Azaan – the call to prayer

Allahu Akbar…Allahu Akbar
Allahu Akbar…Allahu Akbar…

Five times a day, you get to hear the following words from the loudspeakers of a mosque nearby you. Of late, there are many controversies raised regarding the Azaan. Let’s understand what Azaan is and how we should look at these controversies.

Why Azaan? 

Islam has prescribed five mandatory prayers in a day at fixed times for Muslims. The Muslims gather in the mosque to offer these five mandatory prayers and pray them together.

The times for the prayer are decided based on the movement of the sun. For example: Sunrise and Sunset times keeps varying throughout the year. So, the times for the prayers before sunrise and sunset will also keep varying. With varying prayer times throughout the year, there is a need to remind the Muslims at fixed times that they should reach the mosque for prayer. This is why the “Azaan – the call to prayer” was instituted. As soon as the Muslims hear the call to prayer, they go to the mosque and all of them offer the prayers together. 

How did Azaan start?

During the time of the Prophet Muhammad, there were several ideas given for the “call to prayer”. Some suggested ringing a bell, some suggested that a horn can be blown, and some even suggested that a fire can be lighted. Prophet Muhammad, inspired by God, chose to use a “human voice” for the “call to prayer”. It is interesting to note that Prophet Muhammad did not choose a bell or a horn which could be much louder than a human voice or a fire that could be seen from far away. One might wonder why would Prophet Muhammad do that. The “Call to prayer” given in a human voice is a spiritual experience for the one who gives it and for the one who listens to it.

Meaning of the phrases in Azaan

Allahu Akbar = God is the greatest

Ashadu An Laa ilaaha illa Allah = I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship and obedience except God

Ashadu Anna Muhammadur Rasool Allah = I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God

Hayya al-Salah = Come to the prayer

Hayya al-Falah = Come to the success

Note: Allah is NOT the personal God of Muslims. Allah is the Arabic word for God. All the Arab Christians and Jews use the word “Allah” to refer to God. Use Google translate to translate the English word “God” to Arabic. It will say “Allah”.

Azaan is a spiritual experience

If one reads the translation of the phrases in the Azaan, you will agree that there is nothing objectionable in it. Let’s now look at the spiritual meaning behind the phrases.

Allahu Akbar – God is the greatest 

Every person who believes in God will agree that God is the greatest. 

Ashadu An Laa ilaaha illa Allah – I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship and obedience except God

Since God is the greatest, one should only worship and obey God and not anyone or anything else. This is very logical and should be acceptable to everyone.

Ashadu Anna Muhammadur Rasool Allah = I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God

Prophet Muhammad is the last Prophet who taught about the worship and obedience to God. So, the Muslims are reminded about him in the call to prayer. If you are wondering who the Prophets of God are, you can read about it here.

Hayya al-Salah – Come to the prayer

Humans, as much as they want to obey and worship God get distracted and become immersed in worldly pleasures which makes them commit sins and immoralities. It is important that humans connect with their Creator, God Almighty at regular intervals in a day to purify themselves from the sins and immoralities.

Prophet Muhammad said:

“If there was a river at your door and you took bath in it five times a day, would you notice any dirt on you?” The people around him said: “Not a trace of dirt would be left.” The Prophet said, “That is the example of the five prayers by which God purifies humans from sins.” (Reference: Sahih Bukhari).

Hayya al-Falah – Come to the success

Islam teaches that this wordly life is temporary and the life after death is eternal and endless. Those who do good deeds and live a righteous life will be successful in the life after death, while those who do evil deeds will be losers in the life after death. You can read more about life after death here.

Since the daily prayers are a powerful way to get connected to the Creator and get purified from sins and immoralities, a person who offers these prayers with understanding and sincerity will only strive to do good deeds and will stay away from evil deeds. So, the daily prayers are the key to success in life after death. Hence the phrase “Come to the success”.

Non-Muslims and the Azaan

BBC Reporter crying after hearing the Azaan

Liam Neeson loved hearing the Azaan

Morgan Freeman says Call to Prayer (azaan) is One of the Most Beautiful Sounds in the World 

Azaan – reminder to every human to be righteous and good

Most of us would agree that immoralities, indecencies and crimes are growing in the world. We are quickly moving towards a society that is very selfish and highly materialistic devoid of ethics and morals. Old parents are abandoned by their children and there is an increase in old age homes. In times like these, a daily wake up call and reminder to connect with God to perform good deeds is the need of the hour and should be welcomed.

Azaan and loudspeakers

The use of loudspeakers in places of worship like Temples, Churches and Mosques is not a new phenomenon. All the places of worship have used loudspeakers in the past and are using them without any issues. India is a spiritual country and has a rich spiritual tradition. If there is any country in the world that can appreciate spirituality, it is India. As spiritual beings, how can anyone have issues with aspects related to spirituality?

At the same time, Muslims and people of other faiths should also take into consideration that use of loudspeakers at odd times may disturb infants, sick people and the aged. So it is better that they avoid use of loudspeakers in a manner that causes inconvenience to others.

Islam’s guidance in this matter is very clear. Prophet Muhammad said:

"The Muslim is the person from whose tongue and hand the people are safe, and the believer (of God) is the person from whom the people's lives and wealth are safe." (Reference: Sunan Nasa’i)

A true Muslim cannot cause trouble to anyone because of their actions. So the Muslims should make sure that the decibel level of the loudspeakers is as per the guidance of the Honorable Courts. We hope that the people of other faiths would also follow the guidance of the Honorable Courts when they use loudspeakers.