ḤAYYA ʿALĀ ḴAYR AL-ʿAMAL, a religious formula, meaning “Come to the best of actions,” included in the call to prayer (aḏān) by all three major branches of Shiʿism, Twelvers, Zaydis and Ismaʿilis, since they believe it to have been an original part of the aḏān throughout the lifetime of the Prophet and of his successor, Abu Bakr, being removed at the beginning of ʿOmar ebn al-Ḵaṭṭāb’s caliphate. The earliest source to mention this formula seems to have been the Sunnite Moḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-Šaybāni’s (d. 189/805) recension of Mālek’s Mowaṭṭaʾ (Howard, p. 220). Shiʿite tradition, as in other cases (e.g. motʿa, temporary marriage), considers ʿOmar to be responsible for distorting the original rite by omitting these words from the aḏān. According to a recurrent account, ʿOmar ordered the removal of the sentence in question, which is said to have been uttered between the two formulae ḥayya ʿalā al-ṣalāt (“Come to the prayer”) and ḥayya ʿalā al-falāḥ (“Come to the salvation”), because he feared “that people would rely [only] upon prayer . . . and abandon the [duty of] jehād” (Abu Moḥammad al-Fażl b. Šāḏān, p. 106; Majlesi, LXXXI, p. 140; for a similar Ismaʿili attitude, see al-Qāżi al-Noʿmān, I, p. 189). In the Shiʿite aḏān this formula comes after the rhyming pair ḥayya ʿalā al-ṣalāt and ḥayya ʿalā al-falāḥ, rather than between them.

Shiʿite tradition, however, is not unanimous that the words Ḥayya ʿalā ḵayr al-ʿamal allude to the duty of prayer. Among other explanations, these words are taken to refer to the duty of devotion and loyalty (walāya) toward the family of the Prophet, or alternatively to the duty of reverence (birr) toward Fāṭema and her descendants (Ebn Bābuyah, pp. 41–42, whence Majlesi, LXXXI, p. 134).

It is noteworthy that despite the significance of this formula de jure, Shiʿites, throughout most of their history, have refrained from uttering it, preferring dissimulation (taqiya); that is, they were reluctant to use openly a formula differing from the one accepted by the majority Sunnites (see e.g. Majlesi, LXXXI, pp. 119, 134).



Moḥammad b. ʿAli ʿAlawi, al-Aḏān be-ḥayya ʿalā ḵayr al-ʿamal, Sanaa, 1997.

Ebn Bā-buya, Maʿāni al-aḵbār, Tehran, 1379/1960.

Abu Mo-ḥammad al-Fażl b. Šāḏān, al-Iżāḥ, Beirut, 1402/1982, p. 106.

J. Eliash, “On the Genesis and Development of the Twelver-Shiʿi Three-Tenet Shahāda,” Der Islam 47, 1971, pp. 265–72.

K. A. Howard, “The Development of the Adhān and the Iqāma of the ṣalāt in Early Islam,” Journal of Semitic Studies 26, 1981, pp. 219–28.

A. A. Lalani, Early Shiʿi Thought: The Teachings of Imam Muḥammad al-Bāqir, London, 2000, pp. 123–24, 164–65, notes.

Moḥammad-Bāqer Majlesi, Beḥār al-anwār, Beirut, 1403/1983, LXXXI, pp. 101–72.

M. Momen, An Introduction to Shiʿi Islam, New Haven and London, 1985, pp. 178–79.

Abu Ḥanifa al-Noʿmān b. Moḥammad, Daʿāʾem al-eslām, ed. ʿA. Tamer, Beirut 1416/1995, II, pp. 188–95.

Abu Jaʿfar Moḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-Ṭusi, al-Estebṣār fi mā’ḵtalefa min al-aḵbār, Najaf, 1375–76/1956-57, I, pp. 305–9.

(Meir M. Bar-Asher)

Originally Published: December 15, 2003

Last Updated: March 20, 2012

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