The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Abubakar, has described as unfortunate and misleading preaching by some Islamic clerics on government’s directives for citizens to stay home.
Mr Abubakar spoke on Monday through Khalid Aliyu, the secretary of Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), the umbrella body for Nigerian Muslims, headquartered in Kaduna State.
The Sultan urged Muslims to avoid a repeat of the trend in Italy, “which was partly due to non-adherence to expert advice over the pandemic.”
Citing Suratun-Nahl, chapter 16:43 of the Qur’an, where Muslims are asked to “…ask those who know if you know not,” Mr Abubakar urged adherents of Islam to act only based on knowledge and not their whims.
As a way of checking the spread of COVID-19, state governments have banned large gatherings. Yet some, particularly religious leaders, have flouted the directive.
Two days ago, after the Kaduna State government banned such, some mosques in the state held the Friday congregational prayer. This resulted in the government arresting Aminu Usman and Umar Shangel, two imams who flouted the state directive by leading the congressional prayers last Friday.
Mr Abubakar said this “clearly depicts sheer whims and caprices of their myopic worldview, stark ignorance of reality based on genuine knowledge and medical scholarship.
“It is, however, regrettable that the negative actions of such preachers incite innocent Muslims, who are unaware of the serious health implications of adhering to such empty dispositions that invariably endanger humanity.
“Nonetheless, it should be noted that the issue of plague and/or pandemic is not new throughout human history, either at various times or places, the Muslim world inclusive.
“For the information of discerning minds, there were prominent incidents of plagues and epidemics in Islamic history, which caused monumental mortality.
“As a result of which various safety steps were taken, so as to curtail the spread of such viruses. Such steps extended to the stoppage of congregational prayers, including Jumu’ah (Friday) prayer with an interim halt to the performance of Hajj (pilgrimage).”
The Sultan also detailed occurrences of plagues which had warranted the same measures observed in the current pandemic.
He identified the plague of Amwas, in Palestine, which occurred in 18 AH/ 639; the plague of al-Jarif 69 AH/688; the plague of al-Fatayat or al-Ashraf 87 AH/705; the plague of Muslim Bn Qutataybah 131 AH/748.
He said some of these plagues had far-reaching implications such as “social distancing — leaving the town and hiding on mountains and in caves, (suspension) of congregational prayers and Jumu’ah (Friday) prayers, temporarily.”
He said there is a difference between a preacher and a Muslim jurist. The former, he explained, “has no locus-standi to issues of Fatwa (Islamic legal opinion), as it is the case with some of the Nigerian preachers in recent past, particularly their strong disposition on Covid 19, as they don’t have requisite qualification, whereas, it is the function of the latter.”
“Such self-appointed jurists, and/or accidental scholars, preachers should desist from venturing into what they have no knowledge of, in the interest of the overall safety, security and common goal of the Muslims.”
The Sultan urged Muslims to undertake a lot of fasting, particularly during the month of Sha’aban (eighth month of the lunar calendar) as prescribed by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
He also urged Nigerian medics to watch out for their safety, while treating COVID-19 patients, to avoid collateral damage on the health system.
He urged the government to take necessary proactive measures by providing emergency manpower, equipment, as well as more testing kits and isolation centres to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is not overwhelmed.