“It is impossible to reach the same emotionality at the competition as in the minaret.” Although he knows that, Halit Aslan, muezzin of the historic Fatih Mosque in Istanbul, decides to measure up against his colleagues at the national Call to Prayer Competition. He easily qualifies for the Istanbul Final and knows that his reputation as a muezzin of the famous Fatih Mosque would suffer if he performed badly.
His teacher is Habil Öndes, an imam and master of the call to prayer who received his musical education at the Istanbul Conservatory, not to become a musician, but rather to carry his musical knowledge into the mosque. “You will be among the top three, if God wants it,” he encourages his student Halit, who shares the love of the musical details of the call to prayer with him. His opinion is weighty, as several of his students were among the All-Turkey winners over the last years. What’s more: He is a jury member of the Call to Prayer Competition.
It appears as if advancing to the national finals is merely a formality for Halit. However, no one reckoned with Isa Aydin, a devout imam from a small suburban mosque, who knows how to convince the ears of the jury with his high voice. His artistic pretense takes a back seat to his pragmatism: “The more people I can attract to the mosque with my voice, the more successful I am.”
With this formula in his suitcase, Isa Aydin travels to Edirne, at the western edge of Turkey, where he represents Istanbul at the national finals against 9 other muezzins from Anatolia. The pressure is big, as the winners of the previous two years were also from Istanbul: “If you are not among the top three, how could you trust returning to Istanbul?” says Mustafa Yaman, the previous year’s winner, bringing it to the point.