In what can have significant ramifications for India, Saudi Arabia has stunned the Islamic world by banning the Tablighi Jamaat, the Islamist proselytising movement, calling it “one of the gates of terrorism”.
With the Saudi ban, the group will face a slow death in many parts of the world because the Gulf kingdom’s charities have been the chief source of funds for the movement that was launched in India just over a century ago to “purify” Islam. Some other governments may also follow the Saudi action, but countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan, which have substantial Tablighi populations, may find it difficult to do so.
The Saudi government has directed mosque preachers to inform people that they are banned from partnering with its party groups, including the Tablighi and Da’wah group.
Saudi Arabia’s ministry of Islamic affairs tweeted: “His Excellency the Minister of Islamic Affairs, Dr.#Abdullatif Al_Alsheikh directed the mosques’ preachers and the mosques that held Friday prayer temporary to allocate the next Friday sermon 5/6/1443 H to warn against (the Tablighi and Da’wah group) which is called (Al Ahbab).”
The Tablighi movement originated in India over a century ago, led by Mohammed Ilyas Kandhlawi preaching a return to “pure” Islam, an objective which boiled down to exhorting converts to give up practices from their Hindu past they had persisted with despite switching.
Mohammad Ilyas first launched his campaign in the Mewat region in northwestern India, where many Hindu converts re-embraced their original faith in response to Arya Samaj’s ‘shuddhi’ campaign, the original version of ‘ghar wapsi’.
The Tablighis began as an offshoot of Deobandis and Chishti sufis and acquired global footprint with the passage of time, with Saudi money, among other factors.In the Saudi context, the Tablighis have been opposed by Wahhabis, the ruling sect in the desert kingdom, which accuses them of being “grave worshippers” and the like. In 2016, Abd-al-Aziz ibn Baz, former grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, issued a fatwa against Tablighi Jamaat, accusing them of “heresy” and “idolatry”.