The azan is meant to remind the listener of God’s majesty. Revealed to prophet Muhammad, it puts the believer in a state of awe and humility. For every claim that we may understand God, we are reminded that God is greater than anything we may conceive. That moment of being lost in the transcendence of God, in the tradition of prophet Muhammad, is an ecstatic one. It is not about bells or dancing. It is about exercising the gifts God has created in us, the voice, to be reflective and pleased with God’s presence within us.
It is also a direct link to our history, and the promise of anti-racism in the Islamic ethos. The first person to have the official role to call people to prayer was Bilal ibn Rabah, who was given the position because of the beauty of his voice and the commitment to his faith. He was a black man, who was held as a slave by the non-Muslims of 7th century Arabia. As a punishment for converting to Islam, his owners did not feed him to the lions, but placed heavy stones on him to crush him to death. As he called out God’s name, and thought, “I can’t breathe,” prophet Muhammad bought his freedom, and elevated him to one of the most important roles in the community.