Bishwa Ijtema opens income streams for Bangladeshis

– Second phase of largest congregation of Muslims after Hajj pilgrimage began Friday

By Md. Kamruzzaman

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – The Bishwa Ijtema festival of the Tablighi Jamaat movement has opened new income streams for thousands of Bangladeshis who look forward to the second largest congregation of the Muslim community.

Circling the gathering on the banks of the Turag River on the outskirts of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, more than 1,000 temporary business stalls were constructed prior to the three-day first phase of the Ijtema held last week.

Different businesses, including garments factories, book publishers and producers of daily commodities, made temporary stalls during the trade fair.

They are selling and campaigning for their products that normally last 15 days based on the six-day two phases of Bishaw Ijtema within a gap of one week.

Traders have to pay Bangladeshi 50,000 to 100,000 taka [$590 to $1180] to local landlords for every stall.

“I have made this temporary structure of my stall with my own cost and paid taka 100,000 to the owner of the land,” Sheikh Md Shahalam, a small garments trader told Anadolu Agency on Friday while passing the busy hours at his stall, with so many devotees gathering to buy warm clothes for cold.

Challenging heavy cold and foggy weather, tens of thousands of Muslims have taken part in the second phase of the three-day Bishwa Ijtema that began Friday with general sermons, popularly known as “a’mbayan.”

“Almost everywhere in the 160 acre Bishwa Ijtema venue, there were Tablighi brothers [devotees] and we hope that more than 400,000 Muslims have joined in the sermons [Friday],” Mohammad Sayem, coordinator of the second phase of Ijtema told Anadolu Agency.

Besides, around 2,500 Muslims from different countries, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, Iraq, Malaysia have also participated in the second phase of the Ijtema, Sayem added.

“More than 1 million Muslims took part in the Jumma prayer today with us,” Sayem said, adding that Muslims come here for divine blessings and to pray for the welfare of the country as well as for world peace.

Local landlord Sumon Sarker told Anadolu Agency: “Since my childhood I have been enjoying the Bishwa Ijtema. It is not only a religious gathering for us. It’s a festival for us that we wait for the whole year.”

He said that most of the people of this area are not economically efficient. “But this Ijtema has come to us as divine blessings. Without any investment we can earn a very handsome amount now just by lending our land for only two weeks.”

“Hundreds of local youths are also working with us on contractual payment and using it as a chance for extra income,” Mohammad Abdullah, working at a book stall, told Anadolu Agency.

Anadolu Agency observed hundreds of floating venders at the Bishwa Ijtema venue selling minor items like caps, light foods, water, mobile charges, earphones, mask and tea.

Others, including poor women were seen preparing light foods on roadsides to sell to devotees.

Mahbubur Rahman, who was selling tea in a flask, said he earns almost 10 times more during the Bishwa Ijtema compared to other days.

Meanwhile, devotees of different ages coming from remote areas of the country were seen listening to sermons and preaching Islamic lessons.

“I am a government employee and have come here from the northern border district of Chuadanga to gain Allah’s mercy,” 60-year-old Siraj Uddin Ahmed told Anadolu Agency.

University student Mohammad Imran coming from the southern district of Khulna, however, said people learn to be honest, sincere and a true Muslim here.

“For a developed and prosperous country we must need honest and sincere people at every sector of the country and in this regard Bishwa Ijtema is playing a significant role,” Imran added.

For maintaining law and order in the Ijtema ground and ensuring safety to the devotees, a large number of law enforcement officers have been deployed at different points.

Eight control rooms, 14 watch towers for police and 10 watch towers for elite force RAB have been set up to monitor the Ijtema.

“Under the supervision of the city corporation, 400 temporary toilets have been made while the supply of pure drinking water has also been ensured,” Khalilur Rahman, in-charge of a control room, told Anadolu Agency.

The second phase of the three-day religious congregation will conclude Jan. 19 with Akheri Munajat, or the final prayer.

Tablighi Jamaat has been organizing the Bishwa Ijtema since 1967 and its two phases were first launched in 2011 on the wave of overcrowding and conflicts between two top leaders of the movement founded in 1927 by Muhammad Ilyas al-Kandhlawi in the Mewat province in India.

It is the second largest congregation of Muslims after the Hajj pilgrimage.