Q. I am currently doing an economic project at university and the question that I was posed with is why do masjids have minarets in North America? As you may know in North America unlike Trinidad we do not call the adhan loudly, but the question was asked, I am currently going to interview local imams in Toronto from the Jamie Abu Bakr masjid and Islamic foundation masjid, but I was wondering if you could give me some insight. I read that the early masjid did not have minarets, what is the importace of it in islam, is it our symbol, does it draw people socially, or does it have to do with the finance committee when the masjid is being built, do they make this decision or is it all in the architecture? I wanted an islamic opinion and not something from a book written by a non muslim who has no clue what he is talking about.
A. The Minarets being built in a Masjid has nothing to do with beauty, architectural designs etc. etc. Instead, they came about in the early centuries of Islam, after the demise of the Prophet (SAS) to serve two purposes. The first was that it served as an ideal place for the Muazzin to give ‘the call to prayer’ (Azan). As we know, the Muazzin is required to call the Azan loud enough so that his voice can reach as far as possible. Being on a raised area, allows the voice to travel at a further distance than being in a low area. Hence, early Muslim rulers saw the need to have an area built in this manner which facilitates this.
The other important reason for the Minaret was that of identifying the Masjid from far off places. This was extremely important for Muslims living in the early period, since many of them travelled far and wide to distant Muslim lands. The Minarets, raised up in the sky, provided a land mark for them which directed them to the Masjid, which many of them would be searching for.
Having started in this manner, the Minarets thereafter were seen as a need and a basic requirement for newly built Masjids. This continued over a period of time until it became as a symbol of the Masjid. As such, even though, Muslims may not see the Minarets as a place for the Muazzin, they are nevertheless, seen as an important building attached to a Masjid.
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan