Last Updated: Sun Jul 29, 2012 15:57 pm (KSA) 12:57 pm (GMT)

Volume of mosque loudspeakers sparks debate

In Indonesia, mosques serve the world’s largest Muslim population, the calls emanating from low quality and poorly synchronized speakers has become an increasing irritation. (AFP)
In Indonesia, mosques serve the world’s largest Muslim population, the calls emanating from low quality and poorly synchronized speakers has become an increasing irritation. (AFP)

Voices of muezzins coming from the tops of minarets to call for prayer are one of distinctive characteristics of many Muslim cities around the world.

However, the loudspeakers used to carry the sound have become a source of contention in some places, because noise levels can cause annoyance to those living near mosques.

In Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs banned small mosques from using loudspeakers for the nightly tarawih prayer in Ramadan. The sounds of prayers coming from different mosques at the same time can be confusing, the ministry said explaining the rationale behind their decision.

“Raising the sound of loudspeakers above the accepted level is not permissible,” said Sheikh Tawfiq al-Sayegh, imam of a mosque in the coastal city of Jeddah, to Okaz daily. “There are ill and elderly people in the neighboring houses who need rest and quietness.”

However, the ministry is struggling to enforce their decision. Writing for the same paper, columnist Humoud Abu Talib said very few mosques have actually respected the ministry’s instructions to control the noise levels. But another columnist objected to the ministry’s desire, arguing that such ban would take away from the spirituality of the holy month.

“It is only one month [Ramadan] that has a social character in every part of the world,” Mohammad al-Uhaideb wrote. “There is no harm in allowing the sounds of prayer to blast loudly in it.”

In Indonesia, where 800,000 mosques serve the world’s largest Muslim population, the calls emanating from low quality and poorly synchronized speakers has become an increasing irritation, Reuters reported.

“One complaint includes when there are two or three (mosques) in a neighborhood and they get involved in a loudspeaker war,” Amidhan, head of the highest Islamic authority, the Indonesian Ulema Council, told the news agency.

A local company called V8sound tried to tackle the problem by offering smoother sounding speakers. The brand name of the new loud speakers is “Al Karim,” which can be translated to “the generous.”

“The purpose of these loudspeakers is so that Indonesian mosques can have a jazz lounge standard,” said Harry Kissowo, the company founder. He told Reuters that more mosques are willing to pay a premium to install Al Karim sound system.

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