Age of Jahiliyah

A blog of wide and varied interest, including Islam, Muslims, Poetry, Art and much more.

Hospitals Set Aside Space For Muslim Prayer Rooms

By Janice Neumann

Patients, Families, Staff Seek Privacy for Rituals

OAK LAWN, Ill. — The corridor of a bustling hospital is not the best place for kneeling in devout prayer, many Muslim families and doctors have learned…

So when a nondescript Muslim prayer room recently opened at Advocate Christ Hospital and Medical Center in this Chicago suburb, families and staff were “flying from happiness,” said Refat Abukhdeir, the hospital’s Muslim chaplain.

“Usually, you find a little quiet corner or some spot and hope nobody trips over you,” said Habibah Ayyash, 25, of Frankfort, Ill., who was praying in the hallway on breaks from visiting her father-in-law in the hospital until the prayer room opened this year. “Especially when someone is in the hospital, you’re already down, so it’s helpful to have a room where you can sit and pray,” Ayyash said.

The room, which holds 10 to 15 people, is one of about a dozen that have sprouted up in hospitals nationwide since the late 1980s in areas with large Muslim populations, according to an informal survey. Georgetown University Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and Texas Medical Center in Houston have Muslim prayer rooms…

The prayer room has four prayer rugs, a shoe rack, copies of the Koran and two pictures of boats on a lake. There are no pictures of people or animals, which are forbidden because they might be mistaken for idols. Worshipers won’t be distracted by someone walking in front of them, which could be mistaken for praying to that person, rather than to Allah. And their prayers won’t interfere with anyone else’s religion, either…

Though Muslims can pray anywhere, a prayer room can make it more convenient and comfortable, said Valerie Hoffman, associate professor in the Program for the Study of Religion at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Kneeling on prayer rugs rather than the hard floor, cleanliness from removing shoes before entering and a lack of distraction all make prayer rooms beneficial, Hoffman said. “I think having a space where they [Muslims] wouldn’t be stared at or made to feel uncomfortable in any way, where they could just focus on their prayer . . . that’s very important for anybody [praying], really,” Hoffman said…(continued)

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