Tablighi Jamaat Movement: Ideology and Organization
This paper sets out to examine the history, ideology, and the organizational perspective of the Tablighi Jamaat movement, an Islamic movement that has been considered by many as the world’s largest transnational Islamic movement. Today, the Tablighi Jamaat is a visible presence all over the world and has expanded its network even in the remote location and distance from other major population centers. This movement gradually expands from local to national to a transnational movement and now it is operating in 150 countries with significant influence in many majority Muslim countries as well as among Muslim immigrants in Western and Eastern Europe and North America.
Given the growing intensification of transnational religious networks, it is becoming increasingly necessary to study the concept of motivation in different religious movements. This concept has led me to take an interest in the concept of commitment, and more specifically that of organizational commitment in the Tablighi Jamaat. It seems to be particularly interesting to analyze it in the ideology of the movement, which spurs its activities. From this standpoint, Tablighi Jamaat can be held up as an outstanding example.
This paper is, thus, organized as follows. We outline the interlinked primary resources, such as historical background, objectives, and ideology, which are necessary preconditions for a movement to sustain and expand. These preconditions are observed in order to be in line with the definition of social movement described by MSA Rao, in which he said that a social movement is an organized attempt on the part of a section of society to bring about either partial or total change in society through collective mobilization based on ideology.
The second section will find out the organizational structure that drive the Tablighi Jamaat movement since an observation of the organizational perspectives is essential for understanding its survival and achievements. This section will highlight the organizational theories corresponding to this movement. This section thus explores the organization and structure of the jamaat, and how does it become a successful transnational movement.
2. Tablighi Jamaat Movement: History and Ideology
2.1. The Genesis of the Movement
Tablighi Jamaat literally means a “conveying group”. It is an apolitical Islamic religious movement whose primary aim is to bring about reforms into Muslim individuals. As a Sufi-background movement, this organization turns its back on political activity and concentrates on devotional life. Yet, it emphasizes the centrality of da’wa in terms of missionary duty.
Maulana Ilyas Kandahlawi founded this movement as a peace, independent and voluntarily movement. It is apolitical and largely quetistic peaceful model based on the idea of inner transformation. The main objective of this movement is to work at the grassroots levels in order to reach all levels of Muslim societies and then bringing them close to the tenets of Islam. This organization is also believed to be the response to the Hindu revivalist movements to in the early twentieth century, which struggled to reconvert the Hindus who had converted to Islam during Muslim political hegemony in India, considering them as a threat to the vulnerable Muslims.
The 1920s were a period of violent religious competition in Northern India, induced by the beginnings of mass politics. Muslim in Mewat, southwest Delhi, were a particular target of Hindu reconversion movements. Maulana Ilyas quickly realized the limitations of mere schooling in conveying the message of Islam, and instead initiated a method a method of practical learning, encouraging even the uneducated to remove themselves from their environment and preach to others. Tabligh, he argued, was incumbent not only on the learned but also on every Muslims.
In the mid-thirties, however, the Tablighi movement spread widely in Mewat and became very popular. The ideology of the movement, then, endeavoured to revive “True Islam” in response to the cultural onslaught of the colonial occupation.
After the death of Maulana Ilyas in 1944, his son, Maulana Muhammad Yusuf (1917-1965), took up the leadership of the movement. Since then he actively toured to every corners of subcontinent. This movement further increasingly spread to Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. During this time, also, the conventions began to be held regularly in various parts of the sub-continent and from his time, onwards the participants are moving out over the whole world, on foot, by bus, by train or airplane or any other suitable means. In addition, India partition in 1947 created the new centres in Pakistan.
While under the leadership of Maulana In’amul Hasan (1965-1995), its worldwide activities increased dramatically, perhaps it is in line with the increasing Indo-Pakistani diaspora in many countries. However, despite its massive expansion, this movement hardly gets governments’ suspicion. The reason is, it is believed, because this movement always maintains its apolitical stance.
2.2. The Doctrinal Roots and Objectives
The Tablighi Jamaat was founded in 1925 and it started its works as a reform movement in the district of Mewat. This movement emerged out of Deobandi sub-school with predominant using of Hanafi school of jurisprudence. However, no particular jurisprudence or interpretation of Islam has been dominating since the inception of this movement, thereby every member is allowed to follow his own school of jurisprudence as long as it does not deviate from Sunni Islam.
This movement, like any other Muslim movements, is premised on the teachings of the Quran and the Hadith (prophetic traditions), and the life of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH and his companions. They believed that as Prophet-hood was ended with the sending of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, it is thus the obligation of all Muslims who come after the Prophet to call people to Allah. Here, the Muslims should follow the Quranic teachings to call people to the way of Allah with wisdom and fair exhortation and reason with them in the better way. Through this movement, Maulana Ilyas called every committed believer to leave his home and give up his occupation for a period of time, in order to rehearse the faith on the pattern – in his opinion – of the life of the companions of the Prophet PBUH, away from the affairs and interests of everyday life.
The fundamental principles of Tablighi ideology come out in six points developed by Maulana Ilyas himself. These six principles are based on the universal personal character traits of the Shahaba (companions of the Prophet PBUH). All these six principles are usually presented with stories and incidents from the lives of the Shahaba. These six principles are the following:
1. Kalimah: “An article of faith in which the person accepts that there is no god but Allah and Prophet Muhammad is His messenger with complete and practical conviction. (Every Muslim must be able to recite Shahadah correctly in Arabic.
2. Salah: “Five daily prayers that are essential to spiritual elevation, piety, and a life from the ills of the material world (A Muslim must learn how to perform shalah perfectly).
3. Ilm and Dzikir: “The knowledge and remembrance of Allah conducted in sessions in which the congregation listens to preaching, perform prayers, recites the Quran and reads the Hadith (To learn the basic teaching of Islam and to do dzikir).
4. Ikram-i-Muslim: “The treatment of fellow Muslimss with honor and respecting the rights of all creation (To respect the fellow Muslims)
5. Ikhlas-i-Niyyat: “Reforming one’s life in supplication to Allah by performing every human action for the sake of Allah and toward the goal of self-transformation (To inculcate honesty and sincerity of purpose on such endeavors).
6. Da’wat and Tabligh: “The sacrifice of time and wealth to live a life based on faith and learnign its virtues, following in the footsteps of the Prophet, and taking His message door-to-door for the sake of faith (To spend some times and travel from place to place spreading the words of God).
It is believed that the collective success of a Muslim community depends on certain activities such as internalizing the missionary spirit, acquiring basic knowledge of Islam and its dissemination to Muslims through mutual cooperation among them. Maulana Ilyas stressed this movement on purifying the Muslims to make them better Muslims who would set practical examples of Islam before other communities.
Probably, the most important things of this movement, once Maulana Ilyas suggested to an All-India Conference of Ulama and the Muslim Political Leaders at Delhi in 1944, when he distinguished between two different techniques to be adopted by the Indian Muslim community. First, acquire power, and then prevail upon the people by force. Second, strive among the people with heart and soul and then employ the consequent favours of God. In here, he chose the second and this stance was maintained by his successors until present day.
The purpose of the movement is thus not to remake the world through restructuring key social, economic and political institution in society rather to reshape individual lives and recreate Muslims in the form of true Muslims of pristine Islamic period. It is, thus, in this premise, the Tablighi Jamaat believes that bottom-up approach is the best way to achieving change.
It is said that the transnational movement presented by the Tablighi Jamaat is not always about religion. It is argued that sociologically Muslims are attracted to the Tablighi Jamaat because many Muslims particularly from upper-middle class and below find themselves in the grips of disappointed modernity which can only be benefitted by a few. Islam for these Muslims provides comfort and a haven.
Since modernity brought about positive changes in society and improved human conditions particularly in the West where benefits of modernity have been enjoyed the most. However, unfortunately minority groups like Muslims in the West hardly get their share socially and economically, while only a minority has enjoyed the positive outcome of modernity in the non-western parts of the world.
3. Organizational Perspective of the Tablighi Jamaat
3.1. Organizational Structure of the Movement
Since its inception up to now, the Tablighi Jamaat still does not require any formal bureaucracy and paid staff. It depends on small groups (jamaats) of perhaps eight or ten people, who finance themselves, going out door-to-door inviting people to come to the mosques in which they began to preach the message of Islam. Participants are ideally organized in four ways; one day a week, one three-day period a month, one forty-day period a year, and one four-month tour at least once in a lifetime. While Tablighi Jamaat participants may also belong to professional institutions, sometimes the arrangement is made simple.
The movement adopts a form of an informal organization and keeps an introvert institutional profile. Keeping away from the media and avoid detail publication with regards to its activities and membership. Maulana Ilyas was not in favour of writing about the Tablighi Jamaat, probably because he believed that action and practice were the best method to effectively change minds. It also completely absent from the public opinions and controversial issues in order to avoid disputes that might be happen. As an organization, the Tablighi Jamaat asks no donation and largely depends its finance upon its senior members. It is because of the absence of formal registration, we hardly know the exact number of its members.
Organization activities are coordinated through the centres and headquarters, which they call markaz. Their international headquarter is located in southern Delhi, used to be called as Nizamuddin markaz. They also have their headquarters in every country to coordinate their activities. These markaz are voluntarily organized with self-financing from their own members. This is through those headquarters the movement continue to expand all over the world.
Self-financing tour (khuruj) is an inherent characteristic of participants in the Tablighi Jamaat. Everyone involved in the movement would voluntarily use his own money during the preaching travel. In addition, to support its activities, there are also some senior members who donate to the movement. Organizational theorists argue that the success of a movement is highly dependent on contribution of “resourceful actors”, because they have the capacity to contribute a significant part in achieving the goals of the movement.
3.2. Theoretical Frameworks
Through theoretical perspective, we would like to analyze what are the organizational mechanisms that explain why Tablighi Jamaat has captured the enthusiasm of millions of Muslims around the world. And in what ways do the financial mechanisms involved in funding the service projects promote the involvement, enthusiasm, and commitment of movement supporters? Two theoretical frameworks help to explain why the Tablighi Jamaat movement has been so successful both in India and internationally.
The first is the intrinsic motivation theory. In basic terms, motivation theory is the reason someone does something. While in the term of the intrinsic motivation theory, it is the term of internal intensive to the reason behind why someone does something. It is because the member acts for the love of the activities and believes the rewards coming from his intrinsic belief. This theory is characterized by intense concentration and motivation that centers on the process and the goal. This theory enables a movement to grow continuously.
Here, Tablighi Jamaat has something to offer to its members: it provides Muslim identity, a sense of purpose and the meaning of life. It forges communities in which the members would experience self-satisfaction and a sense of fulfilment. This movement provides moral support and spiritual guidance. It also offers to the oppressed and marginalized masses the position of faithful members of the community of believers giving psychological encouragement.
In regards the theory, we find that the members of the Tablighi Jamaat join this movement for their love of the activities characterized by this movement, such as travelling, calling people to the way of God, gathering with fellow Muslims, etc giving them self-satisfaction. Adding to this, they believe that such activities will give them a reward in the hereafter, as they believe that it is the duty for every Muslim to call people to God. This motivation, further, lead them to spend their time, energy and money to contribute the expansion of this movement.
The second is the organizational commitment theory, which focuses on movement strategies for gaining member motivation to provide necessary resources and the consequences on building loyalty to the movement, thus assuring its validity and growth. In the field of Organizational Behaviour, organizational commitment theory may be defined as the relative strength of an individual’s involvement in a particular organization. An individual will tend to adhere to the norms and conform to the values and expectations of those to whom he is committed.
Three factors characterize such commitments; a) A strong belief in and acceptance of goals and values of the organization, b) A willingness to make considerable efforts for the benefit of the organization, c) A high desire to remain a member of the organization. It is defined as the strength of member’s identification with a given organization. In this background, we find the attractiveness of Muslims to join Tablighi Jamaat is because, for them, self-improvement is very satisfying that through this movement they can make commitment to religion and valuing the travelling cultures.
The studies of organization have highlighted that commitment has great impact on the organization’s performance. This is because a member with high commitment will identify the goals and values from his involvement in the activities and the member of the movement is thus willing to perform the duty. A committed person is loyal and involved, has a sense of belonging, a feeling that the group is an extension of the member and that the member is an extension of the group. Correspondingly, the members of the Tablighi Jamaat are willing to take the tour by their own money and so its senior members who continuously donate a large amount of money. Given the tradition of members’ commitment in terms of giving time, emotional involvement, and finances to achieve movement goals, the concept of organizational commitment implies a strong tendency for working for internal development and goal achievements of the Tablighi Jamaat.
In summary, we can conclude that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation theory and organizational commitment theory provide a lens through which to view the Tablighi Jamaat and to explain why it is thriving. These theoretical tools, along with an analysis of the historical and ideological context in which the founder preached in India and an understanding of the Islamic concepts of self-improvement provide insight into the beliefs, values, and social dynamics that are propelling this movement to international prominence.
Adding to this, the model of preaching adopted by the Tablighi Jamaat has placed this movement to the position in stark contrast to its counterparts such as Ikhwanul Muslimin or Jamaat Islami, whose activities are highly dependent on written communication and speech based-congregational preaching. A direct approach with simple message and seeking a slow yet permanent transformation made Tablighi Jamaat a pleasant and non-threatening movement before the world.
Ebaugh, Helen Rose. 2010. The Gullen Movement: A Sociological Analysisof A Civic Movement Rooted in Moderate Islam. London: Springer
Masud, Muhammad Khalid, (ed.). 2000. Travellers in Faith: Studies of the Tablighi Jamaat as a Transnational Islamic Movement for Faith Renewal. Leiden: Brill.
Martin, Richard C (ed.). 2004. Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, New York: MacMillan.
Rao, M.S.A. (ed.). 2004. Social Movements in India, New Delhi: Sage Publication India Pvt. Ltd.
Saberwal, Satish, Mushirul Hasan (eds.). 2006. Assertive Religious Identities: India and Europe, New Delhi: Manohar Publishers & Distributors
Amernic, J. H. “Organizational Commitment: Testing Two Theories”, Relations Industrielles, 1983, pp. 319-343
Charles-Pauvers, Brigitte and Zhongming Wang, ‘Organizational Commitment: Examining the Case of China’, Management International Review, Springer, 2002, pp. 155-168
Mayaram, Shail. “Hindu and Islamic Transnational Religious Movement”, Economic and Political Weekly, 2004, pp. 80-88
Noor, Farish A. 2010. “The Arrival and Spread of the Tablighi Jama’at In West Papua (Irian Jaya), Indonesia.” S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies Working Paper Series No. 191, 1-31.
Ali, Jan A. “Tablighi Jamaat: A Transnational Movement of Islamic Faith Regeneration”. Accessed from: http://ejeps.fatih.edu.tr/docs/articles/67.pdf
Dana George, ‘About Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation’, accessed from http://www.ehow.com/about_4616875_intrinsic-extrinsic-motivation.html, on September 30th 2010.
 Muhammad Khalid Masud (ed.), Travellers in Faith; Studies of the Tablighi Jama’at as a Transnational Islamic Movement for Faith Renewal, Brill, Leiden, 2000, pp. 15
 Shail Mayaram. “Hindu and Islamic Transnational Religious Movement”, Economic and Political Weekly, 2004, pp. 80
 Rao, MSA (ed.), Social Movements in India, pp. 19
 It must be noted that the objective of the movement should not be misleading since this movement aims at strengthening the Muslims and not converting non-Muslims into Islam.
 Barbara D. Metcalf, Tablighi Jamaat, in Richard C. Martin (ed.), Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, MacMillan, New York, 2004, pp. 671
 Christian W. Troll, ‘Two Conceptions of Da’wa in India: Jama’at Islami and Tablighi Jama’at’, Archives de Sciences Sociales desReligions (1994), pp. 120
 Ibid, pp. 121
 Barbara D. Metcalf, Tablighi Jamaat, in Richard C. Martin (ed.), Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, MacMillan, New York, 2004, pp. 672
 Christian W. Troll, ‘Two Conceptions of Da’wa in India: Jama’at Islami and Tablighi Jama’at’, Archives de Sciences Sociales desReligions (1994), pp. 122
 Interview with Capt. Erwin Ruliansyah, an Indonesian participant of the Tablighi Jamaat and former Jet Airways senior commander pilot, now living in Hongkong.
 Muhammad Khalid Masud, (ed.), Travellers in Faith: Studies of the Tablighi Jamaat as a Transnational Islamic Movement for Faith Renewal, Brill, Leiden (2000), pp. 80
 Dana George, ‘About Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation’, accessed from http://www.ehow.com/about_4616875_intrinsic-extrinsic-motivation.html, on September 30th 2010.
 J. H. Amernic, ‘Organizational Commitment: Testing Two Theories’, Relations Industrielles Journal (1998), pp. 319
 Brigitte Charles-Pauvers and Zhongming Wang, ‘Organizational Commitment: Examining the Case of China’, Management International Review, Springer, 2002, pp. 159
 Helen Rose Ebaugh. The Gullen Movement: A Sociological Analysisof A Civic Movement Rooted in Moderate Islam, Springer, London, 2010, pp. 8