On Monday, May 25, 2020, the State of California issued new guidelines for reopening houses of worship and religious institutions. Northern California Islamic Council welcomes the State’s new guidelines and will work proactively with city and county public health officials toward opening Bay Area mosques for prayers in the coming days while making sure that the well-being and safety of worshipers is the utmost and primary concern in our decisions. NCIC considers the guidelines to be rooted in common sense and provides the needed protection for the worshipers and especially those who are vulnerable within our community.
NCIC will be holding an emergency meeting on Tuesday for all mosques and institutions in the Bay Area and will develop a unified plan for the five Bay Area counties. Mosques are to be encouraged to immediately examine the guidelines, develop specific plans based on their building capacity and size of crowd expected for their Friday prayers, consider alterative spacing layout, and contact local city health officials to double check the ongoing efforts. In addition to the general guidelines provided by the State, NCIC is encouraging mosques to use disposable prayer mats that should be handed to each worshiper walking through the doors so as to prevent any possible transmission through the act of prostration in Muslim prayers, a step that will facilitate disinfecting the prayer space. Furthermore, NCIC urges all mosques in the region to utilize parking lots and any open space area to accommodate worshipers while keeping a 6 feet physical distance during services.
NCIC’s top priority is the health and well-being of every worshiper who walks through the mosque doors and spiritual uplifting of the community is only made possible if the COVID 19 spread is addressed and taken seriously. NCIC believes in an All-Merciful and Forgiving God, the One who does not burden a soul beyond his or her capacity. Sound religious guidance at this moment is paramount and to make sure that religion is not used to bring about more harm, both on an individual and societal level. Praying in a group is highly praised and very much encouraged in Islam but so is preserving and protecting human life. When prayers and health seem to be in conflict then preserving life and health takes precedent over group gatherings for prayers since the religious obligation may be fulfilled on an individual level or in small group with family members observing physical distancing.
Lastly, NCIC urges mayors, county, and state officials to consider financial support for not for profit religious institutions that are taking the needed and costly steps to observe the newly released regulations. NCIC holds true to separation of mosque and state, and this financial support is to address a society wide pandemic that religious institutions will play a part in flattening the curve in the days and months ahead.
NCIC looks forward to a future day when all of our communities and society will be able to celebrate our deep faith and success in preserving every precious human life. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the families, here and across the world, who have suffered a loss of life during the pandemic and we ask God’s help for all to heal from the pain of separation.