My Sajjāda (Prayer Mat) and the Vaccine

Photo by Kurumsal Web Tasarım on Unsplash

Sara Al-Zubi is a second-year medical student at Harvard Medical School. Sara won the Harry S. Truman Scholarship in 2018 while attending Miami University. As an immigrant to the United States from Jordan, Sara has worked extensively with Arab refugees across Ohio to increase their self-sufficiency in their adopted homes and improve their access to healthcare and mental health resources. This work has led her to start her own nonprofit, the 3Sisters Foundation, which is currently working on a Yemen Healthcare Initiative. She also co-led the Harvard Medical School COVID19 EM/SEA Response Initiative to expand public health information. 

The return to my sajjāda (prayer mat)— 5 times a day—- brings me serenity. When my forehead kisses the ground, I am centered. In a world of ambiguity, in a world of pain, and in a world of COVID-19, my prayers are my certainty.  

The pandemic has reminded me of the importance of an individual in a community— the value of one’s impact. We live in a public health crisis where our decisions directly affect the lives of our neighbors. I reflect on the tenets I grew up with; I reflect on the emphasis Islam puts on the individual duty to our neighbors.  

There is a responsibility on me— as a community member— to live in a way that promotes justice and peace. There is a responsibility on me to care for the wellbeing of my community.  

As I make my journey to the hospital every day, I carry these tenets with me. And, when my forehead kisses the ground, I think of these tenets. So, I return to my sajjāda again and again. 

In these tenets, I found a reason to get vaccinated. I am committed to the well-being of my community. It is for this exact reason I entered medicine. But even more so, I got the vaccine because of how vaccines have eradicated many deadly diseases such as Polio and have lessened the burden of other diseases like measles and dengue. I think about the impact the COVID-19 vaccine will have on my community.  

We exist as social humans; we pray in unison, in large gatherings; we care for each other.  

When I am in the hospital, I reflect on the impact COVID-19 has had on my high-risk pregnant patients who are not allowed any visitors during their long hospital, often weeks at a time. It's an incredibly isolating experience for many future moms during this highly emotional period of their life. I have seen and learned from their resilience. They have fostered a community based on shared experience of isolation and the emotional rollercoaster of their long hospital stays.  

One of my most memorable patients was always up when we rounded in the morning. At sunrise, she sat up and meditated-- her form of prayer. It was her moment to recenter. Although we might not be of the same faith, we return to the same place— prayer— to find peace and solitude during a turbulent time.  

The disconnect and isolation of the pandemic have caused a shared struggle. Suffice to say, the impact of this pandemic ensures our lives will never be the same. There is no return to a “normal” but adjustment to a “new normal” with the loss of more than 400,000 lives.  

I pray for the many patients and families that have lost their loved ones during this pandemic. 

The COVID-19 vaccine brings hope back into our communities. It gives me faith that we might be able to be together again.  

I pray that we see an end to this pandemic with more widespread vaccinations. When I received my first dose of the MODERNA vaccine, my home state Ohio had the second-worst vaccination rates in the country. Currently, Ohio has 13.6% of the COVID-19 cases in the United States even though Ohioans make up 3.5% of the American population. There have been multiple cases of negligence of COVID-19 vaccines and refusals by nursing home employees to get vaccinated.  

We need more community-based vaccine distribution that reaches the most vulnerable communities of all faiths and backgrounds.  

This is the time to show up for one another--- through prayer, masks, and vaccines. 

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

"Many synagogues are leaning into the Purim tradition of giving gifts to friends and the poor— a custom known as “mishloach manot.”
"We know through surveys that people are more likely to like Muslims if they know one personally. But because only about 1% of Americans practice the Islamic faith, many people just don’t come into contact with any Muslims."
Purim tells the tale of Esther, an orphaned girl-turned-queen, how she married King Achashverosh, then saved the entire Jewish community in the ancient Persian city of Shushan, through her bravery and wit.
Higher education remains highly unequal and racial divides persist. How can these realities be explained in a context defined by wokeness?
There are so many forces that pull people apart from one another. Institutions and systems and ways of thinking that want us to feel separated, broken, helpless, and quick to capitalize on moments of weakness. The very thing that brings out...
Others noted Rihanna chose to display Ganesh on Feb. 15, the day Hindus celebrate as Ganesh's birthday, or Ganesh Jayanti. The god of beginnings, Ganesh is honored before starting a business or major project.
Until this year, most schools, states and national high school athletic associations had typically forbidden religious headwear, citing safety concerns, unless a student or coach had applied for a waiver. No waiver, no play.
Do a quick Google or YouTube search for tarot, and you’ll find the two main things people tend to inquire about are love and money. Underlying these inquiries is a belief that a tarot reading can tell the future, which begs the question of whether...
The results are based on responses from some 1,800 Black American adults, including more than 800 who attend a Black church. The California research firm conducted the survey in the spring of 2020.
Asian Americans are suffering under the weight of these mounting incidents. Many, including those in our own circles, have expressed concern about leaving their homes to perform everyday tasks.
"Black residents make up a little under half of Washington’s population, but constitute nearly three-fourths of the city's COVID-19 deaths."
Can interfaith leadership foster greater equity for the health of communities of color? Four leaders in healthcare discuss racial health disparities in our nation and how interfaith leadership can be implemented in order to solve them.
“It's an invitation to be subversive by focusing on ourselves."
Across the state, nearly every major health care system has partnered with Black and Hispanic houses of worship to expand vaccine access, setting up mobile clinics in their parking lots and fellowship halls.
Gandhi organized a nonviolent protest on behalf of the farmers. That was when the word satyagraha was used for the first time in the context of a political protest.
Pierce, who is in her 40s and identifies as a Pentecostal, talked with Religion News Service about what she learned from her grandmother, the kinds of hymns she doesn’t sing and her expectations about the future of the Black church.
"We have to develop new approaches to politics that can turn the temperature down on our political conflicts and start bringing people closer together. So much is at stake"
Our nation's very foundation is built on mendacity hermeneutics of scripture and intentional omission of women, indigenous populations, and enslaved Africans from the protection under any of its laws, whether created by Man or divinely inspired.
Ash Wednesday is a time when persons are invited to face their mortality; to remember the limited time we have on this earth and reflect on who we want to be, and the path we want to travel; and who or what we live for.
They're part of the estimated 2 million residents of New York City facing food insecurity, a number said to have nearly doubled amid the biggest surge in unemployment since the Great Depression.
Thes team will work with "leaders of different faiths and backgrounds who are the front lines of their communities in crisis and who can help us heal, unite and rebuild."

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.