بلِّغ ، يُبَلِّغ ، تبليغ
ballighā, yuballighu, tablīgh
to make (s/o) reach or attain (sth.);
to take, bring (sth. to s/o), see that sth gets (to);
to convey, transmit, impart, communicate, report;
to inform, notify, tell, let know;
to report, give an account of;
to inform (against), report, denounce;
Tabīgh is the practice of transmitting something to someone. It is what we know in Urdu as proselytisation or daavat-e-islami: invitation to Islam. But fundamentally, in its words, tablīgh means to bring something to someone, to notify them, to communicate something, let someone know something.
I want to retrieve tablīgh for us. Not from daavat-e-Islami necessarily, because if people feel called to do that, I don’t have any reason at the moment to argue against them or persuade them to stop. It’s definitely not my thing to do, though.
No, I want to retrieve tablīgh from the annoyance aspect of it: the mandatory listening required when someone starts talking about God and Islam, and we can’t dare to tell them to stop because this is Pakistan and we will incur vehement, maybe violent, ire. I want to retrieve it from the idea that comes from both tablīghīs — “we’re calling people to right path” — and those who are secular, anti-tablīgh, or just don’t like to talk about religion much — “they’re droning on and on like they know better than us how to be pious” — and put it in our hands; queer it.
Tablīgh to me is ultimately about free knowledge production and free distribution. It is an act of de-elitofying knowledge and putting it in the hands of those who need it most. It’s anti-oppression work. It’s an aspect of jihad.
Activism is tablīgh when its center is knowledge and new learning. Activism as we know it, though, is about transmission that is uni-directional — I am queer and Muslim; I will come inform you about a new way to look at Islam; now you can be queer and Muslim too; now you can be better. It’s often about a cadre of like-minded individuals taking forth one idea and trying to disseminate it far and white.
Disseminate: spread like seeds.
When it is communal and not individual, when it is not cadre-centered or uni-directional, tablīgh is the sharing of knowledge. I transmit to you; you transmit to me: now we both know. You transmit to us; we transmit to you: now we all know.
Tablīgh can be radical and communal. It can be the sowing of new seeds. Away from structures of power. Here, on the edges, on the ground, where things grow.