Mosques maintain spiritual services amidst pandemic

Islamic Institute of Orange County in Anaheim, like other houses of worship, has had to change their entire operation due to COVID-19 restrictions and concerns. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought sadness, grief and restrictions. As many people refuse to give up, local mosques are shifting their approach on spiritual services to accommodate this historic event.

Sheikh Mustafa Kamel, the spiritual leader of the West Coast Islamic Center, Masjid Alansar, chooses to keep the faithful as close to the mosque as possible through abiding by the federal and state social guidelines.

“We follow CDC guidelines and pray with social-distancing,” Kamel said. “We wear masks 24/7 and for Jummuah (Islamic Friday Service), we pray in the parking lot. We follow limited capacity.”

Kamel acknowledges that the most challenging for his community has been maintaining spiritual social gatherings. 

“We used to always meet with our community members and now we can’t,” he said. 

Although Kamel’s mosque has not had any COVID-19 related deaths, Sheikh Mustafa Umar, the director of the Islamic Institute of Orange County, Masjid Omar AlFarouk, says the opposite for his mosque. “There have been several COVID related deaths and services for people from the mosque,” he said. “Oftentimes the body cannot be washed and family members cannot even attend the service in the graveyard. It’s been tough for many families.”

Umar also said that IIOC has significantly changed due to the pandemic. Apart from having no more in-person classes and having three Jummuahs instead of the normal two that his mosque provides.  “We have a lot less people coming and the pandemic has caused anxiety and stress for a lot of people who can’t enter the mosque,” he said. “We have events for new Muslims and inmates, but they all had to be online, which many people are not used to. Even if people show up to these online events, there’s not much socializing and a lot of restrictions as far as what people can do compared to in-person.”

It has not all been negative, however. Kamel and Umar both expressed that their communities have experienced a positive aspect from the pandemic. 

“We pray for all of humanity to be safe during this pandemic. All faiths are now more connected in this pandemic though, so there is some positivity coming from it,” Kamel said. We are working with other religious organizations every Saturday distributing food to the needy, regardless of their religious preference.” 

The California Islamic University, the educational branch of Umar’s organization, has had more online classes than ever before. “People across the country are attending these online classes, not only in California,” Umar said. 

Community members are more connected to the mosque than before, and are using prayer and faith as a means to cope with stress emitted from the pandemic.  

“They cherish the prayers more. I hope things ease up soon,” Umar said. “It’s all a test from God to test our faith in Him.” 

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