Eid-el-Fitri is the festival that marks the end of Ramadan, which is 30 days of fasting by Muslim faithful. Also called the festival of breaking the fast, it is a joyous occasion spiced with gift-giving and sharing of meals with family and friends. Muslims usually gather in their large numbers to begin the celebrations with communal post-dawn prayers which take place in mosques, large halls or open fields. Unfortunately, this year’s celebration has been punctuated by coronavirus pandemic and the consequent stringent lockdown measures to curtail it across the world.
In Saudi Arabia, a 24-hour curfew is set to take effect from May 23, the beginning of Eid-el-Fitri. It will reportedly remain until May 27. Saudi’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh also instructed Muslims to conduct Eid prayers at home rather than going to the mosque. In Egypt, restaurants, parks and street-side cafes remain closed. A nationwide curfew, which had been in place during the Ramadan from 9pm, was expanded for Eid-el-Fitri to start from 5pm to 6am local time. President Recep Erdogan of Turkey also imposed a nationwide lockdown for the entirety of Eid-el-Fitri. In many other Muslim countries, group Eid prayers and public celebrations have been similarly cancelled.
In Nigeria, the situation is the same. The Sultan of Sokoto and President of Jama’atu Nasril Islam, Alhaji Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar, has suspended congregation worshippers. He urged Muslims to stay at home and pray. Even when Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State reportedly decided to allow mosques to resume group prayers, the Council of Ulamas opposed him. They reportedly warned that the decision would engender rise in COVID-19 infections in the state. Currently, there is a nationwide curfew from 8pm to 6am and a ban on interstate movement of people. Many businesses are shut down and people who depend on daily income now struggle for survival.
COVID-19, which engendered these lockdown measures, first surfaced in China in December 2019. It has killed over 318,000 people worldwide and infected over 4.8 million others. So far, Nigeria has recorded over 7,000 cases.
Given the above scenario and other things many Nigerians are passing through currently, it is time privileged Nigerians extended the hand of fellowship to the less privileged. The virtues of Ramadan such as humility, compassion and prayers should come to play this time round. We urge our political leaders to show compassion to the needy, the elderly and other vulnerable members of the society.
Nigeria is at a very critical juncture and we need the face of God at this period. Killings, kidnapping, armed robbery and sundry criminal activities are the order of the day. People can no longer sleep with two eyes closed. The Boko Haram terrorist group has continued to pose a serious threat to the survival of the country. They have killed and continue to kill thousands of people. Though most of the schoolgirls the group kidnapped in Chibok and elsewhere have regained their freedom, the fate of some of them, like Leah Sharibu, is still hazy. We pray that they eventually come out alive.
As we make merry, let us also reflect on unemployment and the state of our economy. This is because part of what fuels insecurity and banditry is the inability of people to be gainfully employed. Official statistics estimate that about 23. 1 per cent of Nigerians are unemployed. This rate is growing by the day as Nigeria remains the poverty capital of the world.
Corruption, which is the root of many of these vices, is incongruent with the tenets of Islam. Stealing of security votes and profligate lifestyle of our leaders are antithetical to all religions, including Islam. We should, therefore, strive hard to avoid them. Otherwise, the fasting period, believed to engender remission of sins, may bear no fruit.
Eid-el-Fitri also affords us another opportunity to call for peaceful coexistence among all Nigerians. As the Muslim faithful celebrate, they should observe the guidelines of the lockdown measures. They should remember to keep social distancing and wear their face masks each time they are outside their homes. Regular washing of hands is also encouraged. Travelling outside one’s base is not necessary at this time because the more one travels, the more the chances of contracting COVID-19. We urge the Muslim faithful to pray for peace in Nigeria and for an end to COVID-19. They should come closer to God and not do things that will hurt their neighbours. There should be no going back to a life of sin after the Ramadan. The end of fasting does not mean doing away with the virtues of fasting. While we congratulate the Muslim faithful on the successful Ramadan, we urge them to remain steadfast in pursuing noble ideals that will bring honour to both God and the nation.