The Friday Prayer (Salaat-ul-Jumu‛ah)
Worshippers must listen attentively to the Friday sermon and must not engage in anything which is bound to distract them from it.
The Friday prayer (salaat-ul-jumu‛ah) is a religious obligation which takes the place of the daily afternoon prayer (salaat-udh-Dhuhr) on Friday. It is one of the most exalted Islamic rituals and one of its confirmed obligatory acts. On this day, Muslims gather once a week, listen to the sermon which the imaam delivers, and then offer the Friday prayer.
Virtues of Friday
Friday is the best and most exalted day of the week, for Allah ﷻ has favoured it over other days due to a number of virtues including the following:
- Allah ﷻ has specifically chosen it for the Muslims, as the prophet ﷺ said, “Allah led those who came before us away from Friday. The Jews had Saturday, and the Christians had Sunday. Then Allah brought us and Allah guided us to Friday.” (Saheeh Muslim: 856)
- Allah created Adam on it, and on this very day the Day of Judgement will take place, as the prophet ﷺ said, “Friday is the best day on which the sun rises. On this day, Adam was created; on it he was admitted into Paradise and on it he was turned out of it. The Day of Judgement will also take place on Friday.” (Saheeh Muslim: 854)
Who Must Perform the Friday Prayer?
The Friday prayer is a religious obligation that is binding on those who meet these conditions:
- They must be men: Women do not have to offer it.
- They must be legally accountable (mukallaf ) for their actions: It is not obligatory for insane or children who have not reached puberty.
- They must be resident: It is not obligatory for travellers or those who live in the countryside, outside towns and cities.
The Friday Prayer: Manner and Rulings
- It is recommended that a Muslim should take a ritual bath (ghusl), wear nice and clean clothes and proceed early to the mosque.
- Muslims gather in the mosque. The imaam mounts the pulpit (minbar), faces the worshippers and delivers the khutbah (sermon), which normally consists of two sections, between which he sits briefly. In this sermon, he reminds them of being conscious of Allah, offers them advice, preaches to them and recites to them verses from the Qur’an.
- Muslims must listen attentively to the khutbah. They are not allowed to engage in talking or do anything which will otherwise deprive them of benefiting from the khutbah, even if it is fiddling with the carpet, stones or sand.
- The imaam then descends from the pulpit, takes his position and leads the people in a two-rak’ah prayer in which he recites the Qur’an aloud.
- The Friday prayer can only be performed if a certain number of people are present. If any person misses it for a valid reason, he cannot make up for it; and if he offers it on his own, it will not be valid. Instead, he must offer the daily afternoon prayer (salaat-udh-Dhuhr).
- If a person comes late to the mosque and catches up with the imaam in less than one unit (rak‛ah), he must complete his prayer after the imaam concludes the prayer, treating it as the afternoon prayer (salaat-udh-Dhuhr).
- Those who are exempt from offering the Friday prayer, such as women and travellers, do not have to offer the daily afternoon prayer (salaat-udh-Dhuhr) if they have already performed the Friday prayer in the mosque
Those who Are Exempt from Attending the Friday Prayer
Islam stresses that Muslims who are not exempt from offering the Friday prayer must perform it and warns them against occupying themselves with worldly pursuits: “O you who believe, when the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday, hasten earnestly to the remembrance of Allah and leave off business and traffic. That is best for you if you only knew ” (Soorat Al-Jumu‛ah, 62:9) It also warns that Allah will set a seal on the hearts of those who miss it without a valid excuse, as the prophet ﷺ said, “Allah will seal up the hearts of those whomiss three Friday prayers consecutively, out of sheer negligence and without an excuse.” (Sunan Abu Daawood: 1052; Musnad Ahmad: 15498) This means that He will cover their hearts and place ignorance in them, just like the hearts of hypocrites and disobedient people. An excuse that is considered genuinely valid for missing a Friday prayer is one which involves unusually great hardship or one which is bound to cause serious harm to one’s health or is detrimental to one’s livelihood. .
Can a career that requires one to work at the time of the Friday prayer be considered a valid excuse to miss it?
“Say, ‘What is with Allah is better than trade or entertainment.’” (Soorat Al-Jumu‛ah, 62:11)
Generally, taking up careers that require one to carry on working at the time of the Friday prayer is not a valid excuse for missing the Friday prayer, for Allah ﷻ commands us to leave our worldly pursuits when we are called to the Friday prayer: “O you who believe, when the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday, hasten earnestly to the remembrance of Allah and leave off business and traffic.” (Soorat Al-Jumu‛ah, 62:9)Therefore, a Muslim is required to take up jobs that will not prevent him from observing religious obligations even if such jobs are with less pay. The Qur’an also states, “For those who fear Allah, He ever prepares a way out, and He provides for him from sources he never could imagine. And if any one puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is Allah for him.” (Soorat At-Talaaq, 65:2-3)
When Can a Career Be Considered a Valid Excuse to Miss the Friday Prayer?
Careers which require us to carry on working during the time of the Friday prayer can only be considered a valid excuse in the following two cases:
- Such a career must provide a great benefit which cannot be possibly realised if a person leaves the job and attends the Friday prayer. By the same token, leaving it will certainly cause great harm, especially when there is no one else to replace him.
- Doctors who treat emergency cases.
- Guards or police officers who protect people and their property from theft and criminal activity.
- People who hold supervisory positions in large firms and the like which require constant supervision.
- If such a career is the sole source of income which covers his basic expenses, such as food, drink and other necessary matters, for him and his family, then he may not attend the Friday prayer and may continue his work until he finds an alternative job or until he finds a source of food, drink and necessary matters that are sufficient for himself and his dependents. However, he must keep looking for another source of income.