The Tabligh Jama’at and Islamic revivalism in Fiji (2018)
Approximately 60,000 labourers travelled from various parts of India between 1879 and 1916 to Fiji to work in the sugarcane fields. Over seven thousand of these were Muslims who, like their fellow Indians, hoped to return home after earning enough money in Fiji. However, after the end of their tenure, some remained to start a new life in Fiji. Muslims gradually established themselves and their religious life started to flourish. Over time, as Muslims became better organised and more resourceful in Fiji, Islam slowly assumed a public and institutionalised role. However, it also developed in a syncretic manner because of the intimate interactions and mutual support structures between Muslims and Hindus. Over the last several decades, Islam in Fiji has taken a new turn with the arrival of the Tabligh Jama’at. There is a process of de-syncretisation in motion involving the abandoning of certain symbols and practices associated with “popular” Islam and the promotion of strict observance of scripturally based teachings and practices among Muslims. In the literature such a phenomenon is known as Islamic revivalism. This paper investigates Tabligh Jama’at’s revivalist activities in Fiji. It particularly concentrates on the movement’s approach to proselytisation and reconfiguration of Muslim identity in Fiji.