CAIRO – A Saudi decision to ban pilgrims from Ebola-hit West African countries has been cautiously welcomed by Nigerian Muslim scholars who hoped that the discovery of one infection for a patient during his business trip to Sierra Leone would not affect Nigerian pilgrims.
“As at now, only the National Hajj Commission, NAHCO, could give a position on the matter regarding the fate of the affected countries,” Sheikh Hafiz Abou, Baba Adinni of Lagos, told Vanguard newspaper.
Sheikh Abou said that since the Ebola case was not from Nigeria, there was hope that Nigeria’s case in the matter would be explicitly identified as not being part of the problem.
He also welcomed Saudi decision as pertaining to Islamic Shari`ah.
“When a plague had broken out in an area, why should people move from that area to another place where hundreds of millions of people are congregating from all over the world to worship?” he said.
“Even Islam teaches us that when things like this happen, that our movements should be restricted. That is the Shari`ah and all these are for our good health as stipulated by Islam. When the few that are affected now take their problem to inflict the millions of others that are free of it, does it do any good? It is un-Islamic to do that.”
Earlier in August, Saudi Arabia announced a ban on Muslims from the West African countries that have been stricken with Ebola from performing Hajj this year over infection fears.
Saudi heath ministry has supplied all its ports and airports with additional measures to secure a safe spiritual journey.
The outbreak has led to some restrictions on flights and trade in the region but international mining firms operating in the three countries say operations have not yet been affected.
United Arab Emirates was among the countries that halted flights to the effected African countries.
The contagious disease, which has no known cure, has initial symptoms that include headaches, muscle pain, conjunctivitis and weakness, before moving into more severe phases of causing vomiting, diarrhea and internal and external bleeding.
The fatality rate of the current outbreak is around 60% although Ebola can kill up to 90% of those who catch it.
Commenting on the Saudi ban, the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II said “in spite of the spread of the virus, Nigerian Muslims are still going to perform this year’s hajj.”
Professor Akintola described the report of the ban as an unverified information that only the National Hajj Commission could clarify.
“The National Hajj Commission are better placed to know exactly what is happening. They are closer to Saudi Arabia authorities and I believe that they are very active on this,” he said.
“So, we are watching the situation, we are observing It will be speculative when comments are based on what is likely going to happen. Fairness and justice are not done to any side.”
Sheikh Abou, Baba Adinni of Lagos, urged media to be cautious when reporting on the issue to avoid raising unnecessary controversy.
“Our appeal to the media is to be cautious about reportage of this matter because Saudi Arabia is a straightforward, strict and disciplined society,” he said.
“But we cannot blame them because this is not the first time it is happening. It is, therefore, not a problem at all. It is even Islamic that they are taking that precautionary measure,” Sheikh Abou added.
Muslims from around the world pour into Makkah every year to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.
Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.