Chittagong, Bangladesh: Bishwa Ijtema, the largest congregation of Muslims after Hajj, started yesterday with tight security measures. Muslims from home and abroad gathered the banks of the Turag River in Tongi, some 20 kilometers north of the capital, turning the venue into a human sea, said a devotee from the gathering.


A large number of devotees from home and abroad joined Jumma prayers at the Ijtema grounds to seek divine blessings. Moulana Jubair, surah member of Tablege-e-Jamaat, led the prayers.

For the first time since its inception in 1967, the rituals are being held in two phases. The first stage will continue till Sunday, while the second will commence on January 28 after a four-day break, said a member of the event management committee.

On the inaugural day of the first phase, Hazi Abdul Wahab from Pakistan delivered a speech after the Fazar prayer. Moulana Jamshed, who came from New Delhi, also gave a sermon on Friday and said people of every corner of the world now feel insecure. “Only Allah can relieve us from this curse,” the devotee said.

Fifteen thousand members of different law enforcement agencies including RAB, police, Anser, and the armed police have been deployed to ensure peaceful congregations, a RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) officer said.

RAP and the police set up 15 observation towers and installed 50 security cameras to monitor the Ijtema venue.

The first phase of the three-day long event would end with the Akheri Monajat concluding prayer on January 23.

The number of devotees is comparatively lower this year due to the holding of rituals in two phases, said Aftab Uddin, a volunteer and resident of Dholaikhal in Dhaka.

According to a security force officer, about 3,000 Malaysians are among the more than one lakh?? of foreign devotees from over 100 countries involved in the Ijtema.

Defying restrictions, over 1,000 women from different districts reached the venue to say Juma prayers. Failing to find room at the Ijtema field, they left, said an elderly woman from the gathering.

The three-day program includes the delivering of Boyans (sermons) on the fundamental issues of Tablig, prayers for the spiritual adulation, exaltation, and welfare of the Muslim community.

The Rohingya community from northern Arakan State in Burma also joined the Ijtema. “There are around 500 Rohingya who came to join the Ijtema. Maybe more will come, if the Burmese authorities give permission and issue border passes,” said an officer from the Teknaf entry point.

President Zillur Rahman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the leader of the opposition, ministers, lawmakers and senior government officials are expected to join in the ‘Akheri Munajat’ (final prayer) of the Ijtema, said a security officer.