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COVID-19: What We Shall Miss At Sallah – Nigerians

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From ‘Eid’ prayers at home with family members or alone to non-visitation of loved ones, going out for durbar, fun fair or homages TUNDE OGUNTOLA, ANKELI EMMANUEL, ABDULLAHI OLESIN write on Sallah in the period of COVID-19
Depending on the sighting of the moon, Eid will either start on Saturday May 23 or Sunday May 24. Eid-el-Fitr means “festival of breaking the fast” and marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Sadly, these are troubled times for the whole world with the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world. The world is battling with the pandemic to curtail the spread
of the virus which has killed thousands of persons globally. The World Health Organisation writes that: “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.” The world health body also declared the coronavirus outbreak a global public health emergency.
As of 22 May, 2020, 10:10 GMT, the Worldometers website states that there are currently 5,214,971 confirmed cases and 335,002 deaths from the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak in the world. Many countries have closed their borders and completely shut down to combat the pandemic. Many have run short of hospital beds to treat those affected. Outside the physical and material destruction that the pandemic has caused, there is fear and panic in many places.
Not only is there fear and panic, Muslims but this fear has also killed some and paralysed many others. These are desperate and grave times everywhere. Hopelessness has settled into many persons and homes.
There is despair in many quarters. Earlier, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar IV, advised Nigerian Muslims to say their ‘Eid’ prayers at home with their families or alone if there is no family member to join them.
“Eid-el-Fitr congregation in the outskirts of towns and cities should be temporarily suspended.
“The said ‘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,” the JNI said in a statement by its Secretary-General, Khalid Aliyu.
Some state governments such as those of Bauchi and Kano have relaxed the ban to allow the Eid prayers to hold. However, the fed- eral government disagreed com- pletely with the decision of some governors in the northern part of the country to relax restrictions imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus.
It cautioned the governors lift- ing the ban on religious gather- ing at worship centres with a view to paving way for the Eid-el-Fitr prayers to have a rethink.
Secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, stated the federal government’s position during the daily briefing of the presidential task force on COVID-19 in Abuja. He noted that the decision by the governors to open praying grounds for Sallah prayers could inadvertently endanger the elderly, the sick and those with underlying factors during such religious gatherings. The SGF warned vehemently that large gatherings beyond 20 persons remained prohibited and should be adhered to strictly.
The federal government also cautioned Nigerians on the need to wear masks, keep physical distances, avoid large congregations, unnecessary interstate travels and observe personal hygiene amongst other suggested safety measures.
“Particularly, I underscored the need for the governors to provide personal and strong leadership, carry the policy of community ownership to the grassroots and create a deeper awareness.
“The governors were also ad- vised on the decision taken by some of their colleagues to permit large gatherings as such decisions could inadvertently endanger the elderly, the sick and those with un- derlying factors during such gatherings. The strong advisory from the PTF is that large gatherings beyond twenty persons remain prohibited and should be ad- hered to,” he said.
Traditionally, Eid-el-Fitr is celebrated for two or three days as an official holiday in all Muslim-majority countries. However, the number of vacation days varies
by country. In Nigeria the federal government has declared 25th and 26th May as public holiday to celebrate Eid-el-Fitr. Like Ramadan, Eid-el-Fitr begins with the first sighting of the new moon, so most of the time Muslims have to wait until the night before Eid to verify its date. If the new moon is not visible, the month lasts 30 days.
The date changes annually on the Gregorian calendar and varies from country to country depending on geographical location. To declare the start of Eid, Muslim majority countries depend on the testimonies of local moon sighters.
When the sighting has been verified, Eid is declared.
How do Muslims celebrate Eid?
Muslims across the world begin Eid day celebrations by partaking in prayers followed by a short ser- mon shortly after dawn. In some states in the country the prayers take place outside, while others are in mosques or large halls.
People congratulate one another as they head home after Eid prayers. They spend the day visiting relatives and neighbours, pay- ing homages, durbar and accepting gifts as they move around from house to house.
This is preceded by the giving of alms to the poor, or Zakat, which is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is common for the capitals of Muslim majority countries to decorate their cities with festive lights and hold carnivals to commemorate the end of the holy month, with children dressed in new clothes, offered gifts and money to celebrate the joyous occasion.
On the first day of Eid-el-Fitr, voluntary fasting is not allowed as Muslims are encouraged to feast and celebrate the completion of a month of worship and abstinence from food.
The most popular greeting is “Barka da Sallah” in Hausa, a Nigerian language, ”Eku odun Eid” in Yoruba language, Eid mubarak (Blessed Eid) or Eid sa’id (Happy Eid).
Prior to now, Muslims prepare for Eid prayer by taking a shower and dressing in new clothes.
With clothes being an important marker of Eid, some people wear traditional clothes from their culture, while others pick out something new to wear. Muslims
are also encouraged to eat something sweet, usually dates, before heading to the Eid prayers.
On their way to the prayer, tradi- tionally held in an open area, Muslims recite takbeerat, praising God by saying Allahu Akbar or God is great, which will surely be missed in some states this year because of the outbreak of Coronavirus.
*Muslims in Abuja, Lagos, Ogun, others prepare for modest Eid*
Amidst Covid-19 outbreak, Muslims in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have begun preparations for the celebration to mark the end of the Ramadan fasting modestly.
Many Nigerians who spoke with LEADERSHIP Weekend com- plained that the celebrations this year will be ‘modest’ because of lack of funds and the need for so- cial and physical distancing amidst the outbreak of COVID-19.
They also lamented that there won’t be funfair or visitation be- cause of the lockdown directives.
LEADERSHIP Weekend reports that commercial activities which are always in top gear in the areas like Garki, Ikorodu, Mile 2, Oshodi, Wuse, Nyanya, Jabi markets were a shadow of itself.
Our findings revealed that many people had disturbing tales to tell during the season due to the outbreak of the virus.
Unlike 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, June 4, attended the Eid el-Fitr prayers at the Mabilla Barracks, in Abuja but such won’t be possible this year due to the lockdown of places of worship.
Although buying and selling essential items, such as food items and drinks, in bulk and retail in preparation for the Sallah was optimal.
A trader, Fatima Musa, decried low patronage which she blamed on the outbreak of the virus.
“I have been in the market since morning, but the sales are still poor. Today is like every other day you cannot even tell if tomorrow is Sallah.
“I am happy to witness the end of Ramadan. I am hopeful that God will bring an end to the pandemic, ” she said
“Alhamdulillah, fasting is about to be over; all praise is due to Allah. We call this ‘small’ Sallah, we still need to cook to give out to our neighbours whether they are Mus- lims or not, and the less privileged.
But, the prices of food items are on the high,” said a Muslim faithful, Abdullahi Sani.
He, however, added that he was happy to witness the end of Ramadan, but lamented the high cost of foodstuff and other goods in the market.
Sani who is a carpenter said the pandemic is causing “hunger virus” as he doesn’t have money to feed his family anymore because he has not been going to work.
He lamented that he had exhausted all his savings.
Sani said that the high cost of goods due to the pandemic would limit the fun and merriment for his and many other families that were struggling to live daily.
He said we must continue to pray that God put an end to this virus and to remind ourselves of the ultimate sacrifices others have been forced to make with their lives in this country.
A civil servant, Kabiru Mohammed, said he would surely miss taking his children out for funfair, adding that there would be no visitation in house. He said he would share what he had with his neighbours in the spirit of the season.
He also decried that the prices of food items in the market are on the high.
Another Muslim faithful, Mustapha Makarfi, said “Alhamdulillah, fasting is about to be over; all praise is due to Allah.
“My worry now is the price of things in the market; so many families cannot afford to buy the few things they needed for the Sallah due to the cost of foodstuff and other goods.
“As you can see most people are buying little food items they can afford in the market.
“Though it is the ‘small’ Sallah, we still need to cook to give out to our neighbours whether they are Muslims or not, and the less privileged.’’
*In Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, this year’s Eid-el- Fitr festival*
will be marked without the usual funfairs in Ilorin, Kwara State. Already, the Council of Ulama in Ilorin Emirate has urged Muslims in the state to observe Eid-el-Fitr prayers at their various homes.
The Muslim faithful will miss the rare opportunity of mixing with the prominent indigenes of the state who normally join them at the Eid prayer ground for the two Rakah prayer.
The usual homage paying by the state governor to the Emir of Ilorin in his palace a few hours after the Eid prayer will not also hold, ditto for the return visit of the Emir to the governor the day af- ter Sallah.
The Council of Ulama gave the directive in a statement signed by its vice chairman, Sheikh Abdullahi Abdul Hamid who is also the Imam Imale of Ilorin.
The council urged Muslims across the 16 local government areas of the state to make the sacrifice to forestall the possible spread of COVID-19 if the Eid prayer is held.
“The directive of the state government concerning keeping social distance among others at this time of COVID-19 aimed at protecting lives and public safety must be complied with by the worshipers,” it added.
*Sokoto Muslim faithful celebrate Eid amid uncertainty*
As Muslim faithful across the country get set to celebrate Eid-el-Fitr, many have raised concerns over what they described as celebration amidst of uncertainty.
While many insisted that keeping to WHO measures is sacrosanct to flattening the pandemic, others averred that congregating to pray for Allah’s intervention is equally very crucial.
Residents of the state expressed mixed feelings over the reality of COVID-19 as according to them, it is not different from normal malaria or other ailments that have been in existence.
According to those in this category, those in the helm of affairs on the global scale managing the virus have merely succeeded in amplifying COVID-19 just to promote a hidden agenda that will manifest over time.
The various positions held by scholars of the reality or not of COVID-19, however, was not what matters most to the majority of the clerics who spoke to LEADERSHIP Weekend on how it is going to affect one of their religious deeds.
“This year’s Sallah celebration will forever be remembered by history as that which was done with stricken minds,” these were the words of a popular cleric in the Seat of the Caliphate, Malam Nasiru Muhammad.
According to Muhammad, though times determined every human endeavour, however, the global reality of COVID-19 has become a subject of serious concern to all.
Expressing shocks over some of the religious deeds and other side attractions such as the traditional Durban that will be missed as a result of the COVID-19, Muhammad said, their children will be forced to give up the usual visitation that is associated with the Eid-el-Fitr celebration.
The views of Muhammad are no different from that of Usman Illela who said he was forced to admit the reality of COVID-19 when Sultan and president-general, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar announced that no Eid congregational prayers this Sallah.

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