Allahabad High Court’s Azaan verdict and its importance

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Hon’ble Allahabad High Court granted the relief to the Muslim community on 15th May saying that Azan may be an essential and integral part of Islam but its recitation through loudspeakers or other sound-amplifying devices cannot be said to be an integral part of the religion. The bench ruled responding to a bunch of pleas, that azan can be recited by a muezzin from minarets of the mosques by human voice without using any amplifying device, and the administration is directed not to cause hindrance in the same on the pretext of the guidelines to contain the pandemic Covid-19. 

One of my lawyer friends who practices in Allahabad High Court also shared this news with me and sought my opinion. I said, “The ruling is spot on and as a citizen and Muslim both, I welcome this judgement.” Yet, he wanted to know more about azan and discuss the issue in detail. I explained to him that azan is an important thing for Muslims as an Islamic ritual and kernel of the whole teachings of Islam. It is considered to be an act of worship itself which is full of fortunes and blessings. Azan brings God’s mercy in abundance to the vicinity where it is recited.

Besides, Azan is also the formal call to prayer in Islam. Azan is reverentially called out by a muezzin from the mosque five times a day, reminding and summoning Muslims for obligatory prayers. It is to let Muslims living in that vicinity know that the time for prayer has arrived and they should make due preparations. Therefore, azan works as a human-alarm and put people on their guard to leave all worldly business for that moment.  

Having said this, we would hardly find anybody objecting recitation of azan for the aforesaid purpose. Yet often, people debate over the usage of the loudspeaker, microphone, nay, any kind of sound-amplifying device for recitation of azan. In this context, we have to understand a few things beforehand.

First, azan is a primitive Islamic ritual and being practiced for centuries on end. However, microphone is a newfangled concept that came into existence much later circa nineteenth century. With this, it is sufficient to clinch; de facto use of loudspeakers could not be assumed mandatory for the recitation of azan. 

Second, Islam abhors pollution in any form. Quran meticulously refutes noise pollution in its thirty-first chapter- Surah Luqman. The wise man Luqman puts veritable emphasis on low voice while counselling to his son. Here, I quote the verse, “Be moderate in your tread and lower your voice.” To make him understand, he further compares ‘speaking loudly’ with ‘braying of the asses’. Possibly, the reason for denouncing donkey’s bray was its high decibel level, which irks and annoys others. 

Third, at several places, Prophet Mohammed advised people to refrain from loud clamouring. It is also stated to lower the voice when someone then would go to meet the Prophet. Ibn Khaldun, the famous scholar of Islam, social scientist and historian, who has been described as the father of the modern disciplines of sociology, he too underlines the importance of a pollution-free society and peaceful docile atmosphere, while logically describing the details of human civilizations in his masterpiece book ‘Muqaddimah’ (an introduction to history). Apparently, Islam does not permit any kind of cacophony or hubbub in society. 

Moving forward, I also referred my recent discussion in this regard with Muslim scholar and Professor Dr. Syed Alim Ashraf (Dean and HOD – Arabic, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad) to my lawyer friend. Professor Alim Ashraf proposes a simple solution to get ahead of this issue. According to him, demographically, we have two types of localities or vicinities in our society.

The first vicinity, where Muslim population is high, there loudspeaker may be used for recitation of azan (assuming there is no court order prohibiting the use of loudspeakers) if local residents want and allow calling them to prayer. But if that particular area has more than one mosque and azan with loudspeaker from any one of these mosques is audible to all inhabitants of that vicinity; in that case it would be better to recite azan with loudspeaker from that one mosque only. Let other muezzins from remaining mosques of that area recite azan without loudspeakers. The reason is recitations of azan from succession of mosques at one and the same time, often results in overlapping or mixing of words, causes pell-mell, and confuses the person who tries to follow the Sunnat (the way of the prophet) of replying the azan. Also, we should ensure that volume of the microphone is lowered down to the minimum before azans of night’s ‘Isha’ and early morning’s ‘Fajar’ prayers so as not to disturb other public, patients or kids for whom Namaz is not obligatory yet and they can get sound sleep. 

The second case is related to the most common vicinities where population is mixed (people of different faiths living together) or sectors, where hospitals or schools are located close to the mosques. For such places, we should voluntarily dispense with the usage of loudspeakers for reciting the azan. 

In this regard, Professor Alim Ashraf also highlighted the rights of the neighbours mentioned in Islam. It is expected from Muslims to behave well with their neighbours. Prophet said, “If a person believes in Allah, s/he should not harm neighbours.” Also, a man asked the Prophet, “O Messenger of Allah! There is a woman who prays, gives charity and fasts a great deal, but she harms her neighbours with her speech”. He said: “She will go to hell”.

Keeping this in mind, also, we should not use loudspeakers for azan in mixed population vicinities considering and respecting our non-Muslim brethren and other unconcerned people. We can take a cue from Western countries, where azan generally is only called inside the mosque so as not to disturb the public or the neighbours. I am sure this initiative would conducive to enhance understanding between communities. Our Muslim brothers must think this trough incisively. 

Thus, the judgement of Allahabad High Court on Azan, surely gives us an opportunity to demonstrate and accentuate the beauty of our religion again. 

(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s own and do not reflect the opinions or views of The Rational Daily.)

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Riyaz Khan

Written by Riyaz Khan

The author is Director at an engineering and IT services company in Hyderabad and a columnist.

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