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

Minneapolis mosques would be able to broadcast the adhan—the Islamic call to prayer—five times a day under a proposed ordinance unanimously approved March 29 by the City Council’s Public Health and Safety Committee.

The resolution would expand the number of times a mosque could issue the call to prayer from three or four to five, meaning that morning and sometimes evening prayers no longer would be excluded.

The ordinance still must be approved by the full council and Mayor Jacob Frey before it could take effect. It was authored by council member Aisha Chughtai, who represents Ward 10, in collaboration with Ward 6 council member Jamal Osman and Ward 5 member Jeremiah Ellison. The three make up the council’s Muslim Caucus.

Muslim community members and elders were joined at last week’s public hearing by Christian and Jewish religious leaders and activists, many of whom hoisted signs that read “Minneapolis for Religious Freedom.”

“It is really important for all people in Minneapolis and in our communities to experience and practice religious freedom to the fullest extent that our state, local, and federal laws allow,” Chughtai said after the hearing.

Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, praised the Christian and Jewish organizers who showed up to support the Muslim community.

“Even though it’s a call to prayer for Muslims, the fight for religious freedom has to be done by everyone, because a threat against one religion or one race is a threat against all,” Jaylani said.

Even though it’s a call to prayer for Muslims, the fight for religious freedom has to be done by everyone, because a threat against one religion or one race is a threat against all.

Jaylani Hussein of Minnesota’s Council on American-Islamic Relations

“Our way of being in the neighborhood is to support and nurture folks,” said the Rev. Jane Buckley-Farlee, senior pastor at Trinity Lutheran Congregation in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, who testified in support of the ordinance. “We wanted to support them in that effort because of that.”

The decision came a week into Ramadan, a holy month in the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims who are able to fast from dawn until dusk, abstaining even from water. It is also a time for prayer and community. This year, Ramadan intersects with both Passover and Easter.

A positive ‘shock wave to our community’

In 2020, the city of Minneapolis worked with Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Cedar-Riverside to permit broadcast of the adhan outdoors five times a day for the duration of Ramadan.

That decision “sent a shock wave to our community,” Jaylani said during last week’s public hearing.

It was warmly welcomed by Muslim community members, especially seniors, who felt isolated by COVID-19 lockdowns, he said. 

“It was extremely difficult for them to not go to the mosque, something that they do as a daily thing,” Jaylani said. “So having them be called [to prayer] and having that extension of connection to the mosque was pretty powerful, and gave them all something to really look forward to.”

Then, last spring, Minneapolis became one of just a few U.S. cities to allow such broadcasts year-round, although they were permitted only three or four times a day. An existing city ordinance limited the times of day during which the adhan could be played—a restriction that always excluded Muslims’ early morning prayer and sometimes excluded the night prayer. Because Islamic prayer times depend on the position of the sun, they vary from day to day.

While the 2020 decision had a tangible impact on Muslim elders, the 2022 decision was visibly most positive for Cedar-Riverside’s youth, said Wali Dirie, executive director of the Islamic Civic Society of America and Dar Al-Hijrah mosque.

“We’ve noticed a lot of young generation coming to the mosque,” Wali said. Some even want to call the adhan themselves, a request the mosque is accommodating, he said.

Not only was the community’s reaction to the 2022 resolution overwhelmingly positive, Jaylani said, non-Muslim “neighbors and community were actually very supportive,” he added. 

Dar Al-Hijrah has even seen people travel from outside Minnesota just to hear the adhan in the United States, he said. “We’ve had people in vans, just waiting outside to listen,” he said.

We’ve had people in vans, just waiting outside to listen

Jaylani Hussein of Minnesota’s Council on American-Islamic Relations

Still, there was still a feeling that more needed to be done, Wali said.

“As a Muslim leader, I feel as if my prayers are still incomplete when the morning one is left out,” he said at the public hearing.

Though all mosques in Minneapolis are permitted to broadcast the adhan, Jaylani knows of only two—Dar Al-Hijrah and Masjid An-Nur in north Minneapolis—that have exercised their right to do so. 

“We’re optimistic by next Ramadan that at least a handful more mosques will join them,” he said.

Full council to vote next week

The proposed ordinance will be voted on by the full City Council on Thursday, April 13. Chughtai and Jaylani said they’re optimistic about its prospects. “Ninety-nine percent [certain] it will pass; that’s our assumption,” Jaylani said.

Chughtai said she also believes that Mayor Frey will sign it. 

*Frey’s office said he “will indeed sign this ordinance,” and that he passed a similar noise permit for Minneapolis’ Cedar Riverside neighborhood in 2020 that facilitated the community’s request to have the call to prayer ring out over a loud speaker. 

In the meantime, Dar Al-Hijrah is ready. If the ordinance passes, Wali said, it will begin broadcasting the adhan for all five prayers right away. 

“We’re going to do it the next minute,” he said.

*UPDATE: This story has been updated with a response from Mayor Jacob Frey’s office.

Noor Adwan was an intern at Sahan Journal. She is a fourth-year journalism student at the University of Minnesota.