A major Islamic religious gathering has emerged as the reason behind the surge in coronavirus cases in India. Tabligh-e-Jamaat, the Islamic religious organization, with millions of followers around the world, came into spotlight after several cases and fatalities, linked to group's religious congregation, in the first part of this month, started appearing.

The group held similar gatherings in Malaysia, in which over 10,000 people participated. Fury rose after 60 percent of coronavirus cases in the country, were linked to this religious gathering.

Tabligh-e-Jamaat religious congregation in India

2009 Malaysian congregation of Tablighi Jamaat
2009 Tablighi Jamaat congregation, Malaysia Wikimedia commons

About 2,000 delegates from countries including, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan, participated in the Tabligh-e-Jamaat's religious congregation, at its 'markaz' (Arabic for 'centre') in Delhi's Nizamuddin West, India Today reported. Alarm bells started to ring after a man in his 60s died in Srinagar, Kashmir, after testing positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus. He had attended the Islamic religious congregation, that was held between March 1-15.

On Sunday, after hundreds of people started feeling coronavirus symptoms, in Delhi's Nizamuddin West area, the authorities sprung into action and about 200 people were taken to different hospitals in Delhi. Their tests are awaited on Thursday. On Monday, India's southern state of Telangana reported six deaths, all of whom had attended the Tablighi congregation and later tested positive. Nine people, along with the wife of one of them, tested positive in country's Andaman & Nicobar islands.

Tabligh-e-Jamaat religious congregation in Malaysia

A similar event, eight times the size of that in Delhi, took place in Malaysia, from February 28 to March 1, in which 12,000-16,000, including 1,500 foreigners. Alarm bells first rang after a Brunei resident, who attended the event, tested positive on March 9.

Similar cases started to emerge from Thailand, Singapore. As on March 21, 600 attendees had tested positive in Malaysia, including its organizer, Khairi Akbar, South China Morning Post reported. Till then, 60 percent the cases were linked to the Tablighi Jamaat. As on Tuesday, March 31, the country has reported 2,626 cases and 37 fatalities.

Tabligh-e-Jamaat congregation in Pakistan

Earlier this month, the Tabligh had called for a religious congregation of 150,000 people, on the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan. Even though, the event was called off by officials, attendees had already arrived and were living in close quarters, New York Times reported. Those infected, included two Kyrgyz and Palestinian nationals, apart from several Pakistanis.

What is Tabligh-e-Jamaat?

Tabligh-e-Jamaat (group of preachers) is a fast growing proselytizing Islamic movement, founded in 1926 by Islamic scholar Maulana Muhammad Ilyas, in north India. The group isn't aimed at converting non-Muslims, but to revive the faith. With millions of followers, in over 150 countries, the group tries to replicate the way Muslims lived in the time of Prophet Muhammad.