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How Tablighi Jamaat was born from Mewat’s ‘drinking Muslims who couldn’t even read namaz’

Tablighi Jamaat, which has come under the scanner for a mid-March event that is believed to have spawned a surge in India's Covid-19 cases, traces its roots to Haryana's Mewat region.

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Nuh (Haryana): Mufti Zahid Hussain Qasmi Sadar, the headmaster of the nearly 100-year-old Bada Madrassa in Nuh, Haryana, where the Tablighi Jamaat has a deep presence, is seated with a group of associates.

Dressed in a white kurta-pyjama and wearing a skullcap and red keffiyeh, the 45-year-old is animatedly discussing a media report about the Jamaat’s alleged violation of government norms that is being blamed for worsening the spread of Covid-19 in India.

Approached by ThePrint for comment, he said, “This is the first time a media organisation has approached us and sought information regarding the Tablighi Jamaat and the Nizamuddin Markaz.” 

A relatively unknown organisation in the days preceding the coronavirus pandemic, the Tablighi Jamaat has courted deep notoriety since a mid-March event organised at its headquarters in Delhi’s Nizamuddin allegedly spawned a surge in domestic Covid-19 cases.

The event was attended by hundreds of people who lived together at the markaz despite the announcement of social-distancing norms by the government.  

Although the organisation claims the travel restrictions that began to be imposed in the days leading up to the Janata curfew and the subsequent nationwide lockdown prevented it from arranging an immediate evacuation, the Jamaat has become the focus of much public anger for what is seen as a criminal transgression.

The behaviour of the markaz draws no sympathy in Nuh either, but residents claim the negligence is not the Jamaat’s alone. 

“The administration should also take responsibility for the Nizamuddin Markaz incident,” said Hussain, who also serves as the chief preacher at the Badi Masjid here.

Siddiqui Ahmed Meo, a local scholar who has written multiple books about Mewati history, echoed the claim. “Gross negligence took part on both sides,” he said. 

Also Read: Delhi’s Nizamuddin — a bustling blend of history and spirituality, until Covid-19 struck

The wounds of Partition

The Nuh district, known as Mewat until 2016, lies to the south of Haryana, jutting into Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. It is part of the larger Mewat region, which spans the three states and is believed to be the birthplace of the Jamaat.

The Tablighi Jamaat was founded in the 1920s by a preacher named Mohd Ilias, who sought to promote a strict Islamic lifestyle among devotees.

“The dominance of Islam in Mewat can be traced to three periods, 712 AD, 1053 AD and 1192 AD, when large-scale religious conversions took place in the region,” Siddiqui Ahmad Meo, the scholar, said. 

The name Tablighi Jamaat means a “group that propagates faith” and it originated in the early 20th century. Affiliated to the Sunni school, members of the group visit mosques, schools, colleges in different parts of India as well as the world to preach Islam and promote the lifestyle of Prophet Mohammad.  

About 80 per cent of Nuh’s population comprises Muslim Meos. Local clergy claim around 99 per cent of the Meos associate with the Tablighi Jamaat in one way or the other. 

Before the Tablighi Jamaat gained ground here, said Siddiqui, the Muslims of Mewat practised dual religious rituals. “Muslims here would perform nikah (Islamic wedding) as well the saptapadi — circling the fire (a ritual associated to Hindu marriages),” he added. “They would pray to lord Shiva.” 

The Meo Muslims residing here had a very different identity than a typical Muslim, said Siddiqui. They used to wear dhoti-kurta and did not keep beards, he added.

They did not even know how to offer namaz, and local mosques were used as warehouses for cattle fodder. While digging wells in their fields, the Meos would first install a brick in the name of Bhairav baba and many were staunch devotees of Lord Shiva. 

“Several Muslims had names like Balbir Singh or Rameshwar. In some ways, mixed culture has always prevailed in this region,” Siddiqui said.

Professor and sociologist Shail Mayaram, who has written a book titled Resisting Regimes: Myth, Memory and Shaping of a Muslim Identity, offered a similar assessment. “Meo Muslims had a kinship system like the Hindu castes of Haryana… The Muslims here used to worship the cow. The Govardhan festival was also celebrated,” she said. 

Siddiqui said the conduct of local Muslims “astonished” Maulana Ilias when the former visited Delhi for jobs and came in contact with the preacher during the early 1900s. “He was quite astonished by the fact that these Meo Muslims did not know how to recite the kalma,” he added.

Maulana Illias is believed to have then accompanied some Meos to Firozpur village in Mewat and prepared several ground reports. These studies, Siddiqui said, revealed that most of the mosques were closed, and local residents freely consumed liquor.

In 1922, Hussain said, Ilias set up the Badi Masjid and Bada Madrassa at Nuh. This madrassa, headmaster Hussain said, is one of over 50 Islamic schools in the Mewat region that Markaz had direct contact with.

The Tablighi Jamaat was formed four years later, in 1926.

Siddiqui added, “In 1932, Maulana Illias convened a large panchayat that was attended by 107 chaudharis (eminent persons) from the Mewat region. Fifteen resolutions were passed during this meet, dealing with subjects like teaching people how to offer namaz, foundation of new mosques alongside the older ones, not emphasising too much for change in local style of dressing, and further expansion of Islamic education,” Siddiqui said. 

“Following this meet, the first-ever jamaat (congregation) was convened in 1939 at Kandhla (Shamli, UP),” Siddiqui added.

Mayaram said the Tablighi Jamaat didn’t have much influence in Mewat before the Partition. “But during the Partition, the Meo Muslims were slaughtered in Alwar and Bharatpur regions (Rajasthan) even though they followed a mixed culture,”she added. 

“The wounds of the Meo Muslims gave space to the Tablighi Jamaat. The Jamaat told Meo Muslims that these wounds were a punishment from Allah,” she added. “So, after the Partition, the Meo Muslims felt that it is better if they stay on one side.”

Also Read: Tablighi Jamaat chief Saad charged with culpable homicide for spread of Covid-19

Finding Islam

In the years since, the Muslims of Mewat have embraced the Islamic identity Ilias sought to promote, such as keeping a beard and wearing a skull cap. 

“Muslim women have also shed the traditional odhni and are now wearing salwar-kameez. Arabic names are more in vogue. Dietary habits have also changed a lot,” Siddiqui said. “People also have greater inclination towards religious aspects.” 

Despite all this, he said, Muslims in several places across Mewat still engage in age-old rituals like kuan pujan (worshipping of village well), even following some Hindu wedding practices,” Siddiqui added.

Hussain said, among other things, the Tablighi Jamaat had helped the cause of education in Nuh, which, according to a 2018 Niti Aayog report, is among India’s most backward districts with a literacy rate of 54.08 per cent.

“We have drawn attention towards greater cleanliness. Local residents are now becoming doctors and advocates. In the past, most people were highly superstitious and now the situation is not like that.” 

He said their work involved discouraging the evil tradition of dowry. Weddings of poor families, he added, were solemnised at the Badi Masjid as part of mass ceremonies. 

The headmaster added that the Jamaat was not a “political institution”. “It is a purely religious institution that teaches people how to be an ideal Muslim,” he said.

Hussain told ThePrint that the Nuh mosque hosted two large-scale jalsas of the Jamaat every year, most of whose participants are men. These congregations are scheduled in accordance with the agriculture calendar. 

Islam, Hussain added, did not forbid women from entering mosques but they participated from home while still staying behind the curtain. 

Mayaram said women played a crucial role in the Jamaat, going from village to village to explain the importance of reading the namaz

Siddiqui acknowledged that it would be wrong to describe the Tablighi Jamaat as a fundamentalist group, but added a word of advice. The Jamaat, he said, should no longer keep itself secluded from modern education.

Also Read: Tamil Nadu is worst-hit by Tablighi Jamaat event, but also seeing men admit participation

‘Wrong to communalise markaz episode’

According to deputy commissioner Pankaj (who doesn’t use his last name), there were 50 Covid-19 cases in Nuh until Wednesday, of which 44 patients were associated with the Jamaat. Several other people associated with the organisation have also been quarantined. 

These are people, Hussain said, who had come to stay in local mosques after spending some days at the markaz.

At the local level, Hussain claimed, the organisation had been doing its bit to enforce the government’s directions to control Covid-19. The 225 students of the madrassa, he said, were sent home before the lockdown kicked in. 

The markets in Nuh remain closed and several villages are completely sealed, with a large padlock also hanging on the outermost gate of the Badi Masjid. 

Hussain said he understood the seriousness of the pandemic and was still appealing to the people to support the administration’s efforts.

He and several other important religious figures have been constantly issuing videos in collaboration with the local administration, urging people to stay at home. “We tell them, perform the namaz at home too,” he said.

Nuh MLA Aftab Ahmed Chowdhury added that it was wrong to communalise the markaz episode. “It is not right to discover a religious angle amid the coronavirus crisis,” he said. 

Also Read: Like India, Pakistan has a Tablighi Jamaat Covid-19 problem too. But blame Imran Khan as well


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  1. Hey, Mr. Hishaam ? stop ,stop this a typical Muslim rhetoric. Enough!
    When u are caught red handed you always use offense as your defence,be it physical I.e killing or verbal diarrhea.

  2. When you people die. That is the day when you will realize what tableegh means and what hard efforts the leaders are putting into it Day and night to bring people towards success.
    You will realize the worthy of the preachers when you close your eyes my friend.
    You’re actually messing with a humbled group which is always trying to please the creator, God. In the most perfect way.

    I hope and pray our God Allah enlightens each one of your hearts with guidance towards his religion which will protect you’ll from the evil hell fire. May my Allah guide you’ll towards the religion of محمدﷺ before you close those eyes.
    I sincerely wish this for each soul living in this deceptive world.
    Verily the life of the hereafter is much much better and real than the life of this fake world.

    So I beg my Allah to bless each one guidance so that all could benefit and enjoy the astonishing hereafter our Allah has created for us all ! Ameen❤️

    • It Seems You are a Extremist Hindu in the pretext of A Muslim Name Identity To Provoke Enmity among Hindus And Muslims,hope every one Knows ur Bad Intention

    • all these Muslims are trying to aggrandize their influnence and terrorism as their main their main stint I will urge my friends expect Muslims to halt these uprooters otherwise they would annihilate all of us THAT ‘s the reason why 100 % of terrorists are Muslims

  3. This is a lot of anti Muslim bigotry. A person who can see the beauty of gods creation but cannot see the creator will not worship the creator but the created. Simple words. Try to love one another in this time if need… Don’t hate a man because he worships the creator

  4. Blame everything on others and external things. Why these people dont introspect? Who created partition of India? Who taught extreme ideaology to these mixed culture people?

  5. It is not 712 or 1053 AD but after 1192 Tarain battle and mainly in 1300s this dangerous conversion of locals happened.

    • IT is ours who are Traitors these capricious per can’ t understand such a lucid thing 100 % of Muslims are terrorists they did blatant act like 26\11 , 9\11 and massacre a lot of army persons in Kashmir

  6. Ms. Yadav is ready to criticize and castigate upper caste Hindus at the drop of a hat but finds absolutely no reason to denounce and condemn the hardline Islamist stance of Mohd Illias – the founder of Tablighi Jamaat.
    Illias’ attempts at “reforming” the Meo Muslim community has resulted in the present scenario where they have actually moved away from the Indian mainstream social consciousness. The backwardness is simply a byproduct of this.

  7. Your article states: “The administration should also take responsibility for the Nizamuddin Markaz incident,” said Hussain, who also serves as the chief preacher at the Badi Masjid here.”.

    Please don’t attempt to whitewash & share the blame.

    The reality is: If the Govt had issued orders to the Markaz not to hold the meeting – the left liberals & their pals would be screaming “discrimination & Islamophobia”.

    • The Maharashtra government didn’t allow a similar large gathering of Muslims in Vasai between March 10th to 14th. I didn’t hear any liberals complaining when this news came out.

  8. Your article isn’t even worth reading. What are you trying to suggest by your title? If my grandfather was a big boozer and womanizer, should MY neighbors look down upon ME? Why not just talk about a person or organization’s PRESENT CREDENTIALS? It only shows lax editorial standards at THE PRINT

  9. In pakistan and Afghanistan drinking liquor is banned. But one of the largest opiate addiction is found in this countries.

  10. White washing the Tabligh, eh? Won’t do. In a way, this organisation unintendingly paved the way for Pakistan by sowing separate identity amongst the Muslims in India. 1937 Act of the Central Legislature under the British enabled muslims to follow Sharia in personal matters. This more or less indelibly drew line between the Hindus and Muslims. Pakistan was just another eight years away. Until then, Muslims in many parts of India were following Mitakshara law in lieu of Sharia in their personal affairs. Tabligh is not merely canvassing for return to pure Islam, but is also active in converting the Hindus of lower castes to Islam. It is this insistance on adhering to rigid tenets of Islam which requires them to defy civil laws, pray publicly in defiance of lawful orders. The problem is Islam, not Muslims.

    • I don’t understand the stand of Tabligi Jamat head. One side he says TJ preaches Islam, on the other side his TJ members quarantined ask for liquor,cigarettes, they roam naked in front of lady nurses, pass Lee’s comments, talk dirty things, hear lewd songs, spit on doctors, spit on hospital premises, urinate and shit in open and in hospital corridors, practise sodomy openly and many more….How on the earth these people can be called sacred people. Do they have any right to preach. The best thing is to ban TJ activities in India.

      • What u have mentioned are all Not Act Of A Muslim,you can’t seen any Muslim urinating in public spaces plus no foul smell cos washing private parts after urinating is compulsory in Islam,We are expecting our Indian government to allow Muslims to follow Islamic criminal law ,so that our Muslim community atleast will be well disciplined without ,No to Alcohol,No to extra or pre marital Sex,No to Casteism,No to Female Infanticide,No to Sati system,No toDowry,No to Child Marriage,No to Polyandry,No to Polygamy without proper reason,Widow Remarriage System,No to Suicide or Killing or Lynching Any living beings,No to Abandoning of Age old Parents ,Right to Divorce by both Men and Women with proper Reason,No to prostitution,No to Taking Bribe Or Interest,No to Contaminating Water bodies ,No to Cremating by Deforestation,No to womanising,No to Teasing or Raping which accounts to Capital Punishment,No to Public Disturbance by Taking Religious processions in Public Places,No to Wandering Or appearing Half Naked Or Full naked or Any such illicit Dress code In Public,. Many such so…

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