The Five Prayers have specified times; before which it is impermissible to perform them. Many people (at the time of the Prophet) did not know the exact time of prayer, or were so busy that they did not pay attention to the time of prayer. Therefore, Allah decreed the prayer call (adhan) to notify them of its due times. The prayer call was decreed in the first year after the Prophet’s Immigration to Medina. The reason behind its prescription was that it was difficult for the Muslims then to observe the exact times of prayer. Therefore, they conferred and agreed to have a certain sign to gather them for prayer. Afterwards, the wording of the prayer call was revealed to Abdullah Ibn Zayd in a vision, which was confirmed by the Divine Revelation:
In Arabic, “Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar; Ash-hadu Allah ilaha illallah, Ash-hadu Allah ilaha illallah; Ash-hadu anna Muhammadan Rasulullah, Ash-hadu anna Muhammadan Rasulullah; Hayya ‘alas-salah, Hayya ‘alas-salah; Hayya ‘alal-falah, Hayya ‘alal-falah; Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar; La ilaha illallah.”
Which means, “Allah is The Most Great, Allah is The Most Great; Allah is The Most Great, Allah is The Most Great; I bear witness that none has the right to be worshiped but Allah, I bear witness that none has the right to be worshiped but Allah; I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah; Come to the Prayer, Come to the Prayer; Come to the prosperity, Come to the prosperity; Allah is the Most great, Allah is the Most Great; None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.”
“The Messenger of Allah was thinking of a horn, and he commanded that a bell be made and it was done. Then ‘Abdullah bin Zaid had a dream. He said: “I saw a man wearing two green garments, carrying a bell. I said to him, ‘O slave of Allah, will you sell the bell?’ He said; ‘What will you do with it?’ I said, ‘I will call (the people) to prayer.’ He said, ‘Shall I not tell you of something better than that?’ I said, ‘What is it?’ he said, ‘Say: Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar; Ash-hadu Allah ilaha illallah, Ash-hadu Allah ilaha illallah; Ash-hadu anna Muhammadan Rasulullah, Ash-hadu anna Muhammadan Rasulullah; Hayya ‘alas-salah, Hayya ‘alas-salah; Hayya ‘alal-falah, Hayya ‘alal-falah; Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar; La ilaha illallah (Allah is The Most Great, Allah is The Most Great; Allah is The Most Great, Allah is The Most Great; I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah; I bear witness that Muhammed is the Messenger of Allah, I bear witness that Muhammed is the Messenger of Allah; Come to the Prayer, Come to the Prayer; Come to the prosperity, Come to the prosperity; Allah is the Most great, Allah is the Most Great; None has the right to be worshipped but Allah).” ‘Abdullah bin Zaid went out and came to the Messenger of Allah, and told him what he had seen. He said, “O Messenger of Allah, I saw a man wearing two green garments carrying a bell,” and he told him the story. The Messenger of Allah said, “Your companion has had a dream. Go out with Bilal to the mosque and teach it to him, for he has a louder voice than you.” I (‘Abdullah) went out with Bilal to the mosque, and I started teaching him the words and he was calling them out. ‘Umar Al-Khattab heard the voice and came out saying, “O Messenger of Allah! By Allah, I saw the same (dream) as him.” (Hasan) Abu ‘Ubaid said: “Abu Bakr Al-Hakami told me that ‘Abdullah bin Zaid Al-Ansari said concerning that: ‘I praise Allah, the Possessor of majesty and honor, A great deal of praise for the Adhan. Since the news of it came to me from Allah, So due to it, I was honored by the information. During the three nights. Each of which increased me in honor.'” – Ibn Majah 706, Abu Dawud 499.
Allah, Exalted be He, revealed:
“O you who have believed, when [the adhan] is called for the prayer on the day of Jumu’ah [Friday], then proceed to the remembrance of Allah and leave trade…” – Qur’an 62:9
Allah also revealed:
“And when you call to prayer…” – Qur’an 5:58
Each of the prayer call (adhan) and the immediate prayer call (iqamah) has special wording, which express creed and faith. Both of them begin with takbir (saying, “Allahu-Akbar” i.e. “Allah is the Greatest”) which is a sign of glorification of Allah, Almighty and Ever-Majestic be He, Then the Two Testifications of Faith are to be declared, as an acknowledgement of the Oneness of Allah, Exalted and Glorified be He, and the prophethood of our Prophet, Muhammad (PBUH). After that, a call for prayer, the basic pillar of Islam, is pronounced/ following which a call for prosperity is pronounced, inviting all Muslims for prayer, the way to felicity and eternal delights. Finally, the wording of the prayer call ends with takbir, which is the best way of the remembrance of Allah, and the word of sincerity of faith, whose greatness and virtues outweigh the seven heavens with all beings therein (excluding Allah) and the seven earths with all beings therein.
There are many hadiths stating the great virtues of the prayer call, and indicating that prayer callers (i.e. muezzins) will have the longest necks of all people on the Day of Judgment. Both the prayer call (adhan) and the immediate prayer call (iqamah) are collective duties, and they are among the apparent Islamic rituals. They are decreed on men, residents or travelers, at each of the five prayer times. The town whose people abandon the prayer call and the immediate prayer call are to be fought, because they are among the manifest Islamic rituals, so it is impermissible to abandon them.
The basic characteristic of a prayer caller is to be a loud-voiced man, so as to be more convenient to call for prayer informing people at its due times. He has also to be an honest man, because he is considered to be an entrusted person, as his calling for prayer decides the times when people pray, fast, and break their fasting. A prayer caller has also to be acquainted with the due times of prayer to call for each prayer once its time is due.
The prayer call consists of fifteen sentences, as it used to be made by Bilal during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH), It is desirable to be deliberate while calling for prayer, without lengthening. It is also desirable to pause after pronouncing each sentence of the prayer call, and to face the qiblah while calling, inserting one’s index fingers into one’s ears. In addition, it is desirable, while calling for prayer, to turn to the right when saying, “Hayy ’alas-Salah”, i.e. “Come to prayer,” and to the left when saying, “Hayy ’alal-Falah” i.e. “Come to success!” When calling for the fajr (Dawn) Prayer, after saying “Hayy ‘alal-Falah” twice, it is desirable for the prayer caller to call saying, “As-Salatu Khayrun minan-Nawm”, i.e. “Prayer is better than sleep” twice. That was commanded by the Prophet (PBUH) as dawn is a time when people are often asleep.
“Abu Mahdhurah reported; I said; Messenger of Allah, teach me the method of ADHAN (how to pronounce the call to prayer). He wiped my forehead (with his hand) and asked me to pronounce; Allah is most great. Allah is most great. Allah is most great. Allah is most great, raising your voice while saying them (these words). Then you must raise your voice in making the testimony: I testify that there is no god but Allah, I testify that there is no god but Allah; I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Lowering your voice while saying them (these words). Then you must raise your voice in making the testimony: I testify that there is no god but Allah, I testify there is no god but Allah; I testify Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, I testify Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Come to prayer, come to prayer; come to salvation, come to salvation. If it is the morning prayer, you must pronounce; prayer is better than sleep, prayer is better than sleep, Allah is greatest; there is no god but Allah.” – Abu Dawud 500, An-Nasa’i 632, At-Tirmidhi 198, Ibn Majah 715.
It is impermissible for the prayer caller to add any words to the original wording of the prayer call before or after calling, as this is considered to be a bid’ah (i.e. a matter innovated in religion). Whatever is pronounced other than the wording of the prayer call approved of by Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) is regarded as a prohibited and an innovated act in religion. For example, uttering words of tasbih, chanting, invoking Allah, or conferring Allah’s peace and blessings upon the Prophet loudly before or after calling for prayer, all are nothing but bid’ahs. These acts are prohibited, and one must express one’s disapproval of whoever follows any of them (while calling for prayer).
It is not right to call for a prayer before its due time, because the prayer call is to notify people of the exact time of prayer, but an early prayer call causes confusion instead. Still, it is permissible to call for the Fajr (Dawn) Prayer earlier than its due time, in order to allow people to get ready for prayer (in that late hour). But there must be another prayer call at the exact time of the Fajr Prayer, so as to acquaint people with the due time of prayer and fasting (as fasting starts from the Fajr).
When listening to the prayer call, it is an act of the Sunnah (Prophetic Tradition) to repeat what the prayer caller is saying while calling. Also, when the prayer caller calls saying, “Hayy ‘alas-Salah” (Come to prayer) and “Hayy ‘ala-Falah” (Come to success), one is to say, “La Hawla wala Quwwata illa Billah,” i.e. “There is neither might nor power but in Allah.” Afterwards, when the prayer caller finishes calling for prayer, one is to say:
“O Allah, lord of this perfect call and of this established prayer, grant Muhammad the place of Al-Wasilah” and the most virtuous place, and raise him to a praiseworthy position (in Paradise) that you have promised him (of).”
Following the prayer call, it is prohibited for one to leave the mosque without having a legal excuse or an intention to return soon. In addition, if one is sitting while the prayer caller is calling for prayer, one should not stand, but one should rather be patient until the prayer caller finishes calling so as not to resemble Satan (who flees when hearing the prayer call). Once a Muslim hears the prayer call, he has to head for the mosque (to offer prayer), leaving all worldly affairs. Allah, Exalted be He, says:
“[Such niches are] in houses [i.e. mosques] which Allah has ordered to be raised and that His Name be mentioned [i.e. praised] therein; exalting Him within them in the morning and the evenings [are] men whom neither commerce nor sale distracts from the remembrance of Allah and performance of prayer and giving of Zakah. They fear a Day in which the hearts and eyes will [fearfully] turnabout…” – Qur’an 24:36-37
The immediate prayer call is in eleven sentences that are uttered quickly. There is no need to be slow in pronouncing them because they are merely addressed for those already present for prayers. It is preferable that the person who calls for prayer is the same one who undertakes the immediate prayer call. He should only perform the latter by permission of the imam (i.e. leader in prayer) who is the one who determines the commencement of the prayer.