Disaster preparedness and safety are wanting in Kenyan mosques

Disaster preparedness and safety are wanting in Kenyan mosques

The Muslim call to prayer, the Adhan, has just been broadcast and faithful have begun streaming into mosques to answer this call.

Depending on the locality of the mosque, Muslim faithful may be put through some stringent security measures that include frisking and having bags checked among other counter measures courtesy of security men manning these entrances.

In other mosques, faithful freely stroll in and out without any security checks whatsoever.

That’s not all, a good number of these institutions are ill prepared for any eventuality and lack basic equipment to address risks faithful are exposed to as they go about this important religious obligation that demands that they perform prayers five times in a day-in a mosque.

To say the least, disaster preparedness in majority of mosques is either wanting; has altogether been neglected or nonexistent.

But why focus on the safety Muslim faithful who frequent these places of worship and what impact does it have, you may ask?

Firstly, it is obligatory for every Muslim to perform swalah (prayer) as it is among the five pillars of Islam.

Thus, for swalah to be performed in a state of Khushoo (humility and attentiveness); it is important that a Muslim faithful intending to offer his/her prayer in a mosque be assured of their personal safety and that of their belongings to avoid any sort of distractions.

Therefore with safety guaranteed, a Muslim is able to offer his/her prayer in an atmosphere of Khushoo.

Khushoo constitutes the essence of the prayer and involves deep concentration and total humility before Allah (SAW), trying one’s best to concentrate and understand the Qur’anic verses and supplications recited in the prayer.

Any slight distraction may leave one’s mind wondering and therefore compromising this state of Khushoo.

Secondly, these are places where many people gather at given times and therefore ought to have mechanisms in place should emergencies arise.

That said, Muslim Times 3600 was out to assess the preparedness levels or lack of it in our places of worship and learnt that depending on the locality of the mosque coupled by deep pockets, the levels of preparedness are above board.

We also established that many mosques among other  things lack basic fire-fighting equipment, first aid kits, lack adequate emergency exits, poorly ventilated prayer halls, no fire assembly points just to mention but a few to help mitigate risks worshippers are exposed to.

Deep pockets mean that respective mosque committees/administrations are able to deploy a raft of measures to forestall any eventuality-should it arise.

Some of these measures include assembling a security team to man entrances and other strategic places within a mosque as well as affording to install state of the art surveillance gadgets among other counter measures.

However, for mosques that cannot afford such elaborate measures, it is upon Muslim faithful worshipping there to be on the lookout for each other’s’ back.

Mosques within Nairobi’s CBD (Central Business District) and its environs boast of having in place elaborate risk management measures.

At Nairobi’s Jamia mosque, Muslim faithful frequenting here for their five daily prayers are subject to frisking by security personnel employed by the mosque committee.

According to Said Abdalla-the Jamia mosque administrator, security is always at high levels. “The work of security personnel is further boosted by several CCT V cameras strategically located and on the lookout for any security breach.”

At the 2nd largest mosque in Nairobi, Masjid al-Rahma located at Hurlingham,  security is boosted courtesy of security  personnel that provides a round-theclock vigilance.

According to Bakari Omar-the administrator, qualified security personnel man strategic places within the mosque compound. “They even watch over cars parked within the compound,” adds Bakari.

In Eastleigh, some mosques here are also fitted with surveillance cameras an indicator that they too take security matters seriously.

However, as one moves further from

Nairobi’s CBD, many mosques seem not to prioritise security except during night fall. Security guards are only hired to protect mosque structures and cars parked therein.

These mosques have no disaster preparedness plans/measures and react to emergencies as they arise.

Items like first-aid kits and fire extinguishers are either nonexistent and if they are available, are locked up somewhere not easy accessible.

Interestingly, even with the above countermeasures in place, cases of rampant shoe-theft continue to afflict many mosques throughout the country as thieves stalk   worshippers even in places of worship.

They are so bold such that they stalk worshippers right from the Udhu (oblution) areas all the way to prayer halls.

That’s not all, they are stealing whatever they can lay their hands on. From laptops, mobile phones to rubber sandals/ slippers.

However, Nairobi’s Jamia mosque has gone an extra mile to provide shoe boxes for hire at a fee of KSh.500 courtesy of Umma Foundation.

Faithful can safely deposit and lock up their shoes when they come to worship.

Other mosques too have adopted a similar shock rack/storage initiative in effort to address the issue of shoe theft.

And if you thought that it is only male worshippers affected, think again! Female worshippers too have to contend with female thieves lurking in the shadows waiting to strike.

In a recent incident at Makina’s Jamia mosque in Kibra, a female worshipper was astounded to realise that her expensive mobile phone had disappeared just minutes into her prayers.

In yet another incident at Pangani mosque, Nairobi, a shoe thief was caught red-handed in the act and given a thorough beating. He later confessed to working in cahoots with accomplices who had vanished with the loot.

But not all cases of lost property can be blamed on thieves, forgetful worshippers too contribute to this state of affairs.

According to Bakari Omar -the administrator at Hurlingham’s Masjid al-Rahma mosque, he has handled similar cases.

“Spectacles, watches and even mobile phones among other items have been forgotten at different areas within the mosque including the Udhu (ablution) area,” says Bakari.

“However, owners have to convince us that the items are his/her’s by thoroughly describing them before they are handed back.”

Another crucial but lifesaving item that is absent in a number of mosques are first aid kits for any mishaps that may befall worshippers while within the mosque compound.

“Incidents of faithful slipping and falling on floors owing to wet feet have been witnessed-luckily no serious injuries,” reports a worshipper from Fedha mosque.

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