Monday, September 15, 2008

Muslim Call To Prayer - Adhan

Islam requires its adherents to pray five specific times a day. In order to signal the times of the prayer, the muezzin performs the adhan. The muezzin in modern times and areas uses a loudspeaker that is broadcast from the top of a mosque's minaret, calling out in Arabic the adhan's words:

Allahu Akbar! (God is the greatest)
Ash-hadu an la ilaha illallah (I bear witness that there is no deity except Gd)
Ash-hadu anna Muhammadan rasulullah (I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Gd)
Hayya 'alas-salah (Make haste towards prayer)
Hayya 'alal-falah (Make haste towards welfare)
As-salatu khayru min an-naum (Prayer is better than sleep)
Allahu akbar (Gd is the greatest)
La ilaha illallah (There is no deity except Allah)

Living in Jerusalem, with its high population of Muslims, I have become acclimated to hearing the adhan at all hours of the day and night. I've lived in the Old City for about five months, as well, and anyone who lives in that area is especially treated to this Islamic call to prayer. The Old City has its own Muslim Quarter, so you get the loudspeakers booming from there, as well as the Arab town Wadi Al-Joz across the Kidron Valley on Mount Olives.

Muslim call to prayer. I took this from Ir David, the City of David.
Sorry about the obnoxious Americans talking.  There are like five
different mosques all broadcasting at the same time, so it's pretty
overwhelming to be hear it in person.

Some of these calls to prayer are during crazy hours of the day. Consequently, many people get woken up by the ringing Arabic echoing off Jerusalem's valley walls. I often found myself woken in the middle of the night by the adhan, at least for the first months I lived here. Let me just provide an analogy. I come from a little rural town in Virginia, a place of 1,200 residents called Elkton. The railroad runs through Elkton, making it really a central part of downtown. So, in 6th grade I dated a girl who moved into town, and in fact she ended up living right across from the train tracks. The first few months she lived in Elkton she complained nearly every day of being so tired - the whistling train woke her in the middle of the night, every night. The first night she slept in her new home she thought there was an earthquake.

I and the rest of us veteran Elktonians rarely hear the train. We have gotten used to it. Likewise, I am rarely woken now by the adhan. One of the prayer times just happens to be at dawn (fajr), which can obviously be very early. I used to be woken all the time by this prayer, and just like her thinking there was an earthquake, my fantastical imagination had me believing that a new jihad was breaking out. Now that I'm acclimated to the strange hours, I can truly enjoy the ancient call when I do hear it.

Oftentimes I find myself too familiar with my life here, something which I never expected so easily. I go to the grocery store and I walk past ancient walls, I take shortcuts around medieval monasteries, the skyline is littered with Ottoman Empire mosques and minarets. No matter where you live, life can become quite normal.  Old hand.  I know a guy living in Kabul, Afghanistan, right now for a research group. I wonder if he has become regularized to that world?

The resonating Islamic call to prayer still brings me into another dimension, and yet also helps re-sharpen my focus on exactly where I live. Whenever I happen to hear it late at night, or on a walk home, or from my bedroom, my eyes are forced open and I remember just how amazing this place is. The wailing call pierces my routinized heart, flooding me with a bittersweet epiphany of how far I am from Elkton.  

I love Elkton, but Jerusalem is like walking on the moon - this place is otherworldly.


Anonymous said...

YES!!! I know exactly what you mean Danni....I have also become accustomed to things that to people back home,would really be quite extraordinary....sometimes when I here the call to prayer(which I here alot here in Nazareth)I stop and just listen...something about it is so's haunting......

Unknown said...


Israeli by Day said...

HAHA Don't implicate yourself, Marissa!

Sabra Stephanie said...

Thank for posting that. It took me back to my first morning in Israel. When two girls and I got lost going out of Yaffo Gate and ended up in the Arab village down the hill from Ir David. After walking a few miles and having a few rocks/curses thrown at us we eventually found Ir David. We were standing near where you took that video when the call to prayer started. I had never experienced anything like before, it really is otherworldly.

Israeli by Day said...

Stephanie - you actually had rocks thrown at you? They could just tell you weren't Arab, eh? That's really messed up! I mean, you didn't have shirts on with Hebrew or anything did you? That's pretty scary!

Sabra Stephanie said...

we didn't have hebrew on anything but I'm guessing not may Arab women go around wearing bright red coats. It was kind of our fault for being where we shouldn't have and It was kids who did it. so wasn't to terrible, but I definitely haven't made that mistake again.

Israeli by Day said...

Stephanie - that's just ridiculous! Thanks for the story:)

Jacob Hughey said...

I am an American College student. I visited Israel in May and remember everything you describe. I just wanted to encourage you that Israel (Jerusalem especially) is probably the most unique city/nation in the world as well as one of the most beautiful. Enjoy every second you spend there. You have at least one american who envies where you get to live.
Thanks for all you do as an Israeli soldier (even though i am american)


Mindel said...

Jerusalem is like walking on the moon...that is awesome