Thousands of Muslims yesterday converged for prayers to mark Idd-ul-Adha celebrations amid controversy over the propriety and legality of prayers called by the Chief Kadhi this morning.
Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho joined worshippers at Umul Kulthum Mosque in Mombasa, and urged them to foster peace and unity.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala worshiped at Sheikh Zayed Children’s Welfare Centre, also in Mombasa.
Prayers were also held in Malindi, Hola and Lamu, which have large Muslim populations amid growing calls for authorities to create institutions to solve annual controversies over important religious festivals like moon sighting and now Idd-ul-Adha.
The celebrations were, however, dampened in some places by the ban on meat consumption, imposed by medical authorities, to stem disease spread following an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever.
In Hola, 10 mosques did not hold prayers, saying they will stand guided by the judgement of the Chief Kadhi who has called for prayers today.
Ten mosques in Tana River County did not participate in the celebrations yesterday after several Imams boycotted prayer grounds, arguing the festival will be not be held.
Worshippers were turned away after several prayer grounds were deserted following threats by opposing groups to disrupt any gathering.
Imam for Abubakar Mosque in Laza town, Abdalla Pama, said they would lead the worshippers in celebrations today.
“We have decided not to conflict the teachings of the Quran but follow the right way and ours will be held tomorrow ( today), “ said Mr Pama.
At Kalkacha village where the occasion was celebrated, Turkana West Sub-County Commissioner Mohammed Dara appealed to the religious leaders to ensure they consult each during such celebrations in order not to confuse there followers.
“Most of us are semi-illiterate and they don’t know who to follow because of minor differences between religious leaders. I wonder why Imams cannot settle down for talks on the citing of the moon,” said Mr Dara.
Some Muslims led by Majority leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale criticised Chief Kadhi Shariff Ahmed al-Muhdhar for proclaiming today as the day to mark Idd-ul-Hajj while Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i had gazetted the holiday for yesterday. Al-Muhdhar warned that Matiang’i’s proclamation contradicts islamic teachings and the Quran.
Speaking after he joined thousands of Muslim faithful in Garissa town, Mr Duale said the Chief Kadhi was creating confusion on the day the fete should be held.
Addressing the Press at General Mohamud Idd grounds, Duale took a swipe at the Khadhi for allegedly dividing the Muslim community by pronouncing that Idd-ul-Adha be celebrated today.
“Idd-ul-Adha is anchored in the Hajj pilgrimage. In the five days of Hajj, one of the most important days is when the pilgrims are atop Mount Arafat. And the second day is when Idd-ul-Adha is celebrated. The Chief Khadhi should tell us where his mount Arafat is other than the one outside the Holy City of Mecca,” he said.
Speaking at the Sir Ali Muslim Club, Nairobi, yesterday, Ramadhan Mwangi, Imam at Ngara Mosque, urged Muslims to rely on the Holy teachings and the scripture.
“We are essentially meant to follow our leader but not when he has crossed the boundaries and gone against God’s teaching,” said Mwangi.
The Imam also requested the Judiciary to take action against the Chief Kadhi for misleading Muslims.
In Mombasa, prayers were also held at Tononoka Grounds, Likoni and Kisauni.
This morning, the Chief Kadhi will lead prayers at Ronald Ngala Grounds in Mombasa where thousands are also expected.
Some leaders critical of the Chief Kadhi claimed the controversy over religious matters in Kenya will end with the creation of the Office of the Grand Mufti as the final authority on Muslim affairs, doctrine and law.
Some claimed the office of the Chief Kadhi does not serve this purpose, but others absolved him from any blame over yesterday’s controversy.
A Mufti is an Islamic scholar who interprets and expounds Islamic law (Sharia and fiqh).
Muftis are jurists qualified to give authoritative legal opinions known as fatwas. Historically, they were members of the Ulama ranking above Kadhis.
According to Balala, Muslims in Kenya do not always speak in one voice when it comes to when Ramadhan and Idd should start.
Sheikh Juma Ngao of the Kenya Muslim Advisory Council, said the Muslim community needs to speak in one voice and the Mufti will be the only link.
At the Tononoka Sports Grounds, former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar said it was unfair for Muslim leaders to disagree over key Islamic celebrations.
Organising Secretary of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK), Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa, urged Muslims to be tolerant and embrace each other.