Suburban mosques cancel Friday prayers amid COVID-19 concerns

  • The parking lot of Islamic Foundation North in Libertyville usually is overflowing with cars on a Friday afternoon as nearly 2,000 worshippers attend weekly congregational prayers. All suburban mosques have shut down operations due to COVID-19 concerns.

      The parking lot of Islamic Foundation North in Libertyville usually is overflowing with cars on a Friday afternoon as nearly 2,000 worshippers attend weekly congregational prayers. All suburban mosques have shut down operations due to COVID-19 concerns. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Hundreds of Muslims gather at Islamic Foundation North in Libertyville for Eid prayers last June marking the end of the monthlong fast of Ramadan. For the first time, suburban mosques have canceled congregational prayers amid fears of COVID-19 illness spreading.

      Hundreds of Muslims gather at Islamic Foundation North in Libertyville for Eid prayers last June marking the end of the monthlong fast of Ramadan. For the first time, suburban mosques have canceled congregational prayers amid fears of COVID-19 illness spreading. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Islamic Foundation North in Libertyville is closed to worshippers amid concerns over the coronavirus spreading. All suburban mosques temporarily have suspended congregational services, Sunday schools, other programs and nonessential gatherings.

      Islamic Foundation North in Libertyville is closed to worshippers amid concerns over the coronavirus spreading. All suburban mosques temporarily have suspended congregational services, Sunday schools, other programs and nonessential gatherings. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Second Lt. Saleha Jabeen, chaplain candidate, and Master Sgt. Alexander James, recruiter, sign recruitment paperwork after Jabeen's commissioning ceremony in December at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Jabeen is the first female Muslim chaplain in the Air Force and Department of Defense.

    Second Lt. Saleha Jabeen, chaplain candidate, and Master Sgt. Alexander James, recruiter, sign recruitment paperwork after Jabeen's commissioning ceremony in December at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Jabeen is the first female Muslim chaplain in the Air Force and Department of Defense. Courtesy of U.S. Air Force

  • Second Lt. Saleha Jabeen speaks about her journey and what it means to be the first female Muslim chaplain candidate for the Air Force.

    Second Lt. Saleha Jabeen speaks about her journey and what it means to be the first female Muslim chaplain candidate for the Air Force. Courtesy of U.S. Air Force

  • Chaplain candidate Saleha Jabeen is commissioned by Maj. Gen. Steven Schaick, Air Force chief of chaplains, on Dec. 18, 2019, at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Jabeen is the first female Muslim chaplain in the Air Force and Department of Defense.

    Chaplain candidate Saleha Jabeen is commissioned by Maj. Gen. Steven Schaick, Air Force chief of chaplains, on Dec. 18, 2019, at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Jabeen is the first female Muslim chaplain in the Air Force and Department of Defense. Courtesy of U.S. Air Force

  • Teresa Lance

    Teresa Lance

  • Daily Herald Diversity Editor Madhu Krishnamurthy

    Daily Herald Diversity Editor Madhu Krishnamurthy

 
 
Updated 3/22/2020 10:53 AM

For the first time, mosques throughout the suburbs temporarily have suspended all congregational prayers, Sunday school classes, youth and children's programs, and nonessential gatherings due to fears over spreading coronavirus.

"This is unprecedented," said Jaseem Anwer, president of Islamic Foundation North in Libertyville. "We never imagined we will be shutting down the mosque. We pray five times a day."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Attendance for Jumuah -- the Friday congregational prayer and sermon -- is considered by a majority of Islamic scholars as mandatory for Muslim men and optional for women and children. It is more important than the five daily congregational prayers performed at mosques. Nearly 2,000 people gather at IFN alone every Friday.

While some scholars called for limiting Friday prayers to a handful of participants, the Fiqh Council of North America advised "real fear of personal safety, viral transmission, health scares" are enough reasons to forfeit communal gatherings. Since worshippers pray standing shoulder-to-shoulder, often by the hundreds, the congregation itself could become a vehicle for spreading the virus, said Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, of Hazelcrest, adding, "congregations are important, but in Islamic law, saving life has priority."

Many imams, including Mujahid, have resorted to giving virtual sermons online.

MLK dinner postponed: The Illinois Commission on Diversity and Human Relations has rescheduled its commemoration of the 52nd anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death to Oct. 24 due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19 illness.

Grammy Award-winning gospel group The Five Blind Boys of Alabama will perform at the event. The group has received Pulitzer and Tony Awards, been recognized by the National Endowment of the Arts and has performed throughout the U.S. and Europe.

The October event begins with a 6 p.m. reception followed by dinner at 7 p.m. at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel, 1551 North Thoreau Drive.

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For more information, visit the commission's website, icdhr.org.

U-46 equity: Teresa Lance, a former school superintendent, joins Elgin Area School District U-46 on July 1 as the assistant superintendent for equity and innovation.

She has big shoes to fill succeeding Ronald Raglin in that role. Raglin, 58, died of a heart attack last August. He was known as a champion of educational equity and received Elgin's 2019 Dr. King Humanitarian Award.

Lance's role includes oversight of innovative strategies and programs across the state's second-largest school district. She has been superintendent of Thornton Fractional High School District 215 since July 2018 where she helped decrease out-of-school suspensions, and racially-disproportionate expulsions and out-of-school suspensions.

A model for others: Saleha Jabeen, the first female Muslim chaplain candidate in the Armed Forces, studied interreligious dialogue at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and counseling at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights.​

An Indian immigrant living in Skokie, Jabeen was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force and has become a beacon of hope for young Muslim girls.​

"I can't believe how powerful this image is for all these female members of the community," says Jabeen, 33. "They didn't even imagine this is possible because nobody told us that."

Share stories, news and happenings from the suburban mosaic with mkrishnamurthy@dailyherald.com.

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