Tablighi Jama‘at and Spread of Covid-19: My Response

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Members coming out of Tablighi Jam’at Markaz in New Delhi after area was declared a Red Zone

This is in response to the reaction of Dr Nazir Ahmad Zargar Sahab to my article on Tabligh & Covid-19: Where Have We Gone Wrong?

Mr Zargar writes in his piece titled Tablighi Jama’at and The Spread of Covid-19: “It appears the author seems to have done no research on the subject but has only reproduced the views of Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, a Pakistan based journalist who calls himself a progressive and moderate Muslim and often writes for the cause of weaker sections of Pakistani society like Ahmadia community etc. The author has outrightly blamed Tablighi Jama‘at for spread the disease in the Muslim world.”

The author is an Islamic scholar and by claiming that I have reproduced someones content he has questioned his own integrity. I have published in the Opinion Section of KO where authors draw conclusions based on facts. And my facts are mostly based on my own personal experience and the recently published literature. Since it is a newspaper so references and citations are not part of such writings. This is the first time that I have heard about Mr. Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, and I have not followed his article to write mine. Therefore, expecting such an allegation from a scholar, and that too Islamic one is least expected. What is your proof Mr Zargar? Is this what Islam teaches us? Why can’t we have a difference of opinions and live with that. Do we need to blame each other for life without reflecting on our problems? I have a feeling that you have not read my article properly (see below), and you have jumped to conclusion in haste. I have NOT blamed Tablighi Jama’at alone. There are abundance of reports all around the world about these instances, and one cannot just shut eyes. We have to react. And I am reproducing below what I have written:

“So, here we are, dealing with a group of Muslims that has turned into a coronavirus infection carrier. And they are not alone in this. There are many other similar and largely religious groups that are not listening to authorities and are risking their own lives along with others. And the solution to this ignorance is nothing but the awareness of real Islamic knowledge which will only come from highly skilled and knowledgeable scholars of Islam. Therefore, it is time for such scholars to comes forward and play their role in delivering the right information to people.”

Any scholar should understand the gravity of blaming people for no reason, and that is what you have done in reaction to my article. Look what you have written again:

“It appears to be part of the wishful and well calculated Islamophobia campaign, which has been there from last so many years”.

Have some dignity and respect for people who write voluntarily with a motivation to spread awareness so that we all change for good. Please spend some time on cross checking facts about authors and what they have written in the past before writing hate filled pieces. A typical research means you are digging deeper into the truth, and coming up with a balanced writing. But unfortunately what you have written above is fiction and a reflection of your emotional and anger filled mind.

The author further writes: “In addition to maligning the Tablighi Jama‘at with respect to the spread of Covid-19 the author (means me) has also tried to spew venom against this movement by projecting it as hub of illiterate and rigid religious people who have no knowledge of religious sciences.”

Please understand that I will never malign anyone, and that includes Tablighi Jama‘at.  I have read many international and national media reports on how coronavirus was linked to Tablighi Jama‘at. And it is true that virus has traveled with them, as it travels with anyone else. As a respectful and responsible organization one would expect it to act sensibly, and responsibly. These people should actually come forward and inform people NOT to come out so that virus spread is checked. They should have helped people to minimize the infection and help those who were in the state of distress. For example it would reflect nicely had they used their influence to facilitate the transport for the poor laborers who are immensely suffering throughout India from the day the sudden lockdown was announced.

And one of the most famous Tablighi Jama‘at member Maulana Tariq Jameel has categorically said that one must listen to authorities and follow the instructions.  So, the author must relook into all of the coronavirus related incidents in the world that are linked to Tablighi Jama‘at, and then re-reflect on what I have written.

Obviously I have not said this: “It as a hub of illiterate and rigid religious people who have no knowledge of religious sciences”, below is what I written, and you seem to have twisted facts.

They are not capable of any harm that could brand them as an extremist group except that they live in a world that is more fictitious than real and that is because of their religious ignorance. The lack of Islamic scholarship, and abundance of shallow knowledge on Islam has made this group vulnerable to sharp criticism all over the world.”

Now, what I was intending to say is this: Tablighi Jama‘at is mostly restricted to superficial knowledge of Islam where they are completely apolitical. Remember this is my opinion. When I tried to discuss with them about Kashmir issue and atrocities on Muslims in India etc, I received absolutely no scholarly feedback. Instead I was repeatedly told to ‘work on yourself’ and ‘be a good Muslim’. And that is the reasons I couldn’t continue with them because for me it was contrary to the teaching of Islam, and our dear Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him). Muslims have to follow Prophet (Pbuh) in letter and spirit as their role model. Tablighi Jama‘at too claims to follow same but, then how does it make sense to not react when people around you are lynched, murdered and oppressed? Nizamuddin Center of this organization, is located in Delhi, and have you ever heard them speaking against what just happened to Muslims in Delhi? Why not? Is this what Islam teaches? Absolutely not. If you are saying Islam is apolitical then you have unfortunately superficial understanding of Islam (see below), and that is why I wrote abundance of shallow knowledge.

Islamic Scholar Robin S. Doak writes in his book Empire of the Islamic World:

“During his 10 years in Medina, Muhammad became more than just a spiritual leader. He put his administrative and political skills to good use, effectively acting as town’s leader. All of the legal and political decisions in Medina reflected the words of God as revealed through Muhammad. Muhammad’s power also improved the lot of Muslims in the town. While they had been spit at and vilified in Mecca, in Medina they had prestige and importance. Islam was evolving from a religious movement to a powerful political one.”

Now, reflect on this: Tablighi Jama‘at was founded in India in 1927 and has headquarters in Nizamuddin, Delhi, and that makes this organization ~100 years old. Now in these years I would have expected their contribution in the progression of Muslims (if not all humans). How many media groups do you own, so that they can become your voice when your enemies are targeting you and your religion? How many famous national and international research and technological institutes have you founded to raise the status of Muslim community? What is your role in economic development of Muslim world and so on? And more importantly what is the contribution on the Quranic knowledge and its link with the modern science etc. How many top Islamic scholars are from this group? The concerns are may…

As a family member on this planet I do have issues with Tablighi Jama‘at but I am not against your mission. I greatly appreciate their service to Islam, and in making an individual to reflect on oneself, which is a great thing to do. When you use your own savings and earnings to reach people and talk Islam this is one of the best things that one could do, and we all appreciate it. Your mission to reach the entire world is coming true, and it was impossible without your sincerity, hard work, and persistence. As a friend, and a family member I do have some concerns, which I wish you will work on to make this mission a success. We are with you, and we will always be here for you. Those who are deliberately misleading, manipulating, and distorting coronavirus infection to target Muslims are our enemies, and these people are destined to fail in their evil designs. These are hypocrites, and we must have an eye to distinguish foe from a friend.  May Allah (SWT) protect us, and unite us as one family unit.

Dr Afroz Ahmad Shah
Assistant Professor in Structural Geology,
Universiti Brunei, Darussalam
afroz.shah@ubd.edu.bn

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Dr Afroz Ahmad Shah

Author is Assistant Professor in Structural Geology, Physical & Geological Sciences at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam. He can be reached at: afroz.shah@ubd.edu.bn

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