PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari and the sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar who is the chairman of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) have urged the country’s Muslims to stick to social distancing guidelines during the period of Ramadan.
Today, Nigeria’s Muslims begin their month-long fast, after the sultan sighted the moon yesterday and traditionally, the period is characterised with daily prayers to break the fast. However, with the coronavirus pandemic currently raging, President Buhari, Sultan Abubakar and Senator Ahmad Lawan, Nigeria’s senate president, have urged Muslims to observe things differently this year.
They have urged Nigerian Muslims to keep observing social distancing in order not to aid the spread of Covid-19. President Buhari, who noted that the virus had spread to more than 200 nations, said that virtually all countries were advising their citizens to avoid large gatherings and have their prayers and meals, known as suhoor and iftar respectively in Islam, individually or with family at home.
President Buhari said: “I congratulate all Muslims as they commence this year’s Ramadan fast, which is depicted by self-denial, universal brotherhood, austerity and helping relatives and needy people. In this Ramadan period, the kind of socialising you are used to now risks spreading the coronavirus.”
He described this year’s Ramadan as a challenge, coming up during the global Covid-19 pandemic. President Buhari cautioned against mass gatherings during Ramadan, saying doing so would further contribute to the spread of Covid-19.
Senator Lawan has also appealed to Muslims and Nigerians to comply with the Covid-19 protocols of social distancing over the month. He said Nigerians and the global community were living in unusual times because of the effects of the pandemic.
He told Muslims that the observance of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and it is a special period for seeking the face of Allah through fasting and prayers. Senator Lawan added: “As we enter the holy month, I urge the Muslim community and Nigerians in general to maintain full compliance with the directives given us by the relevant government and religious authorities in the efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.”
Sultan Abubakar urged all Muslims to intensify prayers against the Covid-19 for Allah’s intervention, stressing that they should live in peace with one another, irrespective of religious or ethnic backgrounds. Saudi Arabia, the home to Islam’s holiest mosques, has also announced that the holy fasting month of Ramadan will start today, with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud expressing sadness that Muslims cannot pray at mosques because of coronavirus restrictions.
He added: “I am pained that the holy month arrives amid circumstances that make us unable to perform group prayers and Taraweeh – special Ramadan night prayers – at mosques due to precautionary measures to protect the peoples’ lives and health in combating the coronavirus pandemic.”