7 minutes early
By Ramadan A. Kader
Some audience of the provincial Alexandria radio was last week confused when the broadcaster aired the azan, or the call to prayer at sunset seven minutes before it was scheduled.
Muslims in Egypt often depend on the azan aired by television and radio stations to alert them to the time of the Iftar at sunset in the holy month of Ramadan when they observe a dawn-to-dusk fasting.
The Iftar signal is particularly important for people living in remote areas where there are no mosques in the vicinity to broadcast the Maghreb (evening) azan.
The discovery of the premature broadcasting on the Alexandria radio raised anger and drew condemnation on social media with some commentators expressing worry that their dawn-to-dusk fasting was invalidated for having taken the Iftar meal before the actual time.
The row prompted head of the state Alex radio, Eman Fatallah, to refer three employees, including an anchor and a technician, to investigations over what she called an “unprecedented, grave mistake.”
“The inquiry is aimed at determining who is behind this grave professional mistake and punish the one responsible,” she told private newspaper Youm7.
MP Hosni Hafez, a lawmaker representing Alexandria, called for sacking anyone found responsible for the incident. “What happened constitutes grave negligence against the institution [radio] and citizens,” he said. “There should be a swift inquiry and the one
responsible should be punished.”
Hafez told the same paper that the premature broadcasting of azan made around 5 million Muslims in Alexandria break their fast.
“Most people in the governorate rely on hearing the azan on the radio to start having their Iftar. This mistake exposes irresponsibility and grave dereliction on the part of the crew who was on duty.”
Muslim clerics, meanwhile, sought to allay local Muslims' worries about the validity of their fasting on that day.
“Those who broke their fasting, depending on the premature azan, did not spoil their fasting because they did not do this intentionally,” said Sheikh Mohamed el-Agamy, a senior official at the Waqfs religious affairs department in Alexandria. “Guilt is on the one who broadcast the azan prematurely if he did this on purpose.”