The Inner Meaning of the Adhan (the call to prayer)

All praise is due to Allah that He has made it a practice for us Muslims, following the example of our Prophet Muhammad Mustafa (s.a.w.s.), to recite the adhan before the five daily prayers.

Five times a day at specific times the adhan is chanted to call the Muslims to prayer, but its other purpose is to remind us of the continuous manifestation of Allah’s existence at every moment.


Allah manifests Himself in three ways. First, He manifests his jamal through the beauty of His creation. Second, He manifests His jalal through the infinite greatness of His attributes. Third, He manifests the perfection of His essence.


The one who will chant the adhan stands on an elevated place and turns towards the qiblah in the direction of the Ka‘bah. The Ka‘bah is one of the expressions of Allah’s essence. This is a tradition of our Prophet (s.a.w.s.).


First he recites twice Allahu akbar—"Allah is greater." The meaning of the first declaration is that Allah is greater and absolutely independent of all His manifestations in the beauty of His creation. The second declaration means that Allah is greater and above all the manifestations of His attributes. All is from Him, but not Him.


Allah manifests Himself every moment with a new manifestation. There are no two manifestations in one moment nor is one manifestation in two moments. In the visible existences as well, Allah manifests Himself at each moment anew. No two creations are alike, nor are two moments of any creation alike. Yet He is other than all these manifestations, for He is the Absolute. The proof is in the fifteenth verse of Surah Qaf:


A fa-‘ayiyna bil-khalq il-awwal

Bal, hum fi labsin min khalqin jadid


Every moment the creation becomes and disappears;

at every moment Allah’s manifestation is renewed.


Next the chanter of the adhan chants twice ashhadu an la ilaha illa Llah—"I witness that there is none worthy of worship other than Allah." This sacred phrase is the first part of the declaration of faith, which is the first of the five pillars of Islam. It means: All that we are able to see and to know is Allah’s creation and all values and actions within and around us are Allah’s attributes. Allah says in the 115th verse of Surah Baqarah:


wa li-Llahil-mashriqu wal-maghribu fa aynama tuwallu fa thamma wajhu Llah.


"Both the East and the West belong to Allah. Wherever you turn, Allah’s attributes are there."


Then the second part of the declaration of faith is recited twice: ashhadu anna Muhammadan rasulu Llah—"I witness that Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger." The first time this declaration is made, it means that Allah’s works, all visible and invisible creations, can only be seen with the Light of Muhammad (s.a.w.s.). When the declaration is repeated, it means that Allah’s attributes can only be understood with the wisdom of the Light of Muhammad.


The first creation of Allah was a light, the Light of Muhammad, as he himself has said: Awwala ma khalaqa Llahi nuri—"The first thing Allah created was my light." And he said, "With my light Allah has created my soul, my intelligence, and the Pen." The total of the light, the soul, the intelligence and the Pen is rolled into one and called haqiqah Muhammadiyyah—the Truth of Muhammad.


Next the chanter of the adhan recites twice hayy ‘alas-salat -- "Come to worship." The first declaration calls those believers who know Allah only in His works to see His attributes. The second calls those believers who know Allah in the manifestation of His attributes within themselves and around them to see His essence. For salat is the ascension of the believer.


The word salat in Arabic means to come behind those ahead of one, as proven in the words of our Prophet inna Llaha fi qiblat il-musalli—"Allah is in the direction towards which the believer turns to pray." That is why, as one prostrates during the salat, the believer is neither prostrating to the wall nor to the Ka‘bah, but to Allah Most High. The prostration is the time and place where the believer is closest to Allah. Thus one should keep one’s eyes open during the prostration.


At each cycle there are two prostrations. When we say subhana rabbi al-a‘la -- "O my Lord of the Heavens I praise you—during the first prostration, it should mean, "My Lord—my body, my attributes, my actions, my whole being, all belong to You." When we rise and prostrate a second time and repeat subhana rabbi al-a‘la we should wish, "Take all that belongs to You so that I no longer exist."


Next the chanter twice recites hayy ‘alal-falah—"Come to salvation, to safety." The first declaration calls the believer to leave the world and the troubles of the worldly life to come to felicity, safety and peace. The second recitation is a call to leave the terrors of one’s own ego.


Then twice the chanter recites Allahu akbar—"Allah is greater"—reminding one that Allah is other and free from all one sees. All His creation, and the manifestation of His attributes in great multiplicity, ever increasing and being renewed, are but signs of His Oneness.


The final declaration of the call to prayer, recited once: la ilaha illa Llah—"There is none other than Allah, the one and only existence"—excludes even the one who witnesses.




To understand the deeper meaning of the things we do, of the worship we perform, is difficult. For at best we hope to be a zahid, a good person.


The worship of the zahid is through obedience, but the one who knows, the ‘arif, worships with pleasure. The zahid hopes for the Garden; the ‘arif for Allah. The zahid is with his ego; the ‘arif is with his Lord. The zahid remembers Allah with his tongue, while the ‘arif remembers Him with his heart, with his life. The zahid’s heart is with the causes, the ‘arif’s soul is with Allah.


The mu’min, the believer, at best sees with the light of Allah. The ‘arif sees with the eyes of Allah. The believer holds onto the rope of Allah, the Qur’an; the ‘arif holds onto Allah Himself.


We are attached to this world, to our desires, to our nafs, and the nafs is bars behind which is the divine door.


The good person looks at the creation and people with the eyes of his nafs and is disillusioned, angry, and becomes the enemy of the creation. The ‘arif sees the creation with the Creator and looks upon it with love and compassion and is at peace.


The zahid walks; the ‘arif flies. The ‘alim, man of knowledge, is below what he says, while the ‘arif is above knowledge. The ‘arif does not divulge his wisdom except to the ones who know. His best words are silence. As he comes closer to Allah, he becomes more distant from people. He only needs from Allah, therefore he does not ask from anyone else. Because he is lowly in front of his Lord, he is loved and respected by the creation. He is far from desire, he wishes nothing, his hands are empty so he is free and at peace.


The path to Allah Most High certainly passes through the life of this world, then through the life of the Hereafter. The ‘arif has passed through both this world and the Hereafter. The strength of the good man comes through eating and drinking. The strength of the ‘arif comes from remembering Allah and from being with Him. The qiblah of the heedless is gold and worldly glory; the qiblah of the ‘arif is Allah’s mercy.




Wa Llahul-Hadi—the true path is only shown by Allah.—the true path is only shown by Allah.

From the Waridat of Shaykh Badruddin Simaveni and the Ma‘rifah of Shaykh Ibrahim Hakki Erzurumi, may Allah sanctify their secrets.