Tomorrow marks the end of the Islamic month-long Ramadan fast and for the first time in Ghana’s history, this year’s event will be without the usual mammoth congregational prayers, courtesy the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that has wreaked havoc across the world.
This follows the ban on all public and religious gatherings that has been in place since March 15, as part of safety protocols to stop the spread of the virus which has so far infected over 6,000 people in the country.
In compliance with the ban, the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu, has directed all Muslims to observe Eid-ul-Fitr at home and strictly observe social distancing even as they make merry.
He has also strongly cautioned the youth against the use of motorbikes for mass celebration since that act was a violation of the social distancing requirement.
The absence of a festive celebration has thus impacted negatively on many businesses who usually enjoy massive patronage due to the festival.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic through his spokesperson, Sheikh Aremeyaw Shaibu, the Chief Imam further urged Muslims to observe the safety protocols put out by the health authorities during the festive period.
“With our religion, there is flexibility of application of the rule of jurisprudence so when that happens, we look at the flexibility framework and advise Muslims accordingly.
“We are therefore saying that we can still celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr in our home; put on our best clothes; sing the praises of Allah in our homes because we are not in normal times. What we will lose is the social aspect of it, which is the gathering; but in the absence of that we can still honour Allah,” he said.
What the celebration of Eid from home means is that popular places such as the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park and the Black Star Square in Accra as well as major social centres across the 16 regions of the country that host the Eid will be deserted.
It also means the euphoria, merrymaking and other social activities that characterise Eid-ul-Fitr will be absent on the day.
One key element of Eid celebrations, known as “Zakat al-Fitr,” an Islamic ritual of giving money to the poor who throng the venues of the congregational prayers, will be absent as well.
In addition, young men who display with motorbikes to climax the festive season will not have that opportunity this year.
Although this twist of events will take away the shine of Eid, the Muslim Community is poised to mark the day with moderation. Some Muslims who spoke to the Daily Graphic, said the most important thing for them was to please their Maker even in trying times.
An Islamic scholar, Alhaji Irbard Ibrahim, said the inability to hold congregational prayers to end this year’s Ramadan fast was historic, but urged Muslims to strengthen their faith in Allah.
“Celebrating Eid at home will be an unusual experience for most Ghanaian Muslims. Perhaps, never in our history, including the colonial era and the days of the military juntas have Muslims had to forfeit such an important religious obligation on the Muslim lunar calendar. We must, however, let this be an opportunity to pray in our homes privately and seek Allah’s divine intercession to end COVID-19 once and for all,” he said.
Alhaji Irbard urged Muslim youth to be mindful of the abnormal times the country found itself in because of COVID-19 and refrain from the use of motorbikes for celebration during this year’s Eid-ul-Fitr.
“The essence of fasting also is to teach the human body and soul restraint and discipline. In the spirit of those two virtues, young men should avoid reckless bike riding that puts their lives and the lives of others in danger,” he stressed.
Views of Muslims
An Islamic cleric based at Town Council Line in Accra, Alhaji Mohammed Ali, said the decision for Eid to be celebrated at home was a step in the right direction because the health of people was more important.
He said since the COVID-19 pandemic was still rife in the country, there was no point allowing the massing up of Muslims at parks and mosques to mark Eid.
“Our health is more important than any other thing, so the only way to guarantee our safety is for all of us to be modest in our celebrations even us we observe the festive season at home,” he said.
For Issah Mohammed, a resident of Kasoa in the Central Region, celebrating Eid-ul-Fitri at home will not take away the value of the festive season.
He said Muslims could make the best of the festive season by using technology to reach out to friends and loved ones without having to physically go to their homes.
“We can use social media tools such as WhatsApp, Facebook, instagram
and telegram to connect with other people and wish them well,” he said.
Abdul Kadri, a 26-year-old Muslim, resident at Agbogbloshie in Accra, said although he would miss the euphoria associated with Eid this year, he believed that life was more important.
“I have never seen a situation where we have had to celebrate Eid without congregational prayers. But I know that we are not in normal times, so we will comply with the directive,” he said.
In preparation for the celebration, many Muslims would have gone shopping for fabrics to be used for their clothing for the day, but the Daily Graphic observed that there was no such brisk business when it toured the Central Business District (CBD).
Hajia Fati Dawuda, who sells fabrics in Accra, said business had not been good as patronage had been low.
“On such occasions, people come out to buy in preparation to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, but with nowhere to go, people are also not buying. We hope the ban would be lifted so that we can all celebrate the Eid-ul-Adha.
“The essence of buying the new clothes is for the festivity and celebration; however, without the opportunity to go to the mosque for the congregational prayers, there is no need to spend on new clothes. Perhaps we will save for the next celebration which will be Eid-ul-Adha. Hopefully, the ban would have been lifted then,” Sadia Abdulai, a young Muslim lady from Nima said.
Eid ul-Fitr is an important religious festival of fast-breaking celebrated by Muslims worldwide to mark the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.
The first Eid ul-Fitr was celebrated in 624 CE by the Prophet Muhammad and his companions after their victory in the battle of Jang-e-Badar.
In Ghana, it is observed as a holiday to commemorate the conclusion of the month-long dawn to dusk fasting during the entire month of Ramadan.