|Origins and Ideology|
|Sects - Tableeghi Jamaat|
Origins and Ideology
The prominent Deobandi cleric and scholar Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalawi (1885-1944) launched Tablighi Jamaat in 1927 in Mewat, India, not far from Delhi. From its inception, the extremist attitudes that characterize Deobandism permeated Tablighi philosophy. Ilyas's followers were intolerant of other Muslims and especially Shi'ites, let alone adherents of other faiths. Indeed, part of Ilyas's impetus for founding Tablighi Jamaat was to counter the inroads being made by Hindu missionaries. They rejected modernity as antithetical to Islam, excluded women, and preached that Islam must subsume all other religions. The creed grew in importance after Pakistani military dictator Zia ul-Haq encouraged Deobandis to Islamise Pakistan.
The Tablighi Jamaat canon is bare-boned. Apart from the Qu'ran, the only literature Tablighis are required to read are the Tablighi Nisab, seven essays penned by a companion of Ilyas in the 1920s. Tablighi Jamaat is not a monolith: one subsection believes they should pursue jihad through conscience (jihad bin nafs) while a more radical wing advocates jihad through the sword (jihad bin saif). But, in practice, all Tablighis preach a creed that is hardly distinguishable from the radical Wahhabi-Salafi jihadist ideology that so many terrorists share.
Part of the reason why the Tablighi Jamaat leadership can maintain such strict secrecy is its dynastic flavour. All Tablighi Jamaat leaders since Ilyas have been related to him by either blood or marriage. Upon Ilyas' 1944 death, his son, Maulana Muhammad Yusuf (1917-65), assumed leadership of the movement, dramatically expanding its reach and influence. Following the partition of India, Tablighi Jamaat spread rapidly in the new Muslim nation of Pakistan. Yusuf and his successor, Inamul Hassan (1965-95), transformed Tablighi Jamaat into a truly transnational movement with a renewed emphasis targeting conversion of non-Muslims, a mission the movement continues to the present day.
While few details are known about the group's structure, at the top sits the emir who, according to some observers, presides over a shura (council), which plays an advisory role. Further down are individual country organizations. By the late 1960s, Tablighi Jamaat had not only established itself in Western Europe and North America but even claimed adherents in countries like Japan, which has no significant Muslim population.
The movement's rapid penetration into non-Muslim regions began in the 1970s and coincides with the establishment of a synergistic relationship between Saudi Wahhabis and South Asian Deobandis. While Wahhabis are dismissive of other Islamic schools, they single out Tablighi Jamaat for praise, even if they disagree with some of its practices, such as willingness to pray in mosques housing graves. The late Sheikh 'Abd al 'Aziz ibn Baz, perhaps the most influential Wahhabi cleric in the late twentieth century, recognized the Tablighis good work and encouraged his Wahhabi brethren to go on missions with them so that they can "guide and advise them." A practical result of this cooperation has been large-scale Saudi financing of Tablighi Jamaat. While Tablighi Jamaat in theory requires its missionaries to cover their own expenses during their trips, in practice, Saudi money subsidizes transportation costs for thousands of poor missionaries. While Tablighi Jamaat's financial activities are shrouded in secrecy, there is no doubt that some of the vast sums spent by Saudi organizations such as the World Muslim League on proselytism benefit Tablighi Jamaat. As early as 1978, the World Muslim League subsidized the building of the Tablighi mosque in Dewsbury, England, which has since become the headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat in all of Europe. Wahhabi sources have paid Tablighi missionaries in Africa salaries higher than the European pays teachers in Zanzibar. In both Western Europe and the United States, Tablighis operate interchangeably out of Deobandi and Wahhabi controlled mosques and Islamic centers.