4:44 p.m.: Masjid Al-Shuhada, Downtown Denver

Victoria Carodine, 5280 – 5280.com

In a building that can hold up to 200 praying together, Imam Muhammad Kolila was alone as he prayed the Salat al-‘asr, one of Islam’s five daily prayers.

“One of the things I really miss about community, before coronavirus, is that sense of belonging and that sense of human, physical interactions,” he said afterward. “If we have good intentions, and we lack all the resources and we do our best to pray and make sure we pray in a group, we get the same reward as we would as if we pray in the mosque. And that’s one of the things I’m trying to highlight.”

Kolila has highlighted such teachings online. Like religious leaders of all faith traditions, Kolila has been streaming services — in his case, since March 16 — to provide spiritual direction at a trying time and keep his congregation connected as best he can.

“One of the main objectives and one of the main missions of this mosque is to provide a safe space for people to come and pray, and connect with God, but right now we cannot create that safe space—physically,” he said. “This is why our biggest challenge is to create the space virtually.” 

In addition to providing spiritual guidance digitally, Kolila has helped members in need. He regularly delivers food, supplies and money to members. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan was about to begin, providing another test for the imam and his temporarily virtual congregation. 

The easing of stay-at-home orders will raise additional questions for Masjid Al-Shuhada and other places of worship: What does praying together look like in the new normal of 2020?