Tablighi Jamaat in Mewat-1: Background, Socio-Economic Profile, Meo Peasant Rebellions
By Yoginder Sikand
13 April 2010
The Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) is today the single largest Islamic movement in the world, in terms both of number of activists as well as geographical spread. No study of the history of the TJ would be complete without an account of the people among whom it first took root—the Meo peasants of Mewat, a culturally distinct region in north-western India. Much of that which is unique to the TJ, particularly its method of Tabligh or Islamic missionary work and its approach to and understanding of the process of Islamisation, seems to have been moulded largely by the social context of early twentieth-century Mewat. Mewat also provides an interesting case of shifting socio-political contexts within which the TJ has been able to establish strong roots in a local environment.
The genesis and early development of the TJ in Mewat is particularly worthy of attention. Mewat, which is seen in Tablighi circles as the movement's most successful 'experimental ground' (Ishaq 1972:4), poses a seemingly insoluble sociological paradox. The Meos had for centuries been only the most nominal Muslims as the 'Ulema saw them. After three decades of Tablighi efforts among them they appear, at least in the literature, to have transformed themselves into such committed Muslims that many leading 'Ulema went so far as to exclaim that they had undergone a veritable 'revolution' (Falahi 1996:301). This chapter will address this apparent paradox by tracing the origins and development of the TJ in Mewat in terms of the many social roles that it came to play in the lives of the Meos in the context of major social changes that Mewat has had to contend with starting from the last years of the nineteenth century.