The Ijtimaa has been an annual event in South Africa, and many other parts of the world, for as long as I can remember. With the passing of every year, it keeps on growing. There was a time when the entire country had one major Ijtimaa but in recent years, due to the growing numbers, each region has its own Ijtimaa. Every man has childhood memories of the Ijtimaa. Some will recall going by train in the 80’s, others will speak about buying pistachios and other eastern treats for mum, and some will recall rushing on that Friday morning for the Jumuah. Three Masjids were passed on the road but dad insisted Jumuah had to be performed at the Ijtimaa. No doubt, the annual Ijtimaa, holds a special place in everyone’s heart. Unfortunately though, these memories has, in some ways, planted misconceptions about the ijtimaa in many minds, including mines, for a while. I started thinking about the people that attend the annual Ijtimaas while misunderstanding its objective and dynamics. How unfortunate are such people. Even more unfortunate are those woman who, from their husbands, fathers of brothers, get the wrong info as to what this annual gathering is all about. For this reason, I decided to clear a few misconceptions regarding this blessed gathering.
1. The Jumuah and final Dua.
Over the years, the Jumah Salaah at the ijtimaas has become the opening ceremony for this major event. From 8am that morning, fathers from all over the province are forcing their sons to get a move on in the shower or else they’ll be late for the Jumuah. About fifteen minutes prior to the Salaah, the crowds are gushing into the Ijtimaa grounds as if the performance of Jumuah at the Ijtimaa books your place in Paradise.
Now don’t misunderstand me. The issue is not about performing Jumuah Salaah at the Ijtimaa. The issue is that most of those that rush for the Jumuah, are back home when the Asr Azaan is heard. By all means, rush for the Jumuah and perform your Salaah at the grounds. May Allah reward us all for our enthusiasm. But we need to understand that the Jumah salaah is not the objective and main purpose of the Ijtimaa. I have never heard any of our scholars say “make sure you there for the Jumuah” but I have heard many of them saying “make sure you sit in the Bayaans”.
My point is, besides the Jumuah, we need to sit in the other programmes during the weekend and benefit from the advices given. The Jumuah Salaah is just the start of the Ijtimaa, not necessarily the opening ceremony. The same importance given to the Jumuah Salaah and Bayaan, is given to the rest of the weekend. The same could be said for the final Dua which, in the minds of many people, has become the official closing ceremony of the event. The final Dua is a Dua where we ask Allah to accept our efforts for Deen amongst other things. Having said this, the benefits still lie in all the programmes that takes place during the weekend, not just in the Jumuah Salaah and the final Dua.
2. It’s a meet and greet.
For many people, the Ijtimaa is a time to meet old friends from other towns and catch up on things over a cup of tea and some biscuits. What’s worst, is that many of the females think the Ijtimaa is an excuse for the man to getaway and have a three day holiday. Do I blame the ladies? No. So who do I blame? I would blame those that gave them that idea. Those that went home and instead of passing on the advices that were given in the Bayaans, Salaams were passed on from 4th cousins or Hajee Bhais.
Of course, I’m not saying that one shouldn’t catch up on things with an old friend but let that be a by-the-way thing. Ultimately, the reason for the Ijtimaa is to benefit the Ummah. Attendees are encouraged to sit for the various programmes and benefit. From there, they are then encouraged to spend time in the path of Allah and take the advices home to the woman folk. Meet and greet is something that is bound to happen but while we focus on reformation, meet and greet should fall into an open gap in our schedule, not the other way around.
3. It’s an Islamic fete.
I’ll be honest, I had this misconception for a while. You need to understand that I am a 90’s kid. I grew up in a time when fetes were the in-thing. Every organisation that needed funds hosted a fete. One of the salient characteristics of a fete is stalls. So when the Ijtimaa came along and I seen stalls, don’t blame me for thinking it was a Sharia-approved fete. It was in my teen years, when I went in Jamaat (in the path of Allah) that someone explained to me the main purpose for the Ijtimaa. That is when I realised it’s not exactly an Islamic fete. That is when I realised that the Ijtimaa is not an annual event for you to stock up on China fruit, exotic sweets and maybe grab a couple of Topees. Unfortunately, till today, some still have this misunderstanding. Do they have stalls at the Ijtimaa? Yes, they do. If it’s not a fete then why the stalls? So the attendees have an opportunity to refresh themselves between Bayaans and programmes. The food stalls are there for this purpose and this purpose only. To refresh, to grab a snack, or to treat your appetite after a programme.
It’s amazing how many people till now have no idea of what goes on in the tents. How many are unaware of the various types of programmes available to people from all backgrounds. There are special programmes for scholars, for businessman, for university students and for youth. Many are unaware of this because they prefer listening to the tea uncle’s Bayaan (chuckle). Once again, if the females think it’s an Islamic fete, I wouldn’t blame them, I’ll blame those that gave them that impression. I had the opportunity of attending an Ijtimaa in Mewaat, one of the poorest, simplest regions in India. It was mind-blowing. Picture long pieces of plastic resting on bamboo sticks that are stuck in the ground. No stalls, no fans, and a few crates for a stage. In was so hot that some people were sitting bare-chested in the Bayaan, but everyone was in the Bayaan. It was one of those evenings that I’ll never forget. We were foreign guests, so they made us sit on the stage next to the speaker.
4. The success lies in the numbers.
After every Ijtimaa, you’ll hear the news of how many attended overall and how many attended the Jumuah Salaah. In most cases, somewhere in the region of about 20 000. Due to this, the Ijtimaa is deemed a success by most people. No doubt, we should be proud of our numbers as far as unity is concerned. However, according to our senior scholars, the success of an Ijtimaa was never determined by numbers. Even if a hundred 100 000 attended an Ijtimaa, that Ijtimaa could still be less successful than an Ijtimaa that was attended by 10 000. So what is the current criterion used to determine the success of the Ijtimaa? The success of an Ijtimaa depends on how many people took benefit and became better people after attending. Technically, we will never know such stats. So, the next best thing is to look at how many Jamaats go out in the path of Allah from the Ijtimaa. When the programmes take place at the Ijtimaa, attendees are encouraged to go out in the path of Allah. Therefore, the success of an Ijtimaa will lie in how many go out in the path of Allah and how many gave their intention to go out at a later time. This is the closest way to determine how many took benefit. Not accurate, but closest. I recall once I was at an Ijtimaa site before the actual weekend. The people were putting up the tents and digging etc. One uncle said “If only one person gets Hidaayat in this Ijtimaa, then all this effort is worth it.” SubhanAllah, how true.
5. It’s a Tablighi event.
The Tabligh Jamaat is not an organisation or a movement of any sort. It is simply an effort, an effort to recognise Allah and implement the Sunnah of Nabi S.A.W. Many believe that the Ijtimaa is solely for those involved in Tabligh. Yes, the event is organised by those involved in Tabligh but the programmes take place for everyone’s benefit. The programmes focus on the greatness of Allah and the importance of Sunnah. Now you tell me, is this a Tabligh discussion or a Muslim discussion? Whoever you are, irrespective of race, belief or geographical location, all Ijtimaas around the world are open to you. It is a gathering where, collectively, we can increase the levels of our Imaan. After all, an increase in Imaan is what we all need in order to overcome the various uphills in life.
If you fall into any of the above categories, don’t for one second think that you are a bad person, or that you don’t belong at the Ijtimaa. At least you doing something. I did not write this piece to give anyone this impression. This piece was put together to make us understand the finer dynamics and objectives of the ijtimaa. If you never sat in a programme before, try to attend at least one programme. Make that your objective. The advices given on Sunnah and other aspects are priceless. After all, with the time and energy spent, you might as well go home with some benefit. Speaking of Sunnah, i recently wrote an article about a person’s right to practice on Sunnah. read it here.
Yusuf Omar resides in South Africa and holds a BA in Islamic sciences. He is currently a writer/presenter at Radio Islam. He loves playing with words and has an interest in fine arts. He also believes in mermaids. Check out some of his other articles here. Interact with him on Twitter and Instagram.