With the closures of all indoor operations, Santa Clara County mosques have had to find clever solutions to continue worship services.
A coalition of South Bay mosques worked with the Santa Clara County Public Health department to allow for three prayers a day to be hosted outside, and six prayers on Friday.
Most mosques are hosting their prayers in their parking lots. Tape is placed every six feet so people can pray while adhering to physical distance guidelines.
Akbar Syed, President of the Evergreen Islamic Center in San Jose, said these are unprecedented times for the Muslim community.
“We have never seen a mosque close down during any catastrophe. Have you ever seen Hajj close?” Syed said, “It has a big impact on our community of course. It feels like something is missing when you cannot come.”
Evergreen Islamic Center started hosting outside prayers early this month, initially restricting prayers to only 25 people who were required to register on Eventbrite beforehand. Now, in accordance with state and county guidelines, they have extended it to 35 people for each prayer.
“We have never seen a mosque close down during any catastrophe. Have you ever seen Hajj close?”Akbar Syed, Evergreen Islamic Center
Syed said they hope to expand it but are waiting until the infection rate drops under two percent to protect the community.
“We are full every single prayer, even Fajr,” Syed said. “For Friday prayers, which are our most holy prayers, we host three different prayer times at 1:30, 2 and 2:30 p.m.”
Fajr is one of Muslims’ five daily prayers that is held at dawn around 5 a.m.
Shahla Ravan, a local business owner, said she used to go to the mosque every Friday before COVID-19 but this was the first time she went to the outside prayer.
“It really has made me so sad to not come to the mosque. Friday prayer is so important for me and really for every Muslim,” Ravan said.
Ravan has been going to the Evergreen Islamic Center at least once a week since she moved to San Jose 16 years ago.
“It is eight minutes from my house and it’s so beautiful and peaceful. Everyone here is so kind,” Ravan said after finishing her Friday prayer. “It’s nice to have this outside. I just found out online, but I will definitely come again.”
Syed said COVID-19 shutdowns have made all mosque operations much more difficult including the construction to expand the mosque to create a banquet hall and Islamic school.
The biggest upset for Syed, however, is the potential impact COVID-19 will have on the Islamic Holiday, Eid Al-Adha which will be at the end of July.
Eid Al-Adha is a four-day celebration to rejoice for those who have completed their pilgrimage in Mecca. It is normally started with a special prayer at the mosque followed by food and activities for children.
The previous Muslim holiday, Eid Al-Fitr which commemorates the end of Ramadan, was also during the coronavirus pandemic. The Evergreen Islamic Center at the time was not allowed to host any sort of community gathering so they organized a drive through for community members to pick up desserts and gifts for children.
The South Bay coalition of mosques met this past Wednesday night to discuss plans for the upcoming Eid holiday.
“Some people are suggesting we do several prayers a day and break it up into small groups but personally I think we should celebrate at home,” Syed said. “Of course, I will be sad but here we care first and foremost about the health of our community. We cannot risk having anyone get sick.”
The group of local Muslim leaders will make a decision by July 22.
In the meantime, anyone who is interested in attending the outdoor prayers can register on the respective mosque’s website.