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Islamic call to prayer (Azan) wordings changed amid coronavirus pandemic in Gulf

Dubai: Azan – the Islamic call to prayer, called 5 times a day remain unchanged for centuries until recently, when a muezzin in his cracking voice filled with emotion changed the wordings to “as-salatu fi buyutikum” (pray in your homes) instead of “hayya alas-salah” (come to prayer) in Kuwait.

Many countries across the world have suspended public gathering including congregational prayers to prevent the spread of coronavirus, instead worshippers have been asked to pray at home.

Following the suspension of mass prayers in Arab world, mosques have amended the wording of the azan (call to prayer) by replacing the phrase “come to prayer”, with “pray where you are”, “pray at home” or “pray in your dwellings”.

In Islamic tradition, Muslims are summoned by the muezzin, a person who calls people over loud speakers to perform the five congregational prayers a day – Fajr, Zuhar, Asr, Maghrib and Isha. There is also a special congregational prayer on Fridays at midday, in place of the regular Zuhar prayer.

Although the azan has never been suspended throughout the Islamic history, but change has been witnessed in the penultimate part of the azan during Prophet Muhammad’s era.

According to a Prophetic Hadith, found in Sahih Al Bukhari’s Book on “Call to Prayer”, as narrated by Abdullah bin Al Harith: “Once on a rainy muddy day, Ibn Abbas delivered a sermon in our presence and when the muezzin pronounced the azan and said, ‘hayya alas-salah (come to the prayer)’ Ibn Abbas ordered him to say ‘Pray at your homes.’ The people began to look at each other (surprisingly). Ibn Abbas said. “It was done by one who was much better than I (i.e. the Prophet or his muezzin), and it is a license.’

In another Hadith in Sahih Al Bukrahi, narrated Nafi: “Once on a cold night, Ibn Umar pronounced the azan for the prayer at Dajnan (the name of a mountain) and then said: “Pray at your homes”, and informed us that Allah’s Messenger used to tell the muezzin to pronounce azan and say: “Pray at your homes” at the end of the azan on a rainy or a very cold night during the journey.”

The Azan journey in Islam

According to Islamic doctrine, Muslims are obliged to perform prayers five times a day. In the early Muslim community in Medina, according to tradition, faithful Muslims used to gather around the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) without any summons, as the practice of azan for prayers had not been introduced yet.

In Sahih Al Bukhari’s Book of Call to Prayer, as narrated by Ibn Omar: When the Muslims arrived at Medina, they used to assemble for the prayer, and used to guess the time for it. During those days, the practice of azan for the prayers had not been introduced yet. Once they discussed this problem regarding the call for prayer. Some people suggested the use of a bell like the Christians, others proposed a trumpet like the horn used by the Jews, but Omar was the first to suggest that a man should call people for the prayer.”

One of the Prophet’s companions had a dream, however, in which a man taught him a better way to call people to prayer, saying:

God is Great! God is Great!
God is Great! God is Great!
I bear witness that there is no God but Allah.
I bear witness that there is no God but Allah.
I bear witness that Mohammad is the Messenger of Allah.
I bear witness that Mohammad is the Messenger of Allah.
Come to prayer. Come to prayer.
Come to success. Come to success.
God is Great! God is Great!
There is no God but Allah.

The Prophet agreed and appointed Bilal Ibn Rabah, known for his beautiful voice, to be the first muezzin in Islam. Since then and on, for 14 centuries, the azan has called the faithful all over the world to perform their five daily prayers. The azan is a regular reminder of the submission of all of life to Allah’s will.

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