By S. Arshad, New Age Islam
16 April 2020
Already reeling under the allegations of non- compliance of lockdown rules and adding to the spread of Covid-19 in the country, the Jama'at is now in for a greater trouble as the TJ head Maulana Saad Kandhlawi and his six associates have also been booked for culpable homicide and there are possibilities that he may be arrested. This aside, these allegations and government reports of hundreds of Covid-19 cases linked to Tablighi Jamat in the country have had a serious bearing on the larger Muslim community of the country. The biased media and the communal forces exploited the opportunity to spread rumours against Muslims branding them carriers of Corona virus and declaring them a threat to the society. Calls of social boycott of Muslims were given and in many places Muslims were abused and beaten for entering non-Muslim areas. People refused to buy vegetables from Muslim vegetable vendors and in some parts of the country including Bengal Muslim hawkers were barred from entering non-Muslim localities merely on the suspicion that they might have come into contact with the Jama'at's of their area, even if the Jamatis of their area might not have visited Nizamuddin Markaz during March. Thus, the members of the Jama'at were identified with Covid-19 and since the people associated with the Jama'at can be found in every part of the country, the Muslims of the entire country have become suspected.
The irresponsible behaviour of the leaders of the Tablighi Jamaat has, therefore landed the entire Muslim community into a serious social crisis though a large population of the Muslim community does not subscribe to their ideology and a large section of Muslims even severely criticise them for their obscurantist and regressive line of thought. The Tablighi Jamaat falls under the Deobandi school of Islam and so the Barelwi sect is opposed to them since the TJ does not believe in the sufis and awlias and considers visiting and seeking intercession at mazars. The TJ believes in and promotes a puritanical Islam and seeks to reform Muslims within.
However, the larger non-Muslim community of India is not aware of the ideological differences among Muslims and thinks that every Muslim is a Jamati. They think that every vegetable vendors, every street hawker, fruit seller etc is a Jamati and therefore a carrier of Corona whereas the fact is that most of them do not even offer five time prayers or fast during the Ramadhan nor are they aware of basic Islamic tenets, leave aside being associated with the TJ.
The belief of non-Muslims that all the Muslims support the wrongs of the TJ strengthened also because some leaders of different and opposite sects showed solidarity with the Tablighi Jamat. Maulana Tauqeer Raza Khan, the head of the Bareilwi sect, for example, and Maulana Salman Nadvi of Nadva School of Islamic thought showed solidarity with the Jama'atinspite of ideological differences though the head of TJ openly criticised for following un-Islamic principle of suspending five time collective prayers and Friday prayers and leaving mosques and taking other remedial and precautionary measures against Covid-19 like avoiding handshake and maintaining social distance. He literally termed all Muslim religious leaders who called for mosque lockdown and social distancing followers of Satan. "This is the practice of Satan that whenever a catastrophe occurs, Satan puts such thoughts in the hearts of the affected people as may cause their good deeds go to waste and increase the trouble", he said in a lecture during the lockdown at the Markaz. This makes it clear that he cared two hoots for all the other sects as he believed that only he was right and all others were on the wrong path. The fact was that all the religious leaders and muftis also had their own justification for supporting the lockdown from the Quran and Hadith.
Prior to the controversy, the Muslims from all sects took the decision to avoid gathering in mosques and other religious ceremonies to co-operate with the government and fellow countrymen in the efforts to prevent the spread of the pandemic. Suspending five time prayers and even Friday prayers was the most painful decision even for the non-practising Muslim. The collective prayers in mosques had not been suspended even during the Spanish Flu during 1918 when the pandemic had claimed millions of people worldwide. The congregations in Makkah and Madina were not suspended. So the suspension of religious congregation in India and the Arab world was an unprecedented in the history of Islam. Muslims of India took this unprecedented decision to give the non-Muslim brethren of the country and the government the message that Islam supports the precautionary measures advised by the government and there is no clash of belief on the issue. In fact, the precautions suggested by the modern medical science has already been suggested by the prophet of Islam pbuh. The head of Barelwi sect therefore rightly summed up the feeling of the Indian Muslims when he said, "It was for the first time in the history of India that the Muslims of the country have sacrificed their Friday prayers for the sake of the country and its people. There cannot be a greater sacrifice than this."
Muslims did all this to remain with the national mainstream. The Muslim religious leaders, social activists, poets and writers continuously appealed to Muslims to strictly follow the lockdown rules, stay at home, avoid contact and follow social distancing. Muslims helped their Hindu neighbours in ever possible way, even helping in the cremation of dead Hindu neighbours when the relatives of the deceased could not attend the last rites due to lock down. NGOs of Muslims supplied food to the Hindu neighbours in compliance of the Quranic injunction to take care of neighbours irrespective of their cast and creed.
These decisions and steps taken by the Indian Muslim community was appreciated by the government and the larger Indian population. This bonhomie that had been promoted by the Shahin Baghs of the country was further strengthened during the lockdown.
But the irresponsible and rigid stand taken by the Jama'at and its open violation of lockdown rules, it's head asking the Jama'at members not to lend ears to precautionary advices of the government, not to avoid handshake and not to follow social distancing and to carry on Gasht(visits) in towns and villages as usual, even more intensely wielded a severe blow to all the good efforts and achievements of the Muslims. The Maulana was exhorting his followers not to give much importance to remedial measures and only spend their time in prayers. He said, "Only kafirs think of material remedies, Muslims only think of prayers and other religious remedies." He even says that in terms of precautions, a Muslim should only follow the advice of only pious Muslim doctors. “Only the advice of a pious, practising Muslim doctor is acceptable. Even if such a doctor advises one to suspend any of his religious duty it will not be accepted." Maulana's stand is in clear violation of the stance taken by the Quran which provides for QazaRozaand Namaz due to some contingency. He is not even in favour of avoiding handshake and observing social distance as precaution. Such an un-Islamic attitude of the head of TJ pushed the whole Muslim community into a deep social crisis.
The social outlook of Maulana Saad or of TJ is also evident from his statement on reading newspapers. In his view reading newspapers is a waste of time and a bad habit. According to him, reading newspapers promotes negative thoughts and habits in him. He says," How will they have faith in Allah? They don't study the Quran. They read the newspapers, poor folks! They read one news and lose hope; they read another news and get panicked; they read another news and run from their religious duties.". This sums up the basic philosophy of TJ: "Don't read newspapers or watch TV or remain aware of the political and social happenings around. To him newspapers or media are useless or rather harmful for a Muslims. They take them away from religion. According to the TJ the Muslims should not get involved in social and political issues of the country. That's why they never take part in social work like other Muslim organisation do in times of peace and flood, drought, riots and calamities like Covid-19.
This is the ideology that was at the root of the Markaz imbroglio. They sank their head in sand when the lockdown was announced. They thought the Markaz was out of the purview of the law of the land. Their complacence and misplaced faith in God and misinterpretation of Quran and Hadith have caused huge damage not only to the movement but also to the Muslim community of India.
S. Arshad is a regular columnist for NewAgeIslam.com