Maswood Alam Khan
Munshi Daliluddin Mridha for more than 90 years of his life has been announcing Azaan, the call to prayer in Islamic practice. When Mridha was a young man he used to pronounce Azaan as loudly as he could in his sturdy, reedy and solemn voice and in a perfect pitch and tone sharp and clear enough to make his vocal announcements reach the length and breadth of the whole village of West Pangasia in Bhola, a district in southern Bangladesh.
Born in Pangasia, his ancestral abode, Munshi is assumed 122 years old. His voice has of late become feebler, his tongue heavier, his vocal chord weaker and his body pretty fragile. Nevertheless, his energy has not yet sapped. Still he tries his best to pronounce Azaan in as sweet melodious voice as achievable and as punctually as he can afford. He is deemed the oldest muezzin in Bangladesh according to a news report published last week in Naya Diganta, a Bangla daily.
Azaan is recited in a loud voice by a muezzin facing the direction of the Ka’ba at Makkah in Saudi Arabia, a practice that was initiated by Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH), the last prophet in Islam, when he felt the necessity of a way to gather people for prayers in congregations, a holy job that was first entrusted with Hazrat Bilaal (RA), a black slave who voluntarily became a convert to Islam. It may be mentioned that Hazrat Bilaal had a very sweet, resonant and musical voice.
Islam treats all as equals
A rare example set by Holy Prophet Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH) of appointing a black slave as the first person to call Muslims for prayers shows that in Islam all human beings–rich or poor, black or white, short or tall–are treated as equals, that all are equal in the eyes of Allah, the Providence, that it is only the piety of each individual that makes the difference.
I really take pity on the young generation of Muslims now living in urban areas, who perhaps did never hear the sweet sound of Azaan being carried by moving air, growing and then fainting in intensity, emanating from a minaret like a magic echo apparently from a distant mosque the way I in my childhood used to prick my ears up to hear the melody of Azaan about half a century back at Sunamganj, where there was no electricity at that time and when a muezzin had to strain his vocal chord to the utmost to recite Azaan at the top of his voice from atop a minaret without any aid of a loudspeaker.
Beauty of Azaan
That was the Azaan in Sunamganj, the real sweet Azaan unlike the Azaan we nowadays hear from loudspeakers in crackling and cacophonous sounds emanating from loudspeakers mounted atop the minarets in the towns and also in some villages–killing the original beauty of Azaan Hazrat Bilaal pronounced about one thousand and five hundred years back.
May we ask the scholars of Islam and the concerned authority to restore as much as possible the beauty of Azaan? We feel vexed when, especially at night, a number of Azaans from different mosques located within short distances in between in the cities and towns are announced by muezzins through loudspeakers at varying times making the holy sounds overlapping each other which I believe should be deemed sacrilegious.
Won’t it be a better idea if Azan is pronounced simultaneously all over Bangladesh from minarets, radios, televisions and cell phones from a central broadcasting authority in a mosque like Baitul Mukarram–interconnecting all the sound outlets with radio device so that we can hear each and every word of Azaan with due attention and piety at the precise point of time?
May our religious scholars suggest the mosques meanwhile to regulate the sounds of loudspeakers meant for pronouncing Azaan in a manner that would ensure the soft tenor of the holy pronouncement, especially when the minarets of different mosques are very close to each other? May we request the muezzins of mosques situated in cities and towns not to use loudspeakers while announcing Azaan at least at dawn to announce the time of ‘Fazr’ prayer as an attempt to mimic the efforts of Hazrat Bilaal or the 90-year long pronouncement of Munshi Daliluddin Mridha of Bhola has tirelessly been practising without any aid of any mechanical devices?
May the holy sounds “Allahu Akbar”, “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest), “Hayya ‘alas-Salah”, “Hayya ‘alas-Salah” (Come to Prayer, Come to Prayer) and “Hayya ‘alal-falah”, “Hayya ‘alal-falah” (Come to Success, Come to Success) resound through the air in cities and towns alike in perfect synch creating an aura of holiness to soothe our minds and calm our souls every time we head for prayers at mosques or homes.