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Mosques and loudspeakers
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 17 - 07 - 2016

ABOUT seven years ago, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs banned the use of loudspeakers during the five-time prayers. It created a big hue and cry as many people opposed the move thinking it would have a negative impact on the worship.
But the ministerial decision was urging the public to follow Allah's instruction given through the Holy Qur'an which said: "Neither speak thy prayer aloud, nor speak it in a low tone, but seek a middle course in between." (Isra: 110). But most imams have ignored this directive.
Every year just before Ramadan the ministry reminds mosque authorities about the directive to switch off their sound systems outside the mosque during the five-time prayers and use only the loudspeakers inside, except for azan (call to prayer), iqamat (the call just before congregational prayer) and Friday and Eid sermons as well as the rain-seeking prayer.
The ministry has been publicizing the directive through the print and electronic media every year but the mosques and imams never implemented it as if they had never known about it. This response looks strange. But the most surprising thing is that the ministry has not taken any action against imams and mosques that have refused to implement its directive.
Every year the ministry announces its decision shamelessly without issuing any warning to violators that they would be punished. This shows that the ministry is not prepared to implement Vision 2030 that demands quick execution of decisions.
If we conduct a survey on the issue, we can find that a mosque's neighbors do not oppose azan, iqama, five-time prayers, Taraweeh and Qiyamul Lail (late night special Ramadan prayers), Friday and Eid sermons, and oppose other activities such lectures, classes and Qur'an competitions without closing sound systems outside the mosque.
For example, if a mosque which is located in the middle of a residential area, organizes a Qur'an contest why it insists that all people in the district should hear it, using loudspeaker. Instead, they should close the loudspeakers outside the mosque to avoid disturbance to others.
There are some ulema who speak non-stop loudly for hours causing disturbance to neighbors. They often distract from the subject. These kinds of speeches will surely disturb the sick and small children. In most mosques such lectures are given after Asr prayer when normally government employees return home after work to take rest.
Many people living in the neighborhood fear to ask mosque authorities to close the external speakers for fear of dubbing them as secularists and anti-Islam elements.
Some scholars claim that the Qur'anic recitation should not be heard outside the mosque fearing it could affect its sacredness that the imam could fall in the sin of showing off. They believe that the sacredness of the Qur'an cannot be preserved by reciting it loudly through the mosque's external sound systems. They fear that it would cause harm to neighbors.
Sheikh Mohammed Al-Othaimeen, a leading Saudi Islamic scholar, has opposed using external speakers during prayer when Qur'an is recited loudly, saying it would cause disturbance to neighboring houses and mosques.
This shows that the voice of the imam should be heard only by those praying behind him. If it reaches outside the mosque it would create disturbance to others including those praying inside their homes. If the imam wants to make people outside the mosque hear his Qur'an recitation it would come under the objectionable act of riya or showing others.
When a person amongst us wants to sleep he would not like any disturbance including talk and laughter. How can we call our loud prayer a worship if it disturbs others?

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