Congregation of Tablighi Jama’at During the Pandemic COVID-19 and Its Agenda in India and Indonesia

AuthorGautam Kumar Jha
Published date01 January 2022
Date01 January 2022
Subject MatterResearch Articles
International Studies
59 (1) 76 –96, 2022
© 2022 Jawaharlal Nehru University
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/00208817221093157
Research Article
Congregation of Tablighi
Jama’at During the
Pandemic COVID-19
and Its Agenda in India
and Indonesia
Gautam Kumar Jha1
Recently, the national and international media have cast Tablighi Jama’at (TJ)’s
image and its members as the potential vectors for spreading the COVID-19
coronavirus globally. The media coverage also became significant as the TJ cast
off the government’s advice to adjourn the congregation organized during the
initial stage of spreading the virus in India, Indonesia and Malaysia and instead
decried the government for interfering in its religious meetings and practices.
The article discusses its ideological roots in various Islamic revivalist movements
and activities inspired by pan-Islamic trends. TJ and its dogmatic ideological base
are responsible for re-Islamizing a large section of lower and lower-middle-class
Muslims. TJ calls for fellow Muslims to follow the puritanical form of Islamic
practices to establish an Islamic state based on Sharia. The article also highlights
that TJ’s conscious racial ghettoization efforts have resulted in an anomalous
society, jeopardizing social harmony.
Counterinsurgency, economic relations, education, geopolitics, governmentality,
international politics
In the past, many Islamic seminary movements in India have reflected their
revivalist objectives, that is, Wahhabi Movement, Deoband, Jamaat-e-Islami and
others. Tablighi Jama’at (TJ) has been one of the most successful surviving trained
1 Centre for Chinese and Southeast Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Delhi,
Corresponding author:
Gautam Kumar Jha, Centre for Chinese and Southeast Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University,
New Delhi, Delhi 110067, India.
Jha 77
missionary groups, which spread across the globe and established its foothold,
albeit facing the local resistances from other seminary movements in India and the
respective countries. There are specific characteristics in TJ, which helped it
expand its outreach and establish its footprint in foreign lands. To understand its
present activities and objectives, we need to understand the dynamics of other
Islamic revivalist movements founded in India.
The last strong Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, who persecuted Hindus and non-
Muslims, witnessed extreme religious violence and many forcible conversions of
Hindus and non-Muslims to Islam. He destroyed Hindu temples and imposed a
jizya tax on non-Muslims and was the first person who systematically initiated the
revival of Islam in India (Truschke, 2017). To establish a proper Islamic
jurisprudence, he invited many Islamic jurists from several pan-Islamic countries
to India to compile fatwas; legal opinions within the framework of Sharia law,
given by qualified jurists in their respective countries. Once the compiling fatwas
project was over, it was named Fatawa-e-Alamgiri (1662–1672). The first
scholarly work aimed to strengthen the belief and establish a society based upon
Islamic jurisprudence. The piece turned out to be a guidebook for the local maulvis
(Malik, 2008). Thus, this was the first effort to establish revivalist Islam as it
treated the people of other religions differently. It treated women, different sects
and faith differently and believed in things such as follows: Muslims have the
right to have sex slaves, have as many wives, marry a girl of any age, among
others, as per the Sharia rule. The marriage law, proceedings and punishment for
different crimes are mentioned, for example, how to treat a woman who has been
captured and brought within the Muslim territory (Baillie, 1985, pp. 1–140).
Other revivalist movements that followed Aurangzeb’s legacy achieved a new
high such as Shah Waliullah’s Indian Wahhabi Movement, Jihad Movement of
Sayyid Barelvi with Shah Ismail, Darul Ulum Deoband’s Deobandi movement
and Jamaat-e-Islami. All these movements pursued a common cause with almost
the same model of proselytization and the same objective of strengthening the
faith, exhorting the ummah (followers) to discard the syncretism prevalent among
the majority of Muslims of India. However, the TJ emerged to be the most active
and fastest-growing seminary movement globally with the objective of
Islamization or re-Islamization of the ummah and finally establishing an Islamic
state based upon Sharia law.
Prof Surendranath’s definition suits the process of Islamization in the Indian
subcontinent well. He defines the Islamization process theoretically by linking it
to its philosophical, socio-economic and political dimensions.
The philosophical dimension combines the moral and ethical upbringing of
individual Muslims or the community as a whole. The Muslim community’s
psychological makeup or attitudinal orientation is shaped per the teachings of the
Quran and Sunna. Establishment of Ukhwat (a common community of believers) is
the ultimate objective of Islam. (Kaushik, 1993, pp. 11–13)
The above paragraph of the quotation defines the TJ’s objective as it has been able
to convey its goals to the ummah, which exemplifies its rapidly growing number

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