When there are more than 3 mosques in a small neighborhood, the call for prayer tends to get meshed up. One mosque starts a minute before the other and suddenly a conglomerate of voices overriding one another start blaring out of the microphones. This has been a complaint by many citizens for many years, but would it last for long?
After a lot of opposition from the People’s Assembly’s Religion Committee, and suspicion that this might be a ploy to eradicate the religious foundation in Egypt, the project of a unified call for prayer will start on 11th August, which is also the first day of Ramadan. This project has been first proposed in 2004 by the Ministry of Endowments, and will be finally implemented this year, starting by Cairo and followed by Alexandria, stretching to several Egyptian governorates.
The project, only applied to governmental-owned mosques, with a cost of 680 000 LE, and the call will be transmitted from the Greater Cairo radio station, connecting to receivers to the 4500 mosques located in Cairo. Each receiver will cost LE 170 including tax and a three-year warranty. A team of engineers have installed a network that links the mosques together and has been already tested in 17 mosques and proved successful.
Some concerns were made regarding the fate of the Moezzins (Prayer Caller), who will lose their job, when this project gets launched. However, those who work for the Ministry of Endowments, which make up 70000 Moeezzins, will either take other jobs within the premises of the mosque or will be trained to become imams. There will also be a 250 LE salary raise for Imams. According to Al Masry Al Youm, the Minister of Endowments, Mahmoud Zaqzouq, hopes that the Imams will start working more efficiently and devotedly after the salary raise.
The project has received a lot of objection before finally being realized, however, some still disapprove believing that the mechanical sound of the radio would take away the spirituality of the prayer call. According to the Muslim Observer, Ministry officials point out that the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, the Mufti and the 40- member Islamic Research Council, all approved the project.
The idea of the project isn’t new and is already applied in Amman, Abu Dhabi, Sanaa and Istanbul and has been functioning well and according to the Muslim Observer, Zaqzouq has already visited some of the mosque where this system is implemented and “works beautifully.”
Defending the project, Zaqzouq was quoted saying in a 2005 article in Egypt Today: “For thirteen and a half centuries Islam knew of no such thing as a microphone and we were fine. People still prayed. Now these microphones are being misused to an extent that can no longer be tolerated.”