The first phase of the Biswa Ijtema, the second biggest congregation of Muslims after the Hajj, ended on its third day with prayers for world peace and the welfare of the country.
People streamed to Tongi to participate in the 'Akheri Munajat' or the final prayer service, which began after a sermon on Sunday morning.
Moulana Robiul Islam of Bangladesh delivered his sermon after the Fajr prayers followed by Moulana Abdur Rahman from India.
Moulana Md Zubayer Hossain, shura member of the Kakrail Markaj sect of Tabligh Jamaat, later conducted the final prayer around 10 am, said Abdun Nur, member of the organising committee of the Biswa Ijtema. The prayer was conducted on a special stage erected adjacent to the foreigners’ dormitory.
People crowded the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway to take part in the prayer service since early morning.
Ramzan Mia came to Tongi from Narsingdi to participate in the Akheri Munajat with two of his friends. He started for Tongi at 3 am and caught a ride on a truck to the Gazipur bypass. Then he walked and took an autorickshaw to reach the Ijtema ground.
Abul Kalam, a native of Mymensingh started his journey on a bus at 2:30 am. He reached the Bhogra Bypass in Gazipur at 7 am. He had to take several vehicles to reach the venue.
The first phase of the Ijtema kicked off on Friday with supporters of Moulana Md Zubayer taking part.
People from different parts of Bangladesh came to Tongi on Saturday for their chance to participate in the final prayer service. They caught rides on buses, trucks, cars, trains, and launches to reach their destination.
People in Dhaka and its surrounding areas also started for Tongi on Saturday night, braving the winter cold and fog. Thousands of devotees walked to the Ijtema venue as all kinds of transport were banned from heading to Tongi at midnight on Saturday.
People who could not find a place inside the Ijtema ground stayed in nearby buildings or slept out on rooftops, corridors, or on pavements and open spaces. Some laid out newspapers, gunny sacks, prayer mats, or polythene sheets on the roads and waited there. The entire area brimmed with a massive crowd.
Thousands of people participate in the Biswa Ijtema every year alongside 30,000-40,000 foreign members of the Tabligh Jamaat. Many others who are not regular members of the Tabligh also want to take part in the Akheri Munajat.
As there is no provision for women to take a seat at the main Ijtema venue, many women waited to take part in the Munajat in nearby open spaces, factories and the rooftops of residential buildings.
More than a hundred women were at the Shaheed Ahsan Ullah Master General Hospital premises. Sanowara Begum, who came from Narsingdi, said she reached Tongi on Saturday. She came to the hospital premises as she could not find space anywhere else.
The next phase of the Ijtema will be held from Jan 20-22. The disciples of Delhi’s Moulana Saad Kandhalvi will attend the second phase.
Foreign guests will leave the Ijtema ground after the first phase is over and stay in the Hajj Camps before leaving for their respective destinations.
Foreign devotees participating in the second phase will stay in the Ijtema venue and will return directly from the venue after the Ijtema ends.