Northern Nigerian Breaking News

Ulama: Confronting Or Compound The Corona Crisis


By Bala Ibrahim

By definition, the Ulama, are the educated class of Muslim legal scholars, who occupy themselves with studies in different fields of Islamic knowledge. As Islamic lawyers, the Ulama are known to be well versed in fiqh, or the philosophy of Islamic law, in accordance with the teachings of the Quran and the traditions of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, PBUH.

Some Ulama also widens their scope into other areas of specialization like hadith or Tafseer. Hadith refers to the collection of traditions regarding the sayings and actions of the prophet, while Tafseer is the interpretation of the Holy Quran.

The Ulama are therefore the compass or pointer that should show the direction to the Muslims, especially in times of crisis.

Since the coming of the coronavirus, the actions of the Ulama, particularly in northern Nigeria, have gotten the public more bewildered than united, as to the right direction to follow in fighting the pandemic.

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While some are saying, Islam has set out guidelines on epidemics, that date back to the time of the Prophet, and these guidelines can help in the present fight against the Covid-19, others are giving conflicting and confusing commands or interpretations of the guidelines. Some are even preaching against accepting the existence of such guidelines.

Depending on who you listen to, people are pushed to either puzzled or perplexed positions, with little certainty on the right practice to adopt. Some would say on many occasions, Prophet Muhammad advised his companions to value their lives with utmost importance over death, urging people to stay away from places where there were epidemics. “When you hear that a plague is in a land, do not go to it, and if it occurs in a land that you are already in, then do not leave it.”- the Prophet said.

These Ulama would say, what the prophet said, tallies exactly with the principle of modern quarantine, and that which is currently practised regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.

They advocate, support and uphold the practice of self-isolation and the policy of social distancing.

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Scholars with this mindset, give motivation to people to stay put in their homes and protect themselves from the deadly virus, because the most important aspect of the disease is the element of human contact, which should be minimized to the lowest possible level, in order to eliminate the deadly effect of the virus.

For them, prayers in congregation is discouraged, during the period of a pandemic.

Paradoxically, another group of Ulama exists, which is vehemently against those that chose to key into the above doctrines, saying the idea of social distancing is aimed at corrupting and ultimately banning the practice of prayers, as enshrined in the Quran.

These groups of Ulama, are behind the incessant public defiance regarding congregations, and sometimes inciting unlawful behaviour towards agencies assigned the responsibility of enforcing the lockdown.

The result is the daily increase in the rate of infections and deaths.

Kano, Nigeria’s oldest commercial centre and the country’s largest state is now fast moving into the position of the epicentre of the pandemic, with devastating consequences to the neighbouring states.

In the last one week, states like Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe and even Borno, have been recording a serious surge in infections, mostly attributed to the belligerent behaviour to the set-out protocols.

Although speculations were peddled about some mystery behind the spike in the number of deaths in Kano city, which is still being studied, the cases of the neighbouring states are clearly related to Covid-19, occasioned by the disobedient attitudes of the followers of these rebellious Ulama.

A visit to the website of the NCDC shows that the disease is penetrating exponentially in the north, particularly in areas where public defiance is promoted by religious leaders that are expected to guide aright. The highlights today reads:

  • 3912 cases have been confirmed, 679 cases have been discharged and 117 deaths have been recorded in 34 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
  • 386 new cases are reported from 20 states- Lagos (176), Kano(65), Katsina (31), FCT(20), Borno(17), Bauchi(15), Nasarawa (14), Ogun(13), Plateau(10), Oyo(4), Sokoto(4), Rivers(4), Kaduna(3), Edo(2), Ebonyi(2), Ondo(2), Enugu(1), Imo(1), Gombe(1), Osun(1)

From the above, one can see the speed with which the north is being infested by the disease, as Kano races towards taking the lead in national infections.

Kano recorded its first case on April 11, but before the end of the month, the state had recorded more than 100 cases, as people go about attending wedding ceremonies and congregational prayers, in defiance of the social distancing protocol, due to poor preaching.

Belatedly, as part of efforts to limit the spread of the virus, Governor Ganduje, ordered a week complete lockdown of the state, which was followed later by a federal directive on same, but still, some people are not obeying the orders properly, hanging on the advice of some Ulama, who continue to lead congregational prayers, where they preach at variance with the position of other Ulama.

I am not learned enough to take up those Ulama at the extreme side of the fence, but looking at the Arabic meaning of the word Islam, which originated from sal’m another word for peace, alongside the spiral effects of the admonition of those against the Covid-19 protocols, which is resulting in more deaths daily, I think if the Ulama cannot be part of the solution, they mustn’t be part of the problem. Being bizarre in behaviour would only compound the crisis. More so, religion encourages the faithful to be faithful to the law and lawful leaders.

If the procedure for prayers in sacred places like the Ka’aba and the Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Mecca and Medina respectively, considered the holiest shrines in Islam, can be moderated, I see no reason why we can not accept similar moderations in our own places of worship at home.

As mentioned by PMB and other leaders, we are in a warlike situation, with an unseen enemy. Unless the people are united, they will be defeated. The ulama should please embrace the motto of, United we stand.

Bala Ibrahim, a Media Advisor writes from Kano

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