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Adhan (Arabic: أَذَان aḏān; also: aazan, athan) is the Islamic call to prayer, recited by the muezzin. It is pronounced as aathan (the first vowel is prolonged, and th is pronounced as in the English word the.) The root of the word is A/tha/na which means "to permit", and another derivative of this word is O/thon (the first O is pronounced as in u in the German word Götterfunken) and means ear.

The adhan was not written or said by Muhammad but by one of his Sahabah (the people who saw and believed in Muhammad); however, Muhammad did choose it to be the Muslims' call to prayer in preference to the bell or conch, used by Christians, or the shofar (ram's horn), used by Jews[1].

The adhan is called out five times in the day for the Fard (mandatory) prayers. Made from one of the mosque's minarets, the call's purpose is to summon the people to enter the mosque, the second call to prayer, iqama, summons the people to line up for prayers.

During the Friday prayer (Salat Al Jummah), there are two adhans; the first is to call the people to the mosque, the second is said before the Imam (in Sunni Islam) starts the khutbah, what might be called the sermon, religious lesson or speech before the Friday prayer. Just before the prayers start, someone will recite the iqama as in all prayers.

Different sects of Islam have different adhans with the Sunni being the most common, as in the literal translation of the seven adhan formulations directly below:

Prayer is better than sleep* الصلو ة خير من النوم ās-salatu khaīru min ān-naūm
God is Greatest, God is Greatest, الله اكبر الله اكبر āllahu ākbar, āllahu ākbar
I assert that there is no god but God اشهد ان لا اله الا الله āsh'hadu ān lā ilaha illā-llah
I assert that Muhammad is the Messenger of God اشهد ان محهدا رسول الله āsh'hadu ānna mūhammadār rasūlu-llah
Come to the prayer حي على الصلوة hayyā `alā-s-salah
Come to salvation حي على الفلا ح hayyā `alā-l-falāh
God is Greatest, God is Greatest الله اكبر الله اكبر āllahu ākbar, āllahu ākbar
There is no god but God لا اله الا الله lā ilaha illā-llah

*When used to summon the faithful to the first prayers of the day at dawn (fajr salat), the line "Prayer is better than sleep" is inserted in the adhan.

After "I assert that Mohammad is God's messenger", Shia Muslims add "I assert that Ali is God's waliy", where "waliy" means either the friend of God in whom is placed the authority to lead the ummah in its spiritual and worldly life.

Each phrase is followed by a longer pause and is repeated one or more times according to fixed rules. During the first statement each phrase is limited in tonal range, less melismatic, and shorter. Upon repetition the phrase is longer, ornamented with melismas, and may possess a tonal range of over an octave. The adhan's form is characterised by contrast and contains twelve melodic passages which move from one to another tonal center of one maqam a fourth or fifth apart. The tempo is mostly slow; it may be faster and with less melismas for the sunset prayer. During festivals it may be performed antiphonally as a duet. (ibid, p.157-158)


  • Habib Hassan Touma (1996). The Music of the Arabs, trans. Laurie Schwartz. Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0931340888.

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Last updated: 08-26-2005 00:09:29