Praise be to God. There is no other god except God.
This is actually the first global online Friday Sermon. Why online? Is this a religious innovation (bidah)? The bad word, “the bidah!” Well, it’s definitely a new way of doing it, but is it a religious innovation? Just because something is new, it does not automatically mean that it is a religious innovation. For example, in the past Muslims prayed in dry land, in warm climates, and we can know this from chapter 48, verse 29, which tells us that Muhammad and his companions were left with marks in their faces due to prostration. Latter, when Islam spread north, the land was often cold, or wet from rain, or snowy, and the Muslims got into contact with the Orthodox Christians who had invented the prayer rugs for themselves. Yes, the Orthodox Christians do kneel and prostrate, and the Muslims liked the idea of the prayer rug, a carped used for prayer, and adopted it. And now, they are used all over the Muslim world. And of course, prayer rugs are not a religious innovation. Praying in a carpet is not prohibited in the Quran. It would be a religious innovation if the Muslims considered it obligatory, but that is not the case. So, just because a prayer carpet is a new thing, it does not mean that it is a religious innovation. It’s a technological innovation. A technological innovation is not always a religious innovation. Religious innovations are prohibited; technological innovations are allowed, and they are done to make life easier, not as a form of worship. For it to be considered a religious innovation, it has to be a new way of practicing religion in the same old circumstances. So, if you want to know whether Online Friday Sermons are allowed, you have to consider whether they are being given in the same old circumstances or in new circumstances.
The old normal circumstances used to be that the Friday Sermons were delivered inside a Mosque. But, what if there is a pandemic? What if an earthquake topples the Mosque? What if you live in Christian community where there are no Mosques? What if you live in a community where there are Mosques, but they are being used for idol-worship? What if you live in a university campus, far away from towns and cities? What if you are too far from any mosque? See, these are different circumstances, not the same as the old normal ones. To deal with this, we have organized Friday Sermons at home for many years.
But now that the internet has advanced so much, we need to rethink this position, and after careful consideration, God guided Alban Fejza to the correct solution. Alban Fejza realized that the second best option is actually the Online Friday Sermons while the third best option would be organizing them in private houses.
So, we have three basic options: 1. Mosques, 2. Online sermons, 3. Private houses. The table below rates each option in 10 different areas with a score from 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest score, and 10 being the highest score:
So, as you can see, the online option is much better than one might have thought (with a score of 77), compared to 99 for a mosque, and 55 for organizing local home Friday sermons outside of proper mosques. And what the online option even better is that you can combine it with any of the other two options. Yes, that’s possible. For example, you might decide to invite people to do the Friday prayer together in your house, if there is no proper mosque nearby, and do everything the same, except that when you come to the sermons, you use the online sermon, and you might even decide to add or say something after it, if the time allows, but as you can see, hearing the sermons online does not necessarily prevent you from doing the Friday prayer together with other submitters in your house. Even if you have a small mosque, the online sermons can be useful. When you have a small mosque, usually it is hard to find people who can give good quality speeches, good sermons, and you don’t want a boring mosque. In that case, you might rotate. During some Fridays, you give a speech, during other Fridays, you project the online video Friday Sermons on a projector in the mosque, and this gives the Congregation Director of the mosque to think of a good topic for the next Friday. What makes the online sermons even better is that they actually speed up the process of building new mosques where there are no proper mosques available. It helps the people to get together during Fridays, even if they don’t know how to give good speeches. In this way, the group can increase, and eventually be sufficient to build a mosque in that location. So, the intention with online Friday sermons is not to keep the people outside of the mosques, but to speed up the process of building new mosques, wherever there are no mosques, or no righteous mosques.
However, the crucial question is, “Does the Quran prohibit Online Friday Sermons?” The short answer “No.” There is nothing in the Quran which prohibits the Friday sermons online. Yes, doing Friday PRAYERS online is wrong and actually impossible, because it involves physical movements, and rituals, and getting together, and you would be changing the religion of Abraham, if you did not perform them live, but here we are talking about Friday Sermons, not Friday Prayers. There is a difference between Friday Sermons and Friday Prayers. The prayers are part of the religion of Abraham, but the sermons are not. They are practical solutions which Muhammad used with God’s direction in the Quran. In other words, we can find the Contact Prayers even before the Quran was revealed, all the way from Abraham, but the Friday sermons came only after the Quran was revealed. Before that, people did not do the Friday Sermons. They had a day without work, during Saturdays, but during Fridays, nothing special happened. With the revelation of the Quran, this changed. Saturday breaks were canceled, and instead of that, Friday sermons became obligatory, and this change came through the revelation of the Quran, not through Abraham, which means that any orders or prohibitions about it must also be all in the Quran, and the Quran does not prohibit online sermons, and therefore they are allowed. And you can see the difference between Friday Sermons and Friday Prayers even in the language which is used. All the other rituals of the Friday Prayer are done in Arabic, because they a tradition from Abraham. You are not even allowed to change the language; it’s a tradition; it has to stay the same. But this is not the case with the sermons. The sermons can be done in any language. In English, for example. This means that the sermons are not from Abraham, they are a Quranic requirement, but not an unchangeable tradition. In other words, you may change the means of how you communicate the sermons, but you may not change the means of how you communicate the other parts of the Friday Prayer. To put it shortly, if you can do it in English, you can do it online. It’s just another means of communication. So, the rule is simple. Whatever you can do in English, you can do online. Whatever you have to do in Arabic, you must do it live, with no additions or removals. And herein are the steps to show you how it can work perfectly:
As you probably know, the Friday prayer consists of 10 steps:
Step1, the Adhan (call to gather) (in Arabic). Step 2, The statement: “AL-HAMDU LILLAH. LA ELAHA ELLA ALLAH” (in Arabic). Step 3, First sermon (in English). Step 4, the statement: “TOOBOO ELA ALLAH” (in Arabic), Step 5, the Repentance (Silent), Step 6, the statement: “AL-HAMDU LILLAH. LA ELAHA ELLA ALLAH” (in Arabic), Step 7, the second sermon (in English), Step 8, the statement: “AQEM AL-SALAH” (in Arabic), Step 9, the Adhan (call to prayer) (in Arabic), Step 10, the two units of Contact Prayer (in Arabic)
So, the Friday Prayer consists of these 10 steps, and only two of them are the Friday Sermons, and only those two can be done in English, and therefore only those two steps can be done online. These sermons are the responsibility of someone who is called a Khatib (preacher), not the Imam. They can be the same person, but they can also be two different people. The imam has the responsibility of leading the whole Friday Prayer, while the Khatib (preacher) is only responsible for the preaching part. So, the online sermons do not replace the Imam, but they are a replacement for the Khatib, and only in cases where a live sermon is not feasible or not available.
So, this is how you can apply this in practice. Let’s suppose that you live in Christian country, and you do not have a mosque which belongs to God alone near you. Even in this case, the Friday Prayer is still obligatory. No excuses. So, you find a place where people will not interrupt you. You might even have to go back home from your work, if you think that this is necessary, and then you observe the Friday Prayer like this.
- Make the call to prayer, “Adhan” “ALLAHU AKBAR, ALLAHU AKBAR, ALLAHU AKBAR, ALLAHU AKBAR. LA ELAHA ELLA ALLAH”.
- You say, “AL-HAMDU LILLAH. LA ELAHA ELLA ALLAH”
- You start the video of the sermon which you received earlier from the Online Congregation Director
- You pause the sermon somewhere where it’s suitable and you say, “TOOBOO ELA ALLAH”
- You repent
- You say “AL-HAMDU LILLAH. LA ELAHA ELLA ALLAH”
- You resume/continue the video sermon
- Then, you say “AQEM AL-SALAH”
- You make the call to prayer “Adhan” – “ALLAHU AKBAR, ALLAHU AKBAR, ALLAHU AKBAR, ALLAHU AKBAR. LA ELAHA ELLA ALLAH.”
- You observe the Contact Prayer,
And the same thing applies if you do it together with friends in your house for example. You take the responsibility to say these steps, and the others just listen. As you can see, the online sermons do not change anything from the way it has been done traditionally throughout history. They are only a provision of a solution for the sermons. And similar solutions have already happened. For example, in some mosques in the Muslim world, they will use a microphone so people who did not fit inside the mosque can hear it outside. And actually, they are doing a small religious innovation in this case, without careful analysis, because they use the microphone even for the Arabic parts, for the prayers and so on, not just for the sermon. Abraham never did his Contact Prayer through a microphone. We are only doing the two sermons (which are a non-Abrahamic tradition) through the microphone. The rest of the steps are done live, just like Abraham did them without a microphone. So the person who plays the sermon is still the Imam when he plays the video. If he thinks that he wants to pause the sermon, and mention something important which relates to the local situation, he can do that. This proves that you are in charge as an imam, and that the Friday Prayer is done by you. The Online Sermons are only helping. They are only a provision of a solution, to help people hear new things
Now, the question is, “Why do we find ourselves in such a situation where we have to observe the Friday Sermons online?” Well, this is because of our past sins, our and our parent’s sins. If we grew up as non-submitters, were educated by our parents as non-submitters, lived as non-submitters, of course, when we finally decide to believe, we will not find mosques ready for us. Mosques don’t’ build themselves. So, there is a temporary transitional period during which the Friday Prayer is obligatory but the mosque might not be there. It’s a test, to see whether you will give up, just because it’s not comfortable and easy, or keep holding on to the rope of God. A lot of people quit, but the true believers keep going. They know that the Friday prayer is obligatory, regardless of whether we have a mosque nearby or not. Ultimately, it’s our fault if we don’t have a mosque. We should have become submitters earlier, and build it. If we haven’t contributed financially, of course we will not have a mosque. People of the past built their mosques with sweat and blood. Our case is easier than that.
Some people, after all these arguments, might still think that online Friday sermons are a religious innovation. Our message to them is this: You can watch movies online, you can watch memes online, you can watch dangerous behavior online, sharing it, and thus promoting it, you can watch lousy people online, social media online, indecent women online, fake news online, fake faces online, fake names online, bad ideas online, but when it comes listening to good words online, that’s a religious innovation?! Or maybe Satan is fooling you? He wants to keep you away from doing the right thing online. You are online anyway. Most probably, you cannot escape it in modern world, even if you want to. So, since you are online anyway, you might as well use the internet for the right thing. Also, listening to a sermon online does not stop you from gathering. In fact, if you have a proper mosque near you (where there is no idol worship), it’s an obligation to get together. It’s such a pleasant thing to meet your brothers and sisters who are striving in the cause of God. But listening to a correct online sermon can make the gathering even better.