"Azan Integral Part of Islam": Allahabad HC Allows Azan during Lockdown without Microphones
LUCKNOW, MAY 15— The Allahabad High Court on Friday allowed recitation of Azan from mosques describing it “integral part of Islam” and rejected administrative restrictions imposed on Azan in Ghazipur, Farrukhabad and other districts citing Coronavirus-driven lockdown. The High Court, however, did not allow use of microphones for Azan.
A division bench of Justices Shashi Kant Gupta and Ajit Kumar passed the order on the Public Interest Litigations separately filed by Lok Sabha MP from Ghazipur Afzal Ansari and former MP and former Union Minister from Farrukhabad Salman Khurshid. The court had heard the petitions on May 5 through video-conferencing and had reserved its order.
In its 27-page order today, the bench noted: “A letter dated 26.04.2020 was written by Mr. Afzal Ansari, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha), Ghazipur with a prayer that fundamental right to religion of the people at Ghazipur may be protected and the State Administration may be directed to permit recite the Azan by only one person “Muezzin” from the respective mosques of the District Ghazipur, since it does not violate any of the directives issued for controlling the threat of the spread of the Covid19 pandemic."
Salman Khurshid had also written a letter to the HC with similar plea on April 28. Senior Congress leader and former union minister Khurshid had sought that “Muslims at Farrukhabad and other districts such as Hathras and Ghazipur, in Uttar Pradesh, be permitted to recite Azan which, according to him, is an integral part of Islam and in no way undermines the society's collective response to the pandemic.”
During the hearing, the state government defended its administrative restrictions on Azan saying that “Azan is a call for congregation to offer prayers at the Mosque and is therefore in violation of the Guidelines for containing the pandemic.”
Azan is Integral Part of Islam, Loud-speaker is Not: HC
While allowing Azan through human voice, the HC bench said that “Azan is certainly an essential and integral part of Islam…” but it did not accept the argument of the petitioners that “use of microphones for the purpose of Azan is a part of the religious right guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution of India.”
The bench said that the “petitioner has not been able to explain why, Azan cannot be offered without the use of sound amplifying devices. It will be not out of place to mention that in the past, during old days when the loudspeaker was not invented, Azan used to be given by human voice. The use of microphone is a practice developed by someone and not by the Prophet or his main disciples, and which was not there in the past, and that the microphone is of recent origin and accordingly it could not be said that the use of microphone and loudspeaker is essential and integral part of the Azan. There is no such religious order which prescribes that Azan can be recited only through loudspeakers or by any amplifiers. Azan is certainly an essential and integral part of Islam but use of microphone and loudspeakers is not an essential and an integral part thereof. Microphone is a gift of technological age, its adverse effect is well felt all over the world. It is not only a source of pollution but it is also a source which causes several health hazardous. Traditionally and according to the religious order, Azan has to be recited by the Imam or the person in charge of the Mosques through their own voice. Right to religion, by no stretch of imagination, ought to be practised, professed and propagated saying that microphone has become an essential part of the religion.”
The court also raised the sound pollution issue and fundamental rights of people.
The court ruled: “Hence it is ruled that while the right to offer Azan by voice, without the use of sound amplifying devices is a right protected under Article 25 of the Constitution. However, the right to recite Azan though sound amplifying devices is not protected under Article 25, since it is not an integral part of Islam. In any view of the matter, the restriction on the use of sound amplifying devices, is subject to the Noise Pollution Rules which is reasonable and valid.”
HC Rejects Administrative Restrictions on Azan through Human Voice
The court, however, also rejected the UP government’s arguments against recitation of Azan in the wake of the petitioners’ submission that Azan during lockdown is not being called for congregation in mosques. The court said Azan through human voice does not violate any law or guidelines related to Covid-19
The bench noted that the government “has not been able to explain as to how the recitation of Azan merely through human voice can be violative of any provision of law or any guidelines issued by the State Government/Government of India in view of Covid19 pandemic. It is neither a case of the petitioners nor of the State that the Muslims of any of the districts Ghazipur, Hathras, Farrukhabad or as a matter of fact any District in the State of Uttar Pradesh, are gathering in any mosque for the purpose of offering prayers at the mosque. We fail to understand as to how the recital of Azan by a single person in the mosque i.e. Muezzin/Imaam or any other authorised person, through human voice without using any amplifying device, asking the Muslims to offer prayer and that too without inviting them to the mosque, can be violative of any guidelines. Merely reciting of Azan from the mosque through human voice does not cause any health hazards to any person of the society.”