If the message of Islam properly sinks into the mind of an individual, it does see priorities in his life getting adjusted in the light of the religious message
Dr Khalid Zaheer
There are many religious groups engaged in inviting people to adopt life of true faith and sincere religiosity. Tablighi Jama’at is in many ways the most effective of them in spreading across the message of Islam to the largest number of people and in influencing them most deeply. One often learn about people with completely materialistic approach towards life before they came across Tabligh Jama’at and on returning from an expedition with some members of the Jama’at for forty days (chilla) or four months (three chillas), they are transformed literally inside out. Mawlana Tariq Jameel is already a household name in Pakistan and many other parts of the world because of his moving speeches. Many cricketers of the national team in the recent past have become religious thanks to the efforts of Tablighi Jama’at.
How does such a change come about in this age of materialism and intellectual confusion? Sincerity of the core team of Tablighi Jama’at and its strategy of temporarily isolating people from the negative influence of the society to inculcate in them true religious sentiment are the two most prominent contributing factors to the success of Tablighi Jama’at.
One problem with the manner Tablighi Jama’at promotes its message is that it insists on the principle of Taqlid (blind following of scholars) in understanding and following religion. Many opinions are mentioned on the authority of scholars as if they enjoy divine sanction to speak on religion without producing any evidence
Like all other human efforts, however, Tablighi Jama’at too suffers from some weaknesses which are causing its tremendous achievements to still not be good enough to positively impact the society in a big way. Let me examine three of the more prominent positive influences of Tablighi Jama’at on the society first. I will then touch upon three areas where the Jama’at needs to improve itself to become more effective.
One finds quite clearly in a large number of Tablighi Jama’at members that religion has become the top priority for them. Their thinking process and lifestyle has changed to conform to the standards of Islam the way they understand it. Indeed, if the message of Islam properly sinks into the mind of an individual, it does see priorities in his life getting adjusted in the light of the religious message.
Participants of Tablighi tours become regular in their prayers. Indeed if one were to take God’s message seriously one would become regular in one’s daily prayers. All members of Tablighi Jama’at pass this litmus test of religiosity with flying colours. The result of their focus on remembering God regularly can be seen in the way its members trust God in their lives like a true believer ought to trust Him.
One problem with the manner Tablighi Jama’at promotes its message is that it insists on the principle of Taqlid (blind following of scholars) in understanding and following religion. They make sure that no questions are asked on religious opinions of scholars of their group. In fact, many opinions are mentioned on the authority of scholars as if they enjoy divine sanction to speak on religion without producing any evidence. A common Tablighi preacher is often heard saying in his presentations words like these “Thus say the scholars” while giving the contents of his message. The outcome of this policy is that use of intellect in understanding religion is completely ruled out. The Qur’an on the other hand insists that God gives true faith to only those people who use their intellect judiciously. Those who refuse to use it are deprived of faith: “It is not possible for a human to believe except by the will of God. And He casts filth upon (the hearts of) those who don’t use their intellect.” (10:100)
The other problem with Tablighi Jama’at’s message is their understanding of Sunnah. They define Sunnah and at times the entire religion as the practice of the prophet, God’s mercy be on him, in every aspect of life. There are several problems with this understanding. There were many things which the prophet did which had no relevance with the message of Islam. The design of his dress, the means of transport he used, the cure for various diseases he went for, the weapons with which he participated in battles and many more of his practices are the ones which have little to do with religion. Moreover, reporting of the practices of the prophet has been done by sources which are not completely reliable. How can such a source be the basis of practising God’s religion? And as a result of the exaggerated emphasis on this understanding of Sunnah, the Qur’an recedes to occupy the place of a book that is only meant to be recited without understanding its meaning.
A third problem with the religious efforts of Tablighi Jama’at is their overemphasis on rewards (thawab) of good deeds rather than focusing on the real spirit behind them. There are again several issues with the rewards-based approach for inviting people towards the path of righteousness. Rewards are a consequence of one’s good deeds when they are done with the right intentions. When we emphasize rewards instead of the real essence of doing good deeds, that essence disappears, leaving behind a spirit-less, reward-seeking mentality. Moreover, most of the ahadith describing rewards are unreliable reports according to the experts of hadith. Also, at times an overemphasis on rewards creates a false hope that in the thawab-ithm (reward-punishment) calculus, thawab will outweigh ithm to earn the religious person a place of success in the next world. He is thus at times found lying quite as regularly as he is praying in the hope that the reward of praying would outweigh the punishment of lying. However, the reality might be that the punishment might completely negate the apparent act of praying as is mentioned in the Qur’an thus: “So, woe to those who pray, but whose hearts are not in their prayer; those who do things only to be seen by others; and who are uncharitable even over very small things.”(107:4-7)
“The article was published at dailycapital.pk on 24-APR-15. We are reproducing here by permission”