From Virtual Tadarus to COVID-19 Vaccination

In the second Ramadan in the midst of the corona virus pandemic, mosques in the United States have begun to open their doors again for Muslims who want to worship at the mosque. Various Ramadan programs are also organized to celebrate this special once a year event. However, all of them are held with various restrictions.

At the mosque of the Indonesian Muslim community in the Washington DC area, IMAAM Center, congregational Tarawih prayers can only be attended by a maximum of 200 adult men with the implementation of health protocols, such as wearing masks, maintaining distance and administering disinfectants at public points, due to space limitations. Agenda iftar aka breaking the fast together was again absent to minimize the potential for transmission of the corona virus.

Meanwhile, Ramadan programs such as the study of the Qur’an and various children’s competitions were eventually held virtually for a whole month. However, the IMAAM Ramadan committee is optimistic that the Muslim community’s welcome will remain as warm as in previous years, including last Ramadan when the pandemic just started.

Malik Basri, IMAAM Center’s Ramadan program coordinator, said, “Alhamdulillah The response and enthusiasm from the community with this virtual (program) is actually very easy for all of them. And many attended and also took part in online studies at the IMAAM Center event,” he said. “Especially in the dawn study which is still being continued. […] until the next Ramadan, and the participation can be up to 150 to 200 people. Finally (in fact) many new programs emerged from the previous year.”

Worshipers pray at the Indonesian Muslim community mosque, IMAAM Center in Maryland (doc: VOA)

Worshipers pray at the Indonesian Muslim community mosque, IMAAM Center in Maryland (doc: VOA)

This Ramadan, the mosque which was founded in 2014 is holding various programs, including reading sessions on the stories of the prophets and apostles for children, as well as cooking classes, all of which are done virtually.

For three dollars, restrictions on Ramadan activities at mosques were also imposed by the Muslim Community of the Western Suburbs (MCWS) Detroit, Michigan. This year, due to the limited capacity of the mosque to accommodate social distancing, the manager offers two sessions of Tarawih prayers in the two buildings they own. The difference with the IMAAM Center is that female worshipers are welcome to join Tarawih in congregation, although children under the age of 13 are still not allowed to join.

Haaris Ahmad, president of MCWS, admitted that limiting the congregation was not an easy decision. “It hurts to have to refuse the congregation to enter, it really makes our hearts sad. […] That’s one big difference, the family can’t be present in full. Usually there are sellers of ice cream, food, and various other activities, because we want children to love the (Ramadan) experience and they really enjoy it, they are looking forward to the moment to come to the mosque,” he said.

Apart from various restrictions, for the sake of a more solemn Ramadan, MCWS managers have also opened a COVID-19 vaccination clinic before Ramadan. The reason is so that Muslims can focus on worship during the holy month and not get involved in the debate about the COVID-19 vaccine, from the issue of whether or not to vaccinate while fasting to the issue of the halal-haram of the vaccine itself. At least, about a thousand people have been vaccinated at the MCWS vaccine clinic.

The mosque participates in holding COVID-19 vaccination activities for worshipers and the public (photo: illustration).

The mosque participates in holding COVID-19 vaccination activities for worshipers and the public (photo: illustration).

“We know what our community is like, in general, although they are not worried about fiqh rules (about vaccination during fasting) and the like, our goal is more about how we can focus (Ramadan worship) and not worry about this. That’s why we scheduled (vaccination), we really pushed for the opening of this vaccine clinic, we collaborated with the local pharmacy, Rite-Aid, and thank God we were able to hold it. You have to see their faces (who are vaccinated here), they are very happy, teary eyed, because they finally got the vaccine,” said Haaris.

Like Haaris, Malik hopes that Ramadan in the midst of this pandemic will not reduce the solemnity, essence and excitement of the holy month. He hopes, “We can make this Ramadan atmosphere meaningful with all the existing activities, and God willing, the da’wah we want to convey is also conveyed to the public, especially in the DMV area.” [rd/uh]