The Tablighi Jamaat took shape after its founder Maulana Mohammed Ilyas returned from performing Haj in 1925, as a religious reformatory movement with focus on Meo Muslims of Mewat.
It is often described as a loosely based organisation, but has a hierarchy with an ameer (leader or chief) in charge of administrative circles that could be a neighbourhood, district or State.
While there are no card carrying members, the organisation, has workers across the globe running into lakhs. Workers include students, professionals and even daily wage earners. It has its global headquarters at the Banglewaali Masjid in Nizamuddin, Delhi.
A senior Tablighi Jamaat functionary said that the organisation is ‘non-political’, ‘peaceful’ and inward looking, meaning that it focuses on the Muslim community. One of its primary activities includes constituting jamaats, meaning batches of preachers, who camp in mosques for a duration of usually a day, three days, 10 days, 40 days or four months, and are engaged in largely spiritual activities, and self-finance their travel and food expenses.
They also go door-to-door preaching basic tenets of Islam to Muslims with a grassroots level approach, known as gasht meaning perambulation.
There are 88 circles in Greater Hyderabad area. These apart, there are 23 circles in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, with each erstwhile district being a circle. The current chief is Maulana Ikram Ali who was preceded by Maulana Nayeemullah Khan.
The Tablighi Jamaat is now divided into two factions. While one is headed by Maulana Saad Kandhalwi, the other is governed by a Shuura, meaning council.