The first phase of three day-long Biswa Ijtema, the second largest congregation of Muslims after the Hajj, begins on the bank of the Turag river at Tongi in Gazipur today.
Defying yesterday's countrywide dawn-to-dusk hartal, called by Jamaat-e-Islami, thousands of devotees have already reached the venue to join the first phase of the Ijtema, which will end with Akheri Munajat or final supplication on Sunday.
Jamaat called the hartal on Wednesday, protesting the government's “conspiracy to kill” its armeer Motiur Rahman Nizami after the Supreme Court upheld his death penalty for crimes against humanity committed in 1971.
“I have arrived at the venue on Thursday noon from Madaripur despite the hartal as the strike could not put any obstacle in my way of coming to the path of Allah,” said Golam Saklain, who is now at the venue to attend the first phase.
The second phase will start on 15th January and conclude on 17th January with Akheri Munajat. For the first time, the Ijtema will be held in four phases in two years.
People from 33 districts will take part in the first two phases this year, while those from the remaining 32 districts will participate in two more phases next year. But foreigners will be able to join in every phase.
Tablighi 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 give security.
Districts participating in the first phase are Dhaka, Sherpur, Narayanganj, Nilphamari, Sirajganj, Natore, Gaibandha, Laxmipur, Sylhet, Chittagong, Narail, Madaripur, Bhola, Magura, Patuakhali, Jhalkathi and Panchagarh.
In second phase, people will come from Dhaka, Jhenidah, Jamalpur, Faridpur, Netrakona, Narsingdi, Comilla, Kurigram, Rajshahi, Feni, Thakurgaon, Sunamganj, Bogra, Khulna, Chuadanga and Pirojpur.