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Back to Basics: The Lifelong Call to Success – The Origin, Meaning and Etiquettes of Adhan

by in Lifestyle on 23rd May, 2023

Origin of the Adhan

In the early Medinan period, the question arose of how to call the believers to prayer. Several ideas were proposed by the companions of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) – lighting a signal fire, sounding a horn, or ringing a bell – but they were all dismissed, as they already represented calls to prayer by other faiths. The Prophet ﷺ was seeking something that differentiated the Muslim community and our prescribed way of prayer.

Later, two companions of the Prophet (ﷺ), ‘Abdullah bin Zaid (RA – may Allah be pleased with him) and Umar ibn al-Khattab (RA) both saw dreams in which the call to prayer was made using a series of specific phrases. When the Prophet (ﷺ) was informed, he confirmed it as a truthful dream and instructed the call to be given by Bilal ibn Rabah (RA), as his voice was most suitable for doing so. (Ibn Majah)

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar (x2)
God is greatest, God is greatest

Ash-hadu al-la ilaha illallah (x2)
I bear witness that there is no god but God

Ash-hadu anna Muhammad-ar-rasulullah (x2)
I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah

Hayya ‘ala-s-salah (x2)
Hasten to the prayer

Hayya ‘ala-l-falah (x2)
Hasten to success

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar
God is greatest

La ilaha illallah
There is no god but God

On authority of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), Bilal (RA) added an extra line to the Fajr Adhan:

As-salaatu khairum minan naum (x2)
Prayer is better than sleep

A Deeper Meaning of the Adhan

The word Adhan roughly translates to ‘announcement’ or ‘to hear.’ The Adhan is the central call to action for Muslims. In any part of the world, several times a day, its recitation draws in Muslims to offer prayer. Though the Adhan plainly calls us to perform an obligatory act of worship, its essence carries a much deeper meaning.

Consider a time when you heard a beautiful recitation of the Adhan. It has the ability to evoke a powerful feeling in you that goes beyond calling you to pray. This attests to the power of its message. We can examine parts of the Adhan to understand its deeper meaning. 

“Hasten to Prayer, Hasten to Success

These words of the Adhan are a reminder to strive towards spiritual success. The Qur’an guides us to realize that in the framework of Islam (which is ultimately the framework for existence), prayer is success and our clearest avenue towards our Creator:

“O you who have believed, fear Allah and seek the means [of nearness] to Him and strive hard in His cause that you may succeed.” (Qur’an 5:35)

Furthermore, let’s look at this Sunnah practice concerning newborns:

Narrated Abu Rafi’:

“I saw the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) uttering the call to prayer (Adhan) in the ear of al-Hasan ibn Ali when Fatimah gave birth to him.” (Abu Dawud)

The fact that the Prophet (ﷺ) did this illustrates the significance of the Adhan as an overarching invitation towards success and goodness. A baby hears this but won’t actually stand for prayer until he or she has grown up.

When we hear the Adhan at birth, we are called to serve a higher purpose. That purpose lies within the words of the Adhan which includes central Islamic principles of Tawhid, Shahada and Ihsan. This profound Sunnah practice has lasting effects that are personified throughout life – with our faith, worship and good deeds.

“Better than Sleep”

The added line for the Fajr Adhan reminds us that forsaking the comfort of sleep and our beds to worship Allah is victory. It sets the tone for the rest of our day and boosts our Iman.

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “…and if they knew the reward of ‘Isha and Fajr prayers in congregation, they would come to offer them even if they had to crawl.” (Bukhari)

Call to Action: Etiquettes of the Adhan

When we hear the Adhan, we are reminded that Allah is bigger than any situation we might be facing. This is a blessed time in which we can reap spiritual benefits and bring ourselves closer to Allah. 

How to Answer the Call

  • Acknowledge the Adhan – Listen attentively; don’t be distracted
  • Repeat after the Mu’adh-dhin (Ibn Majah)
    • Except when he says, “Hayya ‘ala-s-salah / Hayya ‘ala-l-falah.” Instead, here we should say “La hawla wala quwwata illa billah.” (Muslim)
    • Make du’a
      • The one who recites the following du’a after the Adhan will be granted intercession by Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) on the Day of Resurrection. (Ibn Majah)
  • Allahumma Rabba hadhihi-dda watit-tammah, was-salatil qa’imah, ati Muhammadan al-wasilata wal-fadhilah, wa b’ath-hu maqaman mahmudan-il-ladhi wa’adtahu [O Allah! Lord of this perfect call and the prayer to be offered, grant Muhammad the privilege (of intercession) and also the eminence, and resurrect him to the praised position that You have promised.] 
    • The one who recites the following du’a after the Adhan is forgiven all of their sins. (Ibn Majah)
  • Wa anna Ash-hadu an-la  ilaha illallahu wahdahu la sharika lahu, wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhu wa rasuluhu, radhitu Billahi Rabban wa bil-islami Dinan wa bi Muhammadin Nabiyyan [And I bear witness that none has the right to be worshiped but Allah alone, with no partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger, and I am content with Allah as my Lord, Islam as my religion and Muhammad as my Prophet.]
  • Between the Adhan and Iqamah, you can then make any du’a you like for yourself.
    • The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The supplication is not rejected between the Adhan and the Iqamah.” (Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud)
  • Stand for prayer

Your Lifelong Anchor

If our lives begin with the Adhan, then we should metaphorically view the entirety of it as a prayer. Taqwa is our means of flourishing, and with it, we can echo that same level of submission that we have when we stand for prayer. Recenter the Adhan in your life. Remind yourself through it that true success lies only with Allah and bringing yourself closer to Him.

Ammarah Ahmed

Ammarah Ahmed

Ammarah is a South Asian Muslim writer born in the U.S. who focuses primarily on Muslim identity. She believes in the power of the pen, and seeking and spreading knowledge. Her goal is to reclaim the narrative on Muslims through her writing to inspire peace and understanding.