In the Muslim World, Ramadan fasting is less than two weeks away. But as I stepped out on the morning of Easter Sunday, a Christian festival that signals the end of 40 day Lent, the Christian fast, I noticed that the streets were barren of banners that often proclaim boldly, Lets go A-fishing. Also, there was no happy or Merry Easter in the air.
Suddenly, it occurred to me that last Sunday, the Palm Sunday, palm fronds that usually fly in the air on the Sunday preluding Easter were not on the floors at all. Then I remembered that the Good Friday, a day that signifies to the world that Easter is two days away, was this year too dull.
So, It’s no news anymore that Easter 2000 for many Christians who cherish its festivity was a colourless festival under a Corona Infection pandemic lockdown. As Muslims, it is showing us the likely colour of Ramadan this year. It may not be festive, colourful or active. The signs are there already.
This is because some weeks to Ramadan, a surfeit of public lectures is staged by prominent Muslim organizations. That of the University of Lagos Alumni Association, UMA, of which I am member is one. That annual lecture is for us a Reunion.
Scholars are even sourced from beyond our shores to present seminal papers outside the realm of religion. The lectures interrogate germane issues in the polity or public sphere, serving as Muslims contribution to understanding and resolving public issues and problems.
On such day, the University of Lagos campus is literally a carnival, and indeed the entire university community sees it as part of its annual calendar. It is originally scheduled for next Sunday, April 19. Now, we putting it off.
Other organizations normally spread theirs in the weekends that run through the month of fasting. Unless there is an open up of the cities or relaxation of the lockdown in the next one week, many of our lectures will be cancelled.
In Lagos for instance, the Wahab Iyadan Folawiyo Memorial Ramadan Lecture is held in conjunction with Lagos State Broadcasting Corporation. It pulls entire Lagos under its expansive Blue Roof. Unfortunately. De Blue Roof may not welcome Muslims this year for the lecture, De Blue Roof won’t also be any blue or colourful for this years’ edition of the Abdulazeez Islamic Foundation Ramadan Lecture.
But beyond Ramadan Lectures that are characterized by many side attractions are other activities of spiritual import. Ramadan is the month of the Quran. So, for its entire period, gatherings called Tafsir, what we know in Yoruba as Taosiri in our youthful days will be affected.
Tafsir is the exegesis or elucidation of the Quran by scholars of note, imams or Mufassirs. It is a practice most common in our communities in Ramadan. They take us through themes and subject matters in the Revealed Book of Islam. We are soaked in the depth of their intellectual and philosophical explanations of very esoteric matters of life in this Holy Scripture of Islam.
We pray Allah to bless the souls of Sheikh Abdullah Adam el-Ilory, Sheikh Mubarak Asile and Sheikh Mustapha Zulool all distinguished Islamic scholars who established equivalents of Centre for Islamic Sciences and Arabic Language Studies, referred to as Markaz in their life to raise generations of Muslim scholars.
Despite their passage, their Markaz were always alive for Tafsir in Ramadan because they left behind worthy successors sustaining their legacy of Islamic erudition. In Ramadan, Sheik Ramadan and Sheik Gamawi Tafsir are still alive in their respective Markaz.
But we won’t be able to gather at their feet if this season of social distancing endures till Ramadan. We won’t be able to sit before Sheik Dhikrullah Shaafii, the grand Mufti of Conference of Islamic Organizations whose Tafsir at the Islamic Centre along Apapa Osodi Express Way in Lagos is always deep and soul-stirring.
Now, our Tarawee prayers, the nightly voluntary congregational prayers after solaatul isha will likely be killed since our masjids are under lockdown. If we cannot pray Jumma congregation under COVID 19, and we have been barred from daily prayers where congregation will exceed 50, then our Iitiqaaf, the usual retreat of the last days of Ramadan is in jeopardy.
The Laitul Qadr, the Night of Majesty, the odd nights in the last 10 days of Ramadan will always remain majestic. it is documented that durin tese ten odd numbered nights, Shaitan is chained, the gates of hellfire are locked and Forgiveness is free as anybody who witnesses it is surely redeemed and blessed.
In these last ten nights, we hardly sleep much as we spend them in the vigil of Tahajjud, invoking the blessing and mercy of Allah and seeking forgiveness. Despite the majesty of Lailatul Qadr, more glorious than one thousand nights we may have to remain indoors rather go to the large mosques to experience it.
The rich among us wo spend Ramadan in Saudi Arabia or travel for the lesser hajj, Umra especially in the last ten days of Ramadan will also be forced to remain in the country as the Saudi authorities have cancelled Umra this year in deference to the Corona Virus pandemic.
If we are still under lockdown during the entire Ramadan – we pray this ends soon – our Eid el Fitri will also suffer as we won’t have the luxury of trooping to the ‘Eid rounds to celebrate the praise of Allah amidst throngs of other Muslims at the end of Ramadan.
Despite what COVID-19 portends for us however, we can still make the best of it. We can turn our sitting rooms to our masjid. We can recreate our Tafsir. A responsible and knowledgeable Muslim male should be able to gather the family together and feed them with gems from the Quran. That should substitute for the public Tafsir.
Such Muslims breadwinners should be able to lead the family in the nightly Tarawee or Tahajjud to substitute for the congregational ones because collective Tahajjud or Tarawee is even situational or circumstantial and not originally obligatory or compulsory.
So, Ramadan may be dour this year if there no relief of the pandemic soon. But should this disturb our virtuous deeds, our charitable acts that are usually more effusive in the month of mercy? No. It only makes them more meritorious because they would not be very open as no public show is made of such acts in Ramadan under pandemic.
We pray to witness more Ramadan in life, pandemic or no pandemic. Ramadan Kareem as we count down in days and hours to Ramadan 1441 starting possibly on Friday 24, 2000 if the Corona Virus Pandemic Lockdown persists.
Abdulwarees, an Assistant Director of Strategic Planning and Corporate Development volunteers for the Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC Nigeria as Director, Media and Strategic Communication. 08090585723