As the factional strife has dented the image of the Biswa Ijtema, a group of Tabligh Jamaat followers has blamed Hifazat-e Islam for the agitations outside the airport against Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, who has been barred from attending the congregation this year.
Leaders of Qawmi madrasa-based Hifazat, however, have denied the allegation of organising or provoking Wednesday’s demonstration against Saad’s arrival in Bangladesh to take part in the Ijtema, considered the second largest congregation of Muslims after the Hajj.
Supporters of Saad in Tabligh have said the Indian preacher turned away from a 19-point instruction, which had created the debate, facing objection by the leaders of the Deoband school of thought, the root of Qawmi madrasas.
But a faction of Tabligh, influenced by Hifazat, has kept the debate alive, leading to the protests, according to Saad’s followers.
Mizanur Rahman, who heads a section of Tabligh in Bangladesh, with the Kakrail Mosque as its centre of activities, told bdnews24.com after the first phase of the Ijtema began on Friday: “Hifazat activists and madrasa students took part in the demonstration and locked the road in front of the airport in the name of Tabligh.”
“They used the name of Tabligh to save their back and the government bowed down to the Hifazat,” he added.
Asked about the alleged Hifazat link with the protests against Saad, Hifazat Joint Secretary General Mufti Faizullah told bdnews24.com: “We didn’t make any anti-Tabligh comments. Even I got to Tabligh. Ulamas, who hold the Islamic thoughts, launched the protests. Hifazat has nothing to do with it.”
Many of Tabligh, however, said the protesters who gathered outside the airport to bar Saad from the Ijtema were teachers and students of Hifazat-linked madrasa.
A Tabligh leader with the rank of the organisation’s Mukim level told bdnews24.com most of the protesters were from Baridhara Madrasa, of which Hifazat’s Dhaka Metropolitan unit chief Noor Hossain Kashemi is the principal.
The other agitators included students of Airport Madrasa and some locals from Uttara, according to the Tabligh leader.
He said this section of Tabligh consists of anti-Saad members.
Saad, whose grandfather, an Indian Islamic scholar, Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalvi established Tabligh in 1920, was supposed to administer the closing prayers in the Ijtema this year as he did in the past three years.
But following the protests, he is returning home while Bangladesh’s Maulana Jobair will conduct the prayers.
Tabligh is now the largest organisation of Sunni Muslims in the Indian subcontinent with the headquarters, referred to as the Markaz, in New Delhi.
Its operations were being conducted through a central council after the death of Maulana Inaamul Hasan, who succeeded Maulana Ilyas’ son and Saad’s father Maulana Mohammad Yusuf as the chief of the movement.
Besides Saad, the other members of the central council were Pakistan Tabligh Jamaat chief Haji Muhammad Abdul Wahab and Maulana Inamul’s son Maulana Zubairul Hasan.
After the death of Zubairul, the central council was dissolved and Saad was made the chief of the movement.
But Zubairul’s son Maulana Zuhairul Hasan protested against the move and demanded the formation of a new central council.
dispute over the leadership of the movement got bigger when Saad refused Zuhairul’s demand.
Saad’s instructions based on the teachings of his grandfather, including one that imams and Quran teachers cannot take money in exchange for the services, fuelled the rift further.
The dispute sprung out in the open in Bangladesh last year when a Tabligh faction, reportedly backed by Hifazat, protested against Saad’s participation in Ijtema.
Out of the 11 members of the central council of Tabligh’s chapter, seven are supporters of Saad, according to members of the movement.
No one of the council could be reached for comments despite several attempts by bdnews24.com.
Tabligh is a reformist movement which aims at propagating values of Islam and therefore, refrains from discussing politics.
Speaking about the issue to bdnews24.com, Tabligh leader Dr Rafiqul Islam asked, “How does a political organisation like Hifazat dictate who will be allowed to join Ijtema?”
Another Tabligh member, Amir Mizan, said the anti-Saad protests stem from the fear that his comments would destroy the sources of ‘religion-based income’.
Many of Saad’s followers remained in the Kakrail Mosque to hear his sermons instead of going to the Ijtema in Tongi on Friday.