issues of Fiqh. Their primary goal is to get people to the Masjid. I haven’t really heard them discuss many issues of Fiqh in my time with them.
Do mistakes happen? Of course, they do. But I wouldn’t condemn an overall beneficial activity because of the mistakes of the few.
What I don’t Like About The Tablighi Jamaat
Despite my overall favorable impression of the Tablighi Jamaat there are a few things about them that irk me.
I’m so tired of hearing their members stand up after the prayers, and repeat the same speech, in the same pitch, and in the same rhythm every single time.
Can we please get some variety?
It’s like each member has learned and memorized the same speech and all they can do is repeat it every single time. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even bother to listen to their talks because I already know exactly what they’re going to say.
Second, what’s with the 3 day, 40 day thing?
Some members of Tablighi Jamaat (not all for sure) make the number of days you spend Fee Sabeelillah almost Waajib (compulsory). They put a lot of emphasis on completing these different levels.
Once a group came to my local Masjid. I decided to stay with them for the weekend. However, by the second day things happened and I had to go home.
Mind you, I lived right down the block! Barely a 10 minute walk so it’s not like I was asking anyone to buy me a plane ticket back home or ruining someone’s well-thought out plans.
Some of the brothers in the Jamaat made me feel so guilty for not completing the full 3 days. What was happening at home meant nothing to them.
And once again, not everyone on this Jamaat acted like this. A few brothers told me that if I had to go then it was okay and hopefully I could come back another time.
However, I was a little peeved that some of them were making it seem like I was abandoning one of the five pillars of Islam! This activity was at best, a voluntary one for which Allah would reward us based on our intentions and actions.
Finally, it may be beneficial if the members of the Tablighi Jamaat would focus on attaining more Islamic knowledge outside of the Jamaat. Many members seem to get to isolated within this group and neglect their own Islamic education while calling others to the Masjid.
Obtaining more knowledge about Islam would certainly improve their Da’wah efforts.
Of course, there are many scholars (ulemah) and students of knowledge who are active participants in the Tablighi Jamaat. So I don’t want you to get the impression that its full of a bunch of dummies.
But many of them that I’ve met (keeping in mind that most of the Jamaats I’ve been on were in the Americas) seemed to limit their Islamic perspective to that group alone. Some of them do not take the time to broaden their Islamic knowledge outside of the Jamaat.
The primary text the Tablighi Jamaat uses is one called Faza’ili Amaal (Benefits of Good Deeds).
Those who criticize Jamaatul Tabligh say that this book of full of weak and fabricated Hadiths.
I am not qualified to confirm or deny this claim.
I’ve heard people read from it, and have read some of it myself. But I have never read it in depth, and haven’t read it at all in years.
I’m sure there’s a free pdf somewhere on the internet, so I’ll probably download it and see what all the fuss is about.
Nonetheless, given that there is so much criticism against this book, it would seem that the members of Tablighi Jamaat could find another text to rely on. There are more than enough hadith collections and unquestioned texts that they can read and teach from without relying on Faza’ili Amaal.
That’s pretty much my take on the Tablighi Jamaat. I would like to know what your opinions are about this group.
Positive? Negative? Neutral? Don’t really care?
Speak your mind!