The following is not intended to offend anyone; please read with an open heart and mind!
One of my respected Shaykhs, Mufti Taqi Usmani (may Allah preserve him), in a recent lecture, very passionately and sincerely highlighted the wrong practices adopted by some folks who participate in the organized effort of deen called, ‘Jama’ah Tabligh.’ He explained that there are many different efforts of serving the deen of Allah – such as teaching (ta’lim), conveying the message (da’wah & tabligh), reforming souls (tazkiya), charity work, etc – and the objective of all such efforts is to please Allah Most High. They are all different forms of serving the deen of Allah. However, the problem arises when some people get involved in a particular type of effort, and then think that what they are involved in is the only ‘real’ effort; and all other efforts are either not the efforts of deen or even if they are, they don’t have much significance. This leads to deviation!
He particularly singled out those who become ‘extreme’ in the effort of Jama’ah Tabligh. Some of them – due to lack of knowledge – become so overzealous that they start disregarding all other efforts of deen such as teaching ilm, charity work, etc… If teachers and students of a Madrasa do not come out in their organized Tabligh effort, they think that they are not really doing the work of deen! He then cited an example where a Tablighi brother told his old mother and wife that, “I do not have time to earn and provide for you, you earn and feed the family; I need to go out for Tabligh!” This, he explained, is not what Allah wants from us. In Islam, our family also has a right over us, and one should do what is required at the given time. This is not what the ‘elders’ of Tabligh have taught, he explained.
He said that such people become so fanatical that if any scholar was to give them sincere advice (nasiha) out of love and genuine concern, they become extremely defensive and say things like, “You are anti-Tabligh” and “How dare you point out our mistake” and “The mistakes of one or two should not be taken to mean the whole effort is flawed” and “The Tablighis do great work” etc… but when did anyone say the whole work is flawed, and when did anyone deny the value of the effort?! It seems they just do not want to hear anyone correcting their mistakes!
Finally, he said, the effort of Jama’ah Tabligh is very beneficial, which has spread the message of Islam to far and distant lands. We encourage people, especially the general masses, to participate in this effort. However, the mistakes must be pointed out. If such extremism is not avoided, it may lead this whole effort into becoming some kind of a cult! Avoid such extremism, and save others from it! [End of Shaykh al-Islam Mufti Taqi Usmani’s statement in my own words]
I would like to add that what the respected Shaykh has said was long overdue. In my limited experience, the amount (literally in the hundreds) of irresponsible and flawed statements made by ‘some’ of our Jama’ah Tabligh brothers is astonishing. For example, one brother said, “We are the only saved sect of the 73 mentioned by the Prophet!” Another said, “Seeking knowledge (ilm) is of no benefit if you don’t go out in Tabligh!” One friend said to me, “I was once in I’tikaf and a brother in the Jama’ah said in his talk that we were wasting our time and should be out there!” (La hawla wa la quwwa…..] This is the type of extremism and sectarianism that people like Shaykh Taqi Usmani and others fear!
We need to realize that there are different methods of serving the deen of Allah. Some people are involved in teaching children Qur’an and basics of deen, some in teaching advanced sciences like tafsir, hadith and fiqh, others in doing charity work, some spending their night and day answering people’s questions and writing fatwas, some spending their whole time authoring beneficial books, and some in lecturing and advising people on how to reform their souls. These are all works of deen, and it is wrong to deem that a particular effort is better than the other.
Moreover, “Tabligh” basically means ‘to convey the message’, and this ‘conveying’ itself has many different forms. The individual spending 20 hours of his day and night writing a book is also conveying the message and doing his share of Tabligh. The scholar traveling the globe teaching courses in seminars is also involved in Tabligh! The Imam at your local Masjid teaching kids is also doing his share of Tabligh! One does not have to go out for 3 days, 40 days or 4 months 'in the recognized way' to be regarded as doing Tabligh! Imam Abu Hanifa did not go out for 3 or 40 days, Imam Bukhari did not go in Tabligh for 4 months, Imam Nawawi did not go round doing ‘ghasht’ like it is done today, but they were all still involved in Tabligh. This shows that one does not have to become part of an organized system to be able to do Tabligh. If some brothers think to themselves, let’s get together and go out to another city and convey the message of Allah, by all means they have a right to do so (as long as they fulfill the basic prerequisites of doing da’wah), even if they have no connection with a local Markaz or the ‘organized’ Tabligh groups!
It is true that this type of extremist mentality is found in other groups too. However, it seems that it is more prevalent within the Tabligh Jama’ah. This is due to two reasons: 1) Lack of knowledge, and 2) The excessive number of people participating in the effort. Whenever there are more people, the risk of making mistakes is greater.
The above is not to offend anyone. It is written out of genuine concern and sincerity, InshaAllah. People are encouraged to participate in this very beneficial and blessed work to rectify themselves and preach to others. The effort of Jama’ah at-Tabligh is a very blessed effort, full of Baraka and blessings; and very effective in bringing people to Islam. It has changed the lives of many, and scores of people have benefitted from going out in the path of Allah. No one is denying that, and no one is castigating the group as a whole! But for the sake of Allah, do not make this beautiful work into some kind of cult, where you think this is the only real effort of deen, and everyone else is wasting their time. Furthermore, this should not be used as an excuse to not participate in this effort or look down upon those who do participate. Those who make such mistakes should be explained in a loving manner, with lots of dua’ for them insha Allah. May Allah protect us and give us the correct understanding of deen, Ameen.