1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aẓān

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AẒĀN (Arabic for "announcement"), the call or summons to public prayers proclaimed by the Muezzin (crier) from the mosque twice daily in all Mahommedan countries. In small mosques the Muezzin at Aẓān stands at the door or at the side of the building; in large ones he takes up his position in the minaret. The call translated runs: "God is most great!" (four times), "I testify there is no God but God!" (twice), "I testify that Mahomet is the apostle of God!" (twice), "Come to prayer!" (twice), "Come to salvation!" (twice), "God is most great!" (twice), "There is no God but God!" To the morning Aẓān are added the words, "Prayer is better than sleep!" (twice). The devout Moslem has to make a set response to each phrase of the Muezzin. At first these are mere repetitions of Aẓān, but to the cry "Come to prayer!" the listener must answer, "I have no power nor strength but from God the most High and Great." To that of "Come to salvation!" the formal response is, "What God willeth will be: what He willeth not will not be." The recital of the Aẓān must be listened to with the utmost reverence. The passers in the streets must stand still, all those at work must cease from their labours, and those in bed must sit up.

The Muezzin, who is a paid servant of the mosque, must stand with his face towards Mecca and with the points of his forefingers in his ears while reciting Aẓān. He is specially chosen for good character, and Aẓān must not be recited by any one unclean, by a drunkard, by the insane, or by a woman. The summons to prayers was at first simply "Come to prayer!" Mahomet, anxious to invest the call with the dignity of a ceremony, took counsel of his followers. Some suggested the Jewish trumpet, others the Christian bell, but according to legend the matter was finally settled by a dream:—"While the matter was under discussion, Abdallah, a Khazrajite, dreamed that he met a man clad in green raiment, carrying a bell. Abdallah sought to buy it, saying that it would do well for bringing together the assembly of the faithful. 'I will show thee a better way,' replied the stranger; 'let a crier cry aloud "God is most great, &c."' On awaking, Abdallah went to Mahomet and told him his dream," and Aẓān was thereupon instituted.