How Made-in-India Tablighi Jamaat became the largest organisation in Pakistan

To paraphrase a popular saying, you can take the Tablighi Jamaat out of India but you cannot take India out of the Tablighi Jamaat. No matter where its members go, their values, their fundamentals remain unaltered. Their strategy to woo nominal Muslims remains the same too. A living embodiment of what the organization, which originated in Mewat in north India, stands for, comes from Raiwind, just off Lahore in Pakistan. The site of the annual ijtema in the country, it attracts millions of the faith from far and near, all wedded to the six principles of the parent body.

Modify the language somewhat, and you get the Pakistani version of the Made in India Tablighi Jamaat – the same josh, the same desire to be true Muslims following the ways of the Prophet while endeavouring to uphold the Sunnah, the same concentration on gasht, and the same fascination with chilla or self-transformative, self-financed tours to mosques in other cities. In Pakistan too, men monopolize the mosques. The women, few and far between, remain hidden from the public gaze. They do dawah at home or in the neighbourhood.

Volunteers go to the mosque. They go on gasht, inviting the faithful to the masjid for five daily prayers. Even as they do so, a group member stays in masjid, praying to Allah for their success. This khalwat tradition of a man staying in the mosque while other members of the touring party spread out is borrowed from Sufism, which has a firm foothold in the country, notably in Punjab and Sindh. Once the newcomers join the masjid, the training is not as rigorous as in India. Most of the men already know how to perform wudu and offer prayers. Where the Tablighi Jamaat steps in is to help add elements of Sunnah to the actions. They introduce the newcomers to the use of miswak five times a day, and teach them the desirability of counting beads after Fajr and Asr prayers.

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