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Author Topic: Cairo set to centralise the city's call to prayer  (Read 704 times)
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« on: Jul 21, 2010 01:54 PM »

Asalaamu Alaikum bro

I have to say, I can’t believe multiple adhans is such a big issue.

But then again, maybe it is Huh?

Cairo set to centralise the city's call to prayer

In person, the diminutive Ahmed Abdel Aziz speaks carefully, softly and modestly. But five times each day, his voice soars to the rafters of Al Maghfara Mosque, spills into the streets, floats between minarets and swirls among the cacophony of noise, both sacred and secular, that has defined this city for centuries.

The adhan, the ritual Islamic call to prayer, is Cairo’s timeless sound. But after 22 years spent perfecting his own unique chant, Mr Aziz’s time is almost up. When Ramadan begins next month, Egypt’s ministry of religious endowments will begin broadcasting a single voice from one central downtown studio to Cairo’s 4,000 mosques

“When I hear the adhan, I’m going to be chanting the adhan by myself and I’m going to get the blessings the same way as if I was making the adhan,” said a sanguine Mr Aziz, who said he supports the ministry’s decision. “I’m still going to take advantage of God’s blessing.”

Egyptian religious officials, who in most cases are appointed by the government, have tried for several years to unify the dissonant voices and competing adhan styles that add to Cairo’s enchanting chaos. But their efforts have been blocked by an entrenched orthodoxy that suspects any centralisation of religious authority as yet another attempt by the Egyptian state to extend its control over matters of faith.

“It’s a negative decision and it doesn’t follow the tradition of the Prophet or Islamic jurisprudence,” said Nasser Salam al Said, an imam and muezzin at the Al Rahma Mosque in Agouza, a suburb of Cairo.

“It’s a dangerous decision because it’s being made logically, or it’s using logic to argue for it. And if we follow this logic, we could extend logic to other issues in the religion, and that is not good.”

Yet even critics acknowledge the logic behind the ministry’s decision, which officials describe as a simple question of municipal beautification. As it stands, every one of Cairo’s thousands of mosques has its own muezzin, each with a different voice, a different style and, perhaps most importantly, a different watch. The calls, which are broadcast from loudspeakers on minarets, tend to start and stop at slightly different times, to a somewhat maddening effect.

“The main reason for this plan is to reduce the noise and, when the adhans overlap, that’s confusing for the listeners,” said Salem Abel Galil, a deputy minister of religious endowments. “Also, it is to get rid of the voices of the adhan that are not so nice or beautiful.”

To prepare each mosque for the unified call, the ministry of religious endowments is planning to distribute special radio receivers to each mosque at a cost of about one million Egyptian pounds (Dh640,000). Conventional radio is inadequate for the task, Mr Galil said, because prayer times differ at varying latitudes, and the unified call is meant only for Cairene ears.

As a counter to critics, Mr Galil requested fatwas supporting his decision from Egypt’s highest religious authorities. Al Azhar, the centre of Sunni Islamic learning, and the Dar Al Iftaa Al Masriyah, an authority on Islamic jurisprudence, both approved the plan about a year ago, Mr Galil said.

Despite the green lights from high clerics, such approval is hardly enough for Egypt’s conservative Muslims. The authority of Egypt’s once vaunted religious institutions has eroded substantially since Al Azhar and others were placed under state control in the early 1960s. The government now appoints Al Azhar’s imam.

Although the substance of the call to prayer will remain the same, critics consider the decision to be an example of bida’a, or religious innovation that exceeds the norms prescribed by the canon. Despite that the mosques will continue business as usual, hardliners say unifying the call to prayer is a violation simply because the practice is not cited in the Quran.

“We’re asked to follow the Prophet and the Prophet didn’t unify the adhan. So as long as the Prophet didn’t unify it, we shouldn’t unify it,” said Mr al Said. Muezzins should be an accessible and visible part of the community of worshippers, he said. “Instead of unifying the call to prayer, why don’t they train muezzins in the ministry according to the job description and distribute them to the mosques? Then there will be beautiful voices in every mosque.”

Despite his disagreement, Mr al Said said he plans to stay away from the microphone this Ramadan. After all, those who disobey the new rules will be “be subject to an investigation and they could be interrogated”, Mr Galil said. Punishments have not been decided for those who refuse to forfeit their microphones.

For the time being, however, conservative opponents appear prepared to remain as quiet as the cast-aside muezzins.

But as with any question of religion, the unified call to prayer will probably remain a sensitive issue.

“The people, they start screaming and say ‘this is against God, and against Allah and against Islam’,” said Gamal Zayda, a columnist and managing editor of the government-run Al Ahram newspaper.

“Part of the government policy is to flatter the religious people just to send them a message telling them ‘we are not against religion’. They are not courageous in saying that we are a secular society, unfortunately.”

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« Reply #1 on: Jul 21, 2010 03:27 PM »


Maybe 7 can elaborate, living there and everything...but i LOVE the thousand athaans in Cairo!!!  I think its one of those things that makes visitors, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, fall in love with the city!  It's beautiful to my ear...and I have never heard an ugly athaan, subhanAllah...dunno where these ppl get their notions from. 

Me thinks many ppl dont have much other work to do, or issues to think about... Roll Eyes

Thats just me tho  Tongue

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« Reply #2 on: Jul 22, 2010 03:08 PM »

This makes me sad.

“The main reason for this plan is to reduce the noise and, when the adhans overlap, that’s confusing for the listeners,” said Salem Abel Galil, a deputy minister of religious endowments. “Also, it is to get rid of the voices of the adhan that are not so nice or beautiful.”

I'm sorry, but that's just stupid.

Years ago, I spent some time in Amman, Jordan.  One of my favorite things was the call to prayer.  The different mosques not start at the same time, and they had different callers.  It was beautiful.  One mosque would start, then another and then another would begin.  The different voices and cadences overlapping was wondrous to hear.

Unfortunately, Jordan is now doing what Cairo wants to do now.  :'(
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« Reply #3 on: Jul 24, 2010 04:44 AM »

as salaamu alaykum,

Personally, I am very sad to hear this news, and I think it will really take away from the spiritual atmosphere of Cairo.  I remember Sh. Bouti discussing this point in relation to Syria (I think they were discussing implementing the same idea there), and he mentioned that the adhaan as being from the "sha'aa'ir" of Allah- basically from the symbols or hallmarks of the religion, and so it is something that should be preserved even if it's not necessary from a practical standpoint, with the proliferation of watches, prayer schedules, etc.

However on a practical level the *way* in which the adhaan is called now in Cairo does have its problems, especially in some of the more population and therefore masjid-dense areas and in terms of the decibel level, but I think another alternative could have been reached, such as what someone suggested in one article about having restrictions on volume and having a muezzin-training for those who do not have "beautiful voices".  A further note is that from what I remember from a lecture by Sh. Hamza Yusuf, in the Maliki school one should not call the adhaan in an extremely melodious fashion, song-like, but instead say it more simply and straight-forwardly, so I am not sure if that plays a role in how some of the muezzins call the adhaan which some consider 'not beautiful'.

I also feel that - perhaps- this is being done with an eye turned to the tourism industry, which is the second largest resource for Egypt after funding by the U.S.  However it has been approved by Dar ul-Iftaa and does not seem to have any serious fiqhi issues to it, so I guess there is no issue from that standpoint, wAllahu a'lam.

wasalaamu alaykum

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« Reply #4 on: Jul 24, 2010 05:09 PM »


Gosh, aren't the 'Muslim' countries falling over themselves to stifle Islam!

One of my fondest memories of holidaying in Dubai is hearing the Adhan and then another and then another, there is a certain harmony and utter beauty to it, the different voices do not diminsh the beauty of the Adhan, and I know of no person who is so stupid as to miss a salat upon hearing the adhan because he (would never be a woman) is confused as to whether the masjid he attends is having the prayers at this time or not....salat happens at the same time in the same vicinity it does not matter if the Muezzins watches are not synchronised the difference is almost a fraction or a minute at the most, not enough at any rate to miss salat time!

Most people who want to make salat in jamat, are generally ready and waiting at the masjid before the adhan...

This is not logic, this is idiocy.


And when My servants question thee concerning Me, then surely I am nigh. I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he crieth unto Me. So let them hear My call and let them trust in Me, in order that they may be led aright. Surah 2  Verse 186
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