Saturday, October 04, 2008

Azan, Kuliah & Arabic Signs

Of the azan, kuliah and Arabic signs
Prof Dr M Tajuddin M Rasdi
Oct 3, 2008

I wish to comment on the recent arrest of a member of parliament who was allegedly requested by her constituents to take issue with Muslim Malays in regard to the azan or call to prayer, kuliah or religious lectures and Arabic letters for road signs.

The azan is the traditional call to prayer and seems to be synonymous with the birth and growth of Islam. In the eyes of the Muslims, the azan is as sacred to Islam as the performance of solat or prayers.

The issue of the azan came to the Muslims in Medinah where a group of them along with the Prophet were discussing various ways to gather Muslims at a particular time for prayers as there were no mechanical means of telling time at that time.

The Prophet disliked the suggestion to use bells or drums. Someone said that he had dreamt of a person calling out the prayers in a melodious voice. Umar Al-Khatab, who was the Prophet’s close companion, father-in-law and later-to-be Second Pious Caliph of Islam also mentioned that he had a similar dream.

When the Prophet heard the two accounts, he agreed for the call to prayer to be that of the human voice. Bilal, the black slave from Abyssinia, was asked by the Prophet to be the first muadzin and thus history was made.

The birth of the azan gave rise to the architectural feature of the minaret attached to mosques. From that historical account, it can be seen that the azan was born to solve the problem of ‘timing’ and gathering of Muslims. Thus, technically, if one has the means to tell the time, there is no need for the azan. The performance of prayers without the call of azan is valid.

However, the Prophet had stressed the importance and encouragement of the azan through many sayings about how Satan runs away when he hears the azan as well as the special rewards given to the muadzin.

When I was in Milwaukee, US, the Islamic Center was not allowed to make the azan audible to the community of non-Muslims and thus it was heard only within the building.

In Muslim-dominated countries, it should be acceptable by non-Muslims that the traditional call to prayer be audible since it takes only a few minutes and does not fall under the category of ‘disturbance’ due to its duration and traditional historical significance.

With respect to the kuliah or religious lectures or talks, it is simply an educational tool to teach Muslims about Islam and its values. The kuliah subuh is usually done immediately after morning prayers and lasts between 30 minutes to an hour.

It should not be necessary for the mosque committee to make the kuliah audible through the loudspeaker as this would breach the adab or manner of teaching religion as taught by the Prophet Muhammad.

Although the committee may have the noble intention of teaching those who had not attended the morning prayers, it is better that both Muslims and non-Muslims who are resting not be disturbed.

When advising the imam or prayer leaders in performing congregation prayers, the Prophet Muhammad reminded them to shorten their recitals to respect the rights of old people, people who had business to attend to and women who had to tend to little children.

The Prophet had also advised his companions not to hold religious teachings more than three days in a week as he feared this might cause hardship or boredom. The Prophet was very tolerant and accommodating in inviting people to Islam to make it easy initially on them.

The story of the Pious Umar Abdul Aziz when he was the governor of one of the provinces of Islam would serve to make a point as recorded by Imam Al-Ghazali in his magnum opus, the Ihya Ulumuddin.

Umar loved to perform the tahajjud or night prayer, I assume, at 3 or 4 am. He would recite the Quran loudly in the mosque in the hope that others would hear him and be awake to perform the prayers.

A man heard him and asked his son to tell the reciter to lower his voice and not to disturb people in their sleep. His son saw that it was the governor himself and did not dare to do so and reported to his father.

The man then said, "O, you who is reciting! If you wish Allah to hear your recitation, know that Allah hears everything and is not deaf. If you recite to make known that you are praying, then it is best you go back to sleep (one is not supposed to tell others that one is praying as it is a private ‘audience’ with Allah in the dead of night)".

The governor ceased his loud recitation henceforth. The message here is that doing good has its contexts and teaching religion must be done in a manner that is proper for the receiver.

With respect to the use of Arabic letters on signs, if the existing sign was written in Arabic or Chinese or Indian, it should be necessary to keep this historical significance especially if the people in the neighbourhood are still there to appreciate it.

It is necessary then to add Roman letters underneath them to spell out the words in a modern contexts. I do not think that signs must be written in various languages. It would indicate that Malaysians are not united under the national language. Vernacular letters can be justified in a historical site and context.

I hope that the following explanation is useful for Malaysians to understand the sensitivities of various cultures. It is because of a lack of education by the administration that such a situation of ignorance among the people of Malaysia exists.

Future leaders of the new Malaysia must take heed of such a problem and build a more tolerant citizenry towards a harmonious existence.

Source: Malaysiakini


peace-lover said...

Written by a true Muslim at heart. There is no need to assert the rights of a religion to the extent that they are counterproductive to the purpose of attracting others to it. Let Islam be a paragon of tolerance and love.

The same principles should apply to all the other religions. There should be more substance over form.

Anonymous said...

Tlesa kioq's house is nowhere near a masjid, she was not directly affected or disturbed!

Anonymous said...

but as a caring MP, it's her job to ensure her people needs are address. try to think beyond your turtle-head under the shell.

if everyone is as narrow-minded as you, i think we don't need untied country anymore. everyone just take care of his own business.

Purple Haze said...

This article is the most rational that I have seen so far.

Anonymous said...

I am a Muslim and I agree with this article. Fair, rational and good fact.

I believe the problem is not so much in Muslim and Non-Muslim way of living but the SOB `MUSLIM' by birth politician.

I sometime asked myself what so special Malaysian Islamic teaching that is relatively about 400 or so years old compared to other Muslim civilization that aged more than 1400 years like in the Middle East, Africa and China.

Even in Islamic teaching mentioned of more than 70 Islamic groups at the end of the world but only ONE is the true teaching.

Is Malaysian Islamic teaching the true one?

I cant answers that and maybe some of our great scholars can answer and justify it.

But looking at the current scenario, I would conclude that it is the MUSLIM POLITICIAN BY BIRTH that caused all this chaos in order to fulfill their lust and aspirations.

Maverick SM said...


You have good pointers. However, we are in a complex society.

Purple Haze,

I agree with you 100%.

Anon 12:24am,

I admire your rational intellectuality which is so limited within the human sphere.

Anonymous said...

Thus, technically, if one has the means to tell the time, there is no need for the azan. The performance of prayers without the call of azan is valid.

Basically to tell the time for prayers is not through azan, it through the movement of the sunlight when earth rotate. For a muadzin who cannot tell the time or doesn't know when a particular solat should start, he cannot become a "bilal".

Anonymous said...

Similarly when Jesus (Isa to us) turned the other cheek, he was practising tolerance.

Malaysia, Malaya, Malacca was a Muslim country before the the Europeans came and 'opened' it to migrants.

Maybe these 'guest' should first learn to be tolerant before they impose their ideas and way of life unto the host.

As a Muslim, I think the azan is no longer viable idea to call Muslim for prayers in the modern world. It should be scrapped all together.

But then again, these are the issues and challenges that the Muslims should resolve among themselves. After all, aren't these kind of challenges, the real 'jihad' we Muslims are facing?

Gukita said...

Over zealots does more harm than good....always

Maverick SM said...


That's a wiseman saying.

msleepyhead said...

To anon @ October 05, 2008 9:37 AM,

It's funny how the earlier residents of the land could also say pre-Malacca was an animistic country before the Arabs came and converted Parameswara a Hindu immigrant in exile from Palembang.

By this historical fact alone and the one you are proposing, the descendants of Parameswara are also immigrants or 'pendatangs' as was recently popularized.

So how far back are you willing to go?

RaZ said...


It is also funny that you presume I am bias towards 'pendatang.' You just proved my point.

We are all pendatang from Africa if you want to go that far back. It does not matter to me if people wanna call you or me 'pendatang.' What is more important is that you and I are citizens of this country. Albeit I may have 'additional' rights or protection under the constitution, unless that is repealed, there is nothing you can do about it.

Democracy is about the the rule of majority. So far the Malays are the majority and we aim to keep it that way!

It is the loud mouth minorities that are bitching away like women that are inciting racial tension.

We Malays are half Chinese, half Indian. Our Chinese half will tolerate and compromise. But do not let our Indian half get better of us!

RaZ aka anon @ October 05, 2008 9:37 AM

Anonymous said...

The writer gave a valid Islamic view regarding adhan. It must be performed on the prescribed times - This is a must when muslims are the mojority.

The writer also mentioned about the loud speaker from the morning class - That is something the masjid can look into the issue and I completely agree it must be stopped.

Finally the write gave a very good opinion regarding the street signs. Malaysian shall never be united unless they merged into a common language. Bahasa Malaysia or even English. Sadly after 30 almost leaving abroad, I noticed my Melayu people have no pride of their native language anymore. English words are replacing Melayu for no valid reason. Bahasa Melayu is dying but that is another subject.

Be united Oh Malaysians.

Anak Melayu American
United States of America

Maverick SM said...

Anak Melayu American,

You have good words and virtuousness. Much appreciated.

I need more of such constructive commenters.