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The arqa of the Tablgh Jamat.

Hamid Mahmood




The Adhn yet sounds, but never now

Like Bilals, soulfully;
Philosophy, convictionless,
Now mourns its Ghazl,2
(Muhammad Iqbal)

f orders play a significant role in the life of Muslims from differing uf arqas,
however little attention has been given to a modern innovative transnational arqa
The Tablgh Jamat. Hence I will explore how the Tablgh Jamat transforms the
f notion from il of the self to ila of the umma. How certain innovative
practices within the Jamat are compared with f practises; how personal
experience in this path is the source of salvation and spirituality for the tablgh; and
the notion of sharing dhikr with the other. I will also compare the f notion of
maqms to a similar structured idea within the jamat and conclude by looking at
certain f terminology used within the jamat.
I will explore Tablghi Jamat from the perspective of it being a modern innovative
arqa, and how it builds onto the uf notions of il (self-rectification) and
transforms the understanding of sheikh / pr.3 I believe it now significant to study the
spiritual aspect of the Jamat, as it is too often categorised merely under the
Islamist umbrella. The reason for my idea of defining the spiritual aspect of the
Jamat could also be traced back to its founders and amrs; Muhammad Ilys,
Yusuf Kandehlaw and Inmul asan, all of whom were associated to the chishtiyya
uf order. However, this arqat evolves the idea of pr and murd beyond the realm
of individuality towards a broader sense, which views the path of this Jamaat as the

Followers of the Tablgh Jamat feel the loss of spirit and soul within the current state and practise of
the umma, hence I see this poem unites their idea regarding a revival esoteric and exoteric notions of
Islm. As in this they would see themselves to bring the soul of Bilal in their call and trying to revive this
spirit as did Ghazl amidst chaos and havoc that was determining the fate of the Muslim world.
2 Iqbal, M. (No Date). Bng-e-Dar (The Call of the Caravan). Trans by. Abd Al-Qadir. see. Jawb-eshikwa
3 Pr is the Persian/ Urd equivalent to shaykh (spiritual guide) and murd his disciple. And since the
Tablgh jamat movement began in the sub-continent I have used the Urd terms as opposed to

pr and the ummah at large as its murd. Muhammad Ilys, the founder of the
Jamat, once explained:
A special aim of this movement of ours is that by dominating the desire of deen over
all the other desires of Muslims and unifying their aims in this way, and by promoting
social intercourse on the principle of ikrm-e-Muslim, all the people be made the
picture of the adith: The Muslims are like one body.4

Molana Muhammad Jameel gave a commonly understandable example in

respect of mutual love and unity. He said: While cutting a fruit the knife was in the
right hand. The thumb of the left hand got wounded by the knife. All parts of the
body are seeing that the right hand has cut the thumb, but it never happens that
the left hand files a court case against the right hand. This is the call of that adth in
which it is said that, The Muslims are like one body.5 Hence, one finds such quotes
flowing among the Tablighis,

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path (arqa) itself will

teach you the arqa, and also, this struggle itself is our pr (spiritual guide).
The Tablighi Jamat, however, moves aside from the notion of escapism and builds
upon Muhammad Iqbals idea of khd. As the earlier Persian f idiom in Iran
instilled by Sad, zamn bin-o-szad t bzamn bass (if the era is at war
with you, escape from it!), was later replaced by Iqbals innovative idiom, zamn
bin-o-szad t bzamn sats(if the era suppresses you, be at war with it!). The
Jamat does not prescribe leaving of the home for individual growth, rather for the
spiritual growth of the ummah. It is also said in the circles of Tablgh,  & ' () * + ,

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hitherto put your own heart in front of you and make the arb

(the dhikr of Allah aimed at the heart) on the heart of the other. The ifa (quality)
of isn too is built upon the notion of being in the path of Allah, hence at all times
He is with you, listening and watching this perception is extracted from Prophet
Ms (Moses) and Hrns path to the Pharaoh calling him towards the Divine. As it
is said to them both on this path inna n maa kum asmau wa ar, hence the
tablighi builds upon isn in all his worship through one of the six points of tablgh,
ikhls as is also stressed by Bulleh Shh, a uf saint of the sub-continent:
If the divine is found through ablutions
surely frogs and fish would find him first
if the divine is hidden in jungles
the cattle would have discovered him by now
O Bulleh, the divine is found by those
with pure and true heart.6

Nomn, M. M. (2001). Words and Reflections of the Revivalist of the Work of Tableegh: Hazrat
Maulana Muhammad Ilyas. p.177
5 Ibid., see footnote 2
6 Bulleh Shahs (1680-1758)poem. [Accessed online 22.03.2011]:

Also stress is given upon the gasht / jolah (going from person to person; door to
door), and is viewed by tablighis as also a form of il, it is said, 34567*8 9

 : 1

the purpose of gasht is to transform dhillat into izzat. As they believe it

seems degrading going from house to house begging, urging and persuading the
Muslims to also leave their homes to purify themselves. The quote is reminiscent to
Byazd Bustms il (rectification) of another of Bestms disciple-saint, who
boasted of his thirty years of constant awm (fasts) and tahajjud (night prayer):
"This very hour go and shave your beard and hair. Take off these clothes you are
wearing, and tie a loincloth of goat's wool about your waist. Hang a bag of nuts
around your neck, then go to the marketplace. Collect all the children you can, and
tell them, `I will give a nut to everyone who slaps me.' Go round all the city in the
same way; especially go everywhere people know you. That is your cure."7
However, it is essential to understand that persuasion rather than intellectual
exchange is the methodology used by the Tablighi. As Barbara Metcalf quotes,
Tabligh [insist] that preaching must be done face to face, that intellectuality and
argument are irrelevant to influencing lives, and that what counts is a meeting of
hearts.8 As mentioned earlier, for the tabligh, speaking of Allah is similar to dhikr,
shared with the other Muslim, who too is need of it, hence the tabligh is constantly
passing by maqms similar to that of the fis. Due to this constant cycle of going
out and calling others to leave their homes to focus their attention on their souls, yet
at the same time calling others to do the same makes it difficult for an outsider to
fully understand the structure of the Jamat. As the one describing it is unsure of
which perspective to initiate with.
However, I also believe that there is a well structured system of maqmt similar to
mainstream Sufism. Here, however, one begins with leaving his family, work and
business for three days a month, and as it is constantly instilled within him to go for
forty days, he sees that as the next maqm to reach. Within the 40 days, he intends
to spend the ultimate 4 months, keeping in mind this would mean a struggle with
family and specially work, he is then classified as purn literally meaning old
(worker). Here, one discovers Ghazlis notion of dividing the people into three
categories m, kh and kh al-khss, this is also noted in the jamat with the
term khu. For instance those who have spend forty days in exile from their
normal lives will not have, according to the tablighis, arrived at the level (maqm) of
the four monther. Hence, annually there will take place ijtim (gatherings)
specific for those who have spent forty days and specific for purnas.
Metcalf, notes that tablghis also use a diverse number of f terminology to
describe within their circles:

Story taken from Memorial of the Saints of Fariduddin Attar. [Accessed online 22.03.2011]:
8 Metcalf, B. (2003). Travelers' Tales in the Tablighi Jamaat. Annals of the American Academy of
Political and Social Science, Vol. 588, p.140

Muhammad Hanif (1997), for example, used such terms as luf (joy, grace), kaif
(exhilaration), and sukn-i-qalb (peace of heart) to describe the spiritual experience
of his jam'at. The 1950 account spoke of being granted the light of insight (nr-i
barat) and of the gnosis (ma'arifat) and revelations (inkishf) accorded those who
participated. Story after story, like those described above, illustrate how a jama'at
becomes a vehicle for what are essentially the karmt, or miracles, gained in classic
Sufi accounts by a particular holy man who enjoys God's favour.9

She also ascertains, if Tablighi ideology, despite its fundamentally different program,
shares certain assumptions and symbols with political Islam, it also draws on a
second language, evident in the accounts as in much Tabligh language. This is a Sufi
idiom. Tablighis believe themselves able to receive, through divine blessings granted
on account of their work, the high spiritual state and charisma accorded to Sufis. The
Sufis gain their blessings through lives devoted to disciplines, meditation, and moral
purification coupled with the powerful charisma of succession transmitted through
the elder to whom they pledge allegiance. These states can now to be gained by
participation in the charismatic community of the jama'at. Thus, the participant
gains through his experiential states in this life the assurance that what he is doing is
receiving divine blessing.10
In conclusion, I believe it significant to explore the tablghi jamats spiritual order,
as it has now spread to over 160 countries, with one of their amrs ranked sixteen in
Espositos The 500 Most Influencial Muslims in the World. It is important to note the
influence j Abd al-Wahhb has on the Diaspora South Asian Muslim community,
which makes up the majority of Muslims living the UK. Esposito further exclaims, In
Pakistan alone, Abd al Wahhabs influence has won the allegiance of prominent
politicians, actors, and athletes. Despite his influence over key Muslim leaders from
various fields of social power, Abd al Wahhab is consistent in his assertion that the
organization is wholly apoliticalidentifying the work of the Tablighi Jamaat as a
spiritual revivalist movement.11
I began by illustrating how the Tablgh Jamat transforms the f notion from il
of the self to ila of the umma by implying that the umma is one united body
which represents the murd and the arqah (path) of Allah to be the pr. I then
compared and contrasted a diverse number of practises with fi ones, especially of
the sub-continent. I also looked into the idea of dhikr, as speaking of Allah to the
other for the tablgh is a transformed reminiscence of f forms if dhikr. I also looked
at the tablgh version of the maqm idea in fism, and concluded as to why more
attention needs to be afforded to the spiritual aspect of the tablghi jamat as
opposed to Islamism, as indeed the Tabligh Jamat holds the second largest
Muslim annual gathering in the world after the ajj.12

ibid., p.145
11 Esposito, J. and Kalin, I. et. al (2009). The 500 Most Influencial Muslims in the World. p. 58

The Quran: A New Translation by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem
Esposito, J. and Kalin, I. et. al (2009). The 500 Most Influencial Muslims in the World.
The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.
Iqbal, M. (No Date). Bng-e-Dar (The Call of the Caravan). Trans by. Abd Al-Qadir.
Accessed online [22.03.2011] :
Metcalf, B. (2003). Travelers' Tales in the Tablighi Jamaat. Annals of the American
Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 588, Islam: Enduring Myths and
Changing Realities (Jul., 2003), pp. 136-148
Metcalf, B. (1993). 'Living Hadith in the Tablighi Jama`at'. The Journal of Asian Studies,
Vol. 52, No. 3 (Aug, 1993), pp. 584-608
Nasr, S. H. (1997). Islamic Spirituality: Manifestations.
Company: New York, USA

The Crossroad Publishing

Nomn, M. M. (2001). Words and Reflections of the Revivalist of the Work of

Tableegh: Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Ilyas. Bukhari Academy: Multan, Pakistan
Accessed online [22.03.2011]
(Musings on the Britannic Crescent. Review of Travellers in Faith: Studies of the
Tablighi Jamaat as a Transnational Islamic Movement for Faith Renewal.
Accessed online [22.03.2011]
[Accessed: 22.03.2011]