The Islamic Call to Prayer
For the religious, regardless of faith, a call to prayer is a beautiful thing. It is soothing and comforting. It is done quietly, peacefully, and many a time, in unison. However, in Islam, I have to take an exception to that. Islam’s call to prayer is flat out annoying, bullying, and forces an invasion on everyone’s privacy. I hope the reader will give me the benefit of the doubt and read on so I can explain why I view Islam’s call to prayer as annoying, and an infringement on my individual freedom. It is a violation of my human rights.
The Power of Habit
If you live in the united states, “Thanksgiving” is a happy and festive time of the year. Many family members get together and eat a big feast, part of which is usually cooked Turkey. A story I heard is that once there was a housewife who used to cut the Turkey in half before putting it in the oven to cook. When asked “why she did that?”, she had no answer, but said “My Mom used to do that and I follow on her footsteps. So, she proceeded to call her Mom. Her Mom told her that her old oven was too small to fit a whole turkey in it unless it is cut in half. The irony is that her daughter has a modern stove and oven, with the largest oven size available in the market.
The above story shows the strong influence of habit and ritual traditions in our lives. We all have some in one form or another.
The Story of Islam’s Call to Prayer
Let me quote the story as narrated in Sirat Ibn Hisham (translated by Mohammad Mahdi Al-Sharif, Dar al-kotob al-Ilmiyyah, 2006, pp.110-111):
The messenger of Allah, at his arrival in medina, desired to take a horn, as this of the Jews, to be the sign of prayer; but he disliked it. Then, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) ordered of a gong to be sculpted and rung for this purpose.
Such being the case, a man called Abdullah Ibn Zayd Ibn Thaalabah, came to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and said: (Oh messenger of Allah! This night I have seen in a dream somebody wearing two green garments and carrying a gong. I asked: (How much is this gong?) He asked: (Why do you want to buy it?) I answered: (To use it as a sign of prayer.) He said: (May I guide you to something better?) I asked: (What is it to be?) He said: (You may say: Allah is the greatest; Allah is the greatest; Allah is the greatest; Allah is the greatest; I declare that there is no God but Allah; I declare that there is no God but Allah; I declare that Mohammad is the Messenger of Allah; I declare that Mohammad is the Messenger of Allah; Come to prayer; Come to Prayer; come to prosperity; Come to prosperity; Allah is the greatest; Allah is the greatest; There is no God but Allah.)
The messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: (It is a true dream by Allah’s willing. Stand up and let Belal keep it to call to prayer. He has a louder voice than you have.)
The above story is the narration of how the call to prayer tradition started in Islam. Back then, there were no watches. So, people needed some mechanism to tell them when its prayer time. With the advent of modern marvels called ‘watches” and “clocks”, the need for a call to prayer in Islam should have vanished. The problem is that it did not. In fact it is exaggerated. Unlike other houses of worship for other religions, where the call to prayer remains within the confines of the house of worship, where it rightfully belongs, Muslims raise high minarets, and equip them with three or four loudspeakers to blast their call to prayer to everyone, whether they like it or not. This, in my view, is a stark violation of the individual’s right not to be bothered by loudspeakers calling to prayer five times a day. Nowadays, people have watches and clocks. They can use them to know when the time for prayer is up, and when it is time to go to the mosque. So, why is it the Muslims love to annoy others when there is no need to? I am certainly not against anyone praying in anyway they like. I just don’t like to be bothered by that. That is my right. Muslims telling me its prayer time five times a day is an infringement on my right not to bothered by them. The most annoying prayer call is the one done at around 5 am in the morning (sometimes even earlier than that). This Muslim behavior is uncalled for. Muslims certainly can learn when its prayer time without annoying others with their rituals.
I do think that this tradition of Islamic “Call” to prayer using loudspeakers from mosques’ minarets has a lot to do with the power of habit and tradition as I explained in the aforementioned “Thanksgiving” story. There is not a mandate in Islam for the call to prayer. It was needed back then. But, nowadays, there is absolutely no need for it. People have watches and clocks. They do not need some annoying individual called Imam to wake people up in the morning just because he thinks he has an Allah-given right to do so.
Finally, I like to end with a light-hearted story told to me by my aunt many many years ago. In the town where she lives, there was a lightly insane person named Hazhouz. He was a harmless person. So, he was not hospitalized or put in an assylum. He was loose in the neighborhoods. One night, very early in the morning, Hazhouz was trying to sleep after a rough night. Then comes the Imam on the loudspeakers calling people to come to the mosque and pray. Hazhouz took it personal that night. He got mad at this unnecessary and uncalled forth annoyance. The Imam was infringing on Hazhouz’s right to some quietness so he can go to sleep. Hazhouz got up, got dressed, and down to the mosque he went. He kept going forward toward the Imam and asked him: “Are you the one who woke up the neighborhood this early calling them to prayer?”. The Imam said: “yes son, How can I help you.” Hazhouz said: “ You really don’t sleep, and don’t want others to sleep. Come here..” and Hazhouz started beating him up. Some men in the mosque ran and saved the Imam before he got a serious beating.”
That early morning, Hazhouz was a very sane man..
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