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UK Muslim Chaplain: On Offering Help During COVID-19 Pandemic

In recent years, Muslims in the UK have embraced the chaplaincy model as a means of providing faith-based guidance to those who need it.

As the coronavirus radically altered the lives of many, Sidra Naeem, a chaplain at St Luke’s Hospice in Basildon, talks about how it’s been really difficult to visit patients and offer them the religious support they need.

“It is very, very difficult because 80 to 90% of communication is actually through visual communication,” she told The BBC.

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“You cannot see the patient’s expression on their faces, you do not always pick up on their tone of voice or their body language and sometimes a patient could be crying and you do not know.

“And you cannot give them a hug or hold their hand, which is often needed, especially with end-of-life patients.”

As of Sunday, June 7, the COVID-19 pandemic has infected 7,005,560 and killed other 402,676, according to the latest estimates by WorldOMeter.

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In the UK, there are 284,868 COVID-19 cases. The virus has killed 40,465 so far in the country.

Photography by Laurence Cawley
Photography by Laurence Cawley

Funerals Too

Funerals in Islam have always been simple with no elaborate services or extravagant caskets.

However, at the time of COVID-19 pandemic, it has been very difficult, according to Naeem.

“There have been numerous deaths, with a disproportionate number in the black and minority ethnic community. So, there has been a huge backlog of burial procedures within the Muslim cemeteries. There have been waiting lists.

“The main thing has been that a lot of Muslims who have died from the coronavirus were not allowed to be washed before burial, which is an Islamic requirement. It is obligatory, really, and they were just buried as they were – covered and then buried.

Despite all the pain the pandemic has wrought, Naeem still sees a lot of positive signs.

“I think everybody has now realized so much of what they had before and now appreciate it. We have a stronger bonding with our families. We appreciate our friends more because we have not seen them, and we appreciate the NHS more,” she said.

“It has made us go right down to basics and we are a lot more humble now. We are all one nation, really, facing the same calamity.”