Heavenly Assembly of the Last Day
venue on the bank of Turag River near Tongi, Bangladesh
I wrote this short essay because I read in today’s
newspaper from Bangladesh that Biswa Ijtema or World Congregation will
start from Friday Dec 13 and will continue until Sunday Dec 15, 2002. This
hosting of marathon preaching session has a colorful history going back to
During our University days, we had a few friends who
always used to pester us for praying, fasting, Qur’an Tilawat,
going for Jumma prayer, and all other Islamic rituals to cleanse
our souls. Whenever we used to see them coming to our rooms to
distribute their ‘Hedayat’ and ‘Bayan’ to us, we
used to slip away from our rooms just to avoid them. However, they
were very clever to catch many of us when we were on the walk or even when
we were on our way to communal shower or even to toilets. Such a
vicious pest they were!
Who were they? Yes, they were none but the
Tabligh-e-Jamaat adherents. Their headquarters was the Kakrail
mosque, just adjacent to the famous Ramna Green (i.e., Ramna Park).
Then this mosque was still under construction. Nonetheless, it
became the nerve center for these diehard Islamists.
What did they want from us? It was anyone’s
guess why were they such persistent Islamic zealots. What motivated
them? We simply had no clue. However, because they were sort
of religious preacher/s we dare not confront them intellectually neither
we would treat them with disrespect. We simply tried to avoid them
as much as possible.
That was the biggest mistake of our generation.
When the freedom fighting came around in 1971, we found them to be on the
side of the Pakistanis and were not at all ashamed to say that Bengalis
were not true Muslims and that we deserved Allah’s punishment. Had
we confronted them those days we could have nipped their secret agenda in
Today, this Tablig-e-Jamaat has become a huge
multi-headed Hydra. Many will say that they are innocent and pious
Muslims preaching only the tolerant/moderate Islam; therefore, we should
not be so alarmed at their growth.
This is a very simplistic view of this movement.
Make no mistake that the Tablig has the same agenda as any other Islamic
Party in Bangladesh, that is, to establish an Islamic Paradise in
Bangladesh. The only difference is that their methodology is much
more subliminal, insidious, cunning and shrewd. They are bent upon
totally changing the mindset of the Bangalees to 100% Islamic zeal.
During our youthful days, the movement was completely a matter of this
Tabligh party only. No Government of any color ever lent any support
or provided encouragement to them. However, slowly, they had been
able to change all this. It is now a multimillion-dollar religious
business funded by the petro-dollar of the Middle East and now supported
by most political parties in Bangladesh including the so-called secularist
parties like AL and BNP.
Now consider the following:
1. Ijtema had been going on since early 1950s in
Kakrail Mosque funded by the Saudi Government.
2. The venue was shifted to Tongi in mid 1960s (1965
or 1966) because of its popularity.
3. Two army despots popularized it to the point that
more than 2 million (all estimate, no real head count) devotees attend it
every year. If the head count is correct, then, this is the Numero
Uno (Number One) Islamic congregation bypassing the Hajj ceremony.
Still then, Dhaka's myriad newspapers call it number two congregation only
after Hajj. These newspaper editors are too worried that if they
bill Ijtema as number one gathering, then the sanctity of Hajj will be
diminished and they can't let that happen. Therefore, they have to
fib and there is nothing wrong in fibbing, huh?
4. The government and private business shut
down during those 3 days making Bangladesh non-competitive in this age of
5. Marathon preaching session goes on for 3
days brainwashing the people to work for Akheraat (next world) but
not for this world.
6. They have separate tents for foreigners, big
bureaucrats, businessmen, and even for army high officials.
Therefore, forget this concept of egalitarianism (Shammobaad).
This is all in the Holy Book only. No reflection of this ever shows up in
the Ijtema ground near Turag River.
7. Through the Tafsir-al-Qur'an, Bayan,
Waz, etc., they are making Bangladesh a backward nation. The
Mullah’s preaching is anti women. Thus, if 50% of Bangladesh
people are maligned by the dictums of these preachers, then why do we need
Many may still argue that there is nothing wrong in
preaching the peaceful Islam through Tabligh Jamaat. If we accept
this childish view, then we may even say what is wrong with the 60,000 or
so madrassahs that have mushroomed in recent times in Bangladesh with the
help of petro-dollars. Well, we are now reaping the bitter harvest
from these religious seminaries, the harvest being the mindless
terror/killing/bombing/ethnic cleansing and whatnot.
Therefore, we can notice a clear, straightforward
relationship between more peaceful Islam preaching and more terror
activities. The more petro-dollar, the more Islam, the more Tabligh,
the more bombing, the more destruction and the more ethnic cleansing.
A vicious cycle has been established and there is very little clue how an
impoverished nation like Bangladesh can get out of this vicious cycle.
In conclusion, I say: we must stop this show of
piety. Islam should be reduced to Kalima, Namaz, Roza,
Hajj, Zakat, Toupi (only the round one!), Zainamaj,
Tasbih, Alkhalla, beard, Pagri (Turban), Surma,
Attor (fragrance) etc., at personal level. No public
gathering should be allowed. Enough damaged has already been done in
the name of Islam. Let us make Bangladesh society more pragmatic and
in tune with this modern world rather than the Akherat. If one takes
the Akherat part seriously, then the charm of Islam falls flat. The
Mullahs attending the Ijtema won't let that happen. They will
endlessly emphasize the Akheraat over this mortal world.
That’s a sure thing.
Abul Kasem writes from Sydney, Australia. His e-mail address is: [email protected]