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Islam and Spiritualism ( 1 Apr 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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A Historical Account of the Islamic Prayer- Azaan (11)

By Nastik Durrani, New Age Islam

02 April, 2014

Religions have determined various and different ways to call out people to perform their respective prayers within the prescribed times, such as blowing bells, arousing sound, kindling fire or any other means that could be used for the purpose of announcement.

The Islamic call to worship, known as Azaan and recited by the muezzin at prescribed times, had not been obligated in Makkah, as Makkan Muslims were a very small minority and hence they used to offer their prayers in secret places fearing the pagans of the Quraish. It was, then, impossible to openly announce the timings of the Islamic prayers to Muslims. However, when the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) migrated to Medina and noticed that Muslims there increased in number, he began to feel the need for the Azaan i.e. the need for warning the people of the impending time for prayer. For the people at that time could not make out the exact time of prayer. Sometimes they were too busy with their daily activities to take cognizance of the passing prayer times and thus they would commit a grave sin by missing out on the obligatory prayers.   

It has been reported in the Sahih Muslim that when Muslims migrated to Madina, they used to turn up for the prayers in the prescribed times, without an Azaan being called out to them. One day, a consultation was being done among the Prophet’s companions with regard to this. One of them suggested the use of bells as practiced by the Christians, while another pointed to the use of horns as practiced by the Jews. But one of the Prophet’s senior companions, Hazrat Umar (r.a) recommended that there should be a Muezzin, a person who could call out the Azaan to inform people about the prayer times from the mosque. The Prophet (peace be upon him) liked it and preferred Umar’s opinion to that of others. He, then, asked his companion Hazrat Bilal (r.a) to get up and pronounce the Azaan for the prayer (1). 

According to another tradition, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was anxious as to how to gather the people for prayer. He did a consultation with his companions regarding this matter. Some people told him: “Hoist a flag at the time of prayer; when they see it, they will inform one another.” But the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not like it. Then someone mentioned to him the horn of the Jews, which was called as Ash-Shaboor or Al-Ka’ba. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not like it. He said: This is a practice specific for the Jews. Then they mentioned to him the bell of the Christians. He said: This is a practice specific for the Christians. Some people suggested the Prophet (pbuh) to consider the kindling of the fire as practised by the fire-worshippers. But the Prophet (pbuh) said: This is the way of the fire worshippers. (2).

The great Islamic historian “Muhammad Bin Sa’ad” has retold the story of the Azaan like this: When the commandment of Azaan was sent down to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), his companions pronounced in a loud voice. “As-Salat Jamiah” (the Sallah or prayer is ready). Those who heard this call came to join the prayer. Muslims felt the need to find a way to inform people to come to the prayer. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) asked his companions for their advice. Some of them suggested that the Muslims, like the Jews, should blow a horn to announce the time for the Sallah. Others said, the Muslims might ring bells as the Christians do in their churches. A few proposed that the Muslims could kindle a fire to call people to pray just like the fire-worshippers. Prophet (peace be upon him) wasn’t satisfied with any of these ideas. As people were anxious about the ongoing matter, one of the Prophet’s companions, Hazrat Abdullah ibn Zaid al-Khazraji fell asleep. He had a beautiful dream in which the call to prayer was taught to him. He said to the Prophet (pbuh): “O Messenger of Allah! I had a beautiful dream. I’ve seen that a man wearing green garment taught me the words of the Azaan and advised me to call people to prayer with these words.” He then recited the words of the Azaan: Allahu Akbar (God is Great), Ash Hadu an la Ilaha Illallah (I bear witness that there is no god except the One God), Ash-Hadu Anna Muhammadan Rasool Allah (I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God), Hayya 'ala-s-Salah (Hurry to the prayer or rise up for prayer), Hayya 'ala-l-Falah (Hurry to success or rise up for Salvation), Allahu Akbar (God is Great), La Ilaha Illallah (There is no god except the One God).

When Abdullah Bin Zaid came to the Prophet (pbuh) and informed him about it, the Prophet (pbuh) asked him to teach the words of Azaan to Bilal. Bilal stood up and called out the Azaan. Umar ibn Khattab was one of the Companions who came and said: “O Messenger of Allah, an angel taught me the same words in my dream last night.” And thus Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) approved of this Azaan as the most authentic one saying that glory is due to God. The scholars of Islam have asserted that from that time this became the official call to the Islamic prayers.

As for the pronouncement of the words “As Salatuh Jamiah”, it was later used for any urgent matter such as spreading the news of the conquest. When these words were pronounced loudly, people would gather at once even though they were not to perform any of the prayers (3).  

Ibn Sa’d has also reported the origin of the Azaan through other sources that do not go against the essence of the aforementioned report. In those reports too, the vision of the Azaan has been attributed to Hazrat Abdullah Bin Zaid (r.a), while, in the same way, the dream of Hazrat Umar bin Khattab (r.a) has been produced as an auxiliary proof of it (4). Even Ibn Hisham and many others have mentioned this report which is a substantial evidence to prove that this story of Azaan is endorsed by the eminent intellectuals and scholars of Islam (5).

 This is the long and short of the story about the Islamic call to prayer (Azaan) in Islam. Before the commencement of the Azaan, Muslims used to call out people to the prayers by loudly saying: “As-Salat As-Salaat” (6). Any Muslim could pronounce these words to make others hear them and turn towards the mosque to offer the prayers in the prescribed times. Ulema and Islamic scholars have mentioned one more sentence: “As-Salatuh Jamiah” which was pronounced at the prayer times before the commencement of the Azaan (7). A few more sentences such as “Ilal Sallah” (turn towards prayer) and “Halumma Ilal Salah” (Let’s come to prayer) are also reported to have been pronounced at that time (8).

What the reporters do not agree upon is the exact date for the commencement of Salah or Namaz. Some hold that it is traced back to a year before the Prophet’s migration to Medina, while others maintain that it was enjoined upon Muslims in the second year of the Hijrah (9).

It is a common knowledge that Hazrat Bilal (r.a) was the first person to call out the Azaan. He is known as the Prophet’s Muezzin, nay “Abul Muazzineen” i.e. the headman of the Muazzins. Another companion who had the blessing of being a special Muazzin for the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was Hazrat “Ibn Umm-e-Maktum” (r.a). He was a blind man (10). Either of them was allowed to pronounce the Azaan, provided he came to the mosque first. It is reported that Hazrat Bilal (r.a) used to stand in front of the doors of the Prophet’s house and say: “O’ Prophet (peace be upon him), Hayya 'ala-s-Salah (hurry to the prayer or rise up for prayer), Hayya 'ala-l-Falah (hurry to success or rise up for Salvation) 11.

Among other Muazzins of the Prophet (peace be upon him) were Abu Mahdhurah, Samrah Bin Mueer, Aus and Sa’d al-Qarz, who was the guardian of the Companion Hazrat Ammar Bin Yasir (r.a) and a prominent trader based in Qarz (12). That is why he was named after Qarz. He used to call out the Azaan for the people of Quba (13).


1 - Sahih Muslim , 2/ 2 , Kitab al-Salah : Chapter of Adhan

2 – Al-Seerah Al-Halbiya 482 /1 .

3 - Tabaqaat Ibn Sa'd 246/1, “Sadir”, Ibn Sayyid-ul-Naas, Uyunul Athar: 203 /1, Musnad Imam Abu Hanifa, page 49.

4 - Tabaqaat Ibn Sa'd 247 /1.

5 - Sirat Ibn Hisham 306/1 chapter on Adhaan, Al-Seerah Al-Halbiya 480/1, al-rauz al-anf 19 /2

6 – Kanzul Ummal 265/4, Mittwoch, S., 25

7 - Tabqaat Ibn Sa'd 246 /1.

8 - Mittwoch, C., 25.

9 – al-Maqreezi , Imtaa al-Asmaa 50/1 .

10 - Sahih Muslim, 3/ 2 “Mohammad Ali Sabih”

11 – al-Yaqubi 32/ 2 " Najaf “.

12 – a kind of tree which was used for the skin .

13 - Ibn Syed-ul-Naas, Uyun al-Athar: 205 /1.

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