Reh Gayee Rasm-e-Azan
It strikes like a thunderbolt at the most unexpected hour
Azan is without any competition a global phenomenon of unrivalled continuity and public declaration of a faith. For over 1400 years the muezzin has been calling Muslims to Nimaz and salvation from every mosque across the globe. The words of azan are not just part of every Muslim’s vocabulary but familiar even to non Muslims living in multi religious societies.
Azan has acquired the citizenship of almost all cultures, languages and dialects of the world. That fact is best illustrated by a Haji’s joke a good natured lady narrated to me. Reports she: a haji told me while every thing in Saudi Arab is transacted in Arabic at least the azan is said in Kashmiri that gives one an idea of the nimaz timing. That may not be entirely true but reflects how deeply it is entrenched in the psyche of Muslims of every denomination and how it connects people cutting across cultures and languages.
It is this mingling of these revolutionary words with everyday business that has sadly trivialized them often beyond recognition. We in Kashmir are perhaps the worst offenders in this unchecked sabotage even though it is unintended and well meaning.
The mode of calling the faithful five times a day was approved by the Prophet. He himself led the prayers at the Masjid-e-Nabwi whenever he was not out of Madina. In all other functions of the state and the pulpit it was understandably the Prophet (SAW) himself who would lead and command. Devolution in case of certain functions like leading the prayers or taking care of the capital would be only temporary till the Prophet (SAW) was able to resume his seat.
The only permanent devolution of a function, which at that time was a state duty, was in case of azan. None of the chosen associates of prophet (SAW) was selected for this most important religious duty which was to become the connecting thread of an interminable declaration of faith in Allah and His Prophet. It was instead a black slave who was to gain immortality by his appointment as the Muezzin-e- Rasool. I have not come across a report in my limited study of that period that the Prophet (SAW) or any of the prominent associates ever performed Azan in preference to Bilal (RA). It was an appointment purely on merits. Even as Bilal was not a hardcore Arab but from distant Abyssinia it did not disqualify him. He of course had the credentials of sacrifice and conviction where he could equal other members of the galaxy that was soon to revolutionize humanity but the more germane qualification of having an attractive voice obviously ensured him the pride of place.
This fact is sadly lost on us. Azan comes to us most easily in spite of the emphasis of Qur’an on modulation of voice. ‘Truly the voice of a donkey is the worst of sounds’ it quotes Luqman as advising his son while emphasizing the importance of keeping ones tone low. But many of our well meaning Muslim brothers take it upon themselves to magnify by a million decibels their kinship with Luqman’s illustration rather than following the tradition of Bilal (RA). Most are in love with their voices and stretch it as long as their lungs can sustain. Some are so loud as if they believe theirs is the only microphone in the world to carry the message of God even to the dead in graves. One wonders was it from Kashmir that Neil Armstrong heard (a lie that) the Azan on moon.
We have actually to be grateful to the people who in spite of their inadequacies take it upon themselves to say Azan, because there is no permanent arrangement for this important duty in most mosques. Where there is it leaves much to be desired. Now most mosques are flush with money and in fact not knowing what to do with it. Appointment of regular muezzins would be a genuine and much needed charge on their resources to convey to the world an impression of civility in Islam.
The love’s labor that most people perform at present is in fact quite a source of embarrassment for the community. First of all there is no sense of timing or punctuality which is the essence of prayers. The Fajr prayer is the worst victim of this along with those among the believers and non believers who suffer the relaying competition of azan for nearly an hour. In many cases in our area the first call comes a neat half an hour ahead of actual time. Most of these pious voices sound cracking with the impact of advanced age. There is an apparent element of insomnia in determining their timing rather than the timetable which is framed beautifully in every mosque.
Come Ramadan and this torture for the ears will stretch by hours. For anyone who tries to concentrate on seeking mercy of Allah in the solitude of night, the nearest retreat is 300 kms away in Jammu. In Kashmir which is otherwise loved for its lazy, laid back ambience no refuge is available from the deafening noise. More on that in a subsequent piece but Azan in Ramadan (because actual azan has to synchronize with Sehri end) is assuming newest reasons to come back to haunt those who are awake in pursuit of God and those who sleep after a day’s hard work. It strikes like a thunderbolt at the most unexpected hour. As one tries to escape it by advancing one’s timings it follows to be ahead of you. But on a non Ramadan day it certainly causes confusion about the timing of Tahajjud and Fajr as many people report.
Unless qualified muezzins who realize the importance of their service are appointed in mosques we continue to run the risk of turning people against a beautiful faith. As Mewlana Rumi in one of his numerous fables narrates the Azan in its present delivery system could be a repellant rather than the attraction. According to the tale a Muslim caravan camped near a non Muslim habitation. A muezzin said the Azan as usual and next morning a deputation from the habitation arrived with loads of gifts and straightaway looked for the muezzin who at first thought it was in recognition of his ‘beautiful’ rendering of Azan which had impressed the non Muslim population. But he was in for a shock as the delegation revealed the reason for ‘honoring’ the muezzin. “Our princess was impressed with your religion, Islam so much that she wanted to convert. We were worried till she heard the azan in the voice of this muezzin and changed her mind” They handed over the gifts and left.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 19 Jul 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 19 Jul 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 20 Jul 2012 00:00:00 IST
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