Saudi Arabia updates decision to limit loudspeaker use for mosques

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

Saudi Arabia’s Islamic affairs minister has approved the use of external loudspeakers at full volume during Eid and Friday prayers at mosques around the kingdom.

This comes after the government curbed the volume last week, in response to public complaints.

The latest decision was made to cater to the greater number of worshippers attending Eid and Friday prayers and to ensure people praying outside are able to hear the imam during the sermon and prayer.

Last week, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs said the use of external loudspeakers at high volume could affect the vulnerable, the elderly and young children in the vicinity and drown out prayers held in nearby mosques.

The ministry said speakers should be set at no more than one-third of their maximum volume.

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

But the decision, which came into effect on May 23, also sparked controversy on social media, with a hashtag calling for the banning of loud music in restaurants and cafes gaining traction.

Minister of Islamic Affairs, Dr Abullatif bin Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, said criticism of the policy was being spread by "enemies of the kingdom" who "want to stir public opinion".

In recent years, the Saudi government has advocated moderate values of Islam regionally and globally.

It has also eased social restrictions, lifting decades-long bans on cinemas and women driving, and allowing gender-mixed concerts and sporting events.

The relaxed social norms have been welcomed by many Saudis – two-thirds of whom are under 30.

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.

“We have received many requests to prevent their use and the sheikhs of the kingdom have authorised it.

Dr Al Sheikh said the adhan – the call to prayer – is made at prayer time, so people should hurry to the mosque without waiting for the iqamah, the second call to prayer, which is only for those within the mosque.

He added that worshippers should aim to get to the mosque in good time.

"Those who want to pray do not need to wait for ... the imam's" call to prayer, Dr Al Sheikh said.

"They should be at the mosque beforehand."

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs said that it is closely monitoring the implementation of all its directives and has called on worshipers to report any issues.

– additional reporting by agencies

Updated: June 1, 2021 06:36 PM

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