Why Umar abolished ‘Hayya Alaa Khairil Amal’ from the Azaan?

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Is the call to prayer (Azaan) practiced by a majority of Muslims free from innovation? Some Muslims – who are quick to point out innovation even when it isn’t so – should reflect for a moment on this poser.


Rather than perennially accusing Shias of innovating in religion it is time for the opponents to evaluate their own practices to ascertain whether they themselves are free from innovation.

Once such practice is the Azaan which is as we will see is a departure from the original Azaan. Additions and deletions have been made to the Azaan rendering it useless and even a source of disobedience and chastisement.

Umar tampers with the Azaan

Ali Ibn Abdul Malik al-Hindi, popularly known as Muttaqi al-Hindi, in his book, Kanz al-Ummal vol. 8, p. 342, tradition number 23,174 records:

Bilal used to recite in the morning Azaan – Hayya alaa Khair al-Amal (Hasten to the best of actions).

Note that Bilal did not say – Prayers is better than sleep (Al-Salaato khair min al-nawm).

Umar’s confession

Muhammad Ibn Jurair al-Tabari documents in his book ‘Al-Mustarshid fi Imamat-e-Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.)’ on page 516:

Once Umar ascended the pulpit and announced- O people! Three things were prevalent during the time of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) but I am forbidding them and will punish those who perform them. From them are: the two Mutaa’, i) Mutaa’ with women and ii) Mutaa’ of Hajj…and the third is the statement – Hasten towards the best of actions (in Azaan) because when people listen to this in the Azaan they rely upon it and forego Hajj and all other actions!

Why Umar deleted Hayya ala Khair al-Amal

Muhammad Ibn Umair says – I asked Imam Reza (a.s.) about why ‘Hayya ala Khair al-Amal’ was deleted from Azaan.

He (a.s.) replied – Do you wish to know the apparent meaning or the hidden meaning?

I said – I wish to know both.

He (a.s.) responded – As for the apparent meaning (for deleting it) it is so that people do not forsake jihad by relying upon prayers (salaat). As for the hidden meaning, then surely ‘Khair al-Amal’ is Wilaayat; the one (viz. Umar) who ordered the deletion of ‘Hayya ala Khair al-Amal from Azaan did not want to urge people towards it and pray for it.

  • Elal al-Sharaae vol. 2, p. 368

Muhammad Ibn Marwan says Imam Baqir (a.s.) asked me – Do you know the meaning of ‘Hayya ala Khair al-Amal’?

I said – No.

He (a.s.) informed – I call you towards goodness. Do you know goodness towards whom?

I said – No.

He (a.s.) elaborated – I call you for goodness towards Fatima (s.a.) and her children (a.s.).

  • Ma’ani al-Akhbaar, p. 42, tradition 3


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