By Rohey Jadama
As Muslims in the Gambia have observed the Eid ul Adha or ‘Tobaski’ prayers on two different days, namely Saturday and Sunday, amid reports that some could not pray on the day they had wished for due to state interference, this reporter was out and about to sound the opinion of the public on the issue.
Although the state did not make any announcement, as was done in the ‘Koriteh’ feast in late July, threatening to prosecute those who do their prayers on Sunday (5 October), many in the countryside are reported to have prayed on this day while some, especially those in the Greater Banjul Area, did not pray at all but had their rams slaughtered in observance of the feast. The Supreme Islamic Council with the support of the state wants uniformity in terms of observing the pray days such as “Koriteh” and “Tobaski” but which others regard as interference and an imposition against their beliefs.
Speaking to one Fatou Jarju, a woman in her late fifties, she contended that since time immemorial in The Gambia the Muslim feasts have not been observed on the same day everywhere. She said Muslims in the Gambia have mostly been praying a day after Mecca. She therefore questioned why it is being imposed now for everyone to pray on the same day with Mecca. She said people should be allowed freedom of worship as long as they are not contradicting the law.
Abdourahman Jallow, a middle aged man, said the State should not interfere in religion. He said it is now that there is a Council which attempts to impose on people to pray on the same day with Mecca, but added that this has never happened. “Is the Supreme Islamic Council under Mecca? Why shouldn’t they organize people in the Gambia to be sighting the moon rather than relying on the outside? They should be independent and do exactly as the religion states and that the moon has to be sighted at the first sighting first before one prays,” said Jallow.
“The Supreme Islamic Council is supposed to be an independent body that guides people through persuasion and not imposition. I do not understand why the state is insisting that all the Muslims in the country should pray on the same day. The state should not interfere in religion as it has other more pressing economic and social issues to intervene in than telling people when to pray and when not to,” said Sainabou Jallow, a housewife residing in Serekunda.
She called on the State to stop interfering in religious beliefs of people if these are not posing a threat to others in society.
She said that Muslims should pray based on seeing the moon, not the State or supreme Islamic council fixing a specific date ,Islam is not a religion of force and even the prophet never forced people so why should the council force the people when they are following the prophet’s path.
Binta Cham, a 25 year-old lady, said Muslims in the Gambia should be praying on the same day with Mecca since there is only a 3 hours difference between the two countries.
AOmar Joof, a sixty year-old man, said if the Supreme Islamic Council announces that Muslims in the country should all pray on a particular date, people should abide by it and leave them to be accountable for any sin that might have been committed in doing so. “The Council is there to guide Muslims to the true path but not mislead them,” remarked Joof.
Editor’s Note: It is a noble idea to promote the commemoration of any religious ceremony on the same day by all members of a particular religion. This, however, must not be an imposition from the state. It must be arrived at through discussion and persuasion by members of the religion themselves.