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The Adhan sends a loud message

The Muslim call to prayer claims political dominance

Imam Gamal Fouda, holding microphone, leads Friday prayers at Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 22, 2019. Associated Press/Photo by Vincent Thian

The Adhan sends a loud message
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A disturbing domino effect is occurring in the United States, and it’s happening right in front of our eyes. Five months ago, Minneapolis amended its noise ordinance to allow mosques to broadcast the Islamic call to prayer—known as the adhan—over loudspeakers. Now, New York is following course. The Associated Press reports: “The Muslim call to prayer will ring out more freely in New York City under guidelines announced Tuesday by Mayor Eric Adams, which he said should foster a spirit of inclusivity.”

While Minneapolis allowed the adhan to broadcast, not only five times a day, but particularly at dawn and late evening times, New York declared that mosques will not need a special permit to broadcast the adhan on Fridays and at sundown during Ramadan. The emphasis on Friday and Ramadan are not arbitrary, as both are crucial to Islam. The former is considered by Muslims as the holiest day in any given week, while the latter the most sacred month.

New York’s decision reflects not only the persistent attempts of political Muslim groups to advance exclusive Islamic elements into American society, but also the appalling ignorance of many politicians—especially on the cultural left—of what the ideology of political Islam actually entails.

By definition, the adhan is a series of 15 exclusively Islamic phrases, chanted in Arabic—never in any other language—by a strong male voice. While many think that the adhan is a mere call for Muslims to go to pray in the mosque, in truth it declares to non-Muslims the dominance of Islam in the land.

The statements of the adhan include a repeated reminder that Allah is the greatest deity and emphasize Muhammad as his messenger. They also include the strongest ideological statement of Islam, known as the Shahada, which literally means the confession, creed, or profession of faith: “I testify that there is no deity but Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is Allah’s messenger.” This shahada is arguably the most central and special Islamic phrase ever—it is the only statement that should be declared by a non-Muslim to convert to Islam.

Obviously, there is nothing neutral about the adhan. It is an Islamic theological declaration with loaded and exclusively Muslim religious claims. And now two major U.S. cities allow it to ring out to over loudspeakers to reach all ears.

It is clear that various Muslim groups have been diligently working to advance and elevate exclusive Islamic elements in American society, and this elevation is considered a huge victory for Islam worldwide. Here, the adhan comes in handy, as it is an exclusive theological pronouncement of Islam’s preeminence in the land. But the agenda here is not merely “Muslim,” but often openly Islamist. These adherents operate within a political Islam worldview, in which the religion itself is a political project that should assert preeminence over the culture.

What begins with a declaration of Allah’s superiority and Muhammad’s prophethood will never end there.

This is why the Islamist group known as the Council on American-Islamic Relations celebrated the decision. Its New York executive director declared, “The sound of the adhan is not just a call to prayer; it is a call to unity, reflection, and community.” By deploying words like “unity” and “reflection,” this statement scores social and political points, but its dishonesty is glaring for anyone who knows what the adhan really is.

Since the politicians of New York seem to know next to nothing about Islam or Islamism, we end up with ideological declarations disguised in fanciful cultural dresses. What begins with a declaration of Allah’s superiority and Muhammad’s prophethood will never end there. It will become a channel for ideological declarations of Islam, forcing them into the ears of non-Muslims in the land—all viewed by Islamists as victories for Islam.

Ironically, some Muslim countries have clearly voiced concerns about broadcasting the adhan over loudspeakers, identifying this as a disturbing venue for Islamism.

In Morocco, a local Muslim researcher in Islamist movements, Saeed Lakhal, called upon the Moroccan government to forbid the use of loudspeakers as “they disturb residents in the neighboring areas not only because of the sound, but also owing to the ideas they spread.” Lakhal insisted, “Many mosques in Morocco are not exclusively used for spiritual purposes and serve instead as a channel to propagate political ideologies.”

This statement should inform many left-wing politicians who think that broadcasting the adhan is a mere act of religious inclusivism.

In Muslim-majority nations, each mosque has multiple loudspeakers that broadcast the adhan five times a day. These broadcasts are not only about letting Muslims know it’s time to pray in the mosque—everyone can know this easily. Rather, it’s about the insistence of declaring Islam’s hegemony and superiority in the land. Don’t misunderstand the message the adhan is sending—loudly.

A.S. Ibrahim

A.S. Ibrahim, born and raised in Egypt, holds two PhDs with an emphasis on Islam and its history. He is a professor of Islamic studies and director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has taught at several schools in the United States and the Middle East, and authored A Concise Guide to the Life of Muhammad (Baker Academic, 2022), Conversion to Islam (Oxford University Press, 2021), Basics of Arabic (Zondervan 2021), A Concise Guide to the Quran (Baker Academic, 2020), and The Stated Motivations for the Early Islamic Expansion (Peter Lang, 2018), among others.

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