Mosque's prayer call volume to be tested after residents complain

Authorities say they will check sound levels at the mosque for a second time.

Dubai, 28th April 2011.  The Al Wahda Mosque reportedly very close to residential homes at the Springs.  (Jeffrey E Biteng / The National)
Powered by automated translation

DUBAI // A mosque is to have the sound level of its call to prayer checked for the second time since it opened a year ago after nearby residents said it was too loud.

Sound-level tests of Al Wahab mosque taken by The National outside the nearest homes in the Meadows area about 50 metres away registered just under 80 decibels - about the sound of a vacuum cleaner. The Friday prayers and sermon hit just above 80 decibels.

Extended exposure to sounds above 86 decibels - about the level of heavy city traffic - may cause hearing loss, according to the US National Institutes of Health. Sounds above 100 decibels can be harmful.

The government body that oversees mosques in Dubai, the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (Iacad), will re-inspect the volume at Al Wahab mosque, said Sameh al Nakhvi, an Iacad coordinator who fields such complaints.

Residents unhappy with their neighbourhood call to prayer, or aathan, should contact the department, said Grand Mufti Mohammed Alkobais. "Aathan should be loud enough to call them to perform their most important duty in life, which is salaah, or prayer," he said.

"Athaan is to inform and not to disturb. If the speakers' volume is not correctly set, it needs to be corrected."

Anciyeh Alinasseri, 54, from Iran, whose home is one of the nearest to the mosque, said the earliest call to prayer, or fajr, around 4.30am, rouses her three grandchildren.

"They wake up crying," she said. "Every day I have this problem."

Like other neighbours, she thought it sounded louder in the morning, though possibly because that was a quieter time.

A test of the fajr prayer taken by The National recorded about the same level as at other times.

The complaints about the noise have persisted since it opened in March last year. It is the latest of three mosques opened in the Meadows and Springs communities. The developer, Emaar, referred questions about speaker volumes to Iacad.

A handful of people have complained to the imam, all but one of them Muslim, the imam said.

Residents in the neighbouring Jumeirah Islands community also complained, in an online forum, said a Dutch woman who lives there. "I don't mind it during the day, but I do mind it in the morning," she said.

Others said the broadcasts - of the call to prayer, the prayer itself and the Friday sermon - continued for too long, although they are in compliance with Iacad. Some hesitated to complain because they understood the need for the call to prayer and did not want to offend.

"It's a Muslim country," said Jocyl, a 32-year-old Filipina who works in a shopping centre near by.

Authorities checked Al Wahab mosque last year in response to complaints and found the level to be acceptable, said the imam of the mosque. An Emaar official made the same point in an e-mail to a resident in March.

The inspectors tested the volume over several days and cautioned against raising it, said the imam, a 29-year-old Pakistani. Al Wahab mosque is his first job. He adhered to the volume set by Iacad, he said. "All the things are according to the government of Dubai."

He also stressed the need for tolerance. For example, Muslims in the neighbourhood did not challenge the right of residents to keep dogs, which are considered unhygienic in Islam.

"It's very disturbing for us," he said. "But we never complain."

Likewise, he said, residents should respect the religious traditions here. "When we go to any country we have to follow the law of that country," he said. "This is international manners, leave aside the religious matters."