LAHORE - The three-day Tableeghi Ijtema formally started at Raiwind on Friday with thin attendance because of blockade of roads by Tehreek-e- Labbaik Pakistan activists.

Unlike the previous years when more than half a million people used to participate in the event, the attendance was at least 50 per cent less. Hundreds of buses could not reach the venue of annual congregation around 36 kilometers from Lahore due to blockage of entry/exit points by TLP workers protesting against acquittal of blasphemy accused Aasia Bibi by the Apex Court last Wednesday. Only one special train could reach Lahore. This train brought 860 people from Quetta. Auto rickshaws were the preferred mode of transportation from outskirts of Lahore to the venue of congregation.

The ijtema formally started with the sermon of Maulana Abdul Rehman after morning prayers. Like the last day, no scholar touched the issue of acquittal of blasphemy accused by the top court. Majority of the participants also avoided saying anything about the court verdict. Some of them, however, criticized the judgment saying that protection of honor of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was integral part of belief.

Maulana Muhammad Jamil led the Friday prayers that followed by sermon of renowned scholar Maulana Tariq Jameel.

In detailed sermon on ascendency and oneness of Allah, he said that unless the umma turn face to Allah’s command and firms up faith it would continue to wander in darkness. He said that guidance comes through effort and hard work and it is the only way to get success in the world and hereafter. He emphasized the need for following in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and adopting his lifestyle to get success in both worlds. He also called upon the umma to protect itself from anarchy and said that love for Allah and His Holy Prophet (PBUH) is demonstrated through forgiveness and tolerance. And who do so are true Muslims, he said.

Referring to the annual congregation, renowned scholar said that it was purely for getting salvation from sins and blessings of Allah. He said that world is a temporary abode and who consider it a place for permanent living will suffer a great loss. He stressed the need of sparing time from social and political activity to fulfill the obligation of preparing for the coming life. Salvation is the prime object of this life for which all must struggle, he said. He also prayed for Allah’s blessing on the Muslim ummah and said that heaven’s mercy will come only if one seeks forgiveness and atonement from sins. He said that it was responsibility of the ummah to convey the message of Almighty and the messenger of God to the whole mankind.

Four sessions will be Saturday after the prayers which will be addressed by prominent religious scholars. Maulana Muhammad Ismail will deliver sermon after fajar prayers, Maulana Muhammad Jamil after zuhar prayers, Maulana Zubair-ul-Hassan after asr prayers and Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Bahawalpuri after maghrib prayers.

Maulana Khursheed will deliver sermon in the last session on Sunday after the morning prayers. The congregation will conclude at noon with dua from Maulana Ibrahim. Haji Abdul Wahab will not lead dua due to his illness.