LONDON: Mosques in the east London borough of Waltham Forest have started broadcasting the adhan (call to prayer) publicly during Ramadan to help Muslims stay connected to their places of worship during the coronavirus lockdown.
Waltham Forest Council gave mosques in the borough permission to broadcast the adhan from their roofs or minarets during Ramadan at sunset every day and on Friday afternoons at around 1 p.m., when the Friday prayer would usually take place.
The first adhan to be broadcast publicly in the borough took place at sunset on Monday, and was followed by a one-line message in Arabic encouraging Muslims to “pray in your homes.”
The initiative, which nine mosques have participated in so far, aims to keep Muslims spiritually connected to their places of worship at a time when they are unable to attend them due to restrictions that aim to curb the spread of coronavirus in the UK.
Observing Ramadan during the pandemic is proving challenging for Muslims not only in the UK but across the world as they stay at home during the holy month, when they would usually take part in communal Taraweeh prayers, have iftar at their local mosque and generally frequent it more.
The initiative has been organized by the Waltham Forest Council of Mosques (WFCOM), which says it represents more than 70,000 Muslims.
Said Looch, the secretary of WFCOM, said the organization was inspired by Al-Manaar Mosque in west London broadcasting the adhan publicly at sunset during Ramadan, after it received permission to do so on a trial basis from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
“After seeing Al-Manaar Mosque broadcast the adhan publicly at the beginning of Ramadan, we approached Waltham Forest Council and asked them whether we could broadcast the adhan in public,” he told Arab News.
“We explained that Muslims felt disconnected from mosques as we’re not able to attend them during the coronavirus lockdown. During Ramadan, we usually go to the mosque more than other times of the year because we have iftar and pray Taraweeh there. We felt that this would be a good way of giving the Muslim community a spiritual boost and remind them to pray in their homes,” he said. “Waltham Forest Council accepted our proposal and gave us the go ahead.”
Looch said WFCOM drafted a letter that was sent to residents in the community, especially those near the mosques, explaining the initiative and the reasons behind it. The letter included an invitation to leave feedback on WFCOM’s website.
“We invited people to give us their feedback on our website, and although we did receive a few Islamophobic comments, we received hundreds of positive messages from Muslims and non-Muslims. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” Looch said.
WFCOM said in a statement that “due care will be taken not to cause nuisance to the neighbourhood,” and that the adhan will take less than five minutes.
Looch said: “There are a few mosques in Waltham Forest that won’t be able to broadcast the adhan publicly because they’re in the heart of a residential area.”
The East London Mosque & London Muslim Centre in the district of Whitechapel was the first in the UK to broadcast the adhan publicly when it opened in 1985. It can be heard in public from the mosque for any prayers that fall between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. all year round.