AbdulGafar Alabelewe, Kaduna

As Muslims begin Ramadan fasting this week, the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, has said there will be no Ramadan lectures and congregation prayers in mosques.

The Sultan said this year’s Ramadan is one with a difference, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, hence everyone should pray at home, as Muslims cannot afford to be reckless with their lives.

Sultan in a statement issued through the Secretary-General of JNI, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, recommended that Muslims should in addition to recitation of the Holy Qur’an, listen to Ramadan lectures through the Internet and other virtual means.

Noting that most Islamic countries have agreed to suspend public religious congregation, in order to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, which he said is in tandem with the teachings of the Prophet, Sultan said: “As Muslims, we are not, however, oblivious of the fact that death is inevitable, but we must not be reckless with our lives, Q2:195 is a clear testimony to that effect.”

The statement reads: “Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) under the leadership of His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR, mni, felicitates in advance with the Muslim Ummah on the forthcoming month of Ramadan. Unequivocally, Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an, the month of Du’a (supplication) and Dhikr (Allah’s remembrance), the month of Zakah and Sadaqah (giving poor dues and charity), and the month of Qiyamul-Layl (standing in the night for prayers).

“But due to the overwhelming eruption of the novel COVID-19 pandemic, the Ummah’s enthusiasm needs to be reinvigorated as against what obtains of palpable fear over the pandemic outbreak.

“It should be made known that all Salawatun-nawafil (optional and non-obligatory prayers), including Taraweeh, are originally preferred to be observed at home, even though it is Mustahabb (desirable) to observe it in congregation.

“To sum it up, there will not be the annual Tafsir sessions and no congregational Taraweeh in mosques, until when situation permits. We should, therefore, pray with our families at home and stay safe.

“Medical experts and mid-course Ulama’s advice on COVID-19 should be religiously adhered to. We must collectively shun the vituperations of extremists in thoughts and actions on any matter, as warned by the Prophet (PBUH).

“Most often, extreme position on matters of religion creates more dissent views and counteractions, which in the final analysis generates acrimony and animosity rather than solutions, and for all intents and purposes that isn’t the essence of the Islamic faith!

“Despite the challenges of physical and social distancing, Tafsir and other religious teachings could continue using various information technology (IT) platforms, such as Facebook, Skype, YouTube, Zoom, etc., to live stream preaching sessions. Reliable information and communication technology (ICT) professionals could be consulted for proper guidance.

“It is on this basis that the JNI calls on the Ulama’ to as usual make the fear of Allah their watchword, bearing in mind that knowledge is a trust from Allah and shall be accounted for on the Day of reckoning, thus it should be handled with the utmost caution it deserves.

“Muslims should fervently pray for an end to the myriad challenges bedevilling the world and Nigeria in particular, and to also seek Allah’s interventions for better well-being and prosperity.”

Speaking about the economic effects of the lockdown on the fasting Muslims, Sultan called on the wealthy Muslims to increase their generosity during the Ramadan and extend hands to those in need, to ameliorate their sufferings by providing them with food and other necessities.