As Nigerian Muslim faithful join their counterparts the world over to mark this year’s Eid-el-Kabir festival, we wish them a happy Eid-el-Kabir celebration. Since this year’s celebration is taking place in a season of the COVID-19 pandemic, we urge them to observe the stipulated protocols to avert further spread of the disease. Therefore, it is not surprising that several state governments have suggested a muted celebration. Kano State Government has cancelled festivities outright. Kwara State has recommended restrictions. Both decisions were dictated by the need to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The festival, also called the “Feast of Sacrifice,” is regarded as the most important feast in the Islamic calendar. It is for this reason it is also called the Grand Eid. It lasts for two or more days. The feast is in commemoration of Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice everything to God, including his son. It honours Ibrahim’s obedience. God had called on Ibrahim to sacrifice his only son, and he dutifully obeyed with no shadow of doubt or hesitation. When Ibrahim was about to sacrifice his son Ishmael, a voice from heaven stopped him and allowed him to sacrifice a ram. Muslims who can afford it are permitted to slaughter animals such as a ram or a cow. The meat is shared in three parts, one for the home, the second for friends, relations and neighbours, and a third portion is meant for the poor and the needy. The history behind the Eid-el-Kabir is regarded as an exemplary story of courage and obedience.
The Eid is celebrated throughout the Muslim world and it concludes the period of the pilgrimage to Mecca, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, a rite which most Muslims have to skip this year because of the international travel bans brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The dictates of social distancing protocols would also be impossible to maintain to halt the spread of the virus during the pilgrimage and the huge crowds that gather for the occasion. For several months, the authorities halted religious worship in Nigeria. The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar II, the President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSIA) and the leader of the Muslim faithful, has asked the Imams to conduct the Eid prayers in accordance with the COVID-19 protocols and to use their respective mosques instead of the usual Eid praying grounds.
We appeal to all Muslims to utilise this period for deep reflection on how to make the nation better. The Islamic injunction of giving to charity — money, food and clothes for the needy, the homeless, the hungry and the poor — is a measure of how much we care for the less fortunate in our midst. We also think that this is the time to show humility and devotion to Allah.
The Eid must, therefore, be seen to go beyond the merriments and must practically demonstrate the virtues expected of good Muslims which means loving their neighbours the way they love themselves. We urge Nigerian leaders to use this season to cater for the welfare of all Nigerians. They must ensure that their election promises are fulfilled.
Although some Nigerian leaders and public officials have been accused of falling short of expectations in their service to the public, we enjoin them to use this period to show more commitment to improve their services to all Nigerians, including the aged and the less privileged. Let our leaders see the season as a new opportunity to improve their performance.
We also urge the Muslim faithful to use the period to pray for peace and unity in the country. As the Muslim faithful celebrate, they should bear in mind the significance of the festival. We call on the security agencies to ensure adequate security during the festival. We wish all Muslim faithful a peaceful Eid-el-Kabir celebration.