I greet you in the name of Islam, Salam Alaikum!
We give thanks and praise to the Almighty for guiding us through the month of Ramadan. I send hearty congratulations to the Muslim Ummah in Ghana and around the world for a successful completion of the fast of Ramadan, even under the very difficult and trying circumstances occasioned by the Coronavirus pandemic, which has, inter alia, curtailed the conventional celebration of the Eid at Black Star Square. However, I commend the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation for stepping up to the plate, and making it possible, through virtual means, to celebrate this year’s Eid, just as it did in facilitating the virtual celebration of this year’s May Day. These are the proper uses of a public broadcasting network.
This year’s Ramadan fast will remain unique in Islamic history as one that was observed without the usual activities and buzz that come with the Ramadan fast. Muslims have had to fast without the traditional iftar, tafsir, tarawih and tahajjud prayers. I know that, for many of you, this has been a very difficult sacrifice to make, since these activities, in the consciousness of all Muslims, cloak the month of Ramadan in sanctity and holiness. And, so, I salute you for these sacrifices that you have made for our collective good. More importantly, you have made these sacrifices, specifically, to save human lives. Indeed, the Qur’an states that, and I quote, “…if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the whole of humanity…” (Q:5: 32). Your adherence to the safety protocols that government put in place to fight the virus has, therefore, saved many lives, for which we are all grateful.
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I applaud the leadership of the Muslim Ummah – the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Dr Osman Nuhu Sharubutu; the Ameer of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, Maulvi Mohammed Bin Salih; the Imam of the Ahl-Sunna, Al-Hajj Ibrahim Umar; the Qaid of the Shia Community, Shaykh Kamaldeen Abubakar; the Khalifa of the Tijaniyya Muslim Council, Sheikh Abul Faidi Ahmed Maikano; and the Imam of the Ghana Muslim Mission, Shaykh Amin Bonsu, for their high sense of patriotism and commitment to Ghana, and to the wellbeing of the Muslim faithful. I am equally indebted to the National Council of Zongo Chiefs, who have worked tirelessly, and continue to work, to ensure that safety protocols are adhered to in the various Zongo communities. Insha Allah, your names will be printed in indelible ink when we come to write the history of our fight and ultimate defeat of COVID-19.
Vice President, National Chief Imam, Ulama, Jama! Government continues to commit itself to creating a society of opportunities for all, irrespective of social circumstance, place of abode or religious creed. The Zongo Development Fund, under the direction of the energetic Minister for Inner City and Zongo Development, Dr. Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, is pursuing an aggressive development agenda, as set out in Government’s Economic and Social Development Agenda. From Togorme Zongo in the Volta Region, through Dambai Zongo in the Oti Region, to Tumu Zongo in the Upper West Region, down to Axim Zongo in the Western Region, various development projects are springing up to address the development deficits of Zongo communities. When I addressed Muslim faithful on the occasion of Eid ul-Fitr last year, on 5th June 2019, I made clear that the Zongo development agenda is a challenge that appears huge. Indeed, it is no mean challenge, taking on the task of transforming the lives of over five million Ghanaians scattered in more than three thousand (3,000) communities across the country.
But, if we are to create a society of inclusion and not of exclusion, then it is a challenge that we must take on, and overcome. Ulama, Jama! The task is big, but bigger still is our determination to bring prosperity to all our people. Whilst Government does its part to ensure the development of human capital in Zongo communities, I urge you to ponder on the first set of verses of the Qur’an to be revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Allayhi Wa’Salam, and I quote: “Read! In the name of your Lord who created…who taught man by the pen. Taught man what he did not know” (Q: 96:1-5).
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If the first commandment to the Prophet, from Allah, was to “Read,” then Islam is meant to be a religion of knowledge. I, thus, continue to admonish you to take your children to school. Let us take advantage of the Free Senior High School programme and the educational interventions that the Ministry of Inner City and Zongo Development is making in Zongo communities, to educate our children, both male and female, and ensure that, within this generation, we can eradicate poverty, illiteracy and disease from our country.
Ghana continues to be the envy of the world, because of the religious harmony that we foster among adherents of different faiths. I urge you to continue to promote religious harmony and peaceful co-existence. It is the essence of Islam, which means peace and submission to the will of Allah.
I am very hopeful that, next year, Muslims in the country will congregate as they have done over the years, and celebrate Eid ul-Fitr fully and without any restrictions. We will go back, in joy, to Black Star Square. But, until then, it is vital that we continue to maintain the measures of enhanced hygiene and social distancing protocols to contain the spread of the virus, as they are the surest way to a quick return to a life of normalcy. Stakeholder consultations are taking place on the way forward towards the easing of restrictions, so that our social and economic lives can go back to normal. I expect these consultations to conclude this week, so that I can announce to Ghanaians a clear roadmap for easing the restrictions. We have to find a way back, but in safety, for we cannot be under these restrictions forever.
I am fortified in this view by three (3) considerations.
Firstly, sad though any premature death is, the hard fact is that the rate of deaths in Ghana amongst confirmed cases is very low – one per one million, i.e. 0.0001%, one of the lowest in Africa, and, indeed, in the world, this, despite the very high number of tests we are carrying out. This has been so since the very beginning of the outbreak over two (2) months ago. The number of positive cases stands at six thousand, six hundred and eighty-three (6,683), out of one hundred and ninety-four thousand, seven hundred and sixty-three (194,763) tests conducted, with one thousand, nine hundred and ninety-eight (1,998) recoveries. This means that our positivity rate, that is the ratio of confirmed cases to the total number of tests conducted, is 3.43%, which, again, is one of the lowest in Africa, and in the world. Furthermore, virtually all the thirty-two (32) corona-related deaths, that have so far been recorded, were of persons with, what the doctors call, comorbidity, i.e. with other underlying causes and diseases. Most of them died within twenty-four (24) hours of admission to hospital. May their souls rest in peace. It appears that, by the grace of God, Ghanaians are not dying of this virus in the numbers that were originally anticipated and feared.
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Secondly, the numbers of severe virus cases that have been hospitalised have been persistently low since the outbreak. The fear that our hospitals would be overburdened, and, indeed, overwhelmed has, so far, again by the grace of God, not materialised. As we speak, there are sixteen (16) severe cases in six (6) hospitals across the country, none of them on a ventilator. We pray for their speedy recovery.
Thirdly, we now have a more robust mechanism for enforcing our central strategy of defeating the virus – the application of the 3Ts, tracing, testing and treating. The tracing teams are more experienced and more efficient; testing capabilities are no longer concentrated in Accra and Kumasi, but spread more evenly across the country in Ho, Tamale, Navrongo, Takoradi and Cape Coast; treating capacity has been considerably enhanced with isolation facilities better distributed across the nation.
These developments, and continuing strong adherence to the social distancing and hygiene protocols, including wearing masks and strengthening our immune systems by eating our own foods, will enable us to face the future with greater confidence, as we battle to defeat the virus, and pray for our healthcare workers. And, it is appropriate that we should end this unique Ramadan with this declaration of confidence in the future, because, as I have said, this too shall pass! For the Battle is the Lord’s!!
I wish all Muslims and Ghanaians a happy Eid ul-Fitr, even if a restrained one. Hopefully, the Almighty has listened to the cry of the faithful, through His Mercy, with which he envelopes the month of Ramadan.
May God bless us all, and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.
Eid Mubarak! Barika da Salah! Salam Alaikum!