Coronavirus: Muslims React Over Museveni’s Ban On Congregational Prayers

By Esther Muwonge

One of the orders that government issued during President Yoweri Museveni’s address to the nation on Wednesday was a ban of religious congregations.

The president, who also announced the closure of all educational institutions; sports activities, added that there was a need to deal with religious gatherings in churches, mosques and open-air prayers.

He said that health must be a priority in any activity because it was ‘better to be a coward’ on the side of caution.

“If there is no danger after one month that will be good. If there was danger; we would have avoided it.

“The prayers will continue but in homes. The religious leaders can use the TVs, Radios stations to continue preaching,” preached Museveni.

However, Museveni’s directive has since received mixed reactions, particularly from the Muslim faithful as some urging that it has no basis in the Quran or Oral teachings –Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh.)

“Islam is based on evidence and tradition, without it; you will struggle to convince me to do anything. I can understand where the president is coming from but I don’t think I will respect his directive,” said Mustapha Muyingo –an Imam at a mosque in Wakiso. He added that at their mosque, they had resolved to disregard the presidential directives to cease holding congregational prayers.

Another Imam at a mosque in Kawempe who preferred anonymity wondered why the government was going into ‘an overdrive’ to announce sweeping measures even before a single coronavirus case had been confirmed in Uganda.

“Many of the things that they say help in limiting the spread of the virus are the very ones we have been doing, like washing hands, regularly. Then why are they closing our mosques,?” wondered the mullah.

But Siraje Kifampa Nsambu – the former spokesperson of the Nakasero headquartered Tabliq Sect, the ban has no conflict with Islamic teachings although, according to him, it was imposed rather hastily.

‘If you ask me, whether it’s anchored in the Sunnah and the Quran, I will say yes. However, I will add that it has come rather too fast. I don’t think the virus is yet such a big threat to us to resort to such measures,” reasoned Nsambu.

However other renowned Muslim scholars concur with the government on the need to protect people. “Allah says in the Quran 2:195 that do not cause harm to yourself, therefore, if there is a disease that is not only dangerous to yourself but to others, why do you put yourself in danger,?” reasoned Sheikh Salim Bbosa – a preacher at different mosques in Kampala.  

He added that Muslims should be even the first to embrace government’s directions because their religion has similar precedents in the past.

“There is evidence to show that the Prophet at one time ordered people to pray from their homes.  By the way, even for small things like rain, people are free to pray from home. What about the very contagious disease,” said Bbosa.

His stance is supported by Imam Ahmad Kyeyune, another popular preacher in Kampala, who noted that Allah doesn’t forgive a person who brings harm to themselves willingly.

“There is a hadith of the prophet that prohibits us from doing things that can bring harm not only to others but also to ourselves. That’s why in the Arab world the mosques were closed long time ago because of this virus,” said Kyeyune, adding that anyone accusing the government of implementing orders rather too fast before any case is reported, could have forgotten that prevention was better than cure.

“In any case, this virus is causing havoc in countries that are far much better than us in healthcare. Maybe even the virus is already here only that we are not doing the necessary tests like it is done in those first world countries,” said Kyeyune. He, however, noted that the mosques should remain open although without congregational prayers.

“The adhan [call for prayers] should remain to let people know that it’s time. Even mosques should be open so that people go and pray individually,” the Sheikh advised.

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