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The Islamic Missionary Movement Tablighi Jama`at in Europe

Creating an Islamic Environment

Fieldwork in Britain - November 2006 / March 2007

PD Dr. Dietrich Reetz

The Tablighi Jama`at is a transnational Islamic missionary and lay preaching movement, which was founded in 1926 by Maulana Muhammad Ilyas in Mewat, India. It is associated with the purist theological tradition of the Islamic seminary at Deoband in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The movement's global headquarters are located in the Nizamuddin area of Delhi, India. It has an estimated 12 million followers across the world. For earlier research on the movement see the project description and a photo essay on Pakistan. There are also articles online on the movement written by this author.


Copyright © Dietrich Reetz

The Central Mosque (Markazi Masjid) in Dewsbury, North-West England, is known to be the seat of the European headquarters of the Tablighi movement (Tablighi Markaz). It is located in the Savile Town area and also houses an Islamic seminary (Jami`a Ta`lim-u'l-Islam) teaching about 200 boys to become a religious scholar (`alim), or cleric in the Deoband tradition. The school was founded in 1982 by the Tablighi elder Muhammad Zakariyya.


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The bookshop Darul Kutub located next to the Tablighi Centre in Savile Town, Dewsbury, trades in Islamic books and specialises in supplying the teaching material for Deobandi Islamic schools (madrasas) in Britain. It also keeps a steady supply of books on the Tablighi movement in English and Urdu, printed in India, Pakistan, South Africa and Britain. It also trades in cassettes with recordings of Tablighi elders at their various congregations at the Tablighi Centre and elsewhere.


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Savile Town is strongly marked by the Tablighi presence whose lay preachers can be recognised by their traditional South Asian Muslim dress.


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This mosque on Christian street in East London served as the Tablighi centre until it became to small for the growing number of adherents. It is also called Markazi Mosque, i.e. Central Mosque, like the one in Dewsbury, indicating its connection with a Tablighi centre (markaz).


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The new Tablighi Centre for London is now based in the Masjid-i Ilyas in East London named after the founder of the movement. It is however so far little developed as a religious centre. Its main attraction is its vast space where it can accommodate the growing number of believers attending the traditional Thursday night ceremonies (shab-e juma').


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Leicester in England is another centre of public Islamic life in Britain with a strong Tablighi presence.


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The Islamic Dawah Academy in Leicester ( was founded by Shaykh Muhammad Salim Dhorat who runs his own programme of Islamic preaching (da`wa), teaching also secondary-level (madrasa) and graduate-level (Jami`a Riad-u'l-`Ulum) Islamic classes. The centre's students support the Tablighi activities (above). Dhorat's cassettes are circulated by an Islamic bookshop connected with the centre (below). The centre has successfully conducted for many years its own Tablighi-style annual youth congregations (Tarbiyati Conferences) which are also attended by Tablighi elders from various countries.


Copyright © Dietrich Reetz

Copyright © Dietrich Reetz

Another school aligned with the Tablighi movement is the Islamic school (Darul Ulum al-Arabiyya al-Islamiyya) in Bury, Holcombe, north England ( It was founded at the order of the Tablighi elder Maulana Zakariyya by his disciple Maulana Yusuf Motala in 1974. Today it teaches more than 300 boys to become Deobandi clerics. The students actively participate in the preaching tours of the Tablighi Jama'at. The school is considered to be the reference institution (madr-e `ilmi) of other Deobandi schools with Tablighi affiliation in Britain.


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