Dr. Abdul Hafiz Walusumbi, the head of Sharia Department and Chairman of the Shura (consultative) Council at Islamic University in Uganda, says that while some of the rituals are key to the Islamic faith and may not be suspended completely, adhering to the professional health guidelines and authority is a religious duty of all believers.
clerics have explained how the faithful can safely perform several religious
rituals without exposing themselves to COVID-19 infection. This comes at a time
when many Muslims are wondering how they can perform prayers, burial and
circumcision rituals among others without compromising their safety.
Some of the Muslims have given up on some
rituals while have insisted on performing them in disregard of the COVID-19
preventive measures. Dr. Abdul
Hafiz Walusumbi, the head of Sharia Department and Chairman of the Shura
(consultative) Council at Islamic University in Uganda, says that while some of
the rituals are key to the Islamic faith and may not be suspended completely, adhering
to the professional health guidelines and authority is a religious duty of all
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Quoting scriptures and interpretations by various top Muslim scholars, Dr.
Walusumbi says provided that something doesn’t change core Islamic principles,
it can be subject to modification depending on the situation. Despite this explanation, some Muslim faithfuls
and selected clerics insist on operating normally. For instance, many Muslims
are still congregating in mosques.
Hamza Mutyaba is part of the group of
Muslims congregating on the veranda at the mosque near the Kawaala-Nabweru
intersection. According to
Mutyaba, as a male he is obliged to perform his prayers in a congregation. “On
top of being an obligation, Allah rewards anyone who congregates for prayers in
a mosque 27 times compared to one doing it at home. Even each step one takes to
the Mosque for prayers is rewarded. We can’t miss out on the rewards since we
don’t know when our time of death will come,” says Mutyaba.
Imam Ahmad Kyeyune, another Muslim cleric doesn’t dismiss the tradition quoted
by Mutyaba. He however notes that it is taken out of context and inapplicable in
such times. He instead says that are many other traditions that guide
faithfuls on what to do during pandemics, which are mandatory for every Muslim
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Ssali, the Secretary for Dawa at Uganda Muslim Supreme Council-UMSC and Deputy
Imam of Gaddafi National Mosque, says that the scripture has clearly prescribed
what should and shouldn’t be done during the times of epidemics such as COVID-19.
According to Sheikh Ssali, whoever contracts COVID-19 in congregational prayers
and dies, is likened to someone who has committed suicide.
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Another contentious issue has been the conduct of burials during the pandemic. Islam
requires that the bodies are washed, shrouded in pieces of cloth before the
last funeral prayers are held for the deceased.
rituals are primarily carried out by family members, close relatives or
religious leaders. Dr. Walusumbi says that if health workers prove that the
deceased’s body is contiguous, Islam permits those involved to limit contact by
wearing protective gear or performing dry ablution.
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there is still confusion as to how the bodies of COVID-19 victims should be
buried, many Muslims still insist on burying their dead in disregard of the
preventive measures. Imam Kyeyune notes
that amidst the confusion, they have advised Muslims to suspend the traditional practice of washing bodies as it is conducted in normal times.
Sheikh Ssali notes that to rule out this confusion, UMSC is arranging a special
meeting with Ministry of Health officials to discuss whether the bodies can be
handled normally or not. He says that they will communicate to Muslims after
the meeting if there is need to take extra precautions.
also says that they will ask the Ministry of Health to train sheikhs on how to
handle the bodies if need be. Besides purification, Islam teachings also
encourage at least 40 people to perform funeral prayers for the deceased.
However, this is twice the number set by the government to contain the spread
of the pandemic.
Dr. Walusimbi says those who wish to pray for the deceased can
do so wherever they are.
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also, advise that non obligatory rituals also known as Sunnah that require interaction
or physical contact are suspended. For instance, Sheik Ssali points out Aqiqah,
which requires the sacrifice of an animal for childbirth, saying this can wait
until the situation normalizes.
Dr. Walusimbi says that in the case of Aqiqah,
the parents can slaughter the animal in this case a goat for a girl child and
two goats for a male child and share the meat with their immediate neighbours
Sheikh Ssali says UMSC has noted with concern that several sheikhs are
misleading Muslims to act contrary to the COVID-19 preventive guidelines.
According to him, some are doing it out because of misinterpreting scripture
and need guidance while others are doing it for personal interests.
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He adds that UMSC has launched a Programme of sensitising Muslims on how to do
different things and avoid being misled.