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5 things we learnt from Alvin Tan’s R&B Azan cover

First off, we’re not publishing the video here (or even to his FB page), because…

A. We don’t quite agree with its intentions and

B. This article is aimed at people who have already watched it. Judging by the 400,000 views and 9k shares on Facebook, with at least another 100,000+ on Youtube, we suspect that’ll be most of you.

Anyways, on the small chance that you haven’t, it’s basically a video of the infamous sex-blogger, Alvin Tan, singing the Azan with a piano accompaniment, and labeling it as an ‘R&B Cover’. While the cover itself was played rather decently, the amount of feedback to it has been intense enough that we wanted to do some investigating of our own…

Which led us to some pretty surprising finds.

PS: This article was written by a non-Muslim, who consulted (briefly) with practitioners of the faith. Sorry if anything was inaccurate. As usual, we’ll try to correct it as we get the feedback from y’all 🙂

1. The Azan is usually not played with music

First up, here’s what the Azan is supposed to sound like, . This writer honestly thinks that it’s one of the most beautiful sounds he’s heard.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otdgbR3yso0

The thing is, taken on a totally neutral, unbiased level, Alvin’s rendition wasn’t actually bad. It’s not hard to imagine that if a little boy in Mekkah came up with it, it would be celebrated, rather than condemned.

Funny thing is, we couldn’t actually find a single instrumental version of the Azan (also spelt Adhan, which we also checked). We spoke to a few people about this and here’s what they said. All quotes here are anonymous for obvious reasons.

“In my country, Islam and music aren’t traditionally linked. In fact, women are not allowed to sing by law. So maybe it’s a tradition thing. Also, a piano is a western instrument, so it could be seen as not traditional or respectful.” – Anonymous Iranian friend

“The reason there’s no instrumentation is because it actually wasn’t a song – it’s a call to Muslims to pray. Its kinda weird if you’re making an important speech or announcement with background music. People might not listen to your statement and probably focus more on note progression or the guitar or piano sound” – Anonymous musician friend

Thing is, in many Islamic cultures, Music itself is haram (!).

“Various Ahadith also clearly prohibit music and the use of musical instruments. Hazrath Abdullah bin Umar (R.A.) reports that once Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) heard the sound of the flute of a shepherd. He immediately placed his fingers into his ears (to block out the sound) (Musnad Ahmad). – Beautiful Islam.net

Which might partially explain why some people had a bad reaction to it.

 

2. The tune is different in every country

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqgU3pX9vUA

That’s what it sounds like in Mekkah, and here’s what it sounds like in Iran. So this is another reason why it has probably not been translated into music, because the background tune would be different. Also…

“Each phrase is followed by a longer pause and is repeated one or more times according to fixed rules” – Wikipedia

This would probably make it quite hard to create a minus-one tape for.

 

3. Malaysians will share something even if they don’t like it

Alvin Tan angry comment1

Alvin Tan angry comment2

We’ll never understand this bit about ourselves. When something is horrid, and you don’t think the creator should have done it, AND there’s  little positive outcome from sharing it… then why would you share it? When CILISOS shares something controversial, it’s because we want to either entertain, or inform people about it for a purpose – say, you need to know about this because it will affect your freedom.

But in this case, if you didn’t like it, and you didn’t approve of it… why would you need to share it? Alvin Tan only has as much power as you give him. Question is then… WHY CILISOS PUBLISH THIS!? #ihatecilisos

NAH, BACA:
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4. Facebook and awesome Malaysian commenters can save the day

Malaysia has its fair share of idiots. We know that. But we also know that most Malaysians are actually moderate, open and generally nice people. And you guys really proved that – not just with your comments, but your upvotes.

Alvin Tan Stand up for

Of course, there were the commenters that put death threats. When it comes to religious things, this is almost expected, as expected as it is for our favourite news organisations to cover it to death (*smirk*). But thankfully, Facebook’s up and downvoting system worked a charm – reducing the loud angry voices to lonely cries. To be honest, we saw very few threats simply because they were probably not Liked. So what floated to the top were comments like this of non-Muslims disassociating themselves (not just one, either.. quite a few) with the disrespect, and even more awesomely, Muslims who regarded it well too (again, not just one, but a few).

Alvin Tan Best azan of non-muslim

Also note the number of upvotes, and of course, Alvin’s reply. Here’s another, who even left his phone number for Alvin to contact him in good faith.

alvin didn reply this one

Scrolling down, we saw Alvin had replied to almost ALL comments. This one strangely, he didn’t.

 

5. Alvin Tan actually sang it wrongly

alvin tan singing

There were actually comments on the thread commending Alvin for learning the whole song. And indeed, to our non-Muslim ears, it did sound like an approximation of the whole thing. That’s why we asked someone Muslim.

“Well, it doesn’t sound right cos in the actual Azan pronunciation, the verse need to be perfectly spoken clearly and each verse actually has its own length of note holding . I think he’s just trying to have some fun.”

…and another guy just to check.

“His ‘H’s and ‘Kh’s, the appropriate length for each syllable was not accurate. He has to understand the meaning first, do translation word for word in Arabic, to truly understand why it’s sung the way it is.”

And here’s the thing. The Azan’s words must be sung with the right intention. It’s actually one of the steps in the Wikihow of How To Call the Adhan, called the Niyyah.

Wikihow-Call-the-Adhan-Step-3

The first essential element {rukn} of prayer is the intention {niyyah}. Intention means that we have to know what we are doing, what we are reciting, and for whom and for what a certain movement is made. The value of every deed lies in the intention and motive behind it; not merely in the deed itself.” – from imamreza.net.

While Alvin did learn the song somewhat, and even indicated his kononnya intentions…

Alvin Tan Stand up for

…scroll down a bit further and you’ll see he also indicated other things.

Alvin Tan insincere

 

Not only that, but he fancies himself a Messiah too.

Alvin Tan Messiah

Admittedly, he does start meaningful conversations, but that’s almost by accident. In fact, this video did cause us to learn things about Islam that we never knew about before, which we wanted to convey to you.

What’s questionable is the intention – which from this series of exchanges alone, you’ll probably come to the same conclusion that we did. Also that he’s performing a modification of a sacred ritual from an admittedly conservative religion while topless bearing a Nazi-related tattoo

If you’re wondering where our vote went, it was towards drawing attention to himself. As to WHY he would want to draw attention to himself, we’re guessing even he doesn’t know the answer to that.

And that, Alvin Tan, is why we didn’t publish a link to your disrespectful video.

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