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Understanding the Friday Prayer

Praise be to God! There is no other god except God. Let’s hopefully help us understand the Friday Prayer in more depth which will hopefully then lead to an easier acceptance of all the rules and freedoms during the Friday Prayer. First, let’s look back at the history of how the Friday Prayer emerged. As we know the religious rituals like the Contact Prayers, Fasting, Obligatory Charity and Hajj Pilgrimage were revealed through Abraham. However, that did not include the Friday Sermons. The Friday Prayer did not exist then. After Abraham, God revealed the 10 commandments through Moses, and one of those commandments was the Sabbath, basically not working during Saturday. And because the Children of Israel did not engage in any work during Saturday, not even cooking, or going to the market, the Children of Israel for practical purposes started doing these thing on Friday and having them ready for Saturday. So, basically, in practice, Friday became the market day, the trading day, the Bazar day, when the Children of Israel would go to buy and cook food, and then they would have it ready for Saturday when they were not allowed to trade and cook. And this affected the whole region of the middle east, because knowing that the children of Israel would buy more on Friday, the other people also go and sell their agricultural products on Friday, knowing that more people would be there to buy it. So, gradually, the whole middle eastern culture became a culture in which pretty much in all the cities, people would expect that Friday would be the market day – the day when people come down from the villages to sell their vegetables, and their cattle and so on, and they would also buy things and go back to their village. So, this culture existed in the whole region for thousands of years, and even to this day, in many middle eastern cities, people will come down from the villages to the cities to trade their products for other products.

Anyway, when Jesus came, God revealed that Saturday is no longer an obligatory vacation day. So the Sabath which was revealed through Moses ended with Jesus. However, the culture of getting ready for the Sabath did not end. People continued to gather every Friday in the whole region and do their trade. So, this became a culture. It was neither a religious thing, neither a law, but a cultural thing, and actually a very good practical solution to more efficient trading, by doing it once a week knowing that the buyer and the seller would both be there in the city center to buy and sell on the same day. Anyway, so, by the time of Muhammad, the Sabath did not exist anymore as a religious law, but culturally people would gather on Friday for trade, not for religious purposes. And in that context, God ordered organized religion again through Muhammad, when he moved to Medina, and as we know everything which was revealed through Muhammad, it was all through the Quran. There were no other alternative revelations. This means that in whatever way Muhammad constructed the Friday Prayer, it must have come from the Quran. He did not know about it before the Quran, unlike how he knew about Contact Prayer and fasting and so on before the Quran. Muhammad learned the Friday Prayer directly from the Quran. So, if we want to know how the Friday Prayer should be done, we should be able to reconstruct it from the Quran, just like Muhammad constructed it from the Quran. So, the Friday Prayer is a Quranic law, not an Abrahamic tradition. It’s a replacement for one of the 10 commandments of Moses, not the four religious rituals of Abraham. So, we can potentially know how to do the Contact Prayer even without the Quran, but we can not know how to do the Friday Prayer without the Quran. So, all we need to do to reconstruct the rules of the Friday Prayer is to find them in the Quran. So, let’s look in the Quran and see what are the rules of the Friday Prayer. However, before we do that, let’s not forget that the assumption in the Quran is that the people did gather in the city on Friday for business purposes and this assumption is given in verse 62:11, and within this context, the laws and the rules for the Friday Prayer are given. So, again all the rules and flexibilities of the Friday Prayer should be found in the Quran. We do not need to look at the Abrahamic tradition for this. It does not need to agree with any tradition. It’s not a tradition. It’s a law. Tradition came through Abraham but laws came through Moses. It’s a law, like the laws of Moses. It’s a replacement for one of the laws of Moses, and it came to us as slightly modified, since the believers today are weaker than the believers during the time of Moses. So, it’s a law which came specifically for us in the Quran, as a substitute for the law of the Sabath which Jesus abrogated to reserve his right to reorganize the religion in the next world. So again, the Friday Sermon is a Quranic law, and everything about it should be extracted from the Quran.

So what can we conclude from the Quran about the Friday Prayer? Well, first of all, according to verse 5:58, the Quran does mention that there is a call to prayer for every prayer time at the masjid, regardless if it is Friday or not. So, on Friday there is a call to prayer for the Noon prayer, just like for all the other prayer. It’s not a special prayer. It’s a call for the Noon prayer, like the calls for the noon prayer for all the other noon prayers in other days of the week. And then in verse 62:9, it tells us that when the call for prayer is done on Friday, we should hasten to the commemoration of God. So, during other days, when the call for prayer is done, you do not necessarily have to respond, you can do the prayer alone, but on Friday you have to respond immediately. And the response is to hasten to the commemoration of God, and it does not mention the location. It does not say go to the mosque and commemorate God. It says “go to the commemoration of God.” So, where should we go? Well, God intentionally leaves flexibility here, knowing that if we are honest we will choose the best practical option. So, the location is not given, but the community is given. Verse 62:9 says, “O you who believe”, so the community of believers, so we should observe this law with other believers. It’s like the Christian idea of communion or Eucharist. Communion means becoming one body of believers to worship God together. That is the Friday Prayer – all the believers worshiping God together as one body. The location does not matter. Obviously, if there is a mosque maintained by believers, that is the best location to gather. If, the mosque is not maintained by believers, you have no guarantee that you will find believers there, so that would not be the best practical location. And actually, the law is given in the Quran as an obligatory law without any consideration for location. So, this idea that the Friday Prayer is not obligatory sometimes when the location is too far, that is false. The Friday Prayer is always obligatory according to the Quran, because God knew that the true believers will never find themselves in a situation where they can not observe the Friday Prayer. Let’s explain this further. Let’s say that you lived in the past. How would you hear about submission? There was no telephone then, no internet. So, the only way you could hear the correct version of submission, when you initially converted, is if someone came to you and told you. However, if he was a believer, he already was doing the Friday Prayer somewhere, and if he could come all the way from the mosque to preach to you, then obviously the mosque is not far away for you to go there. So, there would always be a mosque nearby, whenever submission was preached correctly. Islam would never spread further than the mosques. So, if the religion was spread correctly, the believers would never find themselves in a situation where they can not observe the Friday prayer. Now, since the existence of internet, it is possible for people to preach in faraway locations, but if you accept the idea that preaching can be done through the internet, it automatically means that the preaching during the Friday Sermon can also be done through the internet. So, you can not have it both ways. Either you accept that preaching is allowed through internet, and you must also accept that preaching the sermons during the Friday prayer is also allowed through internet, or you do not accept preaching through internet, and you should also prohibit yourself from preaching at all times through the internet. It is actually deeply irresponsible to try to convert others through the internet and once they convert not offer them an immediate option for the Friday Prayers. “Ok, so now let’s say that I converted, where is the Friday Prayer?” So, all the people who are preaching on the internet and not offering an immediate option for the Friday Sermons to those who convert, they are being deeply irresponsible, and just creating chaos. Someone might say, but the preaching during the Friday Prayer is kind of different. Well, actually, it is not, because we already established that the Friday Prayer is not a tradition. It’s a direct Quranic law. So, where in the Quran do you find the idea that the preaching during the Friday should be different from the preaching outside of the Friday? This brings us to the topic of sermons during the Friday. They are not part of the noon contact prayer, but they emerge from other Quranic laws. So, in verse 62:9, we already established that we should get in communion with other believers to commemorate God during Friday. This only mentions the DAY of Friday, in Arabic. It does not mention the time of the day. However, according to the Quran, only the day is considered a day. The night is not considered as part of the day. So, the verse must be talking either about the noon or the afternoon prayer, which are the only two prayers done during the day. And then in verse 5:48, it tells us that the believers should compete in righteousness, which means that if we have a choice between noon and afternoon, if we are believers, we will choose the earlier one, to commemorate God as soon as possible. So we are in competition, and the noon time comes earlier, and therefore the believers would compete and not wait until afternoon. So, now we know that the Friday Prayer should be done during the noon time on Friday. But, why not just do the noon prayer, as usual? Why are there modifications like the addition of sermons and the shortening of the prayer from four rakats to two rakats. Well, all of these are laws in the Quran. Verse 4:101, if you check it in the Arabic Quran, it tells us that we may shorten the prayer when we travel, and because we already established that we go to the Friday prayer from the market or from your business, not from your home, then we must be going there from a traveling state, and therefore we may shorten the prayer. There is another verse in the Quran from which we can conclude that the shortest contact prayer should be two rakats, but that is beyond the scope of this sermon. So, we already know that the Contact Prayer can be shortened to two rakats when traveling, and this condition applies to the Friday Prayer as well, when it is a traveling fear prayer. So, so far we concluded that the Friday prayer is done at noon, and as a shortened noon contact prayer. But where do the sermons come from. Well, we already established that the believers will gather during the Friday noon shortened prayer, and when they are together they are closer to one another. And then verse 26:214 gives an order to preach to those who are closest to you. So, basically, this verse is saying that since you have gathered anyway, it is appropriate to preach to them. Who should do the preaching is another issue again, but we established that when believers gather, someone should preach. It’s just a natural behavior of believers. They don’t speak over one another. The smarter people who have to say something important speak, and the rest of the people listen. This the behavior of believers at any time when they gather together. So, anyway now we established that during the Friday, there must be preaching as a natural consequence of what believers do in a large gathering anyway, and there must be a shortened noon contact prayer together. These are all from the Quran. Now, there is another verse in the Quran, verse 9:11, which talks about organized religion, which tells us that two things should be considered to regulate whether someone has joined the community of submitters, but the verse mentions a third thing which. The verse also mentions the third thing which is repentance. So, besides the Contact Prayer and Zakat, repentance is also a community ritual. So, this means that when submitters get in communion with one another during Friday, they must also repent. It’s a law to repent when getting in communion with other submitters, because once you meet people whom you should consider better than you, it should naturally make you repent for your mistakes. When a pure community of believers gather together, they always consider the others better then themselves, because you have witnessed your sins, but you have not witnessed the other people’s sins. So, anyway, repentance is a law when gathering during the Friday Sermon. However, the time when you should repent is not mentioned, and anytime you do the repentance during the sermon, it will effectively cut the sermon into two separate parts, which we today call two sermons, but according to the Quran they are one sermon separated with a repentance in between. How you choose to count them is not important. We can count them as two if the topic changes, and if the topic stays the same, we can count them as one. It really does not matter.

Anyway, so, so far we have found from the Quran that during Friday, believers should:

  • enter into communion with one another,
  • do the contact prayer,
  • preach, and
  • repent.

These are all in the Quran. Now, here comes the most important part – the commemoration of God. The most important part of the Friday Prayer is commemoration of God, which is why this is the only part which is mentioned directly in the verse about the Friday Prayer. Verse 62:9 says, “O you who believe, when the Friday Prayer is announced on the day of Friday, you shall hasten to the COMMEMORATION OF GOD…” So, because the preaching might or might not involve the commemoration of God – as you know, the preaching can talk about community issues where God is not mentioned at all, just like some chapters in the Quran do not mention God at all. So, because the preaching might not involve the commemoration of God, it is wise to make sure that the most important commandment is fulfilled first, before you proceed with the preaching, just to make sure that you have fulfilled this commandment, so you don’t forget about it, which is why at the beginning we must start by mentioning God. But how should we mention him. Well, when the preacher stands up to preach so others can see him, and the fact that the preacher stands up is mentioned in verse 62:11, and so when he stands up, verse 52:48 says that he should praise God when standing up. Because, he stood up to preach aloud, he praises God aloud. This means that he should start the sermon by saying “Elhamdulilah” Praise be to God”, and because not everyone in the Congregation might have the same definition of what the word “God” “Allah” means, the preacher defines this word by saying “La ilahe ila Allah”. “There is no god except God”, which is again a commemoration of God.

So, from the Quran we established that during the Friday, believers:

  • make the call for prayer,
  • get into a communion with one another,
  • someone stands up to preach,
  • and he praises God when he stands up,
  • then he preaches, which can be as short as the shortest chapter of the Quran,
  • then he must repent, which effectively might divide the sermon in half or not,
  • then they do the shortened version of the traveling fear Contact Prayer which involves two rakats,
  • and there we have it all from the Quran.

So, the Friday Prayer is a collection of Quranic laws, but not a specific religious ritual. And it is important to realized that because they are laws and not rituals, therefore what is not mentioned in the Quran is actually intentional flexibility for us. For example, it does not mention that the believers should do it in someone’s home when they have no mosque, which is an intentional flexibility to do it online, as long as everyone fulfills the Quranic requirements. So, there is no such thing as Friday Ritual. It’s just a collection of about 10 laws from the Quran which we obey, which lead to one another, and as long as we follow those laws, we are doing the correct thing. By the way, here is something new. Because the Friday Contact Prayer, the actual Contact Prayer (the Salat) is shortened not because it is Friday, but because it happens to be done as a traveling fear prayer, if you have to do it at home because there is no permissible mosque nearby, that means that you have no reason to shorten the prayer. You are not a traveler in fear in your own home, so you have no reason to shorten the Contact Prayer. So, you do four rakats of the Contact Prayer, when you are obliged to do it at your home. This makes the idea of doing the Friday Contact Prayer at someone else’s home, which does not belong to you or your family members, at least a suspicious idea, because there would be a conflict whether you should do two or four rakats as a group, depending on whether you are the host or the traveling guest. Anyway, that is another issue which should be resolved when analyzing the Online Friday Sermons. But the good news is that we actually deliver the Friday Sermons (not prayers) online for people who join us as submitters.