the true spirit of the azan

this is a very beautiful well-written article by a young professor called mohd. tajuddin, which i would like to share.  it is related to the after friday prayer protest on the azan issue at the kg kerinchi mosque, kl.

from the latest news, it seemed that the MCA lawyer had apologised. eh? i feel he shouldn’t.  the extreme hypocrites malays from some NGOs had already went on a protest and burned his effigy.  it is true that at some mosques or surau, the azan is very loud… not that we are questioning the call of izan (nor are we against islam just because we said this, as the extreme hypocrites after friday PRAYERS protestors said so). we just want the volume to be within acceptance level.

the picture you see here is taken from the window of my f lat. the mosque you see is the bayan baru mosque which is about 150 metres away. on the left, you’ll notice a mosque head too, right? well that is the bayan baru surau which is just next to my flat. in the beginning when i first moved in, the noise was awfully loud to me as at first couldn’t get used to it. believe it or not, i can hear the azan from both the mosque and the surau! first the surau will start… then followed by the mosque… wow!…. like stereo sound. however several years back, i can’t hear the azan from the mosque anymore so i guess they have tone down the volume but of course can still hear it from the surau. since i’m so near, well… it is loud. even when i was talking on the phone to a friend, my friend on the other side once said she heard the azan so clear and loud. oh well… i’m used to it already. no complain whatsoever.

ok don’t forget to click on ‘read more’ to read what prof. dr mohd tajuddin had to say.



The true spirit of the azan
Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi
Jan 17, 11 2:47PM

COMMENT Let us be clear on the purpose of the adhan in its original form. According to the hadith (recording of the sayings and actions) of the Prophet Muhammad as documented by Sirah Ishaq:

“When the apostle was firmly settled in Medina and his brethren the emigrants were gathered to him and the affairs of the helpers were arranged, Islam became firmly established.

“Prayer was instituted, the alms tax and fasting were prescribed, legal punishments fixed, the forbidden and the permitted prescribed, and Islam took up its abode with them. It was this clan of the helpers who ‘have taken up their abode (in the city of the prophet) and in the faith’.

“When the apostle first came, the people gathered to him for prayer at the appointed times without being summoned. At first the apostle thought of using a trumpet like that of the Jews who used it to summon to prayer. Afterwards he disliked the idea and ordered a clapper to be made, so it was duly fashioned to be beaten when the Muslims should pray.

“Meanwhile ‘Abdullah b. Zayd b. Tha’laba b. ‘Abdu Rabbihi brother of B. al-Harith heard a voice in a dream, and came to the apostle saying: ‘(In my dream) There passed by me a man wearing two green garments carrying a clapper in his hand, and I asked him to sell it to me. When he asked me what I wanted it for I told him that it was to summon people to prayer, whereupon he offered to show me a better way: it was to say thrice ‘Allah Akbar. I bear witness that there is no God but Allah I bear witness that Muhammad is the apostle of God. Come to prayer. Come to Prayer. Come to divine service. Come to divine service. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. There is no God but Allah’.

“When the apostle was told of this he said that it was a true vision if God so willed it, and that he should go with Bilal and communicate it to him so that he might call to prayer thus, for he had a more penetrating voice. When Bilal acted as muezzin ‘Umar heard him in his house and came to the apostle dragging his cloak on the ground and saying that he had seen precisely the same vision. The apostle said, ‘God be praised for that!’”

The main purpose of the azan

It is clear in the hadith that the main purpose of the azan is to call Muslims for prayers at a single time because there was no idea of a mechanical device to tell exact time. The azan was also used to tell people to pray in their homes when there is a calamity or severe weather that makes going to the mosque a dangerous affair as in the following hadith:

“Once on a very cold and stormy night, Ibn Umar pronounced the azan for the prayer and then said ‘Pray in your homes’. He (Ibn Umar) added, ‘On very cold and rainy nights, Allah’s apostle used to order the muezzin to say ‘Pray in your homes’.”

The Malays of the Nusantara region had resorted to the use of the beduk (a tree trunk made hollow to echo the beats or a taboh which is a leather drum in mosques of old). The traditional Malay mosques of old never had a minaret but possessed the ‘rumah taboh’ or a low tower to house the drum.

In one sense, the Malays went against the Prophet’s order of a clapper or drum but because there were no Jewish or Christian tradition to be mistaken with then, the ijtihad of the drum was accepted. This shows that Islam is tolerant of the cultural contexts of the area.

Mosques in China have been found to echo the architecture of the temple form, once again showing the tolerance and magnanimity of Islam. In Spain, when Muslims were in power, there were many churches that were left intact. In Malaysia we see the presence of heritage temples and churches littering the country that proclaims the generosity of Islam.

But what of the antics of extreme Malay NGOs and Malay-based political parties? Burning effigies? Stepping on cow heads with the knowledge that the animal is considered sacred to certain citizens of this country? The Prophet never taught his followers to step on politicians’ pictures or burn effigies or desecrate holy objects of the major religions.

Only once did I find the Prophet’s anger related in this regard and manner, but note that it was in relation to the houses of Muslims who hear the azan but do not come for prayers. In a hadith cited by Bukhari:

Allah’s Apostle said, “By Him in Whose Hand my soul is, I was about to order the collecting of firewood, order someone to pronounce the Azan for the prayer, ask someone to lead the prayer, then I would go from behind and burn the houses of men who did not present themselves for the prayer.”

The issue of the azan is a simple one, but because of ignorance and a sense of cheap political strategies to drum up support, it has been blown out of proportion. The fact remains that in countries such as the US, the azan is not allowed to be pronounced because it is in a non-Muslim areas. Muslims still flock to the mosques because the azan is sounded within the compound only.

A tool of convenience

And even if there is no azan being called, the congregational prayers can still be performed validly. The narrations clearly stipulate that the azan is a tool of convenience and it is not a singular part of the prayer as prescribed to the Prophet and his nation on the Night of Ascension. The azan is not obligatory, though it is still considered important to be called out aloud.

Thus, the request by the non-Muslim lawyer to lower the sound is not a threat to the performance of prayers since everyone now can tell the time of prayers. Besides, in some Malay-dominated areas, the sound of the azan being called by many mosques sometimes creates confusion, to the point that the beauty in its call is jeopardised.

It is time that some kind of ruling about the decibel level of the azan be made in relation to the proximity of various mosques as well as taking into account whether the area is more populated by non-Muslims or not. It is a logical and simple request. And it was made in a letter to Putrajaya in a civil and respectful manner.

What of the answer of some Muslim Malays? Loud threats and burning of effigies! Why are Muslims angry at being labelled as extremists and terrorists by the Western media, when their actions speak volumes and show how the Western media are clearly ‘correct’ in their assessment. But Islam as taught by the Prophet shun these extremities.

I read with interest that a spokesperson of the government denied that the government had ordered the sound to be lowered. I also read in Harakahdaily that a PAS Youth leader condemned Putrajaya and the BN government for giving in to the request by the MCA lawyer.

To me, if the BN government did order the volume to be lowered then they would have acted within the true spirit of Islam as taught by the Prophet. But then, the government spokesmen had denied so.

I am completely surprised and taken aback by the PAS Youth’s condemnation of the alleged move to lower the sound. PAS had shown great magnanimity and true spirit of tolerance in the ‘Allah’ issue, the Teo Nie Ching Mosque issue, the ‘aerobics in the mosque compound’ issue, the church-burning issue, the cow-head incident, and many more.

But the PAS Youth leader has made PAS to be as bad as another Malay political party as well as Perkasa. I hope the senior leaders of PAS can quickly make a clear statement of magnanimity and generosity of Islam as shown in the other incidents.

We must take heed of what Imam Ghazali recorded in his Ihya Ulumuddin as follows:

“One night Said Al-Musayyab heard Umar Abdul Aziz reciting aloud the Qur’an in the Mosque of the Prophet. Said ordered his son to go to the person who was praying and tell him to lower his voice in recitation. His son replied that the mosque is a public place and that they had not a single right to it and furthermore, the man who was reciting was the Governor of Medinah.

“Said then called onto the reciter and said,” O you who is praying. If you desire that Allah The Most High accept your prayer, then lower your voice. If you desire that the people accept you, the people are only in need of Allah.” When Umar, the Governor of Medinah, heard this advice, he shortened his superragotary prayer and lowered his voice in recitation.”

How beautiful was the action of the governor who heeded the reminder of his subject without throwing a tantrum and proclaiming that one must listen and respect the Qur’anic recitation at all times. This is about one Muslim reminding a Muslim leader not to disturb people during their times of sleep.

Elements out to stir unrest

There are elements in this country out to use Islam in order to stir racial unrest. Of that fact it is very clear to me, an educated father of five. We Malaysians must protect the safety of our children from these elements of extremism at all costs.

Muslim parents and citizens of Malaysia must look long and hard at their religion as taught by the Prophet because some religious scholars and political leaders are clearly presenting Islam in a very negative sense to serve their own material agendas.

I beg also of all non-Muslim to be patient and ignore these extremist elements and continue to be civil in their discourse and discussion of Islam in the public arena.

As a Malaysian citizen who is a follower of Islam, I welcome civilised discussions and questions or even ‘complaints’ about my religion. Let us manage them maturely. Just as Malaysia is entering her adulthood, we also must not handle matters in the manner of little children throwing tantrums. The more so when there are childish adults who are out to capitalise on ignorance and suspicions.


PROF DR MOHAMAD TAJUDDIN MOHAMAD RASDI is a 23-year veteran academic and teaches architecture at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. He specialises in mosque and Islamic architecture particularly that which relates to Malaysia using a hadith-based and socio-cultural approach in order to create the total idea of built environment suited for a whole social structure. He is the author of ‘The Mosque as a Community Centre’ (1998).

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