The art of adhan: Call to prayer competition searches for Turkey's most melodic religious voice

A Turkish muezzin performs the call to prayer in front of a jury, inside the Old mosque in Edirne
A Turkish muezzin performs the call to prayer in front of a jury, inside the Old mosque in Edirne Copyright Ozan Kose/AFP
Copyright Ozan Kose/AFP
By Theo Farrant with AFP
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At the Grand mosque in Turkey's Edirne region, muezzins (call to prayer singers) compete to be crowned the countries most melodic voice. But what does it take to master this art form?


The Turkish city of Edirne's centuries-old Grand Mosque is hosting the latest round of an annual competition to find the country's most melodic religious voice.

The contest sees five muezzins - the clerics who issue the adhan (call to prayer) - compete for a place in the final on 17 August. 

The adhan is one of the most distinctive soundscapes associated with the Islamic world and plays an important part in the daily life of many Muslim worshippers.

Turkey's most melodic religious voice

Cupping his hands to his ears, one of the contestants leans closer to the microphone to intone a tender call to prayer in front of the judges. 

"Allahu akbar" ("God is greatest"), he sings in a slow, cascading voice, with his words echoing off the golden-tinged stones of the majestic Eski Camii mosque. 

Alettin Bozkurt, the mufti of the province and one of the competition's five judges explains the importance of finding the best voices the country has to offer.  

"The call to prayer is recited five times a day in all our mosques. Therefore, when it is our brother with the most beautiful voice who recites it, it has a great influence on our nation. And while being a call to Islam and prayer, it is also pleasant to listen to," says Bozkurt. 

The art of the adhan

Ozan Kose/AFP
A Turkish muezzin performs the Ezan call to prayer in front of a jury, in the Old mosque in EdirneOzan Kose/AFP

The call to prayer is an extremely complex art form and can take years for a muezzin to master.

It is timed meticulously throughout the day, in accordance with the sun’s position in the sky. The day begins with the dawn prayer – or fajr – and ends with the evening prayer, isha. 

One of this year's competition participants Abdullah Ömer Erdogan describes how the particular time of day can affect the vocal inflection of a muezzin. 

"The call to morning prayer is done with a special variation: as it is recited at a time when people are sleeping, it should be like a pleasant awakening. Like this there are different variations of recitation," says Erdogan. 

"We pay attention to the cold. We usually drink lukewarm water and plenty of it. We also pay a lot of attention to our sleeping rhythm and even the way we lie down because of the movements of the throat and larynx," adds Erdogan. 

The complexity of the call lies in its melody, which is said to have the power to captivate the ears of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. 

"You have to be touched in your innermost being. You have to feel this invocation of Allah. Everything is very important: the tone but also the different variations. The more beautiful the voice, the more a person will be moved and feel close to Allah," says Tuncay Sakallı,  a local resident of the Edirne province.

Check out the video above to listen to the spectacular call to prayer

Video editor • Theo Farrant

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