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St. Louis Mosques Encourage Vaccinations, Limit Ramadan Gatherings To Protect Muslims

Omar Haji Mohamed, of Ballwin, recieves his first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination event put on by The Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis.
David Kovaluk
St. Louis Public Radio
Omar Haji Mohamed, of Ballwin, receives his first dose of the Moderna vaccine at the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis vaccination clinic on Saturday.

As Muslims prepare for the holy month of Ramadan, religious leaders in the St. Louis region are encouraging Muslims to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Many mosques also are planning limited celebrations during Ramadan — a month of fasting, prayer and reflection — to slow the spread of the coronavirus. They are offering virtual sermons, shorter nightly Quran readings and prepackaged meals to break the fast during an evening meal called iftar.

To help keep people safe, the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis hosted a vaccination clinic over the weekend at Masjid Bilal Ibn Rabaah and Daar Ul Islam to help vaccinate members of the Muslim communities limit the spread of the virus during Ramadan, which begins Tuesday.

"Everybody should be vaccinated,” said Ghazala Hayat, a foundation spokesperson. “They should be vaccinated as fast as possible because it's needed for health.”

During Ramadan, vaccinations and the use of medication is discouraged and should only be used in emergency situations, she said. But if someone is scheduled to get the vaccine or wants it during the fasting period, then they are encouraged to get the shot.

Muslim leaders are asking people who have any medical conditions to stay home and pray this year.

Hayat said people should first think of their health and then about their religious commitments.

The holy month of Ramadan is usually the busiest month of the year for mosques, but this year they will not see the same number of visitors. Most mosques in the St. Louis region will be open.

Dar Aljalal, a small Islamic center in Hazelwood, will continue to hold scheduled prayer and Quran readings because the center is spacious enough for its congregation to social distance. However, it will not provide iftar meals to limit social gatherings.

Ramadan also is a season to provide for others in the community. In lieu of offering nightly iftars to members of the Dar Aljalal mosque, the Islamic center will accept money and food. That will allow a local Islamic group to provide food to families that cannot support themselves during Ramadan and to people who are fasting.

Large mosque celebrations will have to wait this year, because keeping the community in good health is the priority, said Muath Alhiyari, board president of Dar Aljalal.

“As the very first few days of Ramadan, we're going to be focusing just on the safety, temperature, social distance, the mask and the numbers of the brothers and sisters that walk in,” Alhiyari said.

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.