Syed Khalique Ahmed | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI—It has been a year since Tablighi Jamaat Markaz or headquarters, popularly called Markaz Nizamuddin, in the Banglewali Masjid in Nizamuddin West, has not re-opened.
The Markaz and the masjid were closed down in the wake of the lockdown March 22 to prevent the spread of the corona pandemic.
The Markaz and Masjid have been lying closed despite the fact that all the shopping malls and wholesale and other markets in the National Capital have reopened for the last several months after lifting of the lockdown.
Even railway and air services have been restored. Metro services have also resumed in the national capital. All hotels, big and small, and restaurants have also started operating as usual with domestic and international guests staying and dining in them. All religious places, including temples, gurudwaras, churches as also mosques have, too, reopened and started functioning as usual, albeit, by observing necessary precautions.
But one religious place that is still lying closed for public is the Banglewali Masjid in Nizamuddin West that once used to be the busiest mosque in the National Capital ever since it was set up about 95 years ago by Maulana Ilyas Kandhlawi. Doubling as headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat, the Masjid never had less than 1,000 persons stay inside it who used to come from different parts of the country as also abroad to learn and preach Islam.
When this scribe visited the Nizamuddin Markaz a few days ago, there was a lock on the main gate of the mosque.
One Mohammed Yahya connected with the mosque said that only the ‘Mastoorat’ (Women’s entry) gate on the back of the mosque is allowed to be opened to send items of necessities for seven persons who are staying in the Markaz office for upkeep and maintenance of the mosque from inside.
Mohammed Ashraf Attarwala, president of Tablighi Jamaat’s Nizamuddin Halqa, who is currently responsible for the care of the Banglewali Masjid and Tablighi Jamaat offices within it in the absence of Tablighi Jamaat chief Maulana Saad Khandhalawi staying out due to a case registered against him with regard to corona cases, said only those staying inside the mosque and the Markaz office, numbering seven persons, are allowed to offer prayers inside the mosque by the local administration.
“No one from outside, not even the locals residing in immediate neighbourhood of the mosque, are permitted to enter the mosque premises for any purposes including offering ’namaz’ or salat”, he said. “This is continuing so since March 22, 2020 when the mosque was shut on the orders of the police and the local officials”, said Ashraf.
“Only seven persons inside the mosque are allowed to attend and perform the regular congregational and Juma or Friday prayers though all the 46 mosques in Nizamuddin and its vicinity have reopened long back and conducting normal five times prayers as also congregational Juma prayers with precautions as suggested by the Delhi health department”, Ashraf said.
Asked if he approached the authorities for reopening of the mosque, Ashraf said, “Yes. But it will take some time before the mosque is allowed to reopen and function as it was functioning before March 22, 2020”.
Advocate Fuzail Ahmed Ayyubi, who is fighting the Tablighi Jamaat cases with regard to Covid-19, says, “The issue of the Banglewali Masjid is a bit different from other mosques. It is also the headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat where people from all over the country come and also stay. Moreover, no school and no university has been so far allowed to run physical classes in Delhi. It may be these reasons why the administration has yet not ben able to take any final decision on reopening of the mosque in a normal manner”.
But locals argue that while the administration may not allow stay of the Tablighi Jamaat volunteers inside the mosque till the threat of corona continues in the country, there is no harm in allowing the people for prayers. Those going for prayers leave the mosque immediately after the prayers are over.
Many shopkeepers in front of the mosque said they were facing difficulty as they have to go to other mosques that were located some distance away. Shopkeepers said that closure of the Tablighi mosque that was visited by thousands of people daily has also hit their business badly. “If country’s busiest markets like Sadar Bazar and Karol Bagh can be allowed to reopen, all malls with shops permitted to reopen and railway services allowed to operate normally, there should not be any reason for the Tablighi Jamaat Masjid and Markaz to reopen. But there appears to be some other reason for the officials to continue the locking of the Tablighi centre than corona threat. If corona pandemic is really the reason, why should markets, malls, railways, bus and airport services be allowed to operate normally again?”, said a shopkeeper on conditions of anonymity.
1800 Foreign Tablighi Volunteers Acquitted, Fly Back To Their Countries
Meanwhile, all the 1800 the foreign Tablighi Jamaat volunteers, who were stranded in India due to coronavirus and cases against them were booked on ground of visa violations, have been acquitted by courts in Delhi, Lucknow, Allahabad, Patna and other places. Advocate Fuzail Ayyubi, who fought the cases of those stranded in Delhi, told India Tomorrow that all the foreign Tablighi volunteers have flown back to their respective countries, barring four who have also been acquitted and are in the process of arranging their tickets for returning back to the homes.
The question arises: If the foreign Tablighis who were blamed by mainstream media for spreading corona, have been acquitted by the court after they were found innocent, what prevented the government to allow reopening of the same mosque where they were staying. When this question was asked from Mukesh Walia, Police Inspector of the Nizamuddin Police Station, simply said, “I am not authorized to speak on this issue”.
Tablighi Markaz Blamed For Spreading Corona By Media, Govt Authorities
The four-storey mosque also housed a ‘madrasa’ (Islamic seminary) named Kashiful Uloom since 1981. The students, who were sent back to their homes in the wake of lockdown, have yet not returned and the ‘madrasa’ is also lying closed since March last year.
The Tablighi Jamaat that has been serving the nation and the world through its missionary and reformist activities through lakhs of its volunteers was also blamed by the authorities as also media for spreading the coronavirus in the country.
Tablighi Jamaat and indirectly the entire Muslim community was blamed for spreading of corona virus in the country through media campaign. Unfortunately, even the Central and Delhi state health departments in their official bulletins mentioned the numbers of positive Covid cases identifying them with Tablighis (Muslims) and others and the practice stopped only after the then Delhi Minorities Commission chairman Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan issued notices asking authorities not to bifurcate Covid-19 patient figures on religious basis.
But much damage had been done by then as Muslims with beard and skull caps had become the target of attack by miscreants in different parts of Delhi and other states on the pretext that they were spreading corona in the country. One Dilshad from Harevalli village in Delhi was badly beaten after he returned from a Tablighi congregation in Bhopal and the Hindu villagers, forcibly took all the Muslims of the village to the local temple and forced to drink cow urine to convert them to Hindu religion.
Muslim vegetable and fruit vendors were barred from entry into Hindu and mainstream areas on the suspicion that they were corona carriers. And if any place was the most maligned for corona, it was the Tablighi Jamaat’s headquarters. But the courts through their judgements have now removed those blames and declared Tablighis as innocent.