By Maya Rhodan
January 15, 2015

Members of Duke University’s Muslim Students Association will begin chanting a weekly call-to-prayer from the bell tower of the school’s chapel this Friday, in what one religious expert called a first-of-its-kind development.

The chant, known as the adhan, will be “moderately amplified” from the chapel to alert the community of the weekly Friday prayer service. The Muslim chaplain at Duke Imam Adeel Zeb said in a statement that the call-to-prayer “serves as a reminder to serve our brothers and sisters in humanity.”

“The adhan is the call to prayer that brings Muslims back to their purpose in life,” Zeb said.

Christy Lohr Sapp, the associate dean of religious life at Duke’s chapel, said the broadcasting of the chant “represents a larger commitment to religious pluralism that is at the heart of Duke’s mission.”

“Our goal in Religious Life is to create a place where religious expression is valued and supported and to foster the spiritual development of the various communities on campus,” Sapp said in an email.

In Muslim communities across the globe, the adhan is broadcast up to five times a day—once for each of the five daily prayers. On Friday afternoons, Muslims gather for the congregational Jummah prayer. Princeton University Imam & Muslim Life Program Coordinator Sohaib Sultan called Duke’s announcement is a “wonderful recognition of the religious diversity at Duke,” noting that as far as he knows, the move is unprecedented.

“The Muslim call to prayer is a melodious chant that will be appreciated by anyone, regardless of faith, who has an ear for spiritual songs,” said Sohaib, who also authored the book The Koran for Dummies. “As far as I know this is unprecedented and a welcome first.”

At New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus, students are alerted of the call-to-prayer by Al Fajr clocks, which display prayer times and light up when the call-to-prayer is announced. The campus is located on Saadiyat Island where students can no longer properly hear the call-to-prayer broadcast throughout Abu Dhabi. At Emory University in Atlanta, the school’s Muslim Student Association broadcast the adhan throughout the month of February in 2010 during Islamic Awareness Month.

Not everyone is praising the announcement. Franklin Graham, a Christian evangelist and son of famed evangelical and Baptist minister Billy Graham, slammed Duke’s announcement in a Facebook post.

“As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism,” Graham wrote. “I call on the donors and alumni to withhold their support from Duke until this policy is reversed.”

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