In a recent post,
Jonathan Bloom, who lectures in the history of Islamic art and architecture at the Boston College of Arts and Sciences, considers the Swiss decision to prohibit the construction of minarets to be a slap in the face of the Muslim community in Switzerland. Eren Güvercin asked him about the origin and history of the minaret, which is now a distinctive symbol of Islam around the world.The article is worth reading.
As a shofarist, however, I noticed a misrepresentation about the use of my favorite instrument in a paragraph midway through the article:
When Islam was revealed in the early seventh century, Jews called the faithful to prayer with the shofar (ram's horn) and Christians used a bell or a wooden gong or clacker. Indeed, the sound of a bell wafting in the breeze from a distant monastery is a frequent image in pre-Islamic and early Islamic poetry.The author might well have pointed out that the sound of shofar would have been heard in the Muslim world for hundreds of years as Muslims and Jews coexisted peacefully.
But the characterization of shofar as a "call to prayer" in not quite accurate. I have sent the author the following comment:
I am responding to the author's statement, "Jews called the faithful to prayer with the shofar (ram's horn)..." I am the author of a 3-volume compendium of shofar knowledge (see www.HearingShofar.com). While the shofar is certainly a distinctive motif of Jewish prayer, it is not used as a "call to prayer" in the way that the adhan calls Muslims to prayer or bells call Christians.
Since the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, the primary use of shofar has been as part of the prayer service during the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah (the New Year), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and during the month of Elul that precedes the New Year.
Instead of calling people to prayer, the shofar is not sounded until the latter half of the services, and sometimes at the very end of services.
Another difference is that the shofar is typically sounded inside the building where worship is taking place, not from the periphery of the building. The intent is for the participants in the service to hear the sound. While someone passing a house of worship might hear the sound through an open window, this is not the primary intent.
I am also an architect and found your account of the history of minarets quite fascinating. I love the sounds of worship regardless of the faith. The muezzin's cry, like church bells, mark the passage of time in both the temporal and spiritual realms. The action of any government to ban religious expression is unfortunate.