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I know, it’s been tough. It’s been months of not attending your beloved mosques. Finally, after months of wait, Premier Doug Ford announced that as of Friday, June 12, 2020, mosques will be allowed to re-open up to 30% capacity. As restrictions ease up, it is our responsibility to do our parts so that our mosques can stay open, and eventually be able to resume operations as usual. I had some thoughts on the matter and I wanted to share them for worshipers and mosques to consider. My hope is that mosques would be able to open in a way that complies with the legal restrictions in place and in a way that avoids discrimination and disruption to the local community.

Please note, nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. Rather, this is general information and my own thoughts on the matter.

Guidelines for Worshipers

  1. If you do not have to attend the mosque, and can pray at home, please continue to do so. This is safer for you and everyone else around you.
  2. Do not attend the mosque if you have been out of the country within the last 14 days. If you have been travelling, you must isolate and quarantine yourself for 14 days.
  3. Do not attend the mosque if you are at greater risk of developing serious complications: for example if you are experiencing a fever, sore throat, or flu like symptoms, if you have a compromised immune system, underlying medical conditions, or if you are over 60 years old.
  4. Sanitize your hands as soon as you enter the mosque and wear a mask.
  5. Bring your own bag to place your shoes. Do not use the shoe rack to put your shoes. First, it will undoubtedly create crowding at the shoe area. Second, individuals will have to wait significant time to obtain their shoes from the area. This will cause delays for both entering and exiting the mosque as mosques try to conduct 2 or 3 Jumuah salahs (Friday prayers) to accommodate as many worshipers as possible.
  6. Bring your own prayer mat. Do not share your prayer mat with anyone.
  7. If you require a chair for prayer, contact your local mosque beforehand to make sure they have chairs available for you or if you can bring your own chair to the mosque to pray. Chairs should be disinfected after every use.
  8. Come to the mosque with wudhu. Wudhu stations and washrooms may or may not be open.
  9. You should pray your salah and immediately leave the mosque. Be courteous of others who have not yet had a chance to pray and offer them the opportunity to do the same as you. If you see someone you know from the mosque, keep a 2-metre distance from them. Do not start socializing and catching up. Take their number and give them a phone call later in the day.
  10. When exiting, sanitize your hands and leave the parking lot immediately to allow other worshipers to have parking space.

Guidelines for Mosques and Religious Spaces

Prior to opening

  1. As of June 12, 2020, religious spaces may open up to 30% capacity but individuals must keep a 2 metre social distance from others. I recommend you begin a phased capacity approach by first beginning the first two weeks at a 20% capacity. Following the initial weeks, meet with your board, evaluate what worked and what didn’t and eventually move up to the maximum 30%.
  2. Do not open unless you are fully prepared. If you are experiencing a lack of financial or human resources, I would suggest you wait until you are able to open in a manner that meets the guidelines set out by Public Health Officials. Under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (“EMCPA”), every person who fails to comply an emergency order can be found guilty of an offence and can be liable as follows:
    1. Individuals can be fined up to $100,000 and face up to one year in jail.
    2. Directors of corporations can face fines up to $500,000 and face up to one year in jail.
    3. Corporations can be fined up to $10,000,000.
  3. I would recommend a phased opening of mosques. It may be better to first open mosques for Jumuah prayers for a few weeks. The board should then meet, evaluate what worked and what didn’t and eventually begin a phased opening for the 5 daily prayers.
  4. Crowd control is going to be the major factor that mosques need to address. Individuals must keep a 2-metre distance from each other. In order to comply with this requirement, here are my suggestions:
    1. Instead of having multiple entrances/exits, have one designated entrance and exit for your patrons. However, all exits must be clear and unblocked for ease of evacuation in the case of fire or emergency.
    2. I don’t recommend having separate female and male entrances. It will be very difficult to keep track of how many individuals are in the building with multiple entrances. You will risk violating the restrictions.
    3. I recommend stationing security at both the parking lot entrances and the building entrances and exits to keep count of the number of individuals entering and exiting the building so that you do not surpass the 30% capacity restriction.
    4. I recommend blocking off all shoe racks and shoe stations. Patrons should carry bags with them to place their shoes or place their shoes within their 2 metre prayer bubble. Shoe stations create crowding and delays.
    5. There should be clear markers set 2-metres apart designating where individuals should stand for prayer.
    6. I suggest having one space dedicated to prayer. I understand this may not be feasible for the different Islamic opinions out there regarding segregation. However, it is the most practical and safe way to conduct prayer in the current context.
      1. One space can be easily sanitized following prayer.
      2. Crowd control is much easier to manage with one space rather than multiple locations within one building.
      3. It is much easier to keep track of the number of patrons in the building to ensure it is not over capacity. It is also easier to see if anyone is violating the 2 metre rule.
      4. Some mosques do not offer equal spaces for both male and female worshipers. Having one area in the building will ensure that there is no discrimination as to how many individuals are allowed in each space.

General Guidelines

  1. Mosques should have security at the door and should operate on a first-come first-serve basis or use an online registration system. No preference should be given as to who is allowed to come into the mosque first.
  2. Mosques should ensure that they have designated prayer spaces for individuals with disabilities closer to entrances/exits to avoid delays and enhance crowd control. Chairs should be provided and sanitized after every prayer for individuals who require this accommodation.
  3. Washrooms and wudhu stations if opened should be sanitized frequently and only accessible to worshipers during prayer times. They should not be accessible to the general public. However, congregants should be encouraged to arrive to the mosque with wudhu.
  4. Security at the door should deny entry to anyone:
    1. Who exhibits any symptoms;
    2. Who does not bring their own prayer mat
    3. Who has travelled within the last 14 days
    4. Once the 30% capacity has been reached
  5. Security at the door cannot deny entry to anyone or give preference to anyone:
    1. On any of the prohibited grounds of discrimination such as: disability, religion, race, colour, gender, age etc…
    2. Some hold the opinion that Jumuah is fardh (mandatory) on men but not women and therefore men should be given preference over women. In light of the pandemic, some scholars have also opined that attending the mosque is not fardh, and that it is permissible to pray Jumuah at home even if the mosques opened. I understand that there are a few different opinions on the subject. I am not an Islamic scholar and I do not have an opinion on the topic. My perspective is only from a legal standpoint and I would caution any mosque from giving preferential treatment to any gender as it raises potential grounds for discrimination.

Best Practices


  1. I believe the best practice is to have an online and phone registration system (to accommodate those without internet) for Jumuah prayers. Not only will this avoid having a huge line up at parking lots and having worshipers wait in line for lengthy periods of time, but this will make it easier to host multiple Jumuahs and accommodate more worshipers. Mosques should keep in mind that they can expect larger crowds during this season given that many individuals are working from home and will have the ability to attend the mosque on Jumuah.
  2. Mosques should have a policy on what to do with the reserved spots of individuals who do not attend or attend late.
  3. Attendees should be reminded to follow public health guidelines before and after Jumuah.

5 daily prayers

  1. As I mentioned earlier, I suggest mosques do a phased approach to opening for the 5 daily prayers. It is better to see what is working and not working with the Jumuah prayer prior to opening full time.

Other Options

  1. If setting up an online and phone registration system is not feasible due to limited resources or constraints, I would suggest having a line up with 2 metre markers at the designated entrance.
  2. For larger mosques, you may want to try switching the phased approach by beginning with the 5 daily prayers which attract a lower number of worshipers and eventually incorporating Jumuah prayers which attracts a greater number of worshipers. The whole idea is to ensure crowd management is working. Beginning with smaller crowds may be easier for larger mosques.
  3. Mosques can also make use of their outdoor spaces for Jumuah and have designated 2 metre markers between congregants. I would suggest mosques to have security present to avoid the following significant risks with holding outdoor prayers:
    1. There is significant risk that a high number of worshippers will arrive for prayer and the mosque will go over the 30% capacity restriction. Worshipers who arrive late may not follow social distancing protocol and pray wherever they are to join the prayer in time. Not only can this put other worshipers at risk, but the mosque could be fined, or shut down completely for failing to comply with orders under a state of emergency.
    2. If the mosque chooses to use their parking lot as prayer space, they should think of how this will disrupt the local roads and whether there is available parking for the congregants nearby. It may not be feasible to have hundreds of congregants park on nearby roads and disrupt the community. This could also lead to crowding on the streets.

These are just some general thoughts I had to guide my local community through these times. This article is a work in progress and will be updated. Suggestions or feedback are welcome. Looking forward to being able to see my community at the mosque very soon!


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