Tablighi Jamaat: Story Behind Coronavirus Hotspot Event In India

Tablighi Jamaat has been in the spotlight after they conducted an event in the Indian capital–Delhi causing to spawn several COVID-19 clusters across the country.

Who are the Tablighi Jamaat?

The organisation was formed during the lifetime of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and was established in 1926 in the northern Indian region of Mewat by prominent Islamic scholar Maulana Mohammed Ilyas Kandhlawi.

It flourished in undivided India and never changed when the country was partitioned after independence in 1947. It was deemed as one of the most influential religious movements in 20th century Islam.

What is its mission?

Mohammed Ilyas once said, “Oh Muslims be good Muslims” – and that is in essence, the organisation’s primary objective – to promote the ideals of Islam among Muslims.

The organisation aimed to teache “true” Islam among the “Umma” (Global Islamic community) – many Muslims at the time felt that their political and religious identities were being jeopardised under the British Raj. Its members claim that the organisation is a non-political aiming to build an Islamic society based on the teachings of the Quran.

Every year the Jamaat sends out delegates to different countries for 40 days and seldom for shorter durations. The preachers believe in person-to-person contact, thus spreading the message of Islam to ordinary Muslims.

How large is Tablighi Jammat?

Tablighi Jamaat is now a global religious movement, with follower around 200 countries with a strong following in both Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Bangladesh holds an annual event called the Biswa Ijtema, which is believed to be the second-largest gathering of Muslims in the world after the Haj.

The Jamaat has headquarters in every country it operates in, but its global spiritual centre remains the Markaz in Delhi.

The group consist of some of the famous South Asian personalities as its followers.

What happened in Delhi? Why is the group in the limelight?

The Tablighi Jammat had an annual gathering in New Delhi, during early March, where thousands of people who took part including senior preachers from Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Indonesia where COVID-19 had already spread.

It is believed that some of them were carrying the COVID-19 infection, that has now been transported across India. It went unnoticed until a 65-year-old man, resident of Jammu and Kashmir, died last week.

Since then, positive cases from Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Kerala, West Bengal, have reported linking directly or indirectly to the congregation.

However, members of the group claim that several delegates left before the nationwide lockdown came into effect on March 25. Around 1,000 followers, including many foreigners who got stranded, due to cancellation of all the mode of transportation, along with international flights.

Nationwide tracking

The government quickly identified it as the ‘virus hotspot’ and sealed off the area, plus is now in a quest to trace people who have attended the congregation.

As the number of positive cases of COVID-19 spikes linked with the event steadily, every state is taking efforts to test the followers who have attended the event.

It is alleged to be the biggest cluster spread of COVID-19 in India yet, the meeting of the Tablighi Jamaat was the reason behind 20 per cent of total reported cases so far, with 19 casualties across different states.

Positive cases traced

As on April 2, Health Ministry stated that about 400 positive cases had been found so far whose epidemiological linkage can be traced to this cluster. Out of nearly 2,000 members in Delhi, 1,804 have been quarantined, and 334 admitted to various hospitals.

The number is expected to rise as test results of almost 8,000 more followers as well as people who came in contact with them after the conference are still awaited.

On April 2, Delhi police sealed and sanitised the Jamaat building. Residents of neighbouring buildings have been asked to stock up and confine to voluntary quarantine until the area is thoroughly disinfected. Cops also sanitised Nizamuddin police station that shares a wall with the Markaz masjid.

Among all the affected states, Tamil Nadu faces the biggest obstacle where 1,500 people attended the event, out of which 658 have been identified. Of these, 190 have tested positive. Followed by Karnatak, where out of the 1500 people who attended the gathering, 190 have tested positive so far, and 250 people, including foreigners, have been quarantined.

Track and trace

As per the reports, for those who went untraced, police in different states have not only roped in specialised units such as the anti-terrorism squads, though surveillance methods are being used.

The police are also tracking phones, SIM locations, and even conducting door-to-door searches in different parts of the country.

The complete footprint of the Tablighi Jamaat critical gathering has not yet been traced, which makes it even more challenging to contain the spread of the deadly virus. As per the official data, more than 9,000 primary contacts have been traced and quarantined by the Centre and state government

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