A South African Muslim cleric, who recently returned from India after attending the Nizamuddin congregation, has died after contracting the novel coronavirus, according to his family members. Moulana Yusuf Tootla, 80, attended the March 1-15 Tablighi Jamaat congregation in the Nizmuddin area, that has emerged as the epicentre for the spread of the coronavirus in different parts of India and abroad after thousands of people took part in it.
Tootla, who died on Tuesday, was buried after his body was collected in a bag by the Islamic Burial Council (IBC).
The Nizamuddin area is famed for the shrine of the 14h century Sufi mystic Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya.
Indian authorities have launched a nationwide search for participants of the huge religious gathering amid fears that thousands present there could have carried the infection to the length and breadth of the country.
Various nationals, particularly from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Kyrgyzstan come for Tabligh activities in Delhi.
A family member of the cleric, on the basis of anonymity, told local media that Tootla began showing flu-like symptoms on his return from India.
Subsequent tests at a private facility revealed that he had the virus. “By the past weekend Tootla had almost fully recovered from his treatment, but by Monday morning he started feeling ill again. “His condition deteriorated rapidly,” the family member said.
Tootla was reportedly advised not to travel to India for the gathering, but he was adamant to go. He had participated in scores of similar gatherings across the globe, according to fellow clerics, but none of whom could confirm if other South Africans had also attended.
“He (Tootla) said his fate is in Allah’s hands, as He (God) had already decided when he would recall him,” said the family member. Tootla’s extended family is in self-isolation for 14 days, although none of them have tested positive for the virus.
IBC chairperson Salim Kazi said small adjustments were made for Muslim burials to ensure compliance with the government guidelines during the 21-day nationwide lockdown which is now in its 8th day.
The guidelines restrict the number of people who can attend a funeral, so hundreds of people who had known the Islamic leader had to be advised to offer prayers for him in their homes.
According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, South Africa has 1,585 COVID-19 cases and nine people have died of the disease in the country. Over 33 per cent of the cases have been linked to the religious gathering of the Tablighi Jamaat at Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz in March whose positive patients are spread across 17 states and Union Territories, the Health Ministry said.
According to Delhi’s Health Department, 301 patients out of the 445 cases in the state are those participated in the Tablighi Jamaat, and Chief Minister Kejriwal said that the number of cases could spike as all 2,300 people evacuated from the Tablighi’s ”markaz” were being tested.