Bhopal to host largest Muslim gathering after HajBy Shahnawaz Akhtar, IANS
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
BHOPAL - A tented township is coming up near here for one of the world’s largest Muslim gatherings, the 63rd Aalmi Tablighi Ijtema, with speical arrangements for the stay of an estimated 400 physically challenged people.
The global congregation by Tablighi Jamaat is to be held Dec 25-27 at Itkhori in Islam Nagar, around 12 km from here. With around 700,000 Muslims expected from across the world, it is said to be the largest Islamic gathering after Haj in Makkah and the ijtema in Bangladesh.
“Every year we hold the ijtema to spread the message of Islam, do good deeds and stop people from wrongdoing, know Allah and follow the path of Prophet Mohammed,” Ijtema spokesperson Atique-ul-Islam told IANS.
“The jamaats (groups) of Russia, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka have already arrived, and Muslims from at least 30 countries, including Australia, England and South Africa, will take part in it,” he said.
And one of its best features is that disabled people, who usually keep away from huge gatherings, are welcome and even given extra attention.
“Besides separate staying arrangements for the physically challenged, some people will make them understand religious sermons with actions,” Atique said.
The Aalmi ijtema had begun with India’s independence in 1947. And it continues since then. “It has continued non-stop for the last 63 years,” Bhopal-based senior journalist Perwez Bari said.
From 1947 to 2001, the ijtema took place at Taj-ul-Masjid here - one of the largest mosques in Asia - and thereafter it has been taking place at the Itkhori grounds.
The entire ijtema takes place on 145 acres of land, which includes 36 acres for marquees, 60 acres of parking space and 10 acres for tubewells to fulfil the water needs of the huge gathering, apart from the space for the accommodation of the disabled.
In spite of such a gathering, the management makes it a point to ensure that it does not become a fair-like affair and does not allow people to make a noise.
There are guidelines for shopkeepers to sell their items, specially meals, at a cost strictly prescribed by the management. The chawal-dal will be available at Rs.15, chawal-sabzi at Rs.20 and roti-meat at Rs.25.
“We have got full support from the government - whoever’s government it is. Many departments of the state or central government extend their support to us,” Atique said.
But security remains a major concern. Right from Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to Superintendent of Police Abhay Singh - everyone has assured that the programme will not be affected and will function as it has for more than half a century.
“At least 1,200 policemen will be deployed around the programme venue to ensure security,” Singh said.
Announcing that the event should not lack in anything, Chouhan went to the extent of saying if needed he could be contacted personally for help.
At 140 million, India has the third largest Muslim populations in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan.
(Shahnawaz Akhtar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)