Ramadan: Staying safe, earning more rewards amidst Covid-19

As Muslim faithful embark on the 2020 Ramadan fast, ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU writes on how to stay safe and earn more rewards amidst the coronavirus (COVID -19) pandemic.

Ramadan is the month of the Quran, while a few have described it as the month of mercy; others refer to it as the holy month.

Notably, Ramadan is one of the five important pillars of Islam. The five pillars are: Faith or belief in the oneness of God (Allah) and the finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad, peace be upon him (PBUH); Establishment of the five daily prayers; Zakat – that is a concern for and almsgiving to the needy; self-purification through fasting in the month of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca for those who are able.

Allah in Surat Al-Baqarah of the glorious holy Quran stated that “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” – 2:183. It went further in Qur’an 2:184 to 2:185 that “…But to fast is best for you, if you only knew – the month of Ramadan (is that) in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So, whoever sights (the new moon of) the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and (wants) for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that (to) which He has guided you, and perhaps you will be grateful.” These among other revelations explain why Muslims across the globe fast, during the month of Ramadan. Many Muslims for years observed this month as directed.

Prior to the COVID -19 pandemc, Ramadan was a period where Muslims enhanced the bond among believers and educated themselves on the Quran and hadiths. In most cases, the Muslim faithful go about all these through congregational prayers, Quran tafsir and joint iftar, that is breaking of fast at dawn.

Interestingly, it used to be a period where people ate from the same plate, shared what they have among themselves, assembled shoulder to shoulder and ankle to ankle in mosques that are usually filled to the brim.

Muslim faithful gather in their large number to listen and learn from the recitation of the glorious Quran. They exchanged pleasantries with warm handshakes and visited one another. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped what used to known about this glorious holy month.

Ramadan amidst lockdown

The federal government and most states governments have ordered Nigerians to stay at home to curtail the spread of the pandemic. This no doubt will affect what Ramadan was in the past.

According to an Islamic cleric Safa Faruqui, the lockdown down was in line with the Quran and teachings of the prophet.

He stated, “ Aisha (RA) reported that she asked the Messenger of Allah (saw) about plagues and he said, ’It is a punishment that Allah sends upon whomever He wills, but Allah has made it mercy for the believers. Any servant who resides in a land afflicted by plague, remaining patient and hoping for a reward from Allah, knowing that nothing will befall him but what Allah has decreed, he will be given the reward of a martyr’. (Bukhari)

Faruqui continued, “From the hadith above, it is clear that it is not only those who die from the plague who will be given the reward of a martyr. You don’t even have to be infected by it. As long as you stay in the land (instead of fleeing the disease and carrying it elsewhere), remaining patient, hoping for Allah’s reward and trusting in Allah’s plan – you will get the reward of a martyr.

“Allah often tells us not to fear or be distressed in the Qur’an – because as long as we believe and perform good deeds, we will not lose anything. Even if we are isolated or fall victim to this pandemic, as long as we continue to believe and do good, we will not have lost anything. Rather, we will have gained Allah’s pleasure, reward and the incredibly high status of a martyr.”

Most Muslim clerics have directed Muslims across the country that this year’s Ramadan will be observed in line with Islamic principles and the directives of the Nigeria Centre of Disease Control (NCDC) on social distancing.

No congregational prayers, tafsir in the mosques

The Sultan of Sokoto and President General of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, had urged Muslims in the country to avoid congregational prayers during the coming Ramadan.

The Sultan, who spoke through the Secretary-General of JNI, Dr Khalid Abubakar-Aliyu, in Kaduna, also asked the faithful to pray at home and shun gatherings at mosques during the period.

He said “It should be made known that all Salawatun-nawafil (optional and non-obligatory prayers), including Taraweeh, are originally preferred to be observed at home, though it is Mustahabb (desirable) to observe it in the congregation.

“To sum it up, there will not be the annual Tafsir sessions and no congregational Taraweeh in Mosques until when the situation permits. We should, therefore, pray with our families at home and stay safe.

“This is a Ramadan with a difference, as most people will be under lockdown. Hence, they will certainly be in dire need of assistance because of the economic realities and the attendant suffocating inflationary trends.”

He enjoined Muslims to imbibe the spirit of giving during the holy month stating, “Our spirit of generosity should be fully activated in higher proportion to ameliorate the sufferings of the poor in our midst by providing them with food and other necessities.

“Despite the challenges of physical and social distancing, Tafsir and other religious teachings could continue using various information technology platforms, such as Facebook, Skype, YouTube, Zoom, to live-stream preaching sessions. Reliable information and communication technology professionals could be consulted for proper guidance.”

Earn more by giving charity

For a Muslim faithful Abdulahi Mohammed Muslims can earn more during this pandemic be giving more charity to the needy.

In a phone chat with Blueprint Weekend Mohammed said, “This is a special Ramadan and this is Ramadan as we used to know it. Though there is a reduction in physical contact because of the pandemic. But this period is an opportunity for Muslims to earn more blessing by doing all that we are directed to do by Allah.

“It is a known fact that President Muhammadu Buhari has lockdown Lagos, Ogun and FCT, Abuja for four weeks now. So there is hunger the land because many couldn’t go out and work to get money to feed their families. This is the time to be our brother’s keeper; Ramadan is the month of giving and sharing.

“So, for multiple rewards give whatever you can to those in need around you, feed people around you that you know are finding it difficult to feed because of the lockdown. COVID – 19 cannot and should not stop us from giving charity. In fact, if there are no needy people around you or for fear of the pandemic you cannot reach them, go online you will see many means of electronic money transfer or donation to feed the needy during this month and when you donate any amount you have, you will certainly get multiple rewards. This Ramadan is special because with COVID -19 one can earn through charity.”

Compliance made easier

Essentially, there are many dos and don’ts in Ramadan, which the lockdown might make it easier for faithful to obey. An Islamic scholar Ibrahim Abdulmalik said Muslims are advised to in Ramadan and after it practises patience and observes self-control as stated in Qur’an 2:183 when Allah said “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.”

 It is also advisable to spend more time in prayer and offer more Taraweeh: Qur’an 2:186 noted “And when My servants ask you, (O Muhammad), concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So, let them respond to Me (by obedience) and believe in Me that they may be (rightly) guided.”

Abdulmalik added that “In Ramadan, Muslims should recite the Qur’an daily because its Qur’an’s month and they will be rewarded. It is also important to remember the less privileged (pay Zakah). The companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him), Ibn Abbas, said, The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was the most generous of people, and he was at his most generous during the month of Ramadan because Angel Jibril used to meet him every night in the month of Ramadan until it ended. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, used to review the Qur’an with Jibril; and he was more generous with good than the blowing wind.”

He said Muslims should break their fast with something nutritious and ensure that they eat the pre-dawn meal (Sahoor): The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Have Sahoor for verily there is a blessing in it.”

On the don’ts, Abdulmalik said, “In Ramadan Muslims are enjoined to avoid drinking, smoking, and having sexual relations and to abstain from blood cupping, blood withdrawal, and using ear drops or inhalers while fasting.

“Do not listen to music rather occupy your heart with supplication, remembrance of Allah, and the Holy Qur’an. Avoid wasting your time. Abstain from idle talk, gossip, lying, quarrelling, cursing, and anything that can be hurtful to someone else. On this, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was reported to have said, ‘Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it, Allah has no need of him giving up his food and drink.”

Nothing has really changed

Similarly, Sadiq Abubakar pointed out that, “All the dos and don’ts in Ramadan will be more convenient for Muslims to obey because of the lockdown.

He said, “Muslims are expected to read the Quran more in Ramadan, so with lockdown, there is that ample time to read and even memorise the Quran. We are also enjoined to pray in congregation, so without disruption, we can also pray congregation with our family and even if we pray alone will get the reward of a congregational prayer because there is pandemic and we obey our leaders who asked us to stay at home so as not to spread.

“On the don’ts we are directed not to spend our time on unnecessary things, this will be easy to obey with Ramadan. We are also enjoined to listen to tafsir. With lockdown one can know to listen to more tafsir through the use of uncountable social media platforms and applications.

“To me, even in this pandemic, nothing has really changed about Ramadan. The dos and don’ts still stand. In fact, the lockdown is an opportunity for us all to be closer to Allah as expected in this month.

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