Muslim clerics speak on this year’s Ramadan fasting
As the lockdown persists, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, how will Muslims undertake this year’s Ramadan, which started last Friday? How will the compulsory social distancing and other safety measures affect faithful, especially with regard to breaking of fast and prayer gatherings? Muslim clerics advise adherents. CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.
• ‘During The Time Of Prophet Muhammad Quarantine Was Practised To Avoid Spread Of Deadly Diseases’
• ‘COVID-19 Will Not Affect Observation Of Fasting’
• ‘Any Condition You Find Yourself As A Muslim Should Not Discourage You’
Muslims Will Be Blessed More If They Obey Restriction Order’
Alhaji (Amb) Nasir Awhelebe Uhor JP, Rivers State Islamic Leader/Vice President General (RSCIA)
Islam provides solutions to the problems of the times, such that even COVID-19 cannot distort or affect its structure, including the daily beginning and breaking of fast. We begin early in the morning with breakfast, mostly in our individual homes with all the family members. In the evenings, because the break of fast is so close to Maghrib (evening prayer), many break their fast in the mosques, where fruits and such light foods as pap, bean cakes, beverages and drinks, among others, are sold.
However, to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, congregational prayers in and outside the mosques have been suspended. That leaves the homes as the only places, where individuals can pray, eat and break the fast. And so, as far as processes of fasting are concerned, COVID-19 will, in no major way, affect the observation of Ramadan.
Still, many congregational activities will be affected. Aside the prayers, there are the usual lectures, or Tafsir; Tarawih and Taajjud-night and early morning non-obligatory prayers performed, in many cases, congregationally in mosques. There is also the Itikaaf activity. Here, devotees spend the last 10 days of Ramadan in the mosque. They seclude themselves from their families until the last day. They eat, bathe and sleep in the mosque, engaging in nothing but prayers and glorification of Allah, The Almighty.
Doesn’t the suspension of these congregational activities rob Muslims of Allah’s blessings? Not at all. Indeed, the reverse is the case! First, the intention of the suspension is to save lives. And, because Allah places extreme value on life, He directs that we must do everything we can to save life.
Just to prove how dear life is to Him, He said that whoever kills one innocent person; it is as if he has killed the whole of mankind. Similarly, whoever saves one innocent life; it is as if he has saved the entire mankind. And so, by obeying orders intended to save lives, Muslims have already earned blessings thereof. When you now add the already guaranteed blessings of Ramadan fasting, you will begin to appreciate how loaded with blessings this Holiest of Months is this year, with the coincidence of COVID-19 outbreak!
It is, therefore, very clear that as far as earning of blessings go, Muslims are in for multiple reward or blessings, if they obey the COVID-19 restriction on congregational activities.
Besides, this COVID-19 in a way is proving to be a blessing of some sort in disguise. Due to restrictions, it has succeeded in re-bonding the otherwise disunited families. Parents are more at home with their children and or relations. Many are now engaged in activities that tend to draw them closer to Allah. Should this continue, even after the death of COVID-19, the society will, by far, be better for it.
‘Whether We Congregate Or Not, Allah’s Blessing Is Certain’
(Sheikh Ishaq Adebayo Tejidini, Chief Imam of Ar Rahmat Islamiyyah Society of Nigeria)
As far as Muslims are concerned, any position a Muslim finds himself/herself, should not deter him or her from worshipping the Creator. Because after all and eventually, all services to the creator will become man’s benefits.
Therefore, as long as Muslims are fit to fast in the month of Ramadan, breaking the fast will not be a problem; so long the pandemic is not with them and is not disturbing them. By the grace of Allah, therapeutic is going to be arranged on how to create awareness on when the break time is due and some such things. It is just that all other worships shall be performed at home. This shall not be a problem for a practising Muslim.
Failure to congregate as usual will not in anyway rob faithful of Allah’s blessing or reward, simply because Allah (SWT) knows everything that is happening and He’s the most merciful and just. Once you have done something out of your wish, He will definitely not judge you over it nor deprive you of the reward.
‘With COVID-19, Nobody Can Perform Lesser Pilgrimage’
(Prof Dawud Noibi, former Executive Secretary, Muslim Ummah of Southwest of Nigeria)
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic that is currently ravaging humanity constitutes a huge challenge to Muslims during the period of Ramadan fasting. The challenge lies mainly in the restrictions that the pandemic imposes on the gathering of people, even in places of worship.
Besides the abstention from food and drink during the day, among other features of Ramadan is the late night congregational formal prayer observed in the mosques by the faithful. This prayer attracts an unusually large number of worshippers and it takes long period of time to accomplish the prayer every night, as it often entails recitation of a whole thirtieth portion of the Qur’an by the Imam or Imams. So, at the end of the month, the congregation will have listened to the recitation of the whole Qur’an, and will have had the chance of reflecting on the totality of its message.
However, given the circumstances of the current pandemic, it is obviously not possible to observe this late night prayer, known as TARAAWEEH, in congregation at the mosque. Yet, there is the consolation that you are allowed to observe this prayer at home with your family or by yourself. In fact, much as this Taraaweeh prayer is highly meritorious and therefore encouraged, it is not obligatory but optional. Furthermore, fasting itself is quite independent of this particular night prayer. So, your fast on a particular day is quite valid even if, for whatever reason, you failed to observe the Taraaweeh prayer the previous night, contrary to the perception in some quarters.
The lockdown also makes impossible the formal seclusion of people in the mosque (known as al-‘Itikaaf) away from the hustle and bustle of life in the last 10 days of Ramadan. Yet, the faithful may engage in other forms of worship, even in their respective homes. These should include dedication to efforts at understanding the message of the Qur’an in celebration of the revelation of the divine Book in the holy month as guidance for all humanity (Qur’an 2:185)
They should also include a close study of the lifestyle, speeches and actions of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), who was raised as Messenger of Allah and role model for all humanity (Qur’an 33:21).
An alternative to the usual Tafsir sessions in Ramadan, where passages of the Qur’an are explained to the audience is that scholars should record such commentaries for sharing through social media. Well-to-do individuals should also be encouraged to sponsor the broadcast of such messages in the conventional media.
Lastly, COVID-19 poses a huge challenge to those who normally perform the lesser pilgrimage, ‘Umrah’ every Ramadan, as they obviously are unable to do so this year. But that provides an opportunity for them to divert the funds for the Umrah to charity at home, by coming to the aid of the poor, many of whom find it difficult to obtain food with which to break their fast. Such wealthy members of the society have a good example in the learned and pious but wealthy Ibn Mubaarak, who gave two starving orphans all the huge funds he had on him as he proceeded on an optional hajj in a particular year. As he and his retinue called off the Hajj and were about to return home, he declared, “That for us is far more meritorious than performing the hajj this year.”
The faithful should also see the challenges of COVID-19 in the blessed month of Ramadan as an opportunity to pray for divine forgiveness and blessings for our nation and for humanity.
‘Muslims Would Miss Fun, Reward Associated With Observing Taraaweeh Prayers’
(Prof. Lai Olurode, Chairman, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Muslim Community, Akoka, Lagos)
Though, supplication to Allah is often answered, the month of Ramadan is significant being the month of prayers. The month has a special night, which is referred to as the night of majesty – the night of Lailatul Quadri, which is greater than a thousand months. Past sins are forgiven during the month. It is the month when the Qur’an is revealed to Prophet Muhammad. Among Muslims, no other month is comparable to it. The reward for Salat is seventy times more during the month of Ramadan. In normal times, the month is ushered in with lots of fanfare, pre-Ramadan lectures and intense religious and social activities.
Unfortunately, this year’s Ramadan seems to be lacklustre. The ravaging COVID-19 has taken glamour and shine out of this important month of blessings and excitement. In its place, what we have is palpable fear and feelings of anguish in the land. Even the Kaaba is under lockdown, similarly is the Mosque in Medinah. This is unprecedented in recent history. Most of the social activities that had become parts of the embellishments of Ramadan may be missing. These include gathering in the Mosque to break fast together. This is called Iftar. Even those without means join others for collective breaking of fast. Ramadan period is a leveler of a sort. The poor and the rich break fast together. The affluent also struggle to feed the poor in the month of Ramadan. Acts of generosity and charity multiply, as the rewards get multiplied.
With COVID-19, clerics and political leaders have cautioned against any form of gathering. With the stay-at-home order, Muslims would miss the fun and reward associated with observing Taraaweeh prayers together and with collective breaking of fast. All these religious activities will be undertaken at home by individual families. The gathering will be sorely missed, but acts of charity and the reward won’t be frozen. For respecting their leaders and for not violating their directives, further blessings from Allah await them.
Allah desires ease and not hardship for His followers. He forbids any act that can provoke the loss of human life; rather Allah enjoins Muslims to preserve lives. So, staying away from mosques at this point is an act of worship, which will receive Allah’s bounty blessings. To avoid community transmissions and further spread of COVID-19, Muslims should observe all prayers and Tafsir at home. Fortunately, for Muslims, the entire surface of the earth is a place for Salat. In fact, Prophet Muhammad warned against turning our homes into graveyards.
Not at all. Failure to converge needn’t diminish rewards that will accrue to Muslim faithful. Bronislaw Malunowski had long ago made a distinction between religious expression and religious experience. Mosques are mere expressions of religion. These are about externalities and we have plenty of them in Nigeria. What is missing and which is urgently needed is religious experience, inner convictions that dictate and direct good deeds. What trigger this is Taqwa, which isn’t visible. It is the fear of Allah, which motives other external acts of worship. Without this Taqwa, our fasting and salat are futile.
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