Muslims getting care at Hennepin Healthcare's HCMC will no longer scramble to locate the right direction for prayer.
The hospital and Muslim leaders on Tuesday affixed stickers in 60 rooms around the Emergency Department indicating qibla, the direction they should face when praying. Hennepin Healthcare also made a commitment to put prayer stickers throughout the hospital as a nod of support for their growing caseload of Muslim patients.
Minnesota is home to at least 150,000 Muslims. Hennepin Healthcare's Emergency Department serves more than 210 patients on average a day, and many are of the Muslim faith.
"This is a historical moment for both Hennepin Healthcare and our Muslim community in Minnesota," said Imam Sharif Abdirahman Mohamed of Dar Al-Hijrah mosque, which donated about 250 qibla stickers to the hospital. "When patients come to HCMC, a level-one trauma hospital, they may experience emotional distress so we want to make sure the environment is welcoming and inclusive."
Muslims are obligated to pray five times a day and must face toward the sacred structure called the Kaaba in Mecca, the holiest city in Saudi Arabia. Many use a qibla-finding app on their smartphones to know which direction to pray. For devout Muslims, prayer serves as a powerful connection to God and a source of healing.
Hennepin Healthcare physicians were the first to notice the importance of prayers to their Muslim patients and the additional stress it caused them when they struggled to tell which direction to face when praying. The doctors suggested to the Emergency Medicine Diversity Committee that it should place qibla indicators in their exam rooms.
Attending Tuesday's event with local imams was Mike Van Keulen, executive director of Open Path Resources, a Minneapolis nonprofit that has been working with Hennepin Healthcare in the past two years to include certified Muslim chaplains to their staff and improve relationships with Muslims in the East African community. Van Keulen said placing qibla stickers in hospital rooms is part of a larger effort.
"It's having accurate information about which way to pray, but the bigger thing is, when you walk in the hospital and there's the qibla sign there, the hospital is saying, 'We knew you would be here and you're welcome here and this is your hospital, too,' " said Van Keulen. "It's important for Minnesota to take note that we can make progress."
Minnesota's health care systems have been rethinking their relationships with the Muslim community in recent years, hiring certified Muslim chaplains to support patients, most of whom don't trust the medical system.
With two Muslims employed as chaplains in Minnesota, the gap is still big. But seven are on track to finish the professional training required to serve in that role in hospitals across the state.
Mohamed, the first certified Muslim chaplain in the state, said having qibla stickers in a major hospital like HCMC is a step in the right direction when it comes to building trust with the Muslim community.
"This is the beginning," Mohamed said. "I hope that other hospitals follow Hennepin Healthcare's footsteps."