Visiting your local mosque could feel like a new experience after months of praying at home due to the lockdown.
‘Safety is paramount for us and we are working hard to make sure guidance is in place when we reopen for everyone’- That’s the message of Abdul Muqaddas Choudry, Chariman of Faizan-e-Madina Mosque on Gladstone Street.
On a regular Friday prayer, more than a thousand people congregate at this mosque. But this is about to change as number of worshippers will be restricted to ensure social distancing is being maintained.
Mr Choudry who is also the head of The Joint Mosque Council in Peterborough said: “We are preparing to welcome back worshippers for prayers. However, we don’t have a date yet. It’s more likely to be soon after July 6.
“For us safety is the most important thing and we are working hard to introduce the measures. People will have to bring their own prayers mats and also the ablution area will be closed so you have to come prepared from home.
"In addition, your temperature will be checked and if it’s above normal which is 37.7 C, then we will have to ask you to go home. We also want people to wear face masks for safety when coming to the mosque. It will be essential.
“At the minute, we are doing the risk assessments, marking areas to inform of the distancing measure, cleaning and making one-way systems for everyone to minimise contact.
“Lastly, for Friday prayers, where we have thousands of people praying together - we will have two ‘jamats’ (congregations) because we are restricting number of worshippers at a given time and not everyone can be accommodated. We will restrict entry for children under 13. We are also advising people of any age with underlying health conditions to please pray at home.
“We look forward to welcoming everyone but I can’t stress enough, that safety is paramount and I would urge people to follow guidance and measures put in the mosque and help keep everyone safe.”
Darassalaam Mosque on Alma Road is looking forward to congregational prayers after more than three months from July 4.
Talking about the preparations, Trustee Ikram Ul-Haq said: “We are working to reopen on July 4. We just had a meeting with all the other mosques in the city.
“People coming in to pray will see measures in place including the two-metre rule and restricted number of visitors.
“Only 23 people can be allowed in our mosque at this time for a congregation and only the upstairs will be open, so it’s first come first serve basis. And we would like everyone to bring their own prayer mat.
“Anyone under 16 and adults over 65 are not allowed to come in at this time for the prayers.
"We are finishing our final preparations including risk assessments and will be ready to have our prayers from Saturday.”
Masjid Khadijah and Islamic Centre on Cromwell Road will have its first congregational prayer post-lockdown on July 8.
Similar measures can be expected here as well. People coming in to pray will have to wear a face mask, bring their own prayer mat, Quran (holy book) and will have to stay within a marked space to maintain social distancing.
Hameed Choudhury, Chairperson for the Mosque said: "We have a tentative date of July 8 to reopen the mosque. The requirements to attend the mosque are in line with guidance provided by the Muslim Council of Britain. Along with your own prayer mat and Quran and face masks, you are also required to bring your own plastic bag for the shoes and use sanitizer gels provided inside.
"If the attendees display symptoms, they should not attend the masjid.
"We are reopening but working on Quranic directive-whoever saves a life, it is as if he saved the life of all humanity."
Masjid Ghousia, also on Gladstone Street, is likely to start congregation prayers from next week.
The Husaini Islamic Centre on Burton Street has decided to remain closed for the time being. They are looking at a phased reopening in a month’s time, starting with private prayers.
Rizwan Rehmatullah is the Mosque President. Talking about their plans, he said: “It is welcoming to hear of the Government announcement that places of worship can now re-open providing that safety measures are in place. For many, places of worship are the heartbeat of their social and spiritual upliftment.
"Indeed, places of worship also play a very important part in bringing individuals of all backgrounds together.
“Although we are all longing for the doors of our Mosque to re-open, we have to take into account the health and safety of our worshippers.
“Re-opening our Mosque will require a number of stringent measures to be in place and we are already working toward those measures to be in place for when we do open, but we also need to take into account the disproportionate impact that this awful pandemic has on BAME communities.
“Therefore (as difficult it is to make this decision), for at least another month, we will not be opening our doors to the Mosque.
“In Islam, preservation of life is of paramount importance and we will only open when we are confident that the risk to our worshippers is minimised.”
Mosques foster social interactions among communities. Their reopening post-lockdown, along with Friday prayers resuming will help bring back a sense of normality for many families in Peterborough.