MAKKAH: They have been reverberating through the Grand Mosque in Makkah for centuries — the soulful and soothing voices of muezzins calling the believers, and imams leading prayers five times a day.
Dr. Mansour Al-Dajani, a researcher on the history of Makkah, told Arab News recently that the first call to prayer, at noon in the Grand Mosque, was delivered from the roof of the holy Kaaba by Prophet Muhammad’s companion Bilal bin Rabah. This was on the order of the prophet on the day of the conquest of Makkah in the year 630 (8 A.H.).
“The Grand Mosque was as large as the Mataf (area of circumambulation around Makkah’s Kaaba) at that time and had no wall surrounding it, nor a minaret. Minarets appeared for the first time in the year 754 (137 A.H.) during the reign of the Abbasid Caliph Abu Jafar Al-Mansour, who built the first minaret, known as Bab Al-Umrah, in the western corner from the northern side of the Grand Mosque.”
The minaret was a tall tower attached or adjacent to the mosque. It was an integral part of the mosque and designed so the call to prayer could be heard loud and clear throughout the city.
He explained: “This minaret and the ones that were built after it were used to recite the call to prayer in the Grand Mosque. The chief muezzin would start the call to prayer from the minaret of Bab Al-Umrah, then all the muezzins would follow him on the other minarets. After that, the Bab Al-Salam minaret became the chief muezzin’s platform for the call to prayer, and in the 16th century (10th century A.H.), the chief muezzin used the dome of Zamzam to deliver the call to prayer.”
Loudspeakers in the Grand Mosque were introduced for the first time in 1947 during the reign of King Abdulaziz.
The late Makkan historian and writer Prof. Ahmed Ali Asad Allah Al-Kazemi stated in his memoirs “The Daily Events in Makkah” that in 1947 Sheikh Abd Al-Zahir Abu Al-Samh, the imam and preacher of the Grand Mosque, asked Minister of Finance Abdullah bin Suleiman Al-Hamdan to provide loudspeakers and a microphone.
He wrote that in that year the speakers in the Grand Mosque were used for the Friday and Eid sermons, which fell on the same day. The sermon was usually delivered by Sheikh Abu Al-Samh’s son, Abdul Rahman, with only a few worshippers in the mosque able to hear. However, on Friday Oct. 31, 1947, Sheikh Abu Al-Samh delivered the Friday sermon with a microphone heard by thousands of worshippers in the Grand Mosque.
In 1957, the speaker’s location was changed when the first expansion of the Mataf in the Grand Mosque took place. In 1963, the speakers were placed in a separate, private building, called Almukbariya, from which the call to prayer is performed, and where the muezzin chants or repeats in response to the imam’s prayers.
Recently further changes were made in the Almukbariya building by the Projects and Engineering Studies Agency at the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, to ensure operational efficiency for Ramadan 2023.
Eng. Mohammed Al-Waqdani, undersecretary of the agency, said the Almukbariya in its new form took into account the architectural changes in the Grand Mosque in terms of color and style.
It allows for greater sound clarity, to amplify the voices of the muezzins. There are also sound and television control rooms and studios, special waiting offices for muezzins and alternates, and rooms for public services. The Mataf and Kaaba can be seen from the southern part of the Almukbariya.
Al-Waqdani added that the Almukbariya plays an important role, in coordination with the Radio and Television Authority, in the live broadcast of “of all rituals and religious events that are held in the Grand Mosque throughout the year, especially during the blessed Ramadan and Hajj season.”