Ask Ali: Explaining adhan, one of Islam's most regular traditions
Dear Ali: I can't express my feelings whenever I hear the adhan, the call to prayer. The sound of it is amazing, but I can't really figure out the meaning. Can you explain? JH, Dubai
Dear JH: It always draws a smile to my face when such a question is asked, because it feels good when people from different backgrounds are eager to understand our culture, faith and social life. I can assure you that once you learn the meaning of the call to prayer, it will sound even better.
The call to prayer started more than 1,400 years ago, as the Prophet Mohammed received the order from the almighty Allah to have the worshippers of Islam start conducting prayers. The meaning of each sentence that you hear is as follows:
Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar (God is great);
Ash hadu anna la elaha ella Allah [repeated] (I testify that there is no god but Allah);
Ash hadu anna mohammadan rasulo Allah (I testify that Mohammed is Allah's messenger);
Hayya Ala alSallah (Come to prayer);
Hayya Ala alFallah (Come to success);
Allahu Akbar (God is great);
La Elaha Ella Allah (There is no god but Allah).
The morning call to prayer has an additional sentence: Alsalatu khayron min alnawn (Praying is better for you than sleeping).
These words have been broadcast five times a day for 1,400 years.
Dear Ali: How do you view Westerners who criticise Islam and Islamic culture and values in YouTube videos? I want to advise some friends on how they should react to it. AO, Abu Dhabi
Dear AO: It's indeed a subject that, sadly, exists in this world. Some people criticise a certain religion and some criticise all religions. Such behaviour is carried out by ignorant people, whether they are Christians, Jews or Muslims. Without a doubt, when many Muslims see such videos the first reaction will be anger.
However, to do so would be to commit the same mistake as the person in the video, and this is what I and many Muslims would advise anyone who would think that way. First, we should take a step back and look at the source of the blasphemous material. It's not as if these people are heads of state or important figureheads. They just have an ignorant opinion and want to express it. Their dream is that their video will become viral and get millions of hits.
My advice would always be to stop clicking on these videos. There are many haters of Islam, but then again there are many haters of Christianity or Judaism or almost any major world religion. We could fight back, but the truly Muslim thing to do is ask God to forgive the person who uploaded such a video.
Also, we can create our own videos showcasing the beautiful values of Islam and the meaning of the holy Quran, correcting misconceptions. Many people opposed to a certain religion have probably never even met someone of that faith. I fully believe that such videos are not appreciated by true Christians or Jews or anyone who respects other cultures and faiths.
Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow //www.ask-ali.com">www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.
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Updated: September 5, 2013 04:00 AM