From AbdulGafar Alabelewe, Kaduna, Gbenga Omokhunu, Abuja and Tajudeen Adebanjo
There is disagreement between the Sultan of Sokoto and governors of some states in the north over how weekend’s Eid-el-Fitr prayers should be held.
Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar, who is the President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), has given a directive that Muslims should observe the prayers at home as part of their observance of the COVID-19 protocols and to prevent the spread of the virus.
But some of the governors have eased the lockdown, allowing Muslims to observe congregational prayers.
Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje earlier in the week announced that Muslims would be allowed to observe the Jumat prayer tomorrow and the Eid prayers subsequently.
On Wednesday, Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed announced that Eid prayers would be allowed in the state with participants observing social distancing and wearing face masks
Other states like Yobe, Jigawa, Gombe, Borno and Zamfara have also opened mosques.
In a statement on Wednesday, NSCIA Deputy Secretary-General, Prof. Salisu Shehu, “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.”
Eld-Fitri signifies the end of the one-month Ramadan fast. The prayers are likely to hold on Saturday or Sunday depending on when the Shawwal month is sighted.
The Sultan’s admonition was reechoed in Ilorin by the chief Imam of Uthman Bn Affan Mosque, Mallam Yusuf Alfulani-Abdullah, who asked all Muslims in Kwara State to observe the Eid-el fitr prayer in their homes.
Abdullahi, in his Ramadan Tafsir on Wednesday, said Islam, as a religion, provides alternative means for its adherents to follow in event of situations such as the world presently found itself.
He said: “Muslims can say the Eid prayer at home with family members, though traditionally the prayers are usually done with large congregations in mosques or open ground, but either ways Allah will hear the prayers.”
He enjoined the faithful to continue to observe the physical distancing in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 infection.
Abdullah explained that similar experience was witnessed during the times and era of Caliph Umar, the companion of Prophet Muhammad and he employed method of social distancing even in act of worship to protect people.
He urged Muslims to reach out to the indigent with their Zakat fitr, which requires the distribution of foodstuffs to the less privileged before the festival day.
“The Zakat fitr are foods that can be used to celebrate Sallah such as rice, or any other grains and should be given out on time to the indigent,” he said.
Abdullah advised Muslims to be grateful to Allah and show happiness even in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“We should endeavour to dress well, show gratitude through Zaka Fitr and pray to Allah for all his blessings in spite of the prevailing circumstance,” he said
The Executive Secretary of the Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria (MUSWEN), Prof Muslih Yahya has also urged Muslims to pray at homes during the Eld-il-Fitr.
Prof Yahya in a statement on Wednesday said the state of things in the southwest necessitated the advice.
He said: “From the look of things, it is not likely that the current social distancing regulations put in place by governments in the Southwest, necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic would be relaxed by Eid Day, consequently, it is not likely that observance of Eid prayers at the Eid Prayer grounds would be possible.
“However, all Muslims are urged to put on their best dresses on the Eid Day as recommended by authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad but stay safe at home to mark the Eid Day with their family members.”
The MUSWEN chief urged Muslims to hasten with the payment of their Zakatul Fitr to enable the poor to enjoy the celebration.
Prof Yahya said: “MUSWEN joins the Sultan of Sokoto in felicitating with the Ummah on the approach of Eid-el-Fitri, marking the end of Ramadan. Indeed the Ramadan of this year has been extremely challenging for the Ummah. It has been the will of Allah to test how resolute and determined we can be in seeking to reach one another as one Ummah and try to please Allah.
Mosques in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) will remain shut. FCT Minister Muhammad Bello insisted yesterday he would not yield to pressure to reopen them ahead of the festival
The FCT Minister, Mallam Bello, at a meeting with Muslim and Christian leaders explained that the FCT authorities were guided by advice from medical experts and guidelines of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in its decision not to reopen places of worship.
The Christian team was led by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Chairman in the FCT, Dr. Samson Jonah and the FCT League of Imams Initiative by Dr Tajudeen Adigun.
A statement by minister’s spokesman Anthony Ogunleye said: “Based on the guidance of medical experts and consultations with highest authority, the Presidential Task Force gave a decision and communication on the fact that all the measures approved two weeks ago be extended for another period of time to enable organisations, individuals and all of us plan for a gradual opening up of the society.
The meeting acknowledged that the primary concern of all leaders and public officials was to “save lives and this involves monitoring very closely reports from the health authorities which indicate that after nine weeks of the pandemic and attempts to curtail its spread, not much has changed.
“The leaders of the religious organisations have agreed to work towards the eventual opening up of worship places at a time to be determined by the PTF.”