Experience Volunteering at a Mosque During COVID
It was the beginning of Phase Two and I realised that something was missing. Upon reaching home, I received a text from my best friend asking me if I’m up for volunteering at the mosque where we attended religious classes together.
Having ample time, I decided to take up the offer. Furthermore, I missed the serene and tranquil ambience from just being in the mosque.
We would begin our shift by setting things up. There were three stations; two at the entrance and one at the exit. The first station was where congregants would have their body temperature taken. Initially, a volunteer would need to take the congregants’ body temperature manually. Afterwards, they would wait by sitting at the chairs for the call of prayer. When the call of prayer was heard, individuals would have completed their Safe Entry check-in by either scanning the QR code or by having their NRICs scanned by one of the volunteers. A maximum of five people were allowed to pray at a time. Safe-distancing measures were adhered to, of course. The volunteer at the entrance of the prayer hall would have to take down the number of people inside the prayer hall as well as the total number of congregants present during their shift. This was done by issuing cards labelled from one to five. The cards were of two different colours to indicate the different genders. The other volunteer would then use a notebook to keep track of the number of people who have entered the mosque. The volunteer at the exit would later check whether the congregants have checked out of their Safe Entry. This volunteer would also sanitise the cards by disinfecting them and bringing the cards back to the second station. Throughout the shifts, all of the volunteers would have to use gloves.
Gradually as the days passed by, starting from 26 June 2020, congregational prayers were allowed. However, congregants were required to make an online booking beforehand in order to pray in congregation, whether it was for the daily five compulsory prayers or the Friday prayers. The volunteer assigned at the first station would check for the bookings made before allowing the congregants to enter the mosque. This was done before, during and slightly after the call of prayer. The volunteer would not need to take the congregants’ body temperature manually as the congregants were now able to have their body temperature taken by an automatic standing temperature scanner. The volunteer at the second station would then keep track of the number of people in the prayer hall. Additionally, the volunteer would check if the congregants had completed their Safe Entry check-in and record the number of people entering the mosque, present in the mosque as well as people leaving the mosque using an excel sheet on the laptop provided at the station. The volunteer at the exit would check whether the congregants have checked out of their Safe Entry and clock the congregant out in the same excel sheet when a congregant leaves the prayer hall.
As for the congregants themselves, they were required to bring their own prayer paraphernalia as well as a plastic bag to keep their shoes. Congregants that did not bring their own prayer paraphernalia would be turned away. Should congregants forget to bring plastic bags, they could take one of the plastic bags provided at the mosque. Additionally, had they not brought their prayer mats, they can infaq their wealth for a prayer mat.
Having volunteered at the mosque due to having ample time and missing the atmosphere of the mosque, has made me learn so much from the experience.
One of the things that I learned was that I realised that anything could happen in the blink of an eye. As stated in the Quran,
إِنَّما أَمرُهُ إِذا أَرادَ شَيئًا أَن يَقولَ لَهُ كُن فَيَكونُ.
“All it takes, when He wills something ‘to be’, is simply to say it: “Be!” And it is!” (Al Qur’an, 36:82)
Everything, whether they come into being progressively or instantly, is created by Allah brought into being by His command, that is, by the word, “Be”. This pandemic has caused a myriad of disruptions in our daily life. Some examples include being barred from travelling overseas, having to stay at home during the circuit breaker, working from home, having meetings online, as well as being retrenched from work. However, I feel that this pandemic has reminded me to appreciate the things that I often took for granted, especially the opening of mosques 24/7. Before this, I could pop in and pray anytime, I also missed the congregational tarawih prayers during the nights of Ramadan and it made me disheartened that the pandemic put a halt to congregational prayers such as the compulsory Friday prayers for males. The act of congregational prayers symbolise the brotherhood in Islam as strangers from different jobs, background and race come together, with their shoulders touching one another, to pray to one God. Thus, to have to adhere to safe-distancing measures in response to a pandemic was a bit demoralising. Nonetheless, I feel that in such situations, the safe-distancing rules were vital in playing a role to prevent the spread of the virus.
Despite the safe-distancing rules, it was still a privilege to pray in congregation.