Following the outbreak of Coronavirus and the consequential ban placed on religious and other public gatherings by the Nigerian government, religious organisations have sought solace in digital technology as a potent tool in reaching out to members of their congregations across the country.
The approach, which is seen as the best alternative in the face of the ban, is coming after several States in Nigeria, including Lagos and Ogun, banned religious gatherings of more than 50 persons.
Latest reports indicate that the ban has been reduced to 20 persons with adequate precautions which must be followed by the religious bodies as the Coronavirus cases have risen to 25 as at the time of filling this report on Sunday, March 22.
Muslim News had earlier reported that many Islamic organisations immediately announced the suspension of their activities while central mosques in Lagos suspended the Juma’ah prayers on Friday, in adherence to the government directive.
Our correspondents observed that only few out of the countless Islamic organisations in Nigeria took the opportunity presented by the advent of Information and Telecommunications Technology especially the internet and social media outfits such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram in making up for the vacuum created by the suspension of physical religious activities.
Muslim News reliably gathered that the trend is in practice in the US, UK, Singapore and other parts of the world where the stay at home order was pronounced, adding that such important and impactful religious activities like soul inspiring lectures, Islamic jurisprudential discussions should continue albeit online.
Several Muslim homes in Asian and Western countries take religious instructions from their local Muslim scholars using their internet enabled phones and laptop computers after their mosques and religious activities were suspended.
In Nigeria, while Muslims shutdown their mosques and religious activities without providing alternative, prominent pastors conducted their Church services of today, Sunday, online and on television, with thousands of their followers monitoring from their respective homes.
Palitomedia reports that “Many of the big churches have been transmitting their services online, on their television and radio stations for a long time but these platforms will now replace the physical gatherings at their various auditoriums.
The Churches wrote memos, asking members of the church to stay at home and join the Sunday service through their YouTube channels; online radio and other social media platforms.
“Unfortunately, many organisations aren’t internet friendly. Before the Coronavirus, only a few organisations had active social media handles. Many big mosques don’t have even YouTube channels, where their programmes can be viewed virtually by members’, Habeeb AbdurRahman told Muslim News.
Another social media user, Lanre Mashood said Nigerian Muslims haven’t been investing in the media, adding that, “We don’t have media of our own, no television or radio stations.
“We don’t even have Muslim owned newspapers except Muslim News Nigeria. Our social media engagement before the Coronavirus pandemic was poor, so we should not expect more now because what you don’t have, you can’t give.”
Findings by Muslim News however showed that some prominent Islamic scholars such as the former Commissioner of Home Affairs in Lagos State, Hon Abdul Hakeem AbdulLateef, and the current Minister of Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Pantami have active presence on social media before the Coronavirus pandemic where they reach out to their esteemed followers.
On Sunday, the Minister, a reputable Islamic Scholar announced that his Ta’aleem of Shamaa’ilun Nabiy (SAW) at An Noor mosque, Abuja will henceforth be conducted online.
In a press statement he personally signed on Sunday, the reputable Islamic scholar said the Tafsir session wiill be put on hold till further notice in shaa Allah, adding that;
“Some lessons will be presented live on Facebook during same time, around 7:10pm every Sunday. Praise be to Allah for providing digital technology for humanity.”
One of the leading faith-based organisations, NASFAT, had earlier complied with the ban by suspending major activities including its 25th Anniversary programmes, noting;
“However, programmes such as daily ePoster, MyNASFAT Story, Essay Competition and NASFATBUILD will continue as scheduled via the society’s online platforms.”
While commending Islamic organisations that have been taking advantage of the ICT revolution in expanding the frontiers of their religious activities, activists also urged that there is the need to step up especially at this trying time; while urging those who are yet to exploit the opportunity to do so.
Abdul Waasi Fasanya, said, Muslim organisations need to reach out to their members while observing the social distancing policy to contain the spread of Coronavirus.
He said there are options of running their regular programmes via the internet through the social media networks, website, online radios, etc.
According to him, the easiest which can be easily accessible to their audience and members are the social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, amongst others. Organisations can run audio or video lectures, recorded or live.
“What’s majorly required is their smart mobile devices with a good internet facility. The internet data has to be strong to avoid intermittent buffering and disconnections while live streaming.
“Anywhere can be the location, provided the camera is good enough to take clear video shots. Zooming has to be avoided as much as possible to avoid the video pixelating (loosing quality). Any background is fine, though a well lightened room – either natural or artificial lightening, will be okay.
“If available, a tripod or monopod to hold the device will give a level-balance recording. If not available, there can always be means to improvise; which may warrant using the front camera of the device. Also, we can make provision for a quality recording lapel microphone which will enhance the voice output and remove surrounding noise from the recording.”
By Rasheed Abubakar and Abdullahi Abdulganiy
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