Women and Tablighi Jamaat

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 Being contemptuous towards women who are not incorporated as per Tablighi traditional subordination, reflects as a fundamentalist mindset

- Dr Geeta Bhatt

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The ‘Corona fiasco’ in the middle of the pandemic at the New Delhi based Banglewaali Mosque, has shook not only the government machinery but also the common man; unable to fathom the lack of common sense and defiance of the government orders which has asked for total lockdown and social distancing. Later, it was realised that this defiance was just the tip of the iceberg when hundreds of them detected for corona or under quarantine showed total lack of civic sense, mocking and insulting medics, paramedics and health workers. Not many in the country were aware of Tablighi Jamaat, an orthodox revivalist trans national movement which originated in Mewat, India in 1926 till last week of this March, when more than two thousand of them were found clustered at its international headquarters in Nizamuddin area.
One observes that TJ does have some women participation in their movement. Known as Masturat Jamaat, the word Masturat finds its origin as a combination of two words- mastura which implies unrevealed or chaste while aurat stands for a woman. Thus, masturat Jamaat is suggestive of women who do not reveal in front of the society (which understandably means men). In this revivalist orthodox movement, men are expected to travel in a group for a certain number of days to proselytise, to teach fellow Muslims significant Islamic values and practices.
The Masturat Jamaat women are strictly accompanied by their spouse or Mahram (relative as per sharia). These women are imposed to travel in full veil and stay in a Tabligh household and are expected to stay in the house in veil.
These norms find resonance in many sermons of Maulana Saad who is the Nizamuddin based leader of the movement and courted controversy through his recent sermons where medicos were ridiculed in context of the Corona pandemic and mosque was hailed as the right place to die if diseased. Maulana Saad preaches in one of his speeches that an ill thought of shouldering the burden of the worldly affairs and progress along with men should not come in the mind of Muslim women. He says that this is against the decency and expectations from a woman. These sermons clearly show, women are encouraged to step out of home only if they contribute to propagate the faith.
When men of the jamaat were taken away from the Nizamuddin mosque for quarantine and testing of Covid 19, their behaviour towards the nurses who were doing their duty was rather appalling. The Chief Medical officer of the hospital was left with no choice but to report to the police about their disrobing, roaming without their pants in their wards and passing lewd remarks on the female staff. Being contemptuous towards women who are not incorporated as per Tablighi traditional subordination, reflects as a fundamentalist mindset.
Fostering such radical approach in the twenty first century towards women, who do not subjugate or fit in the mantle of Tablighi religious paradigm is a serious concern. Such anti- social behaviour from those who claim religious piety will brew discontentment in the society outside the realm of the movement. It is time that such religious movements and their leaders eschew conservative outlook and devolve such social structure which fosters seclusion of women.
(The writer is Director, Non – Collegiate Women’s Education Board, University of Delhi)