He said religion was a double-edged sword that could be invoked for destructive purposes and, therefore, urged Muslims to continue to hold hands in brotherhood and unity, since that was the essence of Islam.
“Whether you are Ahl-Sunna, Tijaniyya, Shia or Ahmadiyya, I remind you of the words of Allah, as captured in Quran Chapter 3:103: ‘And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah stretches out to you, and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah’s favour on you; for you were enemies and he joined your hearts in love, so that by his grace you became brethren…’,” he said.
President Nana Akufo-Addo gave the advice when he joined hundreds of Muslims to celebrate the Eid-ul-Fitr at the Independence Square in Accra yesterday.
In attendance were the Vice-President, Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, and some government functionaries.
Eid-ul-Fitr (Feast of Breaking of the Fast) is an important religious festival celebrated by Muslims worldwide to mark the end of Ramadan, the Islamic Holy month of fasting (‘sawm’).
The religious Eid is the first and only day in the month of Shawwal during which Muslims are not permitted to fast. The festival celebrates the conclusion of the 29 or 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting during the entire month of Ramadan.
The day of Eid, therefore, falls on the first day of the month of Shawwal. The date for the start of any lunar ‘Hijri’ month varies based on the observation of a new moon by local religious authorities, so the exact day of celebration varies by locality.
Many Muslims attend communal prayers, listen to ‘khutba’ (sermon) and give ‘zakat al-fitr’ (charity in the form of food) during the spiritual exercise.
Describing Ghana as a nation where people of different faiths lived together in peace and harmony, the President urged Ghanaians to cherish that long-standing bond existing among them and use it as a basis for advancing the cause of the country.
“I continue to commit myself to the principles of our Constitution, which enjoins on me fairness towards all Ghanaians, irrespective of their religious creed. As a Christian, I am deeply respectful of the Islamic faith, which, together with Christianity and Judaism, are called the Abrahamic faiths. We must, therefore, emphasise the things that bind us, rather than the ones that divide us,” he added.
On the development of zongos and inner cities, President Akufo-Addo said the Minister of Inner City and Zongo Development, Alhaji Abu-Bakr Saddique Boniface, had embarked on a nationwide consultative tour to collate ideas on zongo and inner city development being initiated by the government.
He advised zongo and inner city residents to actively participate in the ongoing national consultative forum for the government to come up with a blueprint that would be acceptable and practicable for their benefit.
The President stated that the 2017 budget set aside GH¢219 million as seed money for the fund and that the government was in the process of fashioning the Zongo Development Fund Law which would trigger the use of the money for the development of zongo communities.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP), in its campaign ahead of the 2016 elections, promised to establish a ministry and a fund to help deal with the infrastructural and economic challenges facing zongo communities in Ghana.
“It is time we brought prosperity to all parts of our country and I am confident that this year the Hajj will be well organised and go without a hitch,” he declared.
Tribute to Chief Imam
He paid glowing tribute to the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Usman Nuhu Sharubutu, describing him as the true icon of a generation whose actions bore accurate testimony to the principles inspired by the founding fathers of the nation who taught that in spite of “our differences, we are one people with a common destiny”.
“You epitomise the Islamic principle of peace. You live the Qur’anic statement that those who are nearer to Muslims in brotherhood are Christians,” the President said of Sheikh Sharubutu.
“Your attitude has helped to ensure the highest level of religious tolerance in the country and we ask for good health and long life for you and for Ghanaians to continue to benefit from your wisdom,” he said.
The Muslim woman
President Akufo-Addo told the gathering that before the advent of Islam, women were treated as second grade citizens, noting that the Prophet Mohammed restored the dignity of women and that it was not for nothing that He “urges us to learn half of our religion from Aisha, a woman”.
As the African Union Spokesperson on Gender and Development, and as person fully committed to gender equality, President Akufo-Addo noted that one of the cardinal teachings of the Prophet Mohammed was gender justice.
The President likened the prophetic admonition to that of Dr Kwegyir Aggrey, who declared: “If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate an entire nation.”
While urging Muslims to celebrate the Eid in moderation, he equally entreated them to continue to uphold the principles of tolerance, devotion and discipline after the event for the greater good of the nation.
Earlier, the National Chief Imam, who had led the Muslim prayers, in his sermon, had said Ramadan was a time to forgive one another.
He commended the government for setting up a Hajj Board in good time and expressed optimism that this year’s Hajj would be successful.