Thursday, May 13, 2010

"He who sings, prays twice" - or does he?

The saying "He who sings, prays twice" is attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430). I wonder whether he'd have used it after reading this BBC news report?

It is meant to be a beautiful, melodic and spiritual start to the day.

But the morning calls to prayer by some of Istanbul's muezzins and imams have had locals plugging their ears rather than reaching for their prayer books.

The problem is such that following a flood of complaints by locals, special classes for the tuneless culprits have been set up.

. . .

The improvement scheme was put together by Mustafa Cagrici, the city's head of religious affairs, who is determined to make sure all of the city's 3,000 mosques produce a beautiful call-to-prayer each morning.

"For some reason, these imams were hired even though their voices are not good, they just can't sing!

"We're doing our best to help our imams and muezzins to improve their singing."

He says that since lessons started, complaints have dropped from hundreds a month to just dozens, an improvement that can be credited to the singing teacher, Seyfettin Tomakin.

. . .

Sadly, for some, no amount of teaching will ever be enough.

"There are some people who can't improve - no matter how much training you give them," said Mr Cagrici.

"So we connect their mosque, by radio, to a central mosque where there's an imam who can sing."

There's more at the link.

I have both fond and less-than-fond memories of the call to prayer. I've heard it beautifully sung from mosques in Africa and Asia . . . and I've heard the most discordant cacophony imaginable from untrained muezzins in US prisons as they called their fellow inmates to prayer. Sometimes the latter sounded like nothing so much as cats fighting! I wonder if I could tape-record that Istanbul central mosque's radio broadcast, and send it to a few chaplains I know? It might spare them a great deal of auditory distress!


1 comment:

kkollwitz said...

I understand "praying twice" to mean that when we sing a prayer, both our souls and bodies participate.