Ahmed Jamal, the mu'adhin of Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque, gives the call to prayer (adhan) from the mosque's roof in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood on April 23, 2020. Credit: Ben Hovland | Sahan Journal

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The Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed a resolution Thursday recognizing the Islamic month of Ramadan and supporting the public playing of the call to prayer year-round, a first in city history.

Minneapolis Ward 6 Council Member Jamal Osman presented the resolution, which also informs mosque leadership that they are authorized to play the Islamic call to prayer, or adhan, in their neighborhoods during daytime hours. The adhan, typically about five minutes long, calls on Muslims to pray five times throughout the day.

“This is a wonderful honor—the first recognition of Ramadan by the city—and acknowledging that the call to prayer can be broadcasted in Minneapolis,” Jamal said in the meeting.

Inside a mosque, a community leader recites the call to prayer. Outside a mosque, Muslims have typically heard a pre-recorded adhan on their phones or alarm clocks. For the first time, Minneapolis residents may hear the adhan played year-round from a loudspeaker at their local mosque.

Jamal led the council’s new Muslim Caucus, which includes Ward 10 Council Member Aisha Chughtai and Ward 5 Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, in pushing the resolution.

“Minneapolis has become home to one of the largest populations of Somali and East Africans in the nation, and their Muslim faith is welcome here.”

Minneapolis City Council resolution

“Muslims have been a part of the fabric of America for over 400 years, since the first Muslims in America arrived as slaves,” the resolution said in part. “Minneapolis has become home to one of the largest populations of Somali and East Africans in the nation, and their Muslim faith is welcome here.

“Mosques around the city can celebrate this Ramadan, and every day with the centuries old call to prayer observed by Muslims around the world.”

This year’s Ramadan begins the night of April 2 and lasts 30 days. Muslims who are able to do so fast from dawn to dusk, abstaining from consuming food and water. It is also a time for enhanced spiritual reflection, prayer, reading the Qur’an, and spending time with family.

“Our city recognizes and respects people in the Muslim faith to be in leadership,” Ellison told Sahan Journal ahead of Thursday’s meeting. “That’s reflected on our City Council. It’s reflected in the election of my dad [Keith Ellison] back in ‘06. It’s reflected in the congressional leadership that we have now with Ilhan [Omar]. But we still have folks in our community who feel really invisible. I’m hoping that this is one of those many actions that makes people feel seen.”

Chughtai became the first Muslim woman elected to the Minneapolis City Council in November and said she looks forward to expanding policy to meet the needs of the city’s Muslim community. Estimates place the population of Muslims in Minnesota at nearly 200,000. A large portion of the community lives in the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs. 

“We frequently talk about Ramadan as a time for reflection, a time for us to look inwards,” Chughtai said at the meeting. “It’s also a time for reflection as a community.”

Yusuf Abdulle, the director of the Islamic Association of North America, joined the meeting to talk about the significance of Ramadan, especially for his Minneapolis-based mosque’s congregation.

“It is very important for us as Muslims to commemorate and remember those who have less to eat, those who are thirsty, those who are suffering,” Yusuf said. “I’m very excited and delighted that we are welcoming this Ramadan with the support of the city of Minneapolis.”

Council confirms broadcasting adhan is allowed

The resolution says playing the adhan is legal. According to a previously adopted city ordinance, sounds associated with religious worship that last no more than 10 minutes in any one hour between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. are exempt from noise violations. It does not specifically designate a time of the year, like Ramadan, or name any holidays or religions.

The ordinance allows the playing of the adhan year-round, which is practiced in just three other U.S. cities: Paterson, New Jersey; Hamtramck and Dearborn, Michigan. In Muslim-majority countries, the adhan is commonly heard over a loudspeaker all year.

“We come into this world with call to prayer. We leave this world with call to prayer.”

Minneapolis Ward 10 council member Aisha Chughtai

Muslims pray five times throughout the day in the early morning, around noon, afternoon, at sunset, and in the evening. The adhan is recited in Arabic throughout the world. It begins by saying God is great, there is no God but Allah, and tells Muslims: “Come to pray. Come to salvation.” 

Yusuf said the ability to play the adhan grants his congregation an opportunity to build bridges with their neighbors.

“That harmonizes the community of our beautiful city and it contributes to a mutual understanding of people of different faiths,” he said.

The Islamic call to prayer was first heard throughout the city in 2020. The city partnered with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Minnesota and a local mosque to play it over a loudspeaker during Ramadan in the Cedar–Riverside neighborhood, which has a large East African population. Since mosques were closed at the time due to COVID, Muslims in the area could hear the adhan while celebrating Ramadan from their homes.

Chughtai stressed the importance of the adhan during the city council meeting. She added that she looks forward to expanding the state’s definition of daytime hours, which does not allow playing the adhan before sunrise for the early morning prayer.

“When Muslim children are born, the first thing we do is we read adhan to them. And when they pass away we do the same thing,” Chughtai said. “We come into this world with call to prayer. We leave this world with call to prayer. We start every morning at Fajr, the morning prayer, with that same call. And we end each night in that same way.”

Hibah Ansari is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.