Let me first congratulate you for witnessing this year Ramadan. Many Muslims had loved to be alive today but they are not able to make it. Al-hamdulillāh. It however behoves us to recognise the fact that we are alive to render ‘Ibādāt to Allah during this blessed month and derive lots of its benefits, including abundant rewards and renewal of our eemaan.
Honestly, I did not intend to discuss this topic today. It was yesterday evening that the news reached me that Ramadan had commenced in Ibadan. I had to make contacts immediately for verification and I discovered that it was true that the Chief Imam of Ibadan land, who is also the Grand Patron of the League of the Imams and Alfas in the Southwest, Edo and Delta States (Robitat – ul – Aimmah wal ‘Ulama), Sheikh Abdul Ganniy Abubakry Agbotomokekere, declared on the 22 April 2020 as follows:
” This is to inform the entire Muslim Ummah of the commencement of Tarawi today Wednesday 22nd April 2020 equivalent to Shaban 29th 1441 and tomorrow Thursday 23rd of April 2020 will be the first day of Ramadan 1441.”
A closer look at the declaration does not reveal the basis of the Chief Imam’s announcement. It does not mention anything concerning the sighting of the new moon of Ramadan. It acknowledges the date of the day as the 29th Shaban.
In that case, Ramadan can only commence if the new moon is sighted in the evening of the day failing which, counting of Shaban has to be completed to 30 days. That was not the case. It was an arbitrary decision that lacks basis in the Shariah.
Expectedly, the action of the Imam was reported in the news media portraying crisis within the Muslims in Nigeria. For example, MuslimNews has this caption: Ibadan Council of Imams defies Sultan, observes Taraweeh, starts Ramadan on Thursday.
It will be recalled that the Sultan of Sokoto, who is also the President – General of the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) has earlier urged the Muslims in the country to look out for the new moon on Thursday for the fasting to commence on Friday if the new moon is sighted, failing which it would begin on Saturday.
Contrary to the instruction given by the Sultan, “the Robita, under the leadership of Mudir… Sheikh Muhammad Habeebullah Adam El-Ilory acted contrary to announce Saturday April 25, 2020, and Saturday May 23, 2020, as the beginning and end of Ramadan 1441 AH”, Muslim News reported this on 16th April, 2020 under the caption, Sheikh Habib-led Rabito ignores Sultan of Sokoto, announces dates for start, end of Ramadan
In a statement jointly signed by the Coordinators, Sheikh Habeebullah and his Assistant Coordinator, Sheikh Abdul Azeez Abdul Razaq, the Robita said the announced dates were based on findings of Islamic Sharia complemented with Astronomical Calculations.
It is pertinent to mention that the Muslim Community of Lagos State under its President, Professor Tajudeen Gbadamosi, appealed to all Muslims in the state to exercise restraint and patience and await the directives of the Sultan.
On Wednesday April 22, 2020, Sheikh Habeebullah reaffirmed his earlier submission. He wrote:
“Ramadan as scheduled to begin on Saturday the 25th of April, as announced by the League of Imams and Alfas of Yoruba land has not changed.”
Brothers and sisters in Islam, when will all Muslims in Nigeria unite and speak with one voice on issues affecting us, including the commencement and completion of Ramadan fast?
In 2011, the Jama’atu Izalatu Bid’ah Wa Iqamatil Sunnah under its leader Sheikh Sani Yahya Jingir disobeyed the Sultan by ordering its members to commence fasting of that year. Last week the same Izalah removed its Imam in Zaria for asking the congregants in his mosque to obey the government’s directives on social distancing and for directing them not to come to the mosque until after the COVID – 19 pandemic.
In 2017 the League of Imams declared May 27 as the first of Ramadan contrary to the pronouncement of the National Moonsighting Committee of the Nigerian Supreme Council.
In 2019, Sheikh Habeebullah did not follow the directives of the Sultan in marking the end of the Ramadan. He led thousands of Muslims in Eidul fitr prayers in Agege, Lagos state.
The actions of the Muslims in Nigeria, no doubt, portray them as a divided house without a leader. When will that stop? Why can’t we simply act on the directives of Allah in the Qur’an 4:59 which orders us Muslims to obey Allah, the Messenger and those charged with authority?
Why are we behaving contrary to Allah’s injunction and yet we claim to be Muslims reading the Qur’an, but refusing to understand and obey its messages?
Is the League of Imams and Alfas still intact? If yes, does it carry all its members along in making decisions? Does it hold meeting regularly to discuss matters affecting Muslims in general? Why should its Grand Patron, the Chief Imam of Ibadan land act contrary to its decision? And why is Robita always in confrontation with the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs? What is MUSWEN (Muslims of Western Nigeria) doing to stop this ugly situation?
The following Qur’anic verses should be allowed to have a great impact on our collectivity and unite all of us, Muslims as a single, united and formidable Ummah. They are: Q3:103; 21:93; 49:10. 6:159. & 30: 31-32.
The Prophet (SAW) says: The relationship of the believer with another believer is like ( the bricks of) a building, each strengthens the other. He (SAW) illustrated this by interlacing the fingers of both his hands. Al-Bukhārī & Muslim.
Don’t forget to derive lots of blessings from Allah this Ramadan. Show benevolence to the poor and the needy, and remember those people under you. Allow your neighbours to feel your positive impact this Ramadan.
Jumu’atun Mubārakah and Ramadan Kareem.
▪︎ Professor Yasir Anjola Quadri, a retired Prof of Islamic Studies, University of Ilorin. He writes from Ilorin, Kwara State.
1st of Ramadan, 1441AH / 24th April, 2020
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