The Hard Truth: Woman Bags Food At Awudome Cemetery

Last week, Kasapafmonline carried a story on ‘woman bags food for sale at Awudome Cemetery’. For starters, the woman wasn’t selling the food; the author of the story erred on that detail. The woman in this matter is Hajia Meri. She volunteers to share food with the youth engaged to weed and clean the Awudome Cemetery on weekends. My team is informed she neither cooks the food at the cemetery nor sells to the public. She is not a witch or ghost as held by some commentators. She’s simply a benevolent woman willing to serve her maker through food service.

Let me clear the air on errors in the report and how they sparked public debate/insults on Facebook. A spade is always a spade and not a small spoon. Packaging food at the cemetery is unacceptable anywhere in the world, anytime, any day.

The woman is doing the right thing (we all admit) in a wrong. No need to be up in arms defending the indefensible, like serial callers or foot soldiers. The matter on the table is about public safety and not religion.

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I kept asking over and over again why the food wasn’t prepared at the cemetery yet it was packaged there. Hmmmmmm. Some supporters claim the youth work right at the cemetery so they should be served there. Granted. How about the bagging or packaging of the food? As for who permitted the food to be served in the cemetery, I leave that to our authorities. But then again, this is Ghana; let me pass goor.

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Health Risk In Serving Food at the Cemetery

Handling food in the cemetery comes with many downsides including the below:

– Risk of exposure to highly contagious conditions from decayed or improperly buried contaminated remains (e.g. Ebola, Lassa fever and even typhoid fever).

– Insects and rodents in the cemetery are carriers of several dangerous diseases; contaminating any food in their reach. – Structures in the cemetery are biofilm of dangerous infections that can be harmful to those who come into contact.

– Coffins can pose an environmental hazard since the metals used can corrode or degrade into harmful toxins.

– Embalming fluids are also very harmful chemicals that can contaminate food. – Toxic pesticides and fertilizers used to keep graveyards green and neat can also pose a threat to our health. How much more food packaged at the cemetery?

NB: Decayed remains even contaminate groundwater. People living close to cemeteries should not build wells or drink water coming from the ground.

Islamic View of A Woman Entering a Cemetery

There is a scholarly Islamic view that it is haram (forbidden) for a woman to visit graves. Ibn ‘Abbaas said: “The Messenger of Allah cursed women who visit graves and those who set up places of worship and lamps over them…” Women back in the day were too emotional and wept a lot. Some went to the extent of tearing their clothes when morning. That was when Prophet Mohammed advised against women entering the cemetery.

The hadeeth forbidding women to visit graves has a sympathetic face. It says that a woman who visited a grave out of ignorance (of this ruling) is not to blame; but should not do it again.

Buraidah bin Al-Husaib al-Aslami (RAA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “I had forbidden you to visit graves; but now you may visit them”.  At-Tirmidhi added “It will remind you of the Hereafter.” Source: Bulughul Maram English, Funerals, 01. Chapters 0609

Ibn Majah added on the authority of Bin Mas’ud, “And they make you (i.e. the graves) renounce this worldly life.” NB: I stand to be corrected on whether the Hadith relates to visiting the cemetery for burial or other purposes.

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The Mass Ignorance

I made time to read all the comments left on my Facebook page; I literary opened my mouth in disbelief as I read them one by one. The nonfa comments were one too many to ignore.

Enjoy the finest collection.

– Guys, be humble and stop attacking this kind-hearted woman. For dust we are and unto dust, we shall return.

– If packaging of food there is not hygienic why don’t you advise the workers to stop tidying the cemetery? If you know how to advise, tell mortuary men not to eat at the mortuary….. Ghanaians and their ‘I know’ attitude.

– Lol. How’s her service different from the many ‘gutter rice’ across the city? I prefer the cemetery package to gutter rice. Ghost don’t have germs. Gutters have more than simple germs.

– If this innocent woman means any harm would she will go there morning and evening to do the packaging?

– Honestly, I don’t understand the brouhaha over the issue. Aren’t people buying food right next to gutters? Women who have no access to clean water to wash their hands etc. Honestly, the place she is working seems much cleaner than many places in even Makola or Malata market. It may also be wrong info. In fact, her space seems well swept, which is much more than many women’s homes or even kitchens. Let us think jare!!! Do you know what those restaurants’ kitchens look like or who cooks those foods? – So what if you get to the cemetery and you are thirsty, wouldn’t you buy water over there? What is wrong with eating at the cemetery? Ghanaians and their perceptions…

– People do sleep there… so what shows they can’t eat there?

– Even if she chooses to package it at home, the workers will still eat it there. The cemetery is where they sleep so what shows they can’t eat there?

– Arh, is she forcing people to eat? This is common sense. Are you the one eating it? – All you are aimed at is tarnishing the image of Muslims…. Look, some of us are very sensitive when it comes to religion. So when addressing a matter go straight to the point and leave religion out. How can a food brought there for donation be bagged at home? What are you talking about?

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No one is here to victimise Muslims or any religious group. As Christian as I am, I have high admiration for Muslims’ commitment to prayer, almsgiving and how they bury the dead.

Hajia Meri God bless you for your service to the young men who clean the cemetery; as we applaud you, we ask that you do it cautiously. Please don’t bag the food at the cemetery again; cos it’s a huge health risk to you and the young men you serve. I am not worthy to judge you or any other human; I can only advise. Let’s help Hajia Meri get a safer place to package food for the Awudome volunteers. It’s the least we can all do to support her.

Dear reader, please ask yourself this question; why you are told to wash your hands thoroughly after visiting a cemetery? Food for thought. May God guide and protect us all.

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Story By Paa Kwesi Forson

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