African Muslim cleric dies of coronavirus after attending Nizamuddin congregation

JOHANNESBURG: An 80-year-old South African Muslim cleric, who recently returned from India after attending the Nizamuddin congregation, died after contracting the new coronavirus, according to family members.

Moulana Yusuf Tootla attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation on March 1-15 in the Nizmuddin area, which has become the epicenter of the spread of the coronavirus in different parts of India and abroad after thousands of people participated at.

Tootla, who died Tuesday, was buried after his body was collected in a bag by the Islamic Burial Council (IBC).

The Nizamuddin area is famous for the 14th century Sufi mystic shrine Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya.

Indian authorities launched a nationwide search for participants of the large religious gathering amid fear that thousands of people present there may have carried the infection across the country.

Several citizens, particularly from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Kyrgyzstan come to Tabligh activities in Delhi.

Tootla's daughter Saeeda, speaking in South Africa's online publication News 24, said the cleric began displaying flu-like symptoms upon his return from India.

As he traveled and showed symptoms, as a precautionary measure we took him to Lancet for analysis. The laboratory confirmed the results.

He had fully recovered at home last weekend. On Monday night, he felt a bit distressed ... Then he peacefully returned to his creator, said Saeeda, who is in isolation.

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Tootla was reportedly advised not to travel to India for the meeting, but was adamant.

He had participated in dozens of similar gatherings around the world, according to other clerics, but none of them could confirm whether other South Africans had also attended.

Tootla's extended family is in self-isolation for 14 days, although none of them have tested positive for the virus.

IBC President Salim Kazi said small adjustments were made for Muslim burials to ensure compliance with government guidelines during the 21-day national blockade now on its eighth 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 counseled to offer prayers for him in their homes.

Goolam Dhoodat of the KwaDukuza Muslim Burial Service helped coordinate the cleric's funeral arrangements, according to the News 24 report.

He said the body was transported to Durban, where a dedicated nurse supervised the general procedures.

According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, South Africa has 1,585 cases of Covid-19 and nine people have died of the disease in the country.

Meanwhile, most of the people who tested positive for the disease in New Delhi are those who participated in the religious congregation.

According to the Delhi Health Department, 301 patients of the 445 cases in the state are those who participated in the Tablighi Jamaat.

Prime Minister Kejriwal said the number of cases could increase when the 2,300 people evacuated from the Tablighi 'markaz' were being evaluated.