Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Mosque/Surau External Speakers - Saudi Arabia imposes restrictions on usage and volume? What is the law in Malaysia?

In Malaysia, it is time for the religious authorities to create clear laws about usage of external speakers in mosques and suraus. 

The Minister of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance Sheikh Dr. Abullatif Bin Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh issued a circular on Sunday to all of the ministry’s branches in the Kingdom’s regions, instructing the employees in mosques to restrict the use of external loudspeakers to calling the faithful to prayer (Adhan) and Iqamat-ul-salah (the second call for congregational prayer).

As more and more in Malaysia during this Covid-19 pandemic have had to resort to working online - be it for attending online classes(education), participating in online court sessions, participating in online meetings and even conferences, the sensitivity to background noises is an issue - as it is picked up by computer microphones, and it also can impede hearing if external speakers of religious places of worship is simply too loud.

The other problem that can emerge is the usage of external speakers(which now are rather powerful) for reasons other than the call to prayer(azan and iqamat). 

Dr Al Sheikh said in an interview on Monday that the use of loudspeakers in mosques is a modern trend and banning them should not be raising concerns among Muslims. “Loudspeakers in mosques are modern practices and not something derived from Sharia.

"There is no doubt that people in the kingdom are accustomed to the sound of prayers through loudspeakers and have made this a habit, but it is not part of worship," Dr Al Sheikh said in an interview with Al Ekhbariya TV channel.

Yesterday, a mosque made a call for prayer at 4.58am [but then, on looking online, the correct call for prayer time is  5.49am - although this 'mistake' have been going on weeks, one wonders why other Muslims and/or the religious authorities]. After the call to prayer, the mosque continued using the external speakers until about 5.30am, and then another surau started at about 5.40am..

Respect for other religions is a fundamental part of Malaysian attitude. We have all accepted the call for prayers(which is usually about 3 minutes) but the use continues on it can cause problems - disruption of sleep affects productivity of workers, and even education of children.

In every constituency, the are hundreds of mosques and suraus, and the relevant authorities need to consider whether use of external speakers is allowed for mosques alone(or for both mosque and suraus). Nowadays, one condition for approval of housing development projects seems to be the need to provide suraus - and this has increased the number of suraus - making the number of suraus and mosques in close proximity high. Suraus for tamans should be allowed to use external speakers with volume sufficient for its taman residents. A surau near here in a Taman is about 200-400 meters from the Mosque - and call for prayer from the mosque is loud enough to be heard in Tamans...

Now, there are even Apps that can be installed in smartphones/computers that automatically broadcast calls to prayer.

After the restrictions imposed in Saudi Arabia(the motherland of Islam), some amendments allowing use of external speakers for Friday Prayers - Why? Because numbers who attend the mosque is large, so many attendees end up having to be outside the doors in the mosques - so external speakers allowed so that those outside can follow the proceedings inside the Mosque - this is reasonable.

In Malaysia, mosques and suraus come within the jurisdiction of the State(not the Federal Government generally). Federal government only have authority with regard to Federal Territories - KL, Putrajaya and Labuan.

SENSITIVE - the issue is sensitive, that even Muslim leaders/politicians and even MPs/ADUNs are simply 'too scared' to intervene and correct wrong practices - like usage of external speakers for matters beyond the Azan call...

Hence, whether the Malaysian government or the State Governments will address this issue is DOUBTFUL - but I hope that clear policies and laws are enacted to deal with this issue.

But, today with more people working/studying from home, the usage and volume of these external speakers in places of worship need to be addressed fast.

RESPECT should not turn into TOLERANCE...or later worse.


Saudi minister defends volume limit on mosque loudspeakers

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's Islamic affairs minister defended a contentious order restricting the volume of mosque loudspeakers, saying it was prompted by complaints in the conservative Muslim nation about excessive noise.

In a major policy last week in a country home to the holiest Muslim sites, the Islamic affairs ministry said the speakers should be set at no more than one-third of their maximum volume.

The order, which also limited the use of loudspeakers mainly to issue the call to prayer rather than broadcasting full sermons, triggered a conservative backlash on social media.

Islamic Affairs Minister Abdullatif al-Sheikh said the order was in response to citizens' complaints that the loud volume was causing disturbance to children as well as the elderly.

"Those who want to pray do not need to wait for... the imam's" call to prayer, Sheikh said in a video published by state television.

"They should be at the mosque beforehand," he added.

Several television channels also broadcast prayers and Quran recitals, Sheikh said, suggesting the loudspeakers served a limited purpose.

In a country home to tens of thousands of mosques, many welcomed the move to reduce the decibel levels.

But the decision also stirred resentment on social media, with a hashtag calling for the banning of loud music in restaurants and cafes gaining traction.

Sheikh said criticism of the policy was being spread by "enemies of the kingdom" who "want to stir public opinion."

The policy follows de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's sweeping liberalisation drive, which has pushed a new era of openness in parallel with what observers call a de-emphasis on religion.

The young prince has eased social restrictions in the ultra-conservative kingdom, lifting decades-long bans on cinemas and women drivers while allowing gender-mixed music concerts and sporting extravaganzas.

The relaxed social norms have been welcomed by many Saudis, two-thirds of whom are under 30, while riling arch-conservatives.

Saudi Arabia has clipped the powers of its religious police, who once elicited widespread fear, chasing men and women out of malls to pray and berating anyone seen mingling with the opposite sex.

Prince Mohammed has promised a "moderate" Saudi Arabia as he attempts to break with its austere image, while simultaneously cracking down vigorously on dissent.

Over the past three years, the kingdom has arrested dozens of women activists, clerics, journalists as well as royal family members.--AFP - New Straits Times, 1/6/2021

Use of external loudspeakers at mosques to be restricted to Adhan and Iqamat

May 24, 2021
The Minister of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance Sheikh Dr. Abdullatif Bin Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh.
The Minister of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance Sheikh Dr. Abdullatif Bin Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh.

Saudi Gazette report

The Minister of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance Sheikh Dr. Abullatif Bin Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh issued a circular on Sunday to all of the ministry’s branches in the Kingdom’s regions, instructing the employees in mosques to restrict the use of external loudspeakers to calling the faithful to prayer (Adhan) and Iqamat-ul-salah (the second call for congregational prayer).

Furthermore, the volume must not exceed one-third of the full volume of loudspeakers. The minister warned that regulatory measures would be taken against anyone who violates this circular.

This circular issued Monday by the minister comes in the wake of the ministry noticing that external loudspeakers are used during the performing of prayers. This harms patients, old people, and children in the houses in the vicinity of the mosques.

In addition, there is interference in the recitations and rites by the imams of mosques. This causes confusion for the worshipers in the mosques and the residents of houses in the surroundings of these mosques, (especially the sequence of rites?).

The circular is also based on evidence from the Shariah, most important of which is the Prophet’s saying that all worshipers are praying and supplicating to Allah Almighty, so they should not harm or cause inconvenience for one another by loud recitations during prayer.

This is in implementation of the jurisprudential (Fiqhi) principle, “Do not harm others, nor should others harm you.”

The reason is that the imam’s voice during prayer must be heard by all inside the mosque, and there is no need, according to the Shariah for the imam’s voice to be heard in the neighboring houses outside.

Moreover, there is disrespect for the Holy Qur’an when it is recited loudly using external loudspeakers, while no one is listening to and pondering on its verses.

The circular is also in conformity with the religious edict (fatwa) by the late religious scholar Sheikh Muhammad Bin Saleh Al-Othaimeen (May Allah have mercy on his soul) that external loudspeakers should not be used except for Adhan and Iqamat-ul-salah.

The circular is also based on the fatwa by the member of the Council of Senior Scholars and member of the Permanent Committee Dr. Saleh Al-Fowzan, and several other religious scholars. Saudi Gazette, 24/5/2021


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