JEDDAH, 30 October 2003 — Listening to the call for prayer (azan) from the Grand Mosque in Makkah is a unique experience. The faithful enjoy the melodious azan which takes them to new heights of spiritual exultation.
The sound of azan reverberates through the large mosque complex — which can now accommodate more than a million worshippers — as well as in the neighborhood surrounded by mountains and high-rise residential buildings.
Performing azan at the Grand Mosque, for Muslims the holiest mosque in the world, is indeed a very great honor. Sheikh Ali Ahmad Mulla is one of the luckiest muezzins as he began performing azan at the mosque when he was 14.
He said he used to call for prayer from the minarets in the absence of Abdul Hafeez Khoja, his maternal uncle, Abdul Rahman Mulla, his paternal uncle, and Ahmad Mulla, his grandfather, who were all muezzins at the mosque.
Mulla spoke about how azan was performed before the introduction of loudspeakers. “Muezzins stood at each of the seven minarets such as the Bab Al-Umrah Minaret, Bab Al-Ziyara Minaret, and Bab Al-Hekma Minaret and called for prayer,” Al-Madinah Arabic newspaper quoted Mulla as saying.
The timing to deliver the azan was given by the chief of muezzins from Al-Shafie Maqam, near the Well of Zamzam. “Each muezzin repeated what the first muezzin said until the azan was completed,” he said. “But during Ramadan, the chief gave instructions to the muezzin on the Bab Al-Umrah Minaret and then to the man in charge of the Ramadan cannon on the mountain near the mosque,” he pointed out.
Talking about an interesting event during his career, Mulla said: “Once I was preparing to perform azan and the power went off, leaving me in an embarrassing situation. I then climbed to the highest place in the mosque to call for prayer. Now there are batteries, which are automatically switched on in the event of power cuts,” he said.
According to Mulla, there are 16 muezzins at the mosque now, and during Ramadan an additional six are appointed. Apart from azan, a muezzin also supports imams by repeating what they say in a loud voice. “This is important, especially during Ramadan, when a large number of worshippers throng the mosque.”
Mulla believed that muezzins should have certain qualities, most importantly good morals and a good voice in addition to Islamic knowledge which all help him perform his duty in the best manner.
After graduating from the Institute of Technical Education in Riyadh in 1970, Mulla worked as a teacher at Abdullah ibn Al-Zubair Intermediate School. He was officially appointed muezzin at the Grand Mosque in 1975. “I did not have any fear when I first stood on the minaret of the mosque to call the prayer,” he said.
Asked about some of the most senior muezzins at the mosque, he said they included Sheikh Abdullah Basnawi, Abdul Rahman Basamji and Ahmad Toufik. He said he had had the honor to perform azan at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. He hopes his eldest son Atef will also become a muezzin at the mosque one day.