The Jakarta Post
Until last year, Cahyo Sukaryo, 40, a Muslim resident of Kramat Jati, East Jakarta, was often irritated by mosques in his neighborhood abusing their loudspeakers, particularly during Ramadhan.
'Some mosques used loudspeakers to wake up the neighborhood for sahur [pre-dawn meals] starting at 2 a.m.,' he said recently.
And that was not the worst of it.
'The mosque caretakers even called out all of our names one by one. For example, 'Mrs. A, wake up and please prepare a good meal for sahur because your husband complained the other day!' That's really inappropriate and unnecessary,' Cahyo said.
However, he realized that something had changed this year.
'It feels quieter and they don't do it anymore. Some of my neighbors and I had filed complaints in previous years. I think they decided to tone it down as per JK's remarks, calling on mosques to limit loudspeaker use especially during Ramadhan,' he said, referring to Vice President Jusuf Kalla.
At a recent national Fatwa Commission meeting of the Indonesia Ulema Council in Tegal, Central Java, Kalla, who is also the chairman of the Indonesian Mosque Council (DMI), criticized the overuse of mosque loudspeakers during Ramadhan, saying that Muslims should also respect those who need to rest at night.
He also criticized mosque caretakers who often play recordings of Koran recitations an hour prior to the adzan (call to prayer), saying that it was unnecessary.
It was not his first time criticizing the exploitation of mosque loudspeakers. Last year, he even started a nationwide program aimed at reducing noise from amplified sermons. In his capacity as DMI chairman, he dispatched 50 cars, manned by more than 150 technicians, to help mosque caretakers improve the sound quality of their amplification systems.
However, not all Jakarta mosques exploit their loudspeakers. Caretakers of Al-Ihsan Mosque in Rawamangun, East Jakarta, have chosen to stay humble for decades for the sake of religious tolerance.
'Some ulemas say it's okay to use loudspeakers to amplify sermons, thinking it as a syiar [spreading religious values]. However, we think that waking up neighbors for sahur at 2 a.m., for example, can instead annoy people, including those who conduct solemn prayers at home,' Al-Ihsan Mosque caretaker Badruddin Noor, 48, said.
Badruddin also cited religious tolerance as a reason behind their policy.
'Half of the population in this neighborhood is non-Muslim so we have to respect them too,' he said, pointing out that the caretakers only broadcast Koran recitations 15 minutes prior to the call to prayers in accordance with government regulations.
During Ramadhan, the mosque is opened almost 24 hours a day as it hosts various religious activities, including tarawih mass prayers, Koran recitations and itikaf, or the act of staying in a mosque and devoting oneself wholly to the worship of God. It usually begins at sunset on the evening of the 20th day of Ramadhan, lasting until the sighting of the Idul Fitri moon. Each activity can attract up to 70 people from inside and outside the neighborhood.
Instruction No. 101, released by the Public Guidance Directorate General at the Religious Affairs Ministry in 1978, stipulates that amplified Koran recitations can be broadcast, at the earliest, 15 minutes prior to the call to prayer, while sermons should not be broadcast unless the attendants overflow from the mosque itself. Many mosque caretakers, however, ignored the instruction, attracting complaints from Muslims and non-Muslims.
Despite complaints, some residents find Koran broadcasts, especially throughout the fasting month, soothing.
'I came from a small town of Boyolali [Central Java] and Koran broadcasts during Ramadhan created enthusiasm and it was also very nostalgic. It really makes it feel like the fasting month,' Annisa Rini, 24, a Muslim resident of Karet Tengsin, Central Jakarta, said.
Some points in instruction
- Before dawn, mosques may use loudspeakers 15 minutes before the dawn prayer, at the earliest.
- Adzan (call to prayer) for dawn prayer may use loudspeakers
- Dawn sermons and prayers may only use speakers inside mosques
Noon and Friday prayer
- Loudspeakers may be used five minutes before the noon prayer and 15 minutes before noon and Friday prayer
- Other activities may only use inside speakers
- Afternoon, dusk and evening prayer adzan may use loudspeakers
- After adzan, only inside speakers to be used
- Takbir (Idul Fitri and Idul Adha calls to prayer) may use loudspeakers
- Koran recital during Ramadhan at noon and evening may only use inside speakers
- Tabligh (mass prayers) may only use inside speakers except during Islamic festivals
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