In a language foreign to many, the chanting was heard throughout the area Friday afternoon. With each word enunciated, the voice echoed off the buildings. It seemed to have originated from across campus.
People outside Richter Library turned their heads in confusion only to realize it was coming from the tower just above them. After acknowledging it, many continued what they were doing. Some, however, stopped and listened.
This March, in commemoration of Islamic Awareness Month, the Muslims Students of the University of Miami (MSUM) organized for the Islamic call to prayer to be broadcast each Friday afternoon from Richter Library’s clock tower.
The call to prayer, or Adhan, is recited in Arabic and is meant to resonate throughout the area. “It serves as constant reminder of when we have to pray, because prayer itself is a reminder of our religion and how we practice it,” said MSUM Vice-President Selima Jumarali.
According to the teachings of Islam, Muslims are to pray five times a day. Before each prayer, the call is usually performed live by an individual. In regions around the world with larger Muslim populations, it is not uncommon to hear it called throughout the day.
“[Here, it is] a prayer call across campus. Over there is it across the city,” said Misbah Farid, who was one of the students who facilitated the broadcast.
It was chosen to be played on Friday afternoons, because “it revolves around the day of congregational prayer” said Jumarali. Like Saturday for Jews or Sunday for Christians, Friday “holds strong significance for Muslims.”
Teresa de la Guardia is Director of International Student and Scholar Services at UM and was the administrator who made this possible. She was approached from the Muslim students about six years ago, who saw this expression as a means to spread understanding about their religion during Islamic Awareness Month. After receiving approval from the Division of Student Affairs, de la Guardia directed them to Gary Heath of the Richter Library.
An assistant support specialist at the library, Heath is familiar with the Carillon that produces the chiming of the Richter clock tower. Mounted in a circle on top of the Stacks tower, the speakers broadcasted in every direction from the highest point of the library.
No other group has asked for audio to be played from the Richter tower in his 25 years working at the library, said Heath.
As he played the call, Heath recalled how his coworkers who would ask him what it was. While there were a variety of reactions, he said that he had never encountered anyone who was not accepting of it.
Outside in front of the library, students listened during the three- minute recording.
UM senior Kaleena Salgueiro said that although she could not hear the words in Arabic, the call was “pretty” and “very melodic.” It reminded her of chanting in a monastery.
After listening to the call, senior Andreia Chaves recalled how she has seen the Muslim students hold their congregation on Fridays in the University Center.
Although there is a Muslim Students Center on campus in Building 21, it is too small to hold all the students who attend the Friday prayers.
“Muslims really don’t have a place to practice on campus,” Chaves said. “It’s really good to have a campus-wide thing so that no matter where they are they can practice their religion.”
Sophomore Razan Alif, who is Muslim, was also sitting outside and heard the prayer call. “You always hear church bells ringing, but you never feel the existence of the Muslim community on campus,” she said. This was a medium through which they could do just that.
When asked whether they thought the Friday prayer call should be continued even after the month, many replied “why not?”
“If there’s a Muslim population at UM and that’s part of their beliefs, then I think they should,” said Salgueiro. She also added that it is a good way to “educate” people on campus and bring awareness to the religion.
In the past six years it has been played, de la Guardia said there have been occasionally one or two complaints from people who felt it was disrupting.
In regards to continuing the call to prayer, she said that the students have never requested it. She explained that they want to be respectful to other people on campus.
If they were to request the continuation, de la Guardia thinks that the university would try their best to accommodate. At the same time, she said they would stress to other groups that they had the equal opportunities to do the same.
“We would have to look into other religious organizations on campus and make them aware that there’s a possibility of expressing themselves in that way,” she explained.
Religious expression on campus is never sponsored by the university, but rather facilitated by it.
Throughout the eight days of Hanukkah, a Menorah was placed on the Rock by ChabadUM. In honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration this January, United Black Students organized a church service held in the lower lounge of the University Center. The Hindu Students Council held Garba-Raas last semester, which included dancing and music on the UC patio.
“Whether it’s visual or audio, it is a religious message,” said de la Guardia.
Sitting outside the library, UM law student Ashley Cetnar was aware of what she was hearing as the call was played
“It’s good to make all types of religious things accessible on campus,” she said.
Regardless of whether or not it does continue to be played, Jumarali expressed her gratitude toward the University. She believed that allowing this expression to be displayed “so openly and widely” is an “important step.”
“It brings true variety to the university and open appreciation to diversity, especially in these times when people have misunderstandings of Muslims and who we are.”
The last call to prayer of the month will be played tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.
FROM THE EDITOR, REGARDING COMMENTS
March 29 at 1:15 A.M.
It is The Miami Hurricane’s policy not to remove article comments unless part of the passage is obscene, defamatory or threatens violence.
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Correction to several statements below
The University of Miami is a private, non-profit educational institution. While it does receive various federal and state grants, it is not a state-funded, public university, as some comments say.