Bishwa Ijtema: South Asia's Largest Muslim Gathering

Collection with 21 media items created by zakir hossain chowdhury

Bangladesh 30 Dec 2014 22:00

Bishwa Ijtema (pronounced biz-wah ist-emah), meaning “global congregation,” is an annual spiritual gathering held near the river Turag in Tongi, Bangladesh, a suburb of the capital city of Dhaka. The event focuses on prayers and meditation, and the organisers from the Tablighi Jamaat Islamic Movement forbid political discussions. The congregation is officially open to people from all faiths, though it is attended predominantly by Muslims from all over South Asia. It is one of the world’s largest annual congregations of Muslims after the Arbaeen gathering in Karbala in Iraq and the Hajj to Mecca that constitutes one of the five pillars of Islam.

More than five million Muslims, many from other countries, gather for the Bishwa Ijtema. Despite the large number of devotees living within a confined space, generally there are very few problems of sanitation, cooking, and internal movement. It is believed to be possible because of the minimalist approach adopted by the devotees.

Mohammad Mojammel Hoque, a seventy-year-old farmer from from the Vola district of Bangladesh comes every year to what now amounts to a pilgrimage.

“I come here every year to purify my soul and commune with Allah,” he said. “From the scholars, I get to know the true teachings of Islam, so I can follow Islam properly and preach to others how to live the Islamic way.”

One of the congregation’s foundational traditions, mass dowry-free wedding ceremonies are held on the second day of Ijtema. Bishwa Ijtema began very humbly in 1946, when an Indian scholar met with a few people at a local mosque . Muslim followers come to the gathering, located on the Turag River near Dakar, to receive blessings and interact with the throng of followers that descend on the Ijtema grounds. It provides many with the opportunity to study the Qur’an and listen to various sermons.

Attendees use the three days of the Bishwa Ijtema to concentrate on their religion and explore aspects of it that they are not familiar with. It is a mix of religious education, spiritual adulation, meditation, blessings and exaltation. Although political views, beliefs and negotiations are not permitted to be discussed or explored, many have questioned the attendance of high ranking officials and delegates to the gathering, who are known to be inactive in their religion and whose political decisions and way of rule does not always agree with Islamic teaching. However, their presence does not concern devotees, who attend Bishwa Ijtema for their own personal enrichment. They hardly notice the difference between those who are there to worship and those who are there with ulterior motives.

Bishwa Ijtema ends with Akheri Munajat (final prayer) seeking spiritual well-being and welfare of the Muslim Ummah.

Islam Muslims Bangladesh Dhaka Spritual

Thumb sm
Title photo for the collection
Bishwa Ijtema 01
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
16 Dec 2014

Mohammad Mojammel Hoque, 70, is a farmer from the Vola district of Bangladesh. "I come here every year to purify my soul and commune with Allah," he said. "From the scholars, I get to know the true teachings of Islam, so I can follow Islam properly and preach to others how to live the Islamic way.''

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 02
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
20 Dec 2014

Muslims entered the Ijtema grounds from different in Bangladesh on the first day of Bishwa Ijtema.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 03
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
20 Dec 2014

Rapid Action Batallion (RAB) forces of Bangladesh monitor the scene of Ijtema from above to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 04
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
20 Dec 2014

Muslims perform their ablutions before the Ijtema prayers begin.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 05
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
20 Dec 2014

Muslims gather to attend Bishwa Ijtema in Dhaka on the first day of the congress.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 06
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
22 Dec 2014

Pilgrims cook their evening meals on the grounds where the Ijtema is held. Thousands have come from all over Bangladesh to observe three days of religious teaching, prayer and meditation.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 07
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
22 Dec 2014

Night falls in Tongi as Ijtema pilgrims meet one another after evening prayers.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 08
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
22 Dec 2014

Muslims take part in Friday prayers on a main street in Tongi adjacent to the grounds where the Ijtema takes place.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 09
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
26 Dec 2014

Muslims take part in Friday prayers on a main street in Tongi adjacent to the grounds where the Ijtema takes place.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 10
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
24 Dec 2014

Muslims take part in Friday prayers on a main street in Tongi adjacent to the grounds where the Ijtema takes place.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 11
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
23 Dec 2014

A train overflowing with pilgrims arrives to the neighborhood in Tongi where Bishwa Ijtema is held. Many have travelled from all over the region to participate in the three-day religious congress.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 12
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
22 Dec 2014

A train overflowing with pilgrims arrives in Tongi rail station, near where the Ijtema is held. Many have travelled from all over the region to participate in the three-day religious congress.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 13
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
26 Dec 2014

A child named Mohammad Hasan attends Friday prayers alongside the male members of his family.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 14
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
21 Dec 2014

Muslims take part in Friday prayers on a main street in Tongi adjacent to the grounds where the Ijtema takes place.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 15
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
23 Dec 2014

A young woman prays the Akheri Munajat (final prayer) of Bishwa Ijtema at Tongi rail station.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 16
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
25 Dec 2014

Pilgrims take part in the Akheri Munajat, the final prayer of Bishwa Ijtema, at the Tongi rail station.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 17
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
22 Dec 2014

A young woman prays the Akheri Munajat, the final prayer of Bishwa Ijtema, at Tongi rail station.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 18
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
20 Dec 2014

A young girl prays the Akheri Munajat, the final prayer)of Bishwa Ijtema, at Tongi rail station.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 19
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
23 Dec 2014

Pilgrims take part in the Akheri Munajat, the final prayer of Bishwa Ijtema, at the Tongi rail station.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 20
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
19 Dec 2014

After Akheri Munajat, the final prayer of Bishwa Ijtema, people return home by train, bus and on foot.

Thumb sm
Bishwa Ijtema 21
Tongi, Bangladesh
By zakir hossain chowdhury
21 Dec 2014

After Akheri Munajat, the final prayer of Bishwa Ijtema, people return home by train, bus and on foot.