JOHANNESBURG: An 80-year-old 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 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.
Tootla's daughter Saeeda, while speaking to South Africa's online publication News24, said that the cleric began showing flu-like symptoms on his return from India.
"Since he travelled and showed symptoms, as a precaution we took him to Lancet for testing. The results were confirmed by the lab. He had fully recovered at home by this past weekend. On Monday evening, he felt a bit distressed He then peacefully returned to his maker," Saeeda, who is in self-isolation, 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, a family member on the basis of anonymity said.
Saeeda said that the family has accepted his death as "the will of God".
"He's in a better place than us. We are grateful that he lived a full life of 80 years and that we were near him to witness how beautifully and peacefully he returned to his creator," she was quoted as saying in the report.
Tootla's extended family is in self-isolation for 14 days, although none of them have tested positive for the virus.
"By the grace of God, we are a big family and have the support of each other.
We have no fear and we firmly believe that nothing can afflict you if God has not destined it for you," she said.
"We are all keeping well and showing no symptoms".
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.
Goolam Dhoodat of the KwaDukuza Muslim Burial Service helped to coordinate the cleric's funeral arrangements, the News24 report said.
He said the body was transported to Durban, where a dedicated nurse supervised the general procedures.
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.
Meanwhile, majority of the people who tested positive for the disease in New Delhi are those who took part in the religious congregation.
According to Delhi's Health Department, 301 patients out of the 445 cases in the state are those participated in the Tablighi Jamaat.
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.