Why Vaccine Passes In Mosques Makes No Sense

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“And who does more wrong than he who prevents the mosques from God’s mention and strives toward their ruin?” (Q 2:114)

They say the masjid is not a place for politics. And the Jumah sermon is not supposed to be the place for “political discussions.” Well, that is the case unless it agrees with the politics of the board of directors. Masjid boards in America have been the subject of many complaints for a very long time. Maligned for their lack of inclusiveness or limited or non-existent expert religious representation, the boards of masjids carry a heavy burden, the most significant being their role as custodians responsible for keeping their doors open, serving as ambassadors to the surrounding communities, and for the selection of teachers and speakers who exercise prudence in their religious teachings. In other words, the job is very difficult, especially when pressures come from higher political authorities in the country and its larger financial supporters to behave in a particular fashion.
The truth is that masjid boards are regularly making political decisions and bring politics into the masjid space. It often comes out during post prayer announcements, the organizations they promote and allow to engage in solicitation, and sometimes from the minbar (pulpit) when a speaker endorses their preferred candidate for president and the like. Board politics also manifests itself in their choice of sectarian identification (Sunni or Shiite/Salafi or Sufi) and in the topics “they” decide the Muslim “public” aren’t ready to hear or discuss.

Denying someone entry to the masjid without a valid excuse is unlawful, sinful, and unethical. There is no basis presently to bar Muslims, unvaccinated or vaccinated, from entering the Haram nor any other masjid on the planet.

There may be no greater political decision made by any governing authority of a religious institution than the decision to halt all religious services in places dedicated for worship. This, of course, includes the cancelation of Hajj and other rites happening in the Sacred Mosque of Mecca. And while one could legitimately argue that this decision was primarily driven by a concern for the health of those most vulnerable, the fact that vaccination remains a condition for entry into the holy sanctuary baffles many critical observers since the current vaccines in use neither stop infection nor contagion. Increasingly, mosque announcements read, “No entry without vaccination”, discriminating against unvaccinated attendees despite the fact that the vaccinated may be equally carrying considerable viral load into these same spaces.
Current boards classify arguments affirming an individual’s right to refuse vaccination to be “political speech” which attendees “are not ready for” or “make people argue”, while speech in favor of vaccination as well as on sight accommodations for vaccination are viewed as apolitical and in service to the community. When asked about this double standard one might receive an answer that, “We risk losing a major donor who might be offended by this opinion.”
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While this may sound like a reasonable consideration, one must reflect deeply because therein lies a remarkable contradiction: The masjid is a place where people come to pray, meditate, and learn. Most importantly, one comes to engage in things which will increase one’s faith and trust in Allah. Many speakers will reinforce and repeat how one should remember that Allah is the provider and sustainer of all. So, he/she should never lose faith in His promise to take care of them when in need. If this is the message endorsed by masjid boards, one would assume that it is a message they have digested and recall when they make decisions about the viability of the masjid. To put it bluntly, how fit is any board or an individual member to manage the finances and donor relations of a masjid, if they fear losing the contributions of a key donor who attaches ideological strings to his donations? Shouldn’t those board members ignore conditions imposed upon them by such unscrupulous people and find alternate sources of income for the masjid? Should they not place their trust in Allah that He will provide for them from unsuspecting ways if they remain devoted to Him? “And whoever keeps his duty to God, He will make a way out for him and provide from him from where he does not expect” (Q 56:3)

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The truth is that the masjid belongs to Allah. “And the mosques belong to God. So, do not call on anyone along with God” (Q 58:18). This means no one person nor group has the authority to determine who can and cannot enter it, besides those who Allah has already barred from it (drunkards, menstruating women, men in major ritual impurity, etc.). Denying someone entry to the masjid without a valid excuse is unlawful, sinful, and unethical. There is no basis presently to bar Muslims, unvaccinated or vaccinated, from entering the Haram nor any other masjid on the planet. The reason is that the current vaccines being imposed upon the population provide only—by God’s will—limited protection to the inoculated person. That’s as long as He does not will it to cause them harm. Therefore, preventing Muslims from entering mosques is an injustice. And making entry contingent upon vaccination status is pointless. “And who does more wrong than he who prevents the mosques from God’s mention and strives toward their ruin?” (Q 2:114)

Dr. Abdullah bin Hamid Ali

He holds a Ph.D. in Cultural and Historical Studies in Religion (2016) and an M.A. in Ethics and Social Theory (2012) from the Graduate Theological Union. He  obtained his B.A. (ijaza ‘ulya) in Islamic Law (Shariah) from the prestigious Al-Qarawiyin University of Fes, Morocco in 2001. He served as full time Islamic chaplain at the State Correctional Institute of Chester, PA from 2002-2007, and is the founding director of the Lamppost Education Initiative. He currently serves as an Associate Professor of Islamic law and Prophetic Tradition at Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California. His research interests include the interconnection between law and identity formation, comparative Islamic law, and Islam’s role in the modern world.
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