LONDON: When Kazi Shafiqur Rahman performed a call to prayer in the heart of London’s financial district, he had little idea of the scale of reaction his performance would draw.
Within hours of delivering the adhan at sunset in Canary Wharf, the video had gone viral and Rahman was flooded with messages of goodwill from people of all faiths worldwide.
Rahman, 34, told Arab News that he thought nothing of performing the adhan, which he does in the style associated with the Grand Mosque in Makkah, when he was first asked.
But he said once he was in position outside the One Canada Square Skyscraper with sunset approaching, he started to feel the pressure.
“When I did the sound test, I could see passers-by and drivers stopping to have a look, and by the end of the test there were quite a few people watching me, waiting to see what was happening,” the British-Bangladeshi entrepreneur said. “This is when I started feeling nervous and could feel the pressure.”
Rahman is no stranger to performing the adhan in public, and has spent years perfecting the delivery of it in the style of the Grand Mosque’s head muezzin Sheikh Ali Ahmad Mulla.
Mulla has been a muezzin at the Grand Mosque since 1975 and his voice is recognized by Muslims worldwide regardless of whether they have visited the holy city.
His voice, which featured on cassette tape recordings of the Qur’an in the 1980s and 1990s, is broadcast on Arab TV channels, and more recently has been used by prayer apps.
Mulla has also been labeled the Bilal of the Grand Mosque, an honorific reference to the Prophet Muhammad’s companion Bilal who was chosen by the prophet to be Islam’s first muezzin because of his beautiful voice.
“I’ve been a huge fan of Sheikh Ali Ahmad Mulla since I was a child,” Rahman said. “I have a talent for mimicking people, and as a child I’d accompany my father to Islamic talks and events.
“For the sunset prayer, my father would always put me forward to perform the adhan. He would even talk to the organizers and ask them to allow me to do the adhan.
“This put me under a lot of pressure to perfect the Makkah style adhan, and I’d listen to cassette recordings of it repeatedly every day.
“When I went to Makkah in 2008, I heard Sheikh Mulla perform the adhan live for the first time and I was blown away. It was then that I fine-tuned the version I’d learnt, and I perfected it when I came back.”
Rahman said there is much more room for improvement as Sheikh Mulla’s adhan is “absolutely amazing.”
The London-based entrepreneur was asked to perform the adhan in public in Canary Wharf as part of an event organized by Tower Hamlets London Borough Council, Tower Hamlets Homes and Canary Wharf Group.
“The organizers wanted to show appreciation to the Muslim community and engage with it. Many Asian Muslims live in this area, and this was a goodwill gesture to them during lockdown Ramadan,” Rahman said, adding that he agreed to the request without hesitation.
“The most important thing is that the comments were so positive. Even non-Muslims were commenting on how beautiful the adhan was. It’s amazing. I feel so privileged when I look back at the event.”
Wearing a Saudi thobe and ghutra added a finishing touch to Rahman’s performance. “I performed the adhan in the style of Makkah’s head muezzin, so the way I dressed completed the whole performance,” he said.
“People from all over the world have reached out to me saying how inspired they’ve been by me performing the adhan in Canary Wharf.
“My brother posted the video of me performing the adhan on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. It went viral and spread like wildfire. I didn’t imagine the event to become so big.
“Mohamed Hadid, the father of Gigi and Bella Hadid, also shared the video of me performing the adhan on Instagram.”
The event has motivated Rahman to learn how to perform in styles associated with different regions of the Muslim world.
“After performing the adhan in Canary Wharf, I’ve been inspired to practice performing the adhan in different styles, including the Madinah one,” he said.
“My dream is to be able to perform the adhan at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, even if it’s just a one-off.”