EID-El-FITR: Conflicting signals over mode of worship

As Muslim faithful inch towards the end of fasting in the month of Ramadan, governments at all levels and the various Islamic authorities and bodies have rolled out patterns the Eid-el-Fitr would take Saturday or Sunday, depending on when the moon is cited.

The conflicting modalities were released in line with the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic which necessitated among others, the need to maintain social distancing and use of nose masks by all if there would be any congregation.

Most governors, particularly in the northern part of the country, had announced the reopening of mosques and lifted ban on congregational prayers, a development that has continued to generate reactions from certain quarters.

         As at Thursday, not less than eight governors had eased the lockdown and announced the reopening of worship ahead of the Eid-el-Fitr.

They are Governors Bala Mohammed of Bauchi state; Mai Mala Buni (Yobe); Mohammed Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa; Gombe’s Inuwa Yahaya, Babagana Umara Zulum of Borno and Muhammad Mutawalle of Zamfara state among others.  

Sultan, JNI warn

    But notable Islamic bodies have cautioned against the governors’ move, warning that it might set back the gains recorded in the fight against the COVID-19 fight.

For instance, Sultan of Sokoto Sa’ad Abubakar, who is the President-General Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), directed all Muslims to  observe the eid-prayers at home as part of their observance of the COVID-19 protocols and to prevent the spread of the virus.

In a statement by NSCIA Deputy Secretary-General Salisu Shehu, the Sultan said:  “As the month of Ramadan is gradually coming to an end and the Eid-el-Fitr is approaching, it is crucial to reiterate that we are living in unusual times when almost everything normal has become abnormal, including social gatherings and large congregational prayers.

“Therefore, Muslims are enjoined to note that Eid-el-Fitr is not a compulsory religious activity (fard) and at no point should it be observed if doing so will undermine the fundamental purpose of Shari’ah: security, a multifaceted concept which includes personal, community, national, environmental and health components, among others.

“Muslims should observe their Eid prayers while still taking necessary safety measures regarding personal hygiene, facial masks and social distancing.

“It is even advisable that in such places, massive gatherings at one Eid ground in a big city should be avoided. Rather the Eid could be performed in area-Mosques to avoid unmanageable crowds.

“However, in places where the ban on large congregational prayers and socio-religious gatherings is still in force, Muslims are directed to be law-abiding while appreciating that intentions supersede actions and actions are judged on the basis of intentions, as Prophet Muhammad said (Buhari and Muslim).

“Muslims are advised to be law-abiding in all circumstances while praying to Allah fervently in their various homes, if that is what the situation requires, to forgive our sins and heal the world from destructive and disruptive diseases like coronavirus. Certainly, people all over the world at large and Nigeria in particular are under intense pressure and the sooner the pandemic is over, the better for us all.”

The position was reinforced Thursday by the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) Fatwa Committee, which urged Muslims in Nigeria to stay and observe their eid-prayer at home. 

The committee, in a statement signed by JNI Secretary General, Sheikh Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, said the restriction would be in states where there was lockdown on Sallah day, while in states where movement is relaxed, congregational prayers could hold at the eid-praying ground. 

The statement said: “The committee under the leadership of Sheikh Sheriff Ibrahim Saleh Alhusainy, after due consultations, as well as considerations of the current state COVID-19 pandemic and the serious threat it poses to life, reached the following decisions: 

 “Eid-el-Fitr congregation in the outskirts of towns and cities should be temporarily suspended. That the ‘Eid-el-Fitr prayer be observed at home with family members or alone in case there isn’t anyone with him or her, at home.

 “That the ‘Eid-el-Fitr prayers is two Raka’at.  Seven Takbirat to be pronounced in the first Raka’at, including the opening Takbir. Then Suratul Fatiha is read and any other Surah, preferably Suratul A’ala. While in the second Rakah, five Takbirat be pronounced. Then Suratul Fatiha is read and any other Surah, preferably Suratul Ghashiyah. In the case of praying at home, as it may be, the Khutbah (sermon) is suspended.

 “All above mentioned are based on the Hadith of Anas Bin Malik in Sahih al-Bukhari and Maliki School of law decisions, in Mukhtasar, as explained by Al-Kharshi and Al-Munah al-Jalil.”

Kano, Jigawa differ

 In Kano, however, Muslim faithful would observe the two-rakat prayer but in line with the COVID-19 protocol put together by health professionals.

Earlier in the week, President Muhammadu Buhari had directed that Kano remains under complete lockdown in order to contain to contain the rising COVID-19 cases.

But Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje met with Imams of Kano Friday Mosques at the end of which it was agreed that Friday congregation and the eid-prayer could hold.

A statement from the Government House Kano said the Deputy Governor, Dr. Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, who is the chairman of the State Task Force on COVID-19, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), commissioners; Professors Abdussalam Nasidi and Abdurrazaq Habib Garba and   the Chief Imam of Kano and Emeritus Professor Muhammad Sani Zahraddeen were among others in attendance at the meeting.

The statement quoted the governor as saying: “I want to assure you that in all the decisions we took, we consulted you concerning our religious responsibilities. Just last few days, we had a crucial meeting with some of you who are here with other ulamas. Our decision to re-open Friday Mosques and allow for eid-prayer was reached there.

“People must follow protocols for us to get rid of this global pandemic called COVID-19. That is why we decided to call you and intimate you about these protocols.

“We have them written in vernacular, which will be given to people during prayers. And they will be translated into Ajami for general use.”

Part of the protocol handed over to them was that prayers be conducted within a period of one hour, so as to allow people to disperse quickly. The one hour includes that of sermon and the prayer itself. Packs of nose masks were also distributed to them for onward transfer to worshippers.

“It is necessary for whoever wants to enter into a Mosque or its surroundings to wear face mask, to protect himself and others. Water and soap will be placed at entrance and anyone attending must wash his hands. Sanitiser will also be there,” he said.

Governor Ganduje appealed to Imams to include in their sermons awareness on COVID-19 and its protocols, like the use of face masks, hand washing with soap with running water and use of sanitiser among others.

People were advised by the governor to quickly go back home after prayers, hinting that, “the more people abide by the protocols, the more are chances for allowing the continuation of congregational Friday prayers.”

Many Imams who spoke at the meeting conveyed the messages from their people to the effect that they were happy with the decision by the state government to allow for both eid and Friday prayers.

Malam Lawan Abubakar, the Chief Imam of Triumph Friday Mosque said: “Your Excellency, it is allowed in Islam that when a leader does what is good and beneficial to his people, he can be appreciated.”

 Jigawa Also, Jigawa state government said Thursday that the present lockdown imposed in some parts of the state would be relaxed to allow people observe the eid-prayer.Governor Badaru announced this in a state-wide broadcast recently on the COVID-19 situation and measures taken to contain the pandemic. He said the decision followed series of meetings with the state Council of Ulama on possibilities of allowing people to observe the two-rakat prayer. Like his Kano counterpart, the governor said this would be done without compromising the COVID-19 protocol such as hand washing, wearing of face mask before entering eid-praying ground as well as observing social distancing order. He stated that only adults, the aged and children would be allowed to attend, while the female worshippers were excluded from the session that would last just 30 minutes. The governor also announced a ban on all Sallah festivities as towns under lockdown would return to the status quo by 12:00 noon after the prayer session.  “Durbar festival and other festivities associated with Sallah celebrations are banned.  Security agencies are to ensure that people abide by the protocol.”Monday, Tuesday public holidays  

      Meanwhile, the federal government has declared Monday 25 and Tuesday 26 May, 2020 as public holidays to mark this year’s eid-el-fitr celebration.

    Minister of Interior Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola announced this in a statement Thursday in Abuja.
In a statement signed by the ministry’s Director of Press and Public Relations, Mohammed Manga, the minister called on Muslim faithful to replicate the life of kindness, love, tolerance, peace and good neighbourliness, as exemplified by the Holy Prophet Muhammad.

The statement further assured Nigerians that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was fully committed to battling the scourge of COVID-19 with the cooperation of all Nigerians.

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