One of the most popular aspects of Islam is the Adhaan, or the Islamic call to prayer. Even though most non-Muslims may not know what the words mean, they almost certainly would recognize the sound. Wherever one is in the world, the Azaan is a sign of the presence of Islam and Muslims.
In addition to the Islamic prayer, the call to prayer is one of the most distinguishable aspects of Muslim culture. But what is the history behind the Adhaan? Did it begin with Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) or was it introduced by one of the earlier Prophets of Allah?
House, saying: “Ascribe nothing as partner to me and purify My House for those who make the Tawwaf and thsoe who stand and those who bow and make prostration. And proclaim (Adh-dhin) unto mankind the pilgrimage. They will come unto thee on foot and on every lean camel and they will come from every deep ravine. Chapter 22 Verses 26-27.
Even though these verses include the same root word as the Adhaan, there is no connection to the call to prayer that was established by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
The origins of the Islamic call to prayer are detailed in the following hadith:
Narrated Ibn Umar:
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 Adhan 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 Umar was the first to suggest that a man should call the people for the prayer; so Allah’s messenger ordered Bilal to get up and pronounce the Adhan for prayers. Bukhari Book 1 Hadith 578
Narrated Abu Umayr ibn Anas:
AbuUmayr reported on the authority of his uncle who was from the Ansar (the helpers of the Prophet): The Prophet (peace be upon him) was anxious as to how to gather the people for prayer.
The people told him: Hoist a flag at the time of prayer; when they see it, they will inform one another. But he (the Prophet) did not like it. Then someone mentioned to him the horn.
Ziyad said: A horn of the Jews. He (the Prophet) did not like it. He said: This is the matter of the Jews. Then they mentioned to him the bell of the Christians. He said: This is the matter of the Christians. Abdullah ibn Zayd returned anxiously from there because of the anxiety of the Apostle (peace be upon him). He was then taught the call to prayer in his dream. Next day he came to the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) and informed him about it.
He said: Apostle of Allah, I was between sleep and wakefulness; all of a sudden a newcomer came (to me) and taught me the call to prayer. Umar ibn al-Khattab had also seen it in his dream before, but he kept it hidden for twenty days.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to me (Umar): What did prevent you from saying it to me?
He said: Abdullah ibn Zayd had already told you about it before me: hence I was ashamed.
Then the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) said: Bilal, stand up, see what Abdullah ibn Zayd tells you (to do), then do it. Bilal then called them to prayer.
Abu Bishr reported on the authority of Abu Umayr: The Ansar thought that if Abdullah ibn Zayd had not been ill on that day, the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) would have made him mu’adhdhin. Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 2, Hadith 498
From this hadith we can see how the practice began. When the Muhajireen (immigrants) from Mecca arrived, they and the Ansar (helpers) in Medina had a difficult time knowing when it was time for prayer. One can see how difficult it would be back then to pray in congregation without some way to let everyone know it was time to pray.
Some suggested using a flag, but Prophet Muhammad did not want to use a flag.
Some Muslims suggested using a bell like the Christians use in their churches. But Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) not wanting to imitate the People of the Book, rejected that idea.
Others suggested something like a horn or trumpet like the Jews. But our Prophet did not like that idea either.
Finally, one of the Ansars named Abu Abdullah, told Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) about a dream he had in which the Adhaan was called. He liked that idea and instructed Bilal to make the call.
There are several ways to call the Azaan. So long as these different methods were approved by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), then it is permissible to use today also.
According to the Abu Hanifah and Ahmad Ibn Hanbal Schools of Thought the Adhan is as follows:
The Malik School of Thought prescribes:
The Shafi’i School of Thought prescribes the following method:
All of these methods of making the Islamic call to prayer are valid. It should be noted that when calling the Adhaan for Salaatul Fajr (the dawn prayer) the phrase:
As-Salaatul khayru min al-Nawm [prayer is better than sleep]
is added after the second Hiya ala Falah.
The first thing you should do when you hear the call to prayer is prepare to make to make Salaah.
You should also recite the lines of the Azaan after the muezzin (caller to prayer, or one who calls the Adhaan). When you repeat the lines, it should be done quietly and not loud enough to disturb others nearby.
After the Islamic call to prayer is complete you should also quietly say the following dua (prayer):
Allahumma salli ala sayyidina Muhammad wa all aalihi wa sahbihi ajma’een (Oh Allah! Send Blessings on our Master Muhammad an on all of his family and on all of his companions.)
Hanbali and Hanafi Adhaan
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