Saudi Arabia’s restriction on loudspeakers in mosques is worth emulating in Nigeria

Saudi Arabia

If you have ever lived in the heart of Kano – as I have – you know intimately what I like to call the menace of the modern minaret.

It announces itself five times every day in a clashing cacophony of sounds from dozens of mosques, sometimes one after another for minutes that seem to stretch into hours, other times all at once. You can hear the decibels clashing midair and the jarring result always grates the ear rudely. The sound they transport is the Adhan – the call to prayer Muslims make to remind one another it is time to leave whatever you are occupied with and come to pray.

Saudi Arabia – the epicentre of Islam – has restricted the use of loudspeakers in mosques. The Islamic affairs ministry said loudspeakers should be set at no more than one-third of their maximum volume and only for Adhan and the Iqamat (second call for communal prayer.)

Before the development of sound system technology Minarets – Arabic for beacon – were used to call the faithful prayer five times each day by a muezzin, or crier.

The towers still adorn mosques but they’re now decked with amplifiers – often more than entirely necessary considering the proliferation of mosques in every street corner – and the tower that once served a useful purpose has become a source of nuisance to many.

Islamic Affairs Minister Abdullatif al-Sheikh said on Monday the order was in response to citizens’ complaints that the loud volume was disturbing children as well as the elderly.

In a drive to make Lagos noise-free by 2020, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LEPA) had in 2016 shut down 20 Mosques and 70 Churches, 10 hotels and various pubs and clubs. The policy was not replicated elsewhere.

With Saudi Arabia leading the charge, one wonders if Nigeria’s Muslim populace will consider a similar policy.

It is an idea worth pondering even if prior experience had proved that unlikely.

The kingdom – which is home to Islam’s holiest site – had banned child marriage in 2020. It sparked a conversation about whether the Muslim Ummah around the world will follow in its footstep to curb a menace that bedevils it from Yemen to Sokoto. That didn’t happen.

It is worth documenting regardless.

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