Writings from when I lived in Egypt, 2011-2012, and a few since then
Saturday, July 14, 2012
One Voice, Many Mosques
Five times a day throughout Cairo, a group of mosque employees unplug small black boxes. Depending on who you ask, they are either breaking the law or resisting an unfair government imposition.
These muezzin — men who recite the call to prayer — are fighting an effort by the Endowments Ministry to unify Cairo’s call to prayer, forcing every mosque to accept a centralized radio signal and each muezzin to stop reciting a ritual that has been repeated for generations.
The ministry hopes that a unified call will reduce Cairo’s infamous cacophony, but some muezzins worry about losing their jobs. They express sadness at no longer being able to do what their fathers and grandfathers have done ever since the early days of Islam, when a freed Ethiopian slave named Bilal ibn Rabah first inaugurated the practice.
“There are those who will continue to feel a longing for performing the call to prayer, and being spiritually rewarded for it,” said one muezzin at a mosque in Heliopolis. “As the Prophet said, ‘Muezzins will have the longest necks on the Day of Judgment.’"