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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 13 November 2018

Talented Emirati muezzins sought to lead the call to prayer

Religious authority is looking to attract candidates with strong vocals and eloquent azan pronunciation

A muezzin at Masjid Al Rahim mosque in Dubai Marina performs Asr prayer during Ramadan. Jaime Puebla / The National
A muezzin at Masjid Al Rahim mosque in Dubai Marina performs Asr prayer during Ramadan. Jaime Puebla / The National

The UAE's religious affairs authority has launched a search for talented muezzins to call the country's faithful to prayer.

Possessing strong vocals and the skill of eloquent pronunciation, candidates must be able to powerfully project the azan.

An advertisement was sent out this week by the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, known as Awqaf.

Applicants must be Emirati, aged at least 20, and should excel in Arabic phonetics.

Awqaf has asked that prospective muezzins send in a sample voice recording no longer than three minutes for consideration.

If successful, new recruits will be asked to perform the unified prayer call close to their place of residence.

Each emirate has a designated mosque that transmits prayer calls at times that vary across the country – by seconds or a few minutes – depending on the location of the Sun. The prayer call is always made live.

The unified call to prayer system dates back to 2004 and negates the need for every mosque to each have a qualified muezzin.

In Abu Dhabi, the unified prayer calls are made at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and transmitted to the surrounding area.

Abu Khaled, who asked not to be formally identified, is an Emirati muezzin who also has a full time job.

He told The National he would like to see more UAE nationals embrace the opportunity.

The position is rarely full time, and can be fitted around existing work.

“I only don’t do the dhuhr azan because I'm at work at the time", he said.

Abu Khaled began his role after a family bereavement almost five years ago.

“I lost two people who were close to my heart in a matter of months," he said. Before the deaths in my family I barely prayed. I was arrogant and careless."

Today, he says, being a muezzin has changed his life.

August 21. Emirate, Ahmed Al Hashemi does the call to prayer at the Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum Mosque situated in one of the newly constructed neigbourhoods in Hatta. August 21, Dubai. United Arab Emirates (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National)
Ahmed Al Hashemi performs the call to prayer at Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum Mosque in Hatta. Antonie Robertson / The National

"There is no greater deed in life,” he said proudly.

“It surprises me why there are so few Emiratis in this field. It is a gateway to heaven."

Recruiting Emiratis for the post has been a challenge.

The Federal National Council has debated the issue, including in 2010.

Ali Majed al Matroushi, who at the time represented Ajman, urged Awqaf to rely less on expatriates.

"Although there are many qualified graduates among our young people, the authority is recruiting people on visit visas," he said.

"With their broken Arabic, many of these imams do not even know how to read the Quran."

His comments were directed to Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for FNC Affairs at the time, who said that "emiratisation becomes more difficult when it comes to imams and muezzins because of the lack of specialised local cadres and the abundance of mosques".

Since then, the authority has taken steps to encourage nationals to work as imams and muezzins.

In 2014, it was recorded that only 4 per cent of imams and muezzins in the country were UAE nationals.

Earlier this year, a new federal law stated that vacant job posts in mosques should be offered to Emiratis in the first instance, which was not the case before, but that expats can be hired in the absence of suitable candidates.

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