In the face of stern opposition from a faction of Tabligh Jamaat, the movement's top leader Maulana Saad Kandhalvi will keep clear of this year's Biswa Ijtema and will likely go back to India today.
The decision came at a two-hour meeting between the feuding factions of Tabligh Jamaat and officials from home and religious affairs ministries and police at the home ministry yesterday afternoon. Representatives from the Awami League and some top Islamic clerics were also present.
"Maulana Saad will not attend the Ijtema. He will be staying at Kakrail mosque and go back to India at his convenient time," Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told journalists after the meeting.
The first phase of the congregation begins today and ends on Sunday.
Asked if the dispute in the Tabligh leadership came to an end, Kamal, who convened the meeting, said, “We have come to know the main reason behind the feud. We are in talks with top Islamic clerics of the country to find a solution.”
Saad arrived in Dhaka on Wednesday to attend the Biswa Ijtema amid street protests in front of the Shahjalal International Airport.
As the protesters, mostly students and teachers of Qawmi madrasas, blocked the entrance to the VIP terminal to prevent him from coming out of the airport, law enforcers escorted him through another exit and took him to Kakrail mosque.
The demonstrators, mostly belonging to radical Islamist group Hefajat-e Islam-run Qawmi madrasas, blocked the busy Airport Road to protest his arrival. They also chanted slogans against him for what they claimed were his “controversial comments about the Koran and Sunnah” to audiences in India.
The seven-hour blockade since 9:00am paralysed the traffic system in the northern part of the capital, causing immense public suffering throughout Wednesday.
Contacted, Awami League's Religious Affairs Secretary Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, who attended yesterday's meeting, said some of the statements by Saad created a commotion among Muslims as they were “contrary to the Islamic law”.
“We had no other option but to make the decision [to keep Saad away from Ijtema] as 26,000 Qawmi madrasas and most Alems and Olemas took a stance against him,” he told The Daily Star last night.
It is not clear who will conduct the Akheri Munajat or the final supplication in the absence of Saad, who offered the final prayers at the Ijtema in the last two years.
The home minister said top Tabligh scholars will make the decision.
Having failed to prevent his arrival in Dhaka, Hefajat leaders, who led the protest on Wednesday, announced a blockade of Kakrail mosque to prevent Saad from joining Biswa Ijtema, the largest Islamic congregation after Hajj.
Police had been guarding the mosque, considered the headquarters of Tabligh Jamaat's Bangladesh chapter, since his arrival.
Meanwhile, thousands of devotees from different districts of Bangladesh, and foreign countries have already gathered at the venue to join the first phase of Ijtema amid tight security. Presence of police and Rab members in and around the venue was visible.
The second phase will start on January 19 and end on January 21.
People from Dhaka district and abroad will be able to join in either phase.
Tabligh Jamaat has been organising Biswa Ijtema, also called the World Muslims' Congregation, every year since 1946.
In 2011, the organisers split the congregation into two phases to deal with overcrowding, ensure better management and security.