Bishwa Ijtema

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Bishwa Ijtema
Run to land of sacrifice(World congregation of muslim nation) 2012.jpg
2012 event
Venue Tongi, Bangladesh
Also known as
  • Bisho Ijtema
  • Bishwa Tablighi Ijtema
Cause For the Enlightenment of Muslims and to spread the message of peace
Organised by Tablighi Jamaat and other associated muslim organisations and madrasas

Bishwa Ijtema (or Bishsho Istema, Bengali: বিশ্ব ইজতেমা, the World or Global Congregation or Meeting) is an annual Aalmi Ijtema held at Tongi, Bangladesh by the river Turag. It is the 3rd largest Muslim congregation in the world after the Arbaeen gathering in Kerbala, Iraq[1] and Hajj. The event focuses on prayers and supplication and does not allow political discussion.[2] The local police estimated the number of attendees of 2007 ijtema to be 3 million[3] while in 2010 the number of attendees was 5 million.

Bishwa Ijtema (World Gathering) of Muslims at Tongi, Bangladesh
Bishwa Ijtema in Dhaka, Bangladesh

The first meeting was reportedly held in 1946[4] (although various sources indicate other dates for this) and continues to be organized by the Bangladesh Tablighi Jamaat. It lasts three days and is attended by over five million Muslims, making it one of the largest congregations after the Hajj to Mecca and the gathering of Muslims in Karbala, Iraq to commemorate Arbaeen. (Hajj is mandatory and a pillar of Islam, whereas the Ijtema is neither). The program concludes with the Akheri Munajat, or final prayer. The tradition of Ijtema was initiated by an Indian savant named Muhammad Ilyas al-Kandhlawi and began as a small group of religious-minded individuals gathering at a local mosque. For forty-one years Tongi has been the chosen location, although similar programs are held on a lesser scale in other countries. The Ijtema is non-political, and therefore it draws people of all persuasion. Prayer is held for the spiritual adulation, exaltation and welfare of the Muslims community. This immensely popular program gives the people of Bangladesh an opportunity to interact with Muslims from other countries and is commonly attended by prominent political figures.

The congregation takes place at an area comprising 160 acres (0.65 km2) of land (0.25 square mile). Devotees from approximately 150 countries, including the host country, Bangladesh, attend the three-day Ijtema seeking divine blessings from Allah. In recent years, over twenty thousand foreign delegates attend the congregation each year. Special rates are provided by Bangladesh Biman's world wonder fund.

Despite the large number of devotees living within a confined space, generally there are very few problems of sanitation, cooking, and internal movements. It is believed to be possible because of the minimalist approach adopted by the devotees. Devotees have reduced their own requirements and developed a respect for others' requirements.

Muhammad Ilyas revived the Tabligh movement in 1927 at Saharanpur of Uttar Pradesh, India and at the same time organized regional congregation or Ijtema. In course of time, Ijtema movement spread throughout the subcontinent and also influenced other regions. After the partition of Bengal in 1947, three Ijtema centres developed in three parts of the subcontinent - India, West Pakistan and East Pakistan. Biswa Ijtema at Tongi is the annual Tabligh congregation of the current Bangladesh. In addition to Tongi, Ijtemas are now held in Raiwind, Pakistan and Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. However, in terms of popular attendance, the Tongi Ijtema is the largest of all these congregations.[3]

In 2008, the event had to be cut short to only one day due to rain and cold weather which left three attendees dead.[5]


People are surfing the train going for the Akeri Monajat to Tongi, 2013 (Phase II)

The group began to expand its activities in 1946, and within two decades the group reached Southwest and Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America.[6] The Tabligh Jamaat's aversion to politics, and also its lack of any direct and practical Economic-Political-Social viewpoints, like the occupation of Palestine helped it enter and operate in societies, especially western countries and societies where politically active religious groups faced severe restrictions.[7]

The first foreign missions were sent to the Hejaz and Britain in 1946.[8] The next nation to receive Tablighi Jamaat missionaries was the United States. During the 1970s and 1980s the Tablighi Jamaat established a large presence in continental Europe.[9]

The construction of the Markazi Masjid in Dewsbury, England commenced in 1978 and subsequently became the European headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat. This centre holds one major gathering annually, generally in Dewsbury itself. It has also constructed a busy madrasah, called the Institute of Islamic Education.[10]

Introduced in France in 1960s, Tablighi Jamaat grew significantly in the two decades following 1970.[11] Tabligh Jamaat declined around 1989, although some members still represent it in the French Council of the Muslim Faith.[9] During the first half-decade of the 21st century Tablighi Jamaat went through a major revival in France, reaching 100,000 followers by 2006.[12] However, the United Kingdom is the current focus of the movement in the Europe, primarily due to the large South Asian population that began to arrive there in the 1960s.[13] By 2007, Tabligh members were situated at 600 of Britain's 1,350 mosques.[10]

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the movement made inroads into Central Asia. As of 2007, it was estimated that 10,000 Tabligh Jamaat members could be found in Kyrgyzstan.[14]

The FBI believes that nearly 50,000 members of Tablighi Jamaat are active in the United States.[15] As of 2008, the organisation had a presence in nearly 213 countries and a total following of between 100 and 150 million people. By some measures this made Tablighi Jamaat the largest Muslim movement in the world. The majority of the followers of the Tablighi Jamaat live in South Asia.[15][16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ List of largest peaceful gatherings in history#Over 20 Million
  2. ^ Millions of Muslims gather in Bangladesh; Reuters.CO.UK; February 2, 2007
  3. ^ a b Three million Muslims join mass prayer in Bangladesh seeking peace; The Associated Press Published: February 3, 2007
  4. ^ Report, The Daily Star, December 22, 2003.
  5. ^ Biswa Ijtema cut short
  6. ^ Marty 1994, p. 514
  7. ^ Marty 1994, p. 524
  8. ^ Masud 2000, p. 127
  9. ^ a b Kepel 2004, p. 261
  10. ^ a b Norfolk, Andrew (10 September 2007). "Muslim group behind 'mega-mosque' seeks to convert all Britain" (ece). London: TimesOnline. Retrieved 7 April 2008. 
  11. ^ Smith, Craig (29 April 2005). "French Islamic group offers rich soil for militancy". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 February 2010. 
  12. ^ Khalid Hasan (13 August 2006). "Tableeghi Jamaat: all that you know and don’t". Daily Times. Retrieved 21 January 2010. 
  13. ^ Howenstein, Nicholas; Dr. Eva Borreguero. "Islamist Networks: The Case of Tablighi Jamaat". Retrieved 14 June 2007. 
  14. ^ Rotar, Igor (23 June 2007). "Pakistani Islamic Missionary Group Establishes a Strong Presence in Central Asia". EurasiaNet. Retrieved 20 November 2008. 
  15. ^ a b Burton, Fred; Scott Stewart (23 January 2008). "Tablighi Jamaat: An Indirect Line to Terrorism". Stratfor Intelligence. Retrieved 10 August 2009. 
  16. ^ Sameer Arshad (22 July 2007). "Tabligh, or the enigma of revival". Times of India. Retrieved 2 May 2009. 

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