Photo by Sarah Taaffe-Maguire

In an office at the Clonskeagh mosque perfumed with smouldering bakhoor incense  on Monday, the sound of Sheikh Muhammad Ramadan calling the adhan sounded as clear as if it were coming from a room next door.

Sheikh Ramadan, however, was in the prayer hall, in another part of the building, and it was speakers carrying his call to prayer to people working in the office.

One of them, project manager Dr Ali Selim, calmly continues his conversation even after the adhan. “[T]here is a time space between the prayer time and the prayer call,” Dr Selim says. 

Another reminder of the start of noon prayer comes at 1.50pm, and this sends worshippers to the prayer hall.

It was 1,400 years ago when this call to prayer first sounded, according to Summayah Kenna, the head of the Community Welfare Department at the Clonskeagh Mosque. Nowadays it still reminds Muslims of the five daily prayer times, at subtly different times each day.

But the adhan cannot be heard ringing out from Dublin’s mosques.

So Muslim Dubliners who want to remember to do their daily prayers rely on other methods, from apps to special clocks.

Kenna says she misses the live adhan “terribly”. For her, apps are a convenience, but not a substitute.

Transmitters and Clocks

“Allah is the greatest, God is the greatest, I bear witness that there is no god worth of worship except Allah, I bear witness that Mohammed is his messenger, come to the prayer, come to the good, there is no God worth of worship except Allah.”

Those are the words of the adhan, says Ismail Nacer, a translator at the Islamic Foundation of Ireland, which is also known as the South Circular Road Mosque.

While this call to prayer rings out over many cities and towns in majority Muslim countries, it is not heard beyond the walls of mosques here in Dublin. Instead, some Dublin Muslims use other methods.

Some have transmitters that pick up the adhan that sounds inside the mosque buildings, says Kenna, of the the Clonskeagh mosque, which is officially known as the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland.

Others rely on the rising of the sun and nightfall as cues for prayer, says Kenna. For others still, they’ll just set the alarm on their phone or watch.

Muhammed Taufiq Al Sattar of the Shuhada Foundation, a community centre in Blanchardstown, has a timetable he goes by. But he uses his phone alarm to wake him up at night, he says.

For her own part, Kenna says her family relies on a prayer clock bought on a 2005 trip to Mecca. “The sensation of that trip is immeasurable, so to have anything associated with it is very dear indeed,” she says.

The clock just needs to be told what city its owner is living in, and then it rings out at the ever-shifting prayer times. In Kenna’s home, it’s in “the hub of the house”, and “It’s almost like a presence there when the call comes in,” she says.

Muslim Pro and Local Apps

Zuha Ansari says her mother and grandmother use an app called Muslim Pro, which has been downloaded than a million times from the Google Play store.

Beyond such big-name apps, there are those created by the Clonskeagh and South Circular Road mosques to act as virtual reminders for prayer.

Kenna says the Clonskeagh mosque sees offering the app as a form of community service. It’s “something accessible for them and should they have issues they can have an immediate effect on [the app] and we invite people to get involved, to advise, to complain,” she says.

Of course, not everyone wants public reminders to pray, with alarms or apps that might be obvious to others around them. “It’s more so a personal thing,” says Ansari, who chooses instead to check prayer times on the Clonskeagh mosque’s website.

She grew up in Pakistan, and says she finds the adhan calming and soothing – she says she notices its absence in Dublin. “It is much trickier, you do have to be more proactive,” she says.

But, for her, the lack of an adhan here in Dublin strengthens her faith. “Muslims in foreign countries, those people, most times their faith is much stronger than people when I go back home,” she says.

Permission Not Required

The city’s mosques wouldn’t need planning permission if they wanted to start calling people to prayer, according to a spokesperson for Dublin City Council.

“Planning permission is not required to sound call [sic],” the spokesperson said. “Churches do not need planning permission to sound their bells.”

Both Kenna at the Clonskeagh mosque and Nacer at the South Circular Road mosque say they don’t sound the call to prayer because they are keen not to disturb their non-Muslim neighbours.

When Al Sattar applied for planning permission for a mosque in Warrenstown in west Dublin, he didn’t ask for permission to call the adhan, he says.

He thought it was “not allowed on the island”, but also he figured there wouldn’t be a lot of neighbouring Muslims to hear the adhan anyway, so there wouldn’t be much point.

Sarah Taaffe-Maguire is a freelance journalist. She is a regular contributor to RTÉ Arena and has written for multiple publications, including the Irish Times, and Totally Dublin.

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