Azan (adhan) the Muslim call to prayer, an Arabic word, meaning to call or to declare. Azan is the call to the divine service of Friday (Jum'ua) and the five daily salats. An Abyssinian, Hazrat Billal (R) was the first Muazzin. The muazzin gives the prayer call, facing the qibla, the direction of the holy Ka'ba.

According to Muslim tradition, the holy Prophet (Sm), soon after his arrival at Madina (one or two years after the Hidjra), deliberated with his companions on the best manner of announcing to the faithful the hour of prayer. Some proposed that every time a fire should be kindled, a horn should be blown or a nakus (i.e., a long piece of wood clapped with another piece of wood) should be used. But a companion Abdullah bin Zaid (R), related that he saw in a dream somebody who from the roof of the mosque called the Muslims to prayer. Umar bin Khattab (R) also dreamt the same dream and recommended that manner of announcing the salat. As all agreed to it, the azan was introduced by an order of the holy Prophet (Sm). From that time the believers were convoked by Hazrat Bilal (R), and upto our days the azan is called out at the time of the salat.

There is no fixed melody for the call and it can be uttered in any manner as long as the pronuncioation is correct. "In the Muslim world one hears different airs at the same time. Like the recitation of the holy quran, the singing of the azan is a highly developed art."(Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam, 1981, p.16). However, some Hambali ulama, Muslim scholars of the Hambali school, reject any sort of tune for the azan. For Jum'ua and regular full-time prayers in a mosque, azan is sunnat-e-muakada (emphasised, but not obligatory), but it is held to be good to give a prayer call before offering prayers in a mosque or an open space or at home. It is traditional to utter the prayer call into the right ear of a newborn baby and the iqamat into the left one. Muslims utter the azan during natural calamities like devastating storms to stave off danger. The azan is followed by formulae of glorification, which are recommended and precisely determined by Shariah. [Syed Ashraf Ali and Muhammad Abdul Baqi]