Complete Guide to Tablighi Jamaat – the Hidden Legions of Islamic Jihad

Last updated on Apr 30, 2020

Posted on Apr 24, 2020

In one of the most brazen examples of revisionist narration of facts to exonerate a group – Tablighi Jamaat – known globally for terror attacks and jihadi ideologues, Shail Mayaram wrote in the leftist rag called thewire.

If there is one thing that does not define the Tablighi Jamaat, it is jihad as we know it in our times, a phenomenon that is better called suicide-murder. Nonetheless, social media posts went viral, many with inflammatory accusations, verbal and visual, under the hashtag, #CoronaJihad, in the wake of some two dozen cases of COVID-19 having tested positive in Nizamuddin West.Shail Mayaram, thewire.in

In a country where Secularism is a virtue, which is fundamentally defined in Hindu hatred, this passes off as an example of “enlightened” writing.  She then goes on to obediently but laboriously sanitize Maulana Ilyas, the notorious founder of Tablighi Jamaat.

Maulana Ilyas’s nodal contribution was primarily to shift the responsibility of preaching from Muslim clerics to ordinary, even illiterate Muslims.

Actually she goes a step further.  She tries to show why the Maulana’s idea of “conservative” (not extremist) Islam became a necessity because of Hindus, wishing away the works of Muslim League and its ilk!

That terrorists and extremists are victims and the burden of Secularism should always fall on Hindus, even when they are at the receiving end of attacks like that of “Direct Action Day”, is the central agenda of the leftist-Islamist writers and tabloids like thewire in India.

There is a narrative that Shail works hard to put forward.  And then, there is the truth.  Facts.  Real facts that every intelligence agency in the world has been grappling with and sometimes ignoring at their own peril.

Let us look at them threadbare.

Table Of Contents

History of Tablighi Jamaat

Tablighi Jamaat was started by Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalawi who was a prominent Deobandi cleric.  He launched Tablighi Jamaat in 1927 in Mewat, India.  The extremist and exclusive ideology of Deobandi theology and practice was interwoven into a structure that was bare bones and loosely held.  Intolerance and extremist ideas were built in for other Sunni Muslims who did not tow their line or were not “devout” enough and towards other denominations like Shi´ites and Ahmadis.  The worst intolerant ways were obviously reserved for the adherents of other faiths.

Modernity was posited as anti-thesis to Islam, and women were excluded from important positions and mosques.  Islamic supremacy was upheld and rule of Sharia law and establishment of Caliphate as the central goal.

Jamaat’s stock grew when Pakistani military dictator Zia ul-Haq came to power in Pakistan and made it his agenda to Islamize Pakistan.  One barometer many Pakistanis from that time use of where one stands on the spectrum of Islamization is the greeting one employed while meeting others.

Khuda Hafiz, used widely in India for centuries until then, was replaced by Allah Hafiz due to Zia’s influence.  Adoption of “Allah Hafiz” in any Islamic society was a good way to know if Zia’s extremist disease had infiltrated in that society or not.

The Tablighi Jamaat’s structure is bare-bones.  Apart from the Qu’ran, the only literature Tablighis are required to read are the Tablighi Nisab, which is a compilation of seven essays that were penned by a companion of Ilyas in the 1920s.

It would be interesting to listen to the ex-Tablighi on how the Jamaat functions.

What is Tablighi Jamaat?  The facade, the infiltration and the ways

There is a facade.  And there is a reality behind the scenes.  The whole framework that has fed the Jihadi terrorism factory globally has been very carefully crafted using various useful, often contradictory but complementary groups.

While Tablighi Jamaat is an obscurantist network that passes off as a “conservative”, strict Islamic interpretation professing group.  But given the history of its activities and how its fingerprints can be seen in all major terror attacks, the question obviously is – what is the real nature of Tablighi Jamaat?

The group’s stated mission is to work at a grassroots level, reaching out to Muslims across the social and economic spectrum. Tablighis do not solicit or receive donations, but rather are largely funded by senior members. At face value, TJ is a peaceful, egalitarian and devotional movement that stresses individual faith and overall spiritual development. In a sense, TJ is a widespread training system that urges average Muslims to examine their own lives and become involved in calling their fellow Muslims back to orthodox Islam. Because of TJ’s tactics, some Islamist groups refer to its members as “Muslim Jehovah’s Witnesses” and accuse them of abandoning politics and jihad. Upon joining the movement, Tablighi recruits are given the option of attending the Tablighi center in the Pakistani city of Raiwind, near Lahore, Pakistan, for four months of additional religious training to equip them to preach the Tablighi message. It is important to understand that TJ is a loosely controlled mass movement rather than a centralized group, as some would maintain. Although TJ operates mosques, it has no fixed membership and Tablighis are free to leave the movement. Stratfor – “An Indirect line to Terrorism

Despite the misrepresentation by many apologists, which is way too simplistic, Western agencies, think-tanks, and intelligence groups are waking up to Tablighi Jamaat’s real character and work.

The West’s misreading of Tablighi Jamaat actions and motives has serious implications for the war on terrorism. Tablighi Jamaat has always adopted an extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam, but in the past two decades, it has radicalized to the point where it is now a driving force of Islamic extremism and a major recruiting agency for terrorist causes worldwide. For a majority of young Muslim extremists, joining Tablighi Jamaat is the first step on the road to extremism. Perhaps 80 percent of the Islamist extremists in France come from Tablighi ranks, prompting French intelligence officers to call Tablighi Jamaat the “antechamber of fundamentalism.”[12] U.S. counterterrorism officials are increasingly adopting the same attitude. “We have a significant presence of Tablighi Jamaat in the United States,” the deputy chief of the FBI’s international terrorism section said in 2003, “and we have found that Al-Qaeda used them for recruiting now and in the past.”[13] (Source: Alex Alexiev, Middle East Quarterly “Tablighi Jamaat – Jihad’s Stealthy Legions)

You see there is a pattern to their narrative and ways.  The Jamaat works to steer clear of the direct accusation by having a very fluid and informal structure, where nothing is ever written or document.  The only written material that is there is the Quran.  But there is a way to prepare the future extremist.  And, Tablighi Jamaat is step one, the nursery where the foundation for Jihad starts.

In an interesting article titled “Transnational Islamic networks“, Imtiaz Gul (Executive Director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad) shares how notes written in Urdu in the notebooks left in the compound in South Waziristan, talked about the writers visit to Raiwind – the Tablighi Jamaat Headquarters.

The carefully cultivated purist and ascetic format is deliberate.  For, it ensures that its “graduates” are misfit for the world at large and do not fit into the larger customs and ways of the society they live in.  As Susan Sachs points out in her article in New York Times:

”You teach people to exclude themselves, that they don’t fit in, that the modern world is an aberration, an offense, some form of blasphemy,” said Khaled Abou El Fadl, a professor of Islamic law at U.C.L.A. ”By preparing people in this fashion, you are preparing them to be in a state of warfare against this world.”(Source: New York Times, Susan Sachs “A Muslim Missionary Group Draws New Scrutiny in U.S”)

There is a symbiotic relationship between Tablighi Jamaat and the Terrorist groups.  The former remains steadfastly apolitical with no statements or stand on any controversial topics around the world.  They simply prepare the youth and have members who “inculcate” an ideology that will be the perfect recruiting ground for any of the major terror organizations.

Those who are into “hardcore terror” work, use Tablighi Jamaat as a front to escape scrutiny.  Since Tablighi Jamaat has maintained its apolitical front, it surfs over the legal land-mines, even as its members “moon-light” with terror organizations using their parent organization as the front.

Of course, Tablighi Jamaat, meanwhile remains the feeding ground for the terrorism-ready jihadis.

This very interesting analogy explains the real character and the contribution to the terror world of Tablighi Jamaat.

By way of illustration, Farad Esack, a South African Islamic scholar who says he spent 12 years with the group in Pakistan, recounted a favorite Tablighi Jamaat analogy that equates individual Muslims to the electricians who work to light up a village. Each person lays wire until one day, the mayor comes to switch on the lights.
”For many people in Tablighi Jamaat,” he said, ”the Taliban represented God switching the lights on.”

And, that brilliantly captures the contribution that Tablighi Jamaat brings to the Jihadi terror table.  The foundational network with the electricity of extremism added to the students and followers.

Tablighi Jamaat: Thread through the Terror Attacks

Godhra Train Hindu Massacre

59 Hindus (women, children, elderly and men) were brutally burned as the doors to the bogies were locked and fire set inside.  Tablighi Jamaat was involved in that massacre (source).

9-11 Attacks

According to Wikileaks, many Al-Qaeda terrorists arrested and detained at Guantanamo Bay by the US had resided in the premises of Tablighi Jamaat in Nizamuddin West in New Delhi.  Yes, the very same place where the Markaz had its gathering on March 25th.  So, contrary to its “pious and ascetic” facade, it hides many terrorists who are planning some activity or another.

Here is one extract from Wikileaks which discusses the link between Al Qaeda Guantanamo detainee and Tablighi Jamaat.

Fred Burton and Scott Stewart write in their article “Tablighi Jamaat: An Indirect line to Terrorism” about how Tablighi Jamaat followers have been involved in many of the high profile terrorist attacks in the world.

These are the attacks that they have been linked with.

The Powerful and the Terror unleashing Alumni of Tablighi Jamaat

Tablighi Jamaat followers have been active in every walk of life with a shared legacy of extremist understanding of Islamic theology.  Let us look at the different areas where they have infiltrated.  It will show how public policy and their work was dictated and informed.

Heads of states and the powerful

The Tablighi Jamaat has had a lot of very powerful and influential followers, specifically in India and Pakistan.  If you look into their legacy and world-view, you will see that the Tablighi philosophy is the unmistakable basis for that. For example,

  • Gen Zia-ul-Haq , former President of Pakistan and Chief of Army
  • Muhammad Rafiq Tarar, former President of Pakistan
  • Farooq Leghari, former President of Pakistan
  • Dr. Zakir Hussain, former President of India
  • Major General Ziaur Rahman, former military dictator and Chief of Army Staff of the Bangladesh Army
  • Lieutenant General Javed Nasir former head of Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)

Known and convicted terrorists

Most of the terror attacks around the world have been perpetrated by the graduates and followers of Tablighi Jamaat mosques or organization.  Let us take a look at all of these.

Iyman Faris, Brooklyn Bridge Bomber

The Ohio Truck driver who was accused of planning to blow the Brooklyn Bridge was trained in Pakistan.  When he had to disguise his identity he used membership of Tablighi Jamaat as his tactic.

Because the tickets were not in his name, Mr. Faris needed an explanation to validate his request. Investigators say he used one that other Qaeda recruits have relied on to disguise their intentions: he pretended to be a member of Tablighi Jamaat, a fraternity of traveling Muslim preachers that is well known in Pakistan and other Muslim countries.(Source: New York Times, Susan Sachs “A Muslim Missionary Group Draws New Scrutiny in U.S”)

New York Times says that since 9-11, Tablighi Jamaat’s connections to the different terrorist activities and plans have cropped up regularly.  And specifically in four high profile terrorism cases.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

This Jordanian’s Jihad journey started in Pakistan, where he earned his stripes and created connections.  He established a terrorist training camp with Osama Bin Laden’s blessings in Herat, Afghanistan.  Zarqawi was radicalized (and prepared for a career in Jihad terror) by Tablighi Jamaat.  Prior to that, he was a bootlegger and a local criminal. Abu Mohammad al-Maqdisi, was the second influence on Zarqawi, once he had been prepared by the Jamaat.  It was Maqdisi who influenced Zarqawi to join the mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1990s. (source: Farhan Zahid, The Washington Institute “The Islamic State and Al Qaeda in Pakistan”)

Anjem Choudhary

Choudhary is a notorious British hate preacher who was convicted of supporting ISIS.  He has been using Tablighi Jamaat as the conduit for Jihadi terror activities.

For the last few years, followers of Anjem Choudary have started using Tablighi Jamaat as the most suitable vessel for radicalizing Muslims as well as attracting them towards jihad. Tablighi Jamaat [Conveying Group] is a Muslim missionary and revival movement. Their activities are not limited to the Deobandi community.(Source: SalahUddin Shoaib Choudhury, “British-Pakistani Anjem Choudary spreading radical Islam through Tablighi Jamaat”)

Choudhary is also the head of Al Mujajiroun (ALM) network, a UK group that promotes extremist Islamic ideology with Sharia and installation of Islamic Caliphate as its goal.  A goal which it shares with the Tablighi Jamaat.

Md. Shahid Uddin Khan

Khan is a former Bangladeshi Colonel, who siphoned millions out of Bangladesh, has funded Tablighi Jamaat, ISIS and Al Qaeda.  He also has repeatedly been endorsed by Anjem Choudhary for his work.

Khan, who lives in Wimbledon, southwest London, with his family after buying a multimillion-pound “golden visa” to the UK in 2009, has donated £20,000 to the constituency party of his MP Stephen Hammond, a health minister.
Documents, lodged in court by Bangladeshi police, allege they found detonators, weapons, radical jihadist literature linked to al-Qaeda and fake Bangladeshi currency in Khan’s home.(Source: The Times, UK “Tory donor charged with arms dealing and funding terrorism”)

Interpol had issued a red notice for Md. Shahid Uddin Khan, his wife Farjana Anjum, and daughters Shehtaz Munasi Khan and Parisa Pinaz Khan for terror funding and money laundering apart from other crimes.  He is said to have sent money to the jihadis who carried out the 2019 Easter Sunday terrorist attacks in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Terror Groups linked to TJ

Not just prominent terrorists around the world, but even banned terror groups have a strong link to Tablighi Jamaat.

Harkat-ul-Mujahideen Founding Fathers

Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, as per Joshua Hedges of Fund for Peace in the report titled “Tablighi Jamaat: The Premier Latent Network“, was the exclusive creation of the Tablighi Jamaat members with assistance from Pakistani Intelligence services.

As per B. Raman, India’s foremost intelligence official and security expert, a perusal of Pakistani newspaper reports from 1990s showed that many times the trained cadres of the Jihadi terror groups like HuM procured visas by posing as preachers of Tablighi Jamaat.  They used that ruse to go to Western countries to recruit young Muslims for terror training in Pakistan.

Jamaat was active in recruitment and conversion activities (to Islam and extremist ideologies) in many nations. They had a large base in Chechnya and Dagestan (Russia), Somalia and many other African nations.  Consequently, the intelligence agencies in these countries came to realize that many Pakistani terrorist groups were using Tablighi Jamaat cover to create sleeper cells in those countries.

Al Qaeda

At least two of the Guantanamo detainees – Karim Bostan and Hussain Salem Mohammad Almerfedi – were charged by the DC Circuit Court as they were linked to Tablighi Jamaat apart from other terror groups.   The District Court ruled:

There is no dispute that the petitioner was a member of [TJ]. Furthermore, when the petitioner’s involvement with Jamaat al-Tablighi is viewed together with the most plausible inferences to be drawn from Wazir’s and the petitioner’s attempt to conceal an inoperable cellular telephone from Pakistani authorities, this circumstantial evidence is indeed “damning.” To be sure, it is perhaps possible that an innocent reason, or several innocent reasons, might explain the petitioner’s involvement with a Terrorist Support Entity. His unexplained chance encounter with an acquaintance from that organization at a bus stop, the other individual’s possession of a large sum of money and an inoperable cellular telephone, that individual’s decision to give possession of the telephone to the petitioner rather than his money to avoid its seizure by government security officials, and the petitioner’s decision to conceal the telephone…the far more likely explanation for [this] plethora of damning circumstantial evidence is that [the petitioner] was part of al Qaeda.DC Circuit Court as shared by Henry Jackson Society

Tablighi Jamaat in Europe

The Tablighi Jamaat had first set shop in UK to create its network in Europe.  With the growing Pakistani population, the Tablighi influence has also grown in Europe.

Tablighi’s influence has grown, though, in the increasing Pakistani community in France, which has doubled in the decade before 2008 to 50,000-60,000. However, Britain is the current focus of the movement in the West, primarily due to the large South Asian population that began to arrive there in the 1960s and 1970s. By 2007, Tablighi members were situated at 600 of Britain’s 1350 mosques.(Source: SalahUddin Shoaib Choudhury, “British-Pakistani Anjem Choudary spreading radical Islam through Tablighi Jamaat”)

What started as a trickle has now grown into a formidable force within Europe’s Jihadi circles.

Britain

Tablighi Jamaat set up its European headquarters in Dewsbury, England in 1978 with the construction of the first Tablighi mosque.

France

In early 2000s in France, the government wanted to check the growth and influence of Muslim Brotherhood.  So, French Council of Muslim Faith was set up in 2003 as an official umbrella organization for Muslims.  This organization could interact directly with the government.  The CFCM was the brainchild of the then-Minister of Interior and future president Nicolas Sarkozy.  The CFCM was structured with inputs from four organizations:

  1. The mosque of Paris and its network of Imams
  2. The Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood)
  3. The National Federation of French Muslims (primarily Moroccan)
  4. Tablighi Jamaat

The Hidden Legions of Islamic Jihad

The hand is everywhere.  The links are everywhere.

From 9-11 to shoebomber to London metro to France to the attacks in Srilanka.  The Tablighi Jamaat with its headquarters in Nizamuddin is linked to terrorism using Islamic Jihad tactics all over the world.  In countries that you may have not even known it existed.

Intelligence and security agencies in every major country know about this and are aware of its reach and cushion as well as assistance it provides to the Jihadis.  It is the substratum which manifests celebrities – with a steadfast agenda but secular facade, and Jihadis – with an equally steadfast agenda and the jihadi sword.

It is loosely held and informally constructed.  Deliberately so.  Plausible deniability while promoting acceptable “under-cover celebrity apologists” while also pushing the legions of religious warriors.

When media outlets like thewire, scroll and others go batting for it, they use the camouflage of the apologists, while hoping that most of the readers will not want to or make effort to see the warriors this edifice seeds.  And, therein lies the trick.

Trick to fool the world while every society is effectively infiltrated with a sense of finality.  Societies which seem impenetrable.  Like the islands of Andaman!

Featured Image uses illustration from News Ghana

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