In a few days, Nigerian Muslims will join other faithful all over the world to commence the Ramadan fast for one lunar month.
Known as the month of forgiveness, the month in which Satan is chained and the month in which a particular blessed night is more than a thousand months, Ramadan is exceptionally special to Muslims globally. Being a month in which believers strive to outdo each other in good deeds in order to secure a place in Aljannah (heaven), preparations are usually very heavy. But this year, there will be changes that Muslims must endure.
Congregational prayers may be cancelled or observed with a lot of physical distancing. The sharing of dates and food for the needy during the breaking of fasts may have to be reworked. Every cherished communal activity may have to be re-examined or modified. In these trying times, Muslim faithful will have to adopt new ways to secure the blessings of the month.
Since Covid-19 spreads through person to person contact, alms do not have to be given directly to mendicants. They can be passed through trusted mosque committees, charities or through traditional leaders. Congregational prayers can be done within the home. Believers that are not with a family can pray alone. Youths who move from house to house in communities, singing or drumming invitations to wake people up for the night meal must be stopped from doing so. Instead, everybody should be encouraged to set alarms in their telephone sets for waking up if the mosque’s call to prayer is insufficient to wake them up. The common act of hugging and in some cases kissing on the forehead should be discouraged. A practice among some sects is for students to collect water used for ablution by their leader for drinking. This must be stopped.
Islam teaches peace, tolerance and adaptability. Forbidden food may be eaten in the absence of any other available food, for the sole purpose of survival, without a single morsel stored for the next meal. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, some practices could therefore be waived. Practices such as visitation to the sick, visiting friends and family and congregational prayers at the Eid ground have therefore lost their compulsion due to the raging global pandemic. Hajj – one of the five pillars of Islam could be waived this year as Umrah was due to the pandemic.
By now, the Nigeria Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs ought to have coordinated a systematic sensitisation and enlightenment campaign on Ramadan during Covid-19, knowing that a slight slip could lead to an exponential spread of the disease. People from all faith and all walks of life could be affected if the Council does nothing.
The Federal Government should also speak on how the Ramadan fast should be conducted with regard to discouraging the spread of Covid-19. The immediate consequences of the recent disobedience of the stay-at-home order by Kano and Katsina states, regarding congregational prayers, and the disobedience in the FCT by some churches are enough evidence that something may go wrong. A recent viral video showed Muslim youths who were chanting songs, with lyrics that stated clearly that they believed their leader who said Coronavirus is a fraud. For some who use the opportunity of Ramadan to make big money through several devices, there could be a temptation to disobey, or recommend the disobedience, of the protocols required to prevent the spread of the disease. These people must be stopped before they even begin their schemes.
The Federal Government, through the presidency, must act immediately by addressing the nation on fasting during this epidemic, while encouraging Muslims to pray for the solution to Covid-19. If it does not do so then posterity will accuse it of complacency regarding safeguarding the security and wellbeing of Nigeria. We wish all Muslims a blessed Ramadan fast.