April 30, 2020
Dear Community Members:
On April 27, the Knox County Health Department released a plan for a gradual, 3-phase re-opening of Knoxville and Knox County. While the plan allows for some businesses and organizations, including religious centers, to re-open starting May 1, it places limits and conditions on activities. As the plan states, the “phased reopening is not a return to pre-pandemic normal.” The plan also prohibits social gatherings of more than 10 people for at least the next month and does not anticipate gatherings of more than 100 people for at least three months.
After reviewing the County’s plan, the nine members of the MCK Shura Board called a meeting with a committee of healthcare and religious experts from our community to discuss when and how to re-open MCK facilities and satellite musallahs. This committee includes Imam Rafiq Mahdi, Shaykh Hassan Lachheb, and the following infectious disease experts: Dr. Syed Husnain, Dr. Naseem Saadia, and Dr. Mahmoud Shorman.
The Shura solicited the advice of each committee member, discussed our possible next steps collaboratively, and ultimately decided upon the following: Masjid Annoor and the satellite musallahs will remain closed to the public for at least the next two weeks.
In mid-May, the committee will reconvene with the Shura Board to re-evaluate whether opening is feasible and in the interests of the well-being of our community members. Some of the reasons for remaining closed are:
- Any decisions to begin re-opening at this time are largely experimental, and it will take approximately two weeks to determine whether a resurgence in COVID-19 cases will result from re-opening.
- With more people in our community returning to work and resuming commerce starting May 1—and many without any immunity to the novel coronavirus—the potential for spreading the disease will actually increase. The safety measures we will have to take to adequately mitigate this risk, many of which are mandated by the County’s re-opening plan, are not feasible for our community. Thus, we do not believe we are able to re-open our prayer spaces to the public in a safe and responsible manner at this time.
- The Islamic permissibility of closing masajid (even for Jumu’ah prayers) in the interests of public good and welfare has already been established, as evidenced by the current closures throughout the world, including of the Haramain (two Holy mosques) in Mecca and Madina.
- In the Shari’ah context, if the potential for harm and the potential for good are balanced evenly, mitigating harm takes priority, and preserving the sanctity of human life is one of the fundamental priorities of Shari’ah.
- The decision of many states and municipalities to lessen social distancing restrictions is largely based on economic and political considerations that are not relevant to our decisions as a religious community or our mutual responsibility to protect one another from harm.
Our community has seen tough times before and inshaAllah, we will get through this together. We know that Allah is near us whether in the Masjid or at home with our families. The opportunity to get closer to Him is more available than ever. Let us ask Allah for His assistance and hope in all of our matters. May He preserve our community, always and forever.
Board of Directors