I never thought of this before, but the Azaan is a love song.
I’m living in this place now where I only hear one Azaan, which is nice. I can hear it clearly. I used to live where there were very many mosques and all the Azaans would compete. It was hard to tell the words of the Azaan or pay attention because even the closest would be drowned out by the next closest. Azaan time became drone-and-buzz time. It was a clamour that had its own beauty, to be honest. But I like this better.
God is the Most. Most everything. “Akbar” means “biggest” or “greatest”, but if you listen to it, you can hear in “Allahu Akbar” the sound of God is the Most, the Pinnacle of all Good things. I used to hear it as a statement of admonishment, or a human protective of piety against the impiety of others—as in ‘I’m telling you about God; you listen’. But if you take it as a clean statement of fact, and a statement of acknowledgement and love, a statement we are all sharing in because we hear it at the same time, then the feeling is entirely different.
God is the Most. I bear witness that there is no god but God. I bear witness that Muhammad (saw) is his messenger.
As you hear these words you can repeat them to yourself as your own acknowledgement of these truths. Indeed, I was taught that the response to the Azaan—azaan ka jawab—was to repeat the words up to this point. And I thought today of how it makes the acknowledgement communal by announcing it, and us participating, paying attention. Our attention to the Azaan makes it congregational. And that is its point.
Come to prayer. (jawab: there is no power except Allah)
Come to what’s best for you. (jawab: there is no power except Allah)
God is the Most. There is no god but God.
My translation is very interpretive. You can google a closer meaning.
Come to falaah. What’s best for you, salvation, prosperity—the good thing. Come to the good thing. Come to salaah, where you stand before and with God, and say a deeper love song.
The Azaan is meant to gather us all in one place that is easy for us to get to. So we can say this love song together. I wish it was that easy. I wish that was our reality. I can’t go to the mosque from which this Azaan issues. It has no space for me. I will sing my love song alone.