Turning Down The Radio

One social element in Jordan has always been the turning down of music whenever the athan (call) for prayer begins. It was probably one of the first things I noticed about the country when I came here as a child and learned to do the same. Even the non-religious or the non-Muslim in Jordan engages in that same activity and I always found that interesting, because to me, it was one of those daily, tangible identifiers of social harmony or cohesion, which is something often talked about, but not seen.

TV and radio stations used to follow suit.

I do remember a time – once upon a time – when broadcasts were cut off for 2 minutes and the athan was announced if not played on air. I think Jordan Television still does that but I haven’t watched TV in a very long time to be sure.

However, I do listen to radio some times, when driving in the car to-and-from a destination. Usually, if it’s not the BBC for the news, it’s one of the new radio stations that have popped up in recent years. And I noticed this social courtesy is no longer being paid by any of them, which is interesting in itself.

I discovered this, and am continuously reminded of it, firsthand.

As a 25-year old, I am guilty of turning my music up to unhealthy decibel levels, which means if the sound waves of the athan should happen to penetrate my closed windows as often happens, then I find myself scrambling to turn the radio off. It is a moment of confusion that sometimes elicits stares from disapproving motorists at a traffic light.

And I’ll also admit to the fact that I only turn my radio up to hear songs I don’t really want to hear, simply because it drowns out any potential gaps of silence that always lead me to over think the things happening in my life, which has never been a car-activity I’ve enjoyed. So for most of the time, I don’t pay attention to what’s being played, which is fine, because local Jordanian radio rarely plays something I would enjoy (what’s wrong with a little Counting Crows or John Mayer people?).

And I mention this not as a digression but because the process of drowning out one’s thoughts often leads to your mind wandering off. And then there’s a sudden conscious connection that’s made on a whole other radio wave of the brain, where the juxtaposition of a song whose lyrics revolve around a man who apparently wants to have intercourse with a woman in a club – amongst a list of other public places – stands in stark contrast to the athan outside, calling people to pray.

Hence, that moment of confusion.

So I wonder.

Should radio stations start acknowledging the athan as they once did?


  • I think the challenge here would be the slippery slope. Do they only stop at the actual moment of the call to prayer? Or do they move that up, at the time when the initial chanting begins (which has now seemingly entered a 2-wave approach starting at least 30 minutes before the actual call)? Where does the line come. For me, I don’t listen to the radio much anyway. I typically listen to my own music (Cds and such). I’m pretty much never in the car during the calls, so it’s not so much an issue for me. But, I listen to the music for the enjoyment, not drowning out my thoughts, so no volume readjustment is necessary :). I’m the only one who cna hear it and I’ll just keep on keeping on…

  • “simply because it drowns out any potential gaps of silence that always lead me to over think the things happening in my life”

    and it’s this reason that I can’t study in complete silence. There are times when I can’t even fall asleep in complete silence because of such thought attacks.

    I can totally relate to that moment of confusion you described, except for me it’s not in the car it would be at home when the athan clock goes off which is a device we chose to have. I don’t know if I could justify it for the masses or use the words “should” or “shouldn’t” but I would personally like hearing the live athan on the public airwaves because it serves a functional purpose for me as a reminder that I need to go pray.

  • I think that anything you do by choice has a bigger effect on you and your community than anything that you are forced to do or have no choice but to do. Let the radio stations keep playing, and you make a conscious decision to turn it down or turn in up. Keeps you thinking.

    And we play counting crows and john mayor all the time!

  • hmm..interesting opinions so far…

    mommabean: i’m not sure it would be a slippery slope if it’s already been done. if anything, the slope has gone in the other direction. sometimes events and concerts are held out in the open with a disregard to the athan, which i admit, can be a bit disrespectful and, more importantly, is seen as such by the vast majority of residents. something to consider.

    asoom: interesting. justifying it for the masses, or in this case, the majority, is where it gets tricky. i’m wondering if that was the reasoning for it being stopped.

    mosaab: that’s a valid opinion but at the same time, it can be applied to anything in our society that is based on a social conscience, including the athan itself. why should the call to prayer be “forced” upon a society that includes non-practicing and non-muslims. this sort of reminds me of the pledge of allegiance in american schools and how that was similar on some scale to cinemas in Jordan that used to have everyone stand for the national anthem before each movie. now we have movie trailers instead.

    (play more) 😀

  • I think it’s hypocritical if they do in fact bring the athan back in between porn-like songs or really distasteful music. Aren’t we insulting athan and it’s meaning when we carelessly squeeze it in like that?

    Try watching Rotana music channel and see how the Saudi TV channel insists on having athan announced in full right after an Arabic song. Would be easier to hear athan while in a bar.

  • hahahaha NAS that was great …

    We are all facing this together , we are loosing the culture , let go the religious perspective of the ATHAN , we have now noise in our heads because of the bad songs we hear or let our children hear, Like the one Nas described politely .

    We are taking off our identity and giving people too much choice. The PRAYER Calling is not only for muslims it is for eveybody in here because we are a muslim country . It is part of who we are , this discussion reminds me of the movies where War took place between the New movements and the traditional ones , the traditional ones have always been the good ones , at in the author’s point of view…

    London , Vatican , Kaaba ,
    Big Ben , Bells , Athan

    If you match the above right you will know who you are…

    PLAY MORE and Dont forget to PRESS START(GAZA)

  • See the difference is that what you suggesting is that Islamic thought and tradition should play a part in regulating how private business operate. that is just a splendid way to promote business development by telling them that they will have to face the leash of religion.
    In the past the air was owned by the goverment that is no longer the case. they still stop their broadcast for athan, but evidently you don’t listen to them for some reason …. i wonder why??

  • shaden: i haven’t watched rotana but i can assume the contrast gets deeper with visuals

    bambam: you make a valid point. although, playing devil’s advocate here, i would argue that this isn’t necessarily the leash of religion as it isn’t exactly religious programming, but rather, from a social perspective, a sign of respect towards the local, prevailing culture and religion. and given the restrictions that are already placed by the AVC for licensing, and the long waiting list for radio licenses to be granted, i doubt that this would be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    and you’re right, i haven’t listened to government broadcasts since probably high school.

  • hmmm , but you forgot one point, even back in time, the english service and french service of the state owned radio jordan didn’t happen to do it! actually, one of the most listened to shows “LC- Listener Choice” was (& still) have its air time during the friday prayers!

    Nice truckle for the issue, agree with mos3ab on his point that it should be a choice for a listener, esp since radios are getting beyond the borders nowadays

  • i never listen to the radio .. i have a carkit that i hook up to my iPod ..

    but sometimes ill forget my iPod at home for some reason in which case i will be forced to listen to the radio .. then i listen to AFN (armed forces network) .. its the radio station for US troops stationed abroad .. its quite good

  • Nas, in some ways the slope may have gone the other way. And, yet, the very quiet internal feelings I hear is that the opposite is the case. That, while things like the radio station stopping music for the Call to Prayer may seem to indicate a shift in one direction, the forcing of the majority religion on the public has become more, not less, prevalent.

    Of course, coming from the outside as a non-Muslim I can only tell you what I see. And, I definitely see a slippery slope. The Call to Prayer is one of those things that makes Jordan Jordan to me. It’s one of the sounds that I love about this country. How sad is it, then, that I’ve come to be annoyed by the intrusion on my daily life of the “additives”? Adding on 1/2 hour before the call and then often a half hour after (I presume it’s sermons although my functional Arabic is not good enough to know) rather takes the choice away doesn’t it? But, perhaps Islam is unlike Christianity in that just listening is enough? I think belief is still a fundamental requirement, right? And, if so, perhaps the end question is where do we draw that line. At what point do we accept that there are Muslims in name only and non-Mulsims for whom hearing the entire prayer cycle (and its prologue) not only lacks meaning but also can be a nuisance (like at 4:00 am when it wakes one of the Beans and we have to suffer through 30 minutes of noise before the call to prayer is finally issued and silence reigns).

    Oops, I’m off topic. Sorry Nas…

  • mommabean: actually the entire call lasts around 30 seconds. most people don’t listen to radio at daybreak so in total that’s about 1.2 minutes of the entire radio broadcast. that’s all we’re talking about here. that’s the standard athan. also, my argument here isn’t about forcing the majority religion on the others. my argument is about a social and cultural habit that revolves around turning down or off the music out of respect for the prayer call, be someone a muslim, non-muslim or non-practicing muslim. it used to be done before for decades, and as bambam pointed out, it is still done on the public broadcasts.

  • I am glad that you were raised with that automatic reflex to turn down the music or television for the adhan. I am pleased it was a part of your upbringing and that you say it was a cultural norm for your generation whether they were practicing or not. Alhamdulillah for the small things. I want to see that continue. We should be following the adhan and repeating along. It is a way to remind ourselves of what we believe in several times a day. There is also a dua to be said after the adhan has been made which has powerful meaning. Pausing for a few minutes is really not a hardship.

    Can we have a post about the 1st adhan at Fajr…I have issue with that. 🙂

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