Solano Muslim community remains cohesive despite pandemic

Ramadan Mubarak! Even during the pandemic, the Muslim community in prison has found ways to stay connected with each other through the power of religion, prayer and spiritual leadership. Pictured here are Muslim brothers in California State Prison Los Angeles working with outreach organization Link Outside, which supports the spiritual health and practices of our caged brothers, sisters and siblings, providing reentry support, mentoring and literature while pushing prisons to maintain schedules that accommodate Muslim holidays like Ramadan. – Photo: Link Outside, www.linkoutside.com

by R.J. Murphy 

For Muslims, community is everything, especially those who find themselves residents of Solano. And during the pandemic, remaining apart together has allowed them to build stronger attachments in Allah and in each other. 

“A lot of the brothers I’ve only heard of by name,” said Johnson, who has been Muslim for over nine years. “It’s only because of the quarantine that I’ve been able to finally meet some of them, and actually seeing them has only moved me to submit as a Muslim even more.” 

The mass testing of COVID-19 has caused numerous dorms and residential cohorts at CSP to be either isolated or separated due to one person testing positive. When groups of residents are moved into quarantine buildings, they are only permitted on average 15 minutes per day to either shower or make a phone call generally with those in their specific group that were moved. 

“I’m thankful my neighbor was a Muslim,” said Davis, “because even though we’re not in the same cohort or cell, when we prayed, we were still together.” 

Davis had arrived at CSP during the pandemic and had to be isolated for three weeks before he could be moved into general population. “I actually feel empowered because of having a brother already here to pray with,” said Davis. 

“The Prophet Muhammad (PAB) instructed over 140 years ago when there was another pandemic that where there is one, you do not go, and if you are there, you do not leave.”

As for those who remained on the yards, the intricate loss and changes in each part of the Muslim community had caused ripples of instant adaptation that were trying at times. Everything from the understanding of prayer times to who has the ability to teach and recite prayers from the Holy Quran has been a period of exercising spiritual leadership. 

Being unable to fully come together does hinder certain aspects of Islam, such as Jumu’ah services and the educational classes, noted Smith. 

Smith, whose Muslim name is Kholfani, meaning “leader,” stated that community to the Muslim is a prerequisite, as taught by the Prophet Muhammad – peace and blessings be upon him. “Establishing a family structure as prescribed by Allah is important in order to fulfill certain obligations such as congregational prayer,” he said. 

Smith sees the pandemic’s restrictive measures as a way to practice two principals from the teachings in the Holy Quran, patience and perseverance. “Without these trials and tribulations, it would be difficult to fully exercise the practices of Islam,” said Smith. 

Recalling a specific teaching from the Quran that dealt with exactly what the world as a whole is dealing with, Smith said, “The Prophet Muhammad (PAB) instructed over 140 years ago when there was another pandemic that where there is one, you do not go, and if you are there, you do not leave.”

For Muslims, Smith notes that Allah is one. He is the creator, and we are the created. “Without the guidance through his many successions of prophets, we would be totally lost.” 

R.J. Murphy is editor in chief of The Solano Chronicle. Send our brother some love and light: Rudy Murphy, J-91258, CSP Solano, P.O. BOX 4000, Vacaville, CA 95696.