“Aside from judging Sherine Reda, we have to really admit that we have a major issue in the selection of Muezzins to deliver adhan, or call for prayer, to people in different areas,” Ehsan Yasser, 45 years old, university professor, living in Al-Haram district, said.
She narrated that under the window of her room, there is a small mosque, where the voice of the recruiter is neither terrifying nor pleasant, but not the voice that should deliver adhan.
“However, I believe that his voice should be more beautiful, as I’m one of the people who really enjoy hearing the adhan, I feel purity and sincerity in it,” she continued.
Yasser, was not the only one who complained that adhan calls in most of the areas have lost their beauty and shifted into loud screams causing people to ignore praying inside the mosque or go to mosques in other areas that are far from their districts.
A few weeks ago, actress Sherine Reda stirred discussions around the issue when she appeared in a TV show criticising the performance of some Muezzins, saying that their voice became terrifying for children and foreign tourists.
Her statement stirred controversy on social media platforms, while opinions from the users around the world varied from support, to defending her, while others rejected the way she spoke about adhan.
Reda was mainly criticised due to depicting the voice of some adhan performers as “repugnant shrills” which was seen as a harsh attack on calls for prayer. The actress wanted to imply in her statements that adhan should be delivered in a very pleasant and sweet voice in respect to the religion, but not in the form of yelling and screaming that undermine the Adhan.
The adhan is Islam’s call that takes place five times a day by the imam of a mosque to call people to perform prayers. In Egypt, the adhan is usually called out on the loudspeaker. During the last period, the country closed 20,000 religious corners, small mosques in residential areas, according Jaber Tayah, a senior official in the ministry, noting that these “prayer corners” were located near big mosques, where, when both deliver the adhan, a mass noise occurs in the area.
However, it is not a new phenomenon to society, but is due to the increased number of mosques in residential and small alleys. Usually, if the Imam is absent, most religious persons in the area can deliver the adhan without the condition of having a nice voice. Also, there are many mosques that do not hire the imams selected by the Ministry of Religious Endowment.
This phenomenon led many people to deliver the adhan without being qualified for such a thing and without having a pleasant voice that suits the prayer calls.
Adhan in the majority of these corners are delivered by people who have no background on ethics of calling for prayer or have good voices.
Daily News Egypt spoke to a number of citizens residing in different areas to understand their view regarding how they asses the voices of the adhan they hear in their areas.
“The imam calling for prayer was shrieking terribly to the extent of waking me up shocked and shaking wondering about the reason why such screams happen at 4 a.m. Also, his voice during reciting the Quran is very tough and loud that made my brother stop performing Friday prayers inside to the Mosque just to avoid listening to his voice,” said Nada Ahmed, 25 years old, living in Alexandria.
A journalist who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity said the voice of the muezzin repels him from entering the mosque, preferring to pray at home instead. He mentioned that he is a person who never misses his prayers, and prefers to pray in a mosque for more rewards but the voice of the imam distracts him while praying inside the mosque.
Ahmed Moneer, said that the imam of mosque near his home has a very terrible voice, that repels him from praying in the mosque. “I go to other mosques. We attempted to collect money to complain to him but some people fear the sin of banning someone from gaining the rewards of performing the adhan.”
People start to curse, whenever they hear his voice, as he loudly screams disturbing the whole area, Moneer added.
On other side, Ali Thabet, 45-year-old accountant who delivers the adhan in Imbaba district, in the mosque near his home, said that no imam is hired to call prayers. He only comes for Friday prayers, so I was nominated to deliver the adhan since I am committed to performing the five prayers in the mosque.
“I try to deliver it in a calm voice, bearing the responsibility that my voice might be the reason for people to stop praying. However, I believe that people who argue that they leave prayer due to reciters’ voices, is in fact due to their weak faith.”
Speaking to worshipers in the same mosque, they said that his voice is not bad and not good; but they don’t have other options.
Clerics agree and disagree with the issue
In response to Reda’s statement, the Head of the Religious sector in the Ministry of Religious Endowment, Jaber Al-Tayah said that the remarks of the actress stem from her care for the religion.
The ministry informed the directorates in all provinces to observe the recruiters of Adhan, make sure to choose the best voices, and prevent anyone with a bad voice from performing the call, he said.
He further added that the ministry is constantly careful not to assign the task of performing adhan to anyone who is not qualified, noting that there is no intention to prevent adhans from loudspeakers and Friday sermons, but it is possible to prevent it for the iqama, announcing the start of prayer, and during daily prayers.
On the other hand, Hudhayfah Al-Misiri, a professor of Faith and Philosophy at Al-Azhar University, criticised the actress’s statements, saying “wrong words and not polite in dealing with this issue.”
He responded saying that Cairo has been known since the ancient times as the city of a thousand minarets. Adhan never scared the tourists, he said, noting that there are other reasons that made the number of tourists in Egypt to decrease, but the adhan is not one of them.
Some of the clerics showed understanding to the critics of the actress while others saw her way of expression as uncivilised and insulting to the Adhan. Also, social media users believed that the way the actress criticised the performers of the Adhan are not accepted and that even if her argument is a fact, it should be said in a proper way.
Unifying the adhan remains an unresolved decision
Public figures, parliamentarians and officials of the Ministry of Endowment have called for years for unifying the adhan, but the ministry has always disregarded those demands and calls.
The calls have returned in November when Parliament Member Akmal Qortam called the Minister of Religious Endowment Mokhtar Gomaa to urgently work on implementing the unified adhan explaining, “the idea is civilised and positive, and we hope to apply it.”
According to media reports, “this is not the first time the issue of the unification of the adhan has been discussed. In 2010, Minister of Endowments Mahmoud Zakzouk announced he would be unifying the adhan starting from Ramadan.”
The unification of the adhan is an idea aimed at reducing the voices of some kids and young believers who perform it, which may be repelling to some worshipers, as well as preventing some mosques from beginning the Adhan at the same time, which some consider disturbing especially for the elderly and children.
The activation of the idea, this will preserve the sanctity and spirituality of prayer, through broadcasting the adhan via transmission networks and direct broadcast of the Holy Quran Radio Station through mosque loudspeakers with the voice of a top celebrity muezzins.
The main reason for the failure of such initiatives and claims for the idea of activating and circulating the unified adhan over the past years is due to the rejection of the muezzins in the country. Mosque muezzins are the ones mostly opposing the idea, for fear of losing their work. There are about 130,000 mosques, according to official statistics issued by the ministry in November.
Al-Azhar’s former deputy Mohamed Ashour previously said that the unified adhan is much better than the current situation, especially in crowded and popular areas, where a lot of adhans are being delivered at the same time where the public misses the sweetness and spirituality of the adhan.