The corridor of a bustling hospital is not the best place for kneeling in devout prayer, many Muslim families and doctors have learned. But praying in a chapel comes with its own set of problems — forbidden pictures and statues of living beings, pews facing in the opposite direction of Mecca, and worshippers wearing shoes on the floor where Muslims kneel to pray.

So when a nondescript Muslim prayer room recently opened at Advocate Christ Hospital and Medical Center in this Chicago suburb, families and staff were “flying from happiness,” said Refat Abukhdeir, the hospital’s Muslim chaplain.

“Usually you find a little quiet corner or some spot and hope nobody trips over you,” said Habibah Ayyash, 25, of Frankfort, Ill., who was praying in the hallway on breaks from visiting her father-in-law in the hospital until the prayer room opened earlier this year. “Especially when someone is in the hospital, you’re already down, so it’s helpful to have a room where you can sit and pray,” Ayyash said. The room, which holds 10 to 15 people, is one of about a dozen that have sprouted up in hospitals nationwide since the late 1980s in areas with large Muslim populations, according to an informal survey.

Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, and Texas Medical Center in Houston have Muslim prayer rooms. More generic interfaith prayer and meditation rooms are far more common, according to several hospital chaplains.


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