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How did Tablighis eclipse Nizamuddin?

How did Tablighis eclipse Nizamuddin?

The prominent journalist Saeed Naqvi (‘Why Tablighis are on a dark and deadly mission,’ https://indianarrative.com/opinion/why-tablighis-are-on-a-dark-and-deadly-mission-266.html) has correctly called the Tablighi Jamaat’s address of the Markaz as “an unhappy mix-up.” A mix-up because the Nizamuddin shrine is the embodiment of Sufi philosophy and way of life, while the Tablighi Jamaat is the antithesis of Sufism.

The 13th century Sufi Saint of the Chisti Silsila, or lineage, Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, lived in this area. “That the Nizamuddin shrine should be overshadowed by the Markaz, a six-story structure with a capacity to house 10,000 Tablighi volunteers, is an aesthetic affront. It also misleads the world which sees the address, ‘Markaz, Nizamuddin,’ as same or similar entities,” he wrote.

He has a point. Set up in 1927 by Maulana Mohammad Ilyas of Khandal, which is near Meerut, the Jamaat was aimed at purging the pre- and non-Islamic traditions, conventions, and customs from Muslim society. The objective was nicely summed up Ilyas’s motto, “Musalmano, Musalman bano” (Oh Muslims, become true Muslims). The current Tablighi, Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, is Ilyas’ grandson.

This makes the Tablighis ideological brethren of puritanical Muslim sects and streams like the Deobandis, Wahhabis, and Salafists—where most jihadists come from. While the Sufis and other Muslim schools have little problem with adopting Indian customs and traditions, the Tablighis was no deviation from the teachings and practices of the Prophet. Like shaving the upper lip and keeping long beards, wearing trousers and pajamas above the ankle.

The leaked US Wikileak cables called the Jamaat as a “proselytizing organization that willingly supports terrorists.” The Jamaat provided recruits to jihadist organizations. The cables called it the “antechamber of fundamentalism” and a “supremacist movement.” Though with its footprint in 150 countries and a membership ranging anywhere between 15 million to 80 million, it managed to operation below the radar for decades.

Even after the Wikileaks, which brought out its ties with terrorist outfits like al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Jamaat and its activities remained little known among non-Muslims in India. This is despite the fact that three former Soviet republics—Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan—proscribed the organization.

Even the Jamaat’s non-violent activities had a baneful impact on Hindu-Muslim relations; it certainly alienated, as indeed its basic objective was, the Muslims from the Hindus. The Tablighi Jamaat is very influential in Haryana’s Mewat region. As Naqvi wrote, “Even though the Meos were converted to Islam in the 16th century, they obstinately held onto their Hindu culture. Not too long ago, night-long recitations of their exclusive Mahabharat called Pandun ka kada were common. Meos claimed descent from characters in the Mahabharat. All Hindu festivals—Holi, Diwali, Dussehra—were mandatory. My friend, Ramzan Chaudhary, a lawyer and chairman of the All India Mewat Association, remembers his father as a professional singer of Holi and Mewati Mahabharat. His grandmother wore a ‘Ghaghra’ and performed Govardhan puja—all taboo in Maulana Ilyas’ book.”

The leading lights of the Indian Muslim communist like Naqvi need to ponder over a critical question: why is it that an obscurantist, medievalist sect has eclipsed the Sufi tradition? Indeed, as Naqvi eloquently points out, “that the Nizamuddin shrine should be overshadowed by the Markaz, a six-story structure with a capacity to house 10,000 Tablighi volunteers, is an aesthetic affront.”

There are more questions: Why have Markaz and Nizamuddin have become “same or similar entities”? Is there something in the DNA of Islam that is inimical to any mixing or blending with anything un-Islamic? Why is it that Muslims are increasingly becoming more orthodox and backward-looking, while other communities are becoming more catholic?

The enlightened Muslims need to answer these and many similar questions. For the sake of their own community, the country, indeed the entire world..