The National Chief Imam, Sheikh Usman Nuhu Sharubutu, has enjoined the Muslim community to adhere to the directives on the coronavirus infection (COVID-19) as they go through the Ramadan fast.
He said while Muslims were expected to go through all the daily steps of Ramadan, they should not lose sight of the existing directives and safety health protocols recommended to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic yesterday, the respected Chief Imam, who chalked 101 last Thursday, expressed confidence that the Muslim community would go through the one-month Ramadan fast peacefully, safely and come out spiritually sound.
“We are reminded that there is a ban on all forms of religious and social gatherings and I urge all to adhere to these during this important period,” he stressed.
Yesterday, Muslims in Ghana and many other parts of the world began the 30-day fast in a way they have never done before as they will be required to stay away from the mosques for the daily congregational prayers and the communal breaking of the fast.
The annual observance of Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and it lasts twenty-nine to thirty days, from one sighting of the crescent moon to the next.
Fasting, which starts from sunrise and ends at sunset, is obligatory or Fard for all adult Muslims.
It is the time of spiritual reflection, self-improvement, heightened devotion and worship. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam.
Ban on public gathering
In Ghana and many other countries, there are bans on public gatherings as nations battle to stop the further spread of the infection which is ravaging many. Thus, this period, which sees Muslims congregating every evening at the mosque to pray before breaking their fast, will become more of a private affair in their individual homes.
Sheikh Sharubutu said though the COVID-19 situation had created unusual times, particularly during this Ramadan, Muslims must remain disciplined by observing the protocols, especially during the performance of the ablution before prayers.
“We should not forget that we have been advised not to touch our faces, mouths and noses; however, in performing ablution, we touch these parts of our bodies a lot, so the advice is that we should wash our hands with soap first before we go through the process,” the Chief Imam advised through his Personal Assistant, Alhaji Khuzaima Mohammed Osman.
He also advised that Muslims stay at home instead of gathering as members of the communities to break the fast.
“We have always worshipped and observed the Ramadan in freedom and from wherever we find ourselves, but for the first time, we are going to go through the Ramadan without the normal routines.
“Nonetheless, we have to remain disciplined and observe all the protocols, particularly, on social distancing,” the Chief Imam emphasised.
Meanwhile, many Ghanaian Muslims in an interview with the Daily Graphic said it was disappointing that Ramadan would be observed individually, but said it was important the precautionary protocols were observed to help prevent the spread of the infection.
A media expert and a lecturer at the Islamic University, Mohammed Amin-Lamptey was happy that all Muslims, irrespective of their groupings, had come together to go by the Chief Imam’s directive.
“For me it is important to show a united front in these times and I’m happy to note that all Muslims – Tijaniya, Ahlussuna, Shia and Ahmadis — have agreed that everyone complies by the directives to stay at home and go through the Ramadan as the Chief Imam has directed.
“There are benefits of the Ramadan and congregational prayers, and so the impact of the ban is imaginable, but it is for our safety and the general good of the society and the country, so we have to be self-disciplined and adapt to the times.
“It is a spiritual exercise and thus we all will be expected to go through the process and reinforce that aspect of our faith at the end of the period,” Amin Lamptey, a lecturer, told the Daily Graphic.
From the Upper East Region, Vincent Amenuveve reports, that for some Muslims in the region, what they will miss most during this period is the congregational prayers, particularly, the “Ashan”.
The Chairman of the Upper East Regional Peace Council, Alhaji Sumaila Issaka Achuliwor, explained that currently Muslims in the region were readjusting to the prevailing situation and so now they will have to perform their individual prayers in their respective homes.
He further noted that in Islam, it was believed that when one took part in congregational prayers the benefits and blessings that came with it were 27 times more than offering individual prayers.
He observed that the individual prayers were likely to affect the new converts who might not be able to effectively recite some of the prayers.
Alhaji Achuliwor said people were adjusting because “we understand the prevailing circumstances and the National Chief Imam has also advised all Muslims in the country to abide by the President’s directives, and so we will do well to abide by them”.
Allow for Tafseer
From Tamale, Samuel Duodu reports that a Muslim cleric at Lamashegu, a suburb of Tamale, Uztaz Fusheinini Kassim, said in view of the current ban on religious gathering, the Muslim faithful could not practise all the religious obligations towards their prayers during this period.
He made mention of the annual Tafseer, which involved the gathering of Muslims under the feet of a cleric/Imam for the interpretation and recitation of the Holy Koran.
He therefore appealed to the government to allow Imams to have access to the various mosques for their annual Tafseer with a limited number of people not exceeding 25 to take part in this activity and also observe social distancing during that period.
He was, however, quick to add that the directives by the President and the advice by health experts on COVID-19 was for their own good and all and sundry must comply with them.
Musah Hussein Issahaku, a Muslim, for his part, said this was the period that people could have prayers in their homes with their families, saying congregational prayers start with two people to the infinity so families could observe their prayers at home during this period.
The Missionary in charge of the Cape Coast Circuit of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, Murabi Ishaque Ibrahim Anfoh, said there would be no daily calls for prayers as was usually done during this period, Shirley Asiedu-Addo, reports from Cape Coast.
He thus encouraged Ahmadis to exhibit self-discipline by being their own time keepers and getting down to pray on their own when it was time to do so.
“We have asked all to pray at home. There is therefore no call for prayer. Any call may be misconstrued as a call for congregational prayer and we don’t want that.
He noted that the mosques would be opened because individuals on their own, sometimes came in to pray.
“We have not stopped individuals from coming in but we don’t call for prayer and there will be no congregational prayers in adherence to the temporary ban on religious gathering,” he emphasised.
Murabi Anfoh urged all Muslims to use the season to pray for forgiveness from God and to ask him to heal the world of the coronavirus pandemic.