Asad Behrawa performs a Muslim call to prayer over a loudspeaker at the Rahma Mosque west of Edmonton on Thursday, April 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Emotions show as call to prayer broadcast during second Ramadan in lockdown

Emotions show as call to prayer broadcast during second Ramadan in lockdown

EDMONTON — Moona Khan says every time she hears the call for prayer playing from the speakers at her mosque, her heart sings and she’s happy the tradition is finally being accepted in Canada.

The woman from Edmonton says the call, known as the “Athaan” or “Azaan,” is usually recited in Muslim countries five times a day and invites congregants to not only pray, but to join their community in goodness.

“To be able to hear it live like that … it goes deep within my soul. You really (feel) like you belong, like you know your traditions are now being accepted and being celebrated here,” Khan says.

The Azaan is usually prohibited under city noise bylaws. But about 40 mosques in Edmonton, some in Calgary and at least one in Mississauga, Ont., have brought the tradition to Canada for the month of Ramadan.

They have been allowed by their municipalities to play the call at sunset, the time when Muslims across the world take their first food and water after fasting from dawn to dusk.

Muslims also mark Ramadan with almsgiving and spiritual reflection on compassion. Large gatherings are a feature of the holy month. Family and friends come together to cook, eat and stand shoulder to shoulder to pray.

That can’t happen this year because of COVID-19, but playing the Azaan can help boost morale, says Khan, who is also a board member with the Muslim Association of Canada’s Islamic School in Edmonton.

Yasin Cetin, a community outreach and engagement adviser for the association, agrees broadcasting the Azaan is exactly what Canadian-Muslims need to celebrate a second Ramadan in lockdown.

“The challenge is that we miss the communal connection,” Cetin said while sitting outside the centre’s Rahma Mosque, west of Edmonton, an hour before sunset.

He says he even misses what used to annoy him about Ramadan: finding a parking spot on a busy night of prayers or waiting in line to fill up a plate with food only to learn that someone took all the chicken from the biryani.

“Who would’ve thought?” he says with a laugh.

This is the second year mosques in Edmonton are broadcasting the call for prayer, but Cetin says it’s not the last. The city has given permission to continue in future years, which he says has made this Ramadan more peaceful for Muslims.

“The second time around, knowing that this is a part of an inclusive policy, there’s an extra level of comfort in being an Edmontonian.”

The Muslim association checked with the city to see if there were any noise or general complaints. There weren’t.

At Rahma Mosque, community members gather every night with masks to observe as a volunteer rolls a portable speaker and mic to the front entrance of the building and sings serenely. The incantation echoes across the community for about two minutes.

“It’s hard to explain the significance of this,” Cetin says. “But looking at last year, we had a number of elders who’ve never heard the Athaan broadcasting like this since leaving their home countries. They were here listening to that … for the first time in decades and it was an emotional moment for a lot of them.”

Many were moved to tears while sharing with their Canadian children and grandchildren what they never thought they would experience again. Then they came inside the mosque and prayed standing two metres apart.

Bilal Moumad, 14, was the first person to recite the Azaan at Rahma Mosque.

“I just want to make sure there are kids out there that are inspired to recite,” Moumad said. “Some kids are shy and I want to bring that power to them. It’s peaceful.”

Khan said she pulled up in her car with her family just as Moumad was reciting on the first day of Ramadan last week.

“It was surreal for myself and my mom and my husband, because it’s something we had never heard in Canada.

“To be able to share that with my children was really special.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 19, 2021


This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

file photo
PM tells Canadians to prepare for one-dose summer, two-dose fall

Chief Public Health Officer says 75 per cent getting first dose is target to avoid fourth wave

Chris Scott, owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe, speaks during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at his cafe in Mirror on Saturday. The Whistle Stop was shut down by AHS for not complying with COVID-19 rules. (Photo by The Canadian Press)
Central Alberta café owner and COVID-19 protester released from custody

Chris Scott was arrested at protest rally outside his cafe on Saturday

Free items can be left in front of homes during this weekend’s Kick it to the Curb event. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Kick It to the Curb runs this weekend in Red Deer

Unwanted items can be left by the curb this weekend in Red… Continue reading

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro announced Wednesday that Alberta Health will give rapid COVID-19 tests to a local chamber of commerce, who will then distribute them to local businesses. (Photo by Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)
Businesses to get access to rapid COVID-19 tests through local chamber of commerce

Alberta Health is partnering with the Alberta Chamber of Commerce to deliver… Continue reading

A 2018 Jayco Pinnacle fifth wheel model 37MDQS valued at over $100,000 was stolen from Masco RV Storage in Wetaskiwin earlier this week. (Photo courtesy of Wetaskiwin RCMP)
A 2018 Jayco Pinnacle fifth wheel model 37MDQS valued at over $100,000 was stolen from Masco RV Storage in Wetaskiwin earlier this week. (Photo courtesy of Wetaskiwin RCMP)
Fifth wheel RV stolen from Wetaskiwin RV Storage compound

Wetaskiwin RCMP is looking for information about a stolen RV. A break-in… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Here is a list of latest COVID-19 restrictions in effect in Alberta

New mandatory health restrictions are now in effect in Alberta. Additional restrictions… Continue reading

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) celebrates with defenseman Victor Hedman (77) after the team defeated the Dallas Stars during an NHL hockey game Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Analysis: McDavid NHL’s MVP front-runner in condensed season

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid has 100-plus point season

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (36) makes a save as Maple Leafs defenceman TJ Brodie (78) and Montreal Canadiens forward Tyler Toffoli (73) look for the rebound during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, May 8, 2021. The Leafs and the Canadiens will meet in the playoffs for the first time in 42 years when the 2020-21 NHL post-season gets underway.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Singer Celine Dion performs during her first World Tour show called Courage Wednesday, September 18, 2019 at the Videotron Centre in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Songbird Uncaged: Celine Dion readies return to Las Vegas stage for 10-date run

Starting on Nov. 5, Dion will play 10 dates at the Resorts World Las Vegas theatre

An Empire Day/Victoria Day gathering of school children on Ross Street by the Cenotaph in the 1920s. On the right hand side, are members of the Red Deer Citizens Band (forerunner of the Red Deer Royals). (Photo via Red Deer Archives)
Victoria Day event helped after war

One hundred years ago, on May 24, 1921, a major community event… Continue reading

Gwynne Dyer
Gwynne Dyer: Independence is a one-way gate

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland declared in 2014 that the referendum… Continue reading

Boston Bruins left wing Nick Ritchie (21) and Washington Capitals defenseman Brenden Dillon (4) battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Raffl’s late goal pushes Capitals past Bruins, 2-1

Raffl’s late goal pushes Capitals past Bruins, 2-1

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Alex DeBrincat (12) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers in Chicago, Saturday, May 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Toews’ question chases Chicago Blackhawks into offseason

Toews’ question chases Chicago Blackhawks into offseason

Most Read