Like many other South Asian Muslim religious groups, TJ has very strong Deobandi roots. Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalvi, the founder of the movement was a product of the Darul Uloom Deoband, the acclaimed institute of Islamic scholarship in India’s Uttar Pradesh, and taught at its closely associated madressah, the Mazahir-ul-Uloom in Saharanpur, before quitting his post and relocating to Nizamuddin in old Delhi, where he formally launched Tablighi Jamaat in 1927.

While the Deobandi movement, like many other Islamic groups, favours attainment of political power for the enforcement of Sharia, TJ elders want to focus on personal purification, saying political power will follow once the standard set by the companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) have been attained.

The TJ’s six core principles — absolute faith in Allah, devotion to the five daily prayers, acquiring knowledge and meditation, selfless service, sincerity and da’awah — are based on the characters of the companion of the Prophet (PBUH), and considered central in its missionary work.

HISTORY AND LEADERSHIP

Maulana Ilyas was the first ameer, or leader, of the group and he remained in office till his death in 1944, when the mantle was passed on to his son Muhammad Yusuf Kandhalvi. But it was not exactly an inheritance. Before his death, Maulana Ilyas had prepared a shortlist of six potential heirs. A shura picked his 27-year-old son Muhammad Yusuf Kandhalvi from the list. He remained TJ’s ameer for the next 21 years till his death in 1965.

Another name on the six-person shortlist was Maulana Inamul Hasan, known as Hazrat Ji in TJ circles. A close associate of Maulana Yusuf Kandhalvi, Maulana Inamul Hasan shared with him a lifelong relationship in the cause of faith. So it didn’t come as a surprise when he was chosen as the third ameer of the Jamaat, after the death of Yusuf Kandhalvi. He would go on to become the movement’s longest-serving leader, remaining ameer for over 30 years, till his death in 1995, aged 77.

THE NEW GENERATION

The election of the first two successors of Maulana Muhammad Ilyas proved to be quite easy as both of them were from the short-list drawn by the founder himself. But things became more complicated in 1995 since there was no clear successor in Nizamuddin. Consequently, a shura constituted by third TJ ameer Maulana Inamul Hasan — during his lifetime — to oversee the TJ movement took on the responsibilities previously borne by the ameer. For the best part of two decades, it would seem to have worked. But over time it started depleting as members of the 10-member council who died were not replaced.

Two of the most senior and influential members of the shura at Nizamuddin were Maulana Saad and Maulana Zubairul Hasan, the son of Maulana Inamul Hasan. Haji Abdul Wahab, head of the shura at Raiwind, was the other surviving member of the council outside the Delhi Markaz.

In March 2014, Maulana Zubairul Hasan passed away, aged 63. He was never designated ameer but had served in his father’s footsteps as the de facto leader of the movement since 1995. That honour would now pass to Maulana Saad, but it soon became clear he wanted something more. Specifically, he wanted to be ameer and there was resentment within Nizamuddin as some senior members wanted him to continue the all-inclusive consultative mode of governance.

Published in Dawn, EOS, February 25th, 2018

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