Ustadh Tabraze Azam writes on the proprieties of Fridays, the sermon, prayer, Qur’an recitation, and supplications.
Out of His pure grace, Allah Most High has blessed the Muhammadan community (umma) with a day as special and sacred as Friday. The Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, remarked that Allah has made it “an Eid for the believers.” (al-Muwatta) A day of joy, then, blessings and magnificent rewards from an all-Generous Lord, if only we took some moments to pause and reflect.
It behooves us to recognize that Friday is not like any other day, but rather the chief (sayyid) of days, so we should endeavor to treat it differently. It is the day in which much good and righteous work, which may be otherwise lost or missed throughout the week, may be made up and surpassed. It is the day in which the bounties of Allah will continue to reach us in the hereafter, the day in which our sins from the previous week are expiated for, and the day for which the scholars have listed over a hundred virtues.
As the moments of our collective lives pass, we should strive to present ourselves before the sweet, graceful winds of Allah’s Mercy as they pass us weekly. And what better state than to greet them with complete gratitude (shukr) and full propriety, or adab, so that we can sow our humble seeds of sincere worship in hope of a momentous harvest in the next life.
The Purificatory Bath and Dress
The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Whoever performs the ritual ablution on Fridays has done well; and whoever bathes has done what is superior.” (Abu Dawud) It is an highly emphasized sunna to bathe on Fridays for those attending the Friday prayer. The reason for this is so that the prayer can be prayed with the most complete form of purification out of veneration for the tremendousness of the obligatory, major, congregational prayer of this day.
However, there is a more expansive position that states the sunna of bathing on Fridays is unconditional, and thus, applies to all Muslims, whether they’re attending the prayer or not. This is particularly useful for life in a western context where many of those attending the prayer may be simply unable to bathe right before attendance. As an aside, some of the early Muslims (salaf) would use Fridays as an opportunity to engage in conjugal relations with their spouses, and then bathe accordingly, so that they could head out into the world with lesser worldly distraction.
Further, it is recommended to take care of one’s personal, bodily upkeep on Fridays, unless one is trying to uphold the recommendation of avoiding such upkeep during the first ten days of Dhu’l Hijja [namely, until one’s animal has been sacrificed, if sacrificing]. That includes clipping one’s nails, from both the hands and feet, shaving one’s underarm hair and the hair below the navel, trimming the mustache, and other similar matters. You should also use the tooth-stick (siwak) and apply perfume.
Thereafter, it is from the sunna to dress in your best clothes. Needless to say that if you cannot, due to work or other undue hardship, it would be excusable. But the basis is that venerating the prayer and the occasion is from venerating the blessing of being gifted with witnessing the day itself. Many scholars encourage the wearing of white because it was the type of clothing the the Blessed Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to encourage wearing most of the time. “It’s the best of your clothing,” he said, Allah bless him and give him peace. (Tirmidhi)
However, the practice of different lands naturally differs, so wearing lighter colors in the summertime and darker shades in the winter is also quite reasonable, and actually the custom in some Muslim societies. This is due to the fact that “white” could also be understood as lighter colors, because of the shared meaning, and darker shades will usually hide the effects of any adverse weather. But what is minimally expected is something dignified, modest and covering as this is the central point.
Qur’an Recitation: Sura al-Kahf and Other Chapters
Recitation of the Qur’an is a strongly encouraged act of devotion on Fridays. Many scholars note the virtue of reciting even the night before, which is, religiously, the “night of Friday,” as well as on the actual morning itself. Moreover, the evening before, Thursday night, is also a time to increase in glorification (tasbih) and seeking forgiveness (istighfar).
The most emphasized recitation on Fridays is that of Sura al-Kahf. Our Master, Abu Sai‘d al-Khudri, may Allah be well-pleased with him, said, “Whosoever recites Sura al-Kahf on Friday will have an illuminating light between this Friday and the next.” (al-Mustadrak) On the night before, some scholars have noted the praiseworthy nature of reciting Sura al-Dukhkhan and Sura Ya Sin, and even Sura al-Baqara and Sura Aal ‘Imran. Some have said that if one finds any of the aforementioned to be a high bar to uphold, then recite Sura al-Ikhlas much instead.
Nevertheless, whatever you can do, however little it may be, is superior to nothing at all. But strive to make your recitation meaningful. Take a moment to ask Allah Most High for the matters which are praiseworthy, and to seek His protection from the manners and ways of the godforsaken. Consider also using a copy of the mushaf which has the translation or exegesis besides it, if it helps.
Sending Many Blessings on the Prophet and Supplication
Of the greatest of actions a believer can engage in is sending blessings upon the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. Sending blessings on Fridays is especially meritorious, as he himself instructed us. In a lengthier tradition (hadith) recorded by Abu Dawud, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “So send many blessings upon me therein [i.e. Fridays], for indeed your blessings are presented to me.” ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud, the noted sandal-bearer of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is reported to have encouraged recitation of the following on Fridays: “O Allah, send blessings upon the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace (allahumma salli ‘ala Muhammadin salla ‘Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).” (Hilyat al-Awliya’)
But of course, any simple formulation of sending peace and blessings upon him would fulfil this, even if it’s only “allahumma salli ‘ala Muhammad.” Interestingly, some of the scholars noted that sending “many blessings” means to recite at least three hundred blessings during the night and three hundred in the day!
In another tradition (hadith) of note, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, informed us that, “Indeed, there is a moment on Friday that not a single Muslim coincides with whilst he is asking Allah for [something] good, except that He gives it to him.” (Muslim) The scholars have come to different conclusions regarding the indication of this tradition (hadith). Some said that it appears either at sunrise, at midday (zawal), after the mid-afternoon prayer (‘asr) or at sunset, and others said that it is at some point between the moment at which the imam takes his seat on the pulpit (minbar) for the sermon and until he says the exiting salams of the prayer (Muslim).
Ideally, one would strive to catch the varying times, even if only briefly. The reality of supplication, nevertheless, is that its greatest manifestation is when one asks with complete neediness and sincerity, maintaining a sense of presence of heart and mind in one’s intimate discourse with the Divine. Ibn ‘Ata’ Illah al-Sakandari remarked, “Whenever He loosens your tongue with a supplication, realize that He wants to give to you.” (al-Hikam)
Attending the Friday Prayer
An oft-forgotten sunna is to arrive early for the Friday prayer. Fortunately, especially given our busy lives, and particularly work on Fridays, contrary to the practice of many Muslim societies, there are varying scholarly positions of what being early entails, yet starting, generally speaking, after sunrise. The scholars would usually explain that the morning is divided into six parts, with those arriving in the first attaining the greatest virtue.
For all intents and purposes, getting there in sufficient time to get a place in the front row, besides the pulpit (minbar), with some moments of worship before the proceedings begin, would be sufficiently early for most and what the traditions (ahadith) are directing toward. The latter issue of being close to the place from where the sermon will be delivered is also a religiously legislated and encouraged action. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Attend the sermon, and sit close to the imam.” (Abu Dawud)
As you enter the mosque, it is recommended to intend the spiritual retreat (i‘tikaf) and pray the prayer of greeting the mosque (salat tahiyyat al-masjid), on condition that it is not a disliked time to pray. Practically, this would refer to the moment the sun is at its zenith (zawal), or highest point in the sky. However, given the disagreement on the issue among the legal schools, and even within the Hanafi legal tradition, it wouldn’t be necessary to correct anybody except from the perspective of wishing well and good for them (nasiha).
Imam al-Ghazali notes that it’s also virtuous to pray a voluntary prayer, reciting therein, Sura Ya Sin, Sura al-Sajda, Sura al-Dukhan and Sura al-Mulk respectively. (This is actually his dispensatory set of chapters!) After the entry of the time of the noon prayer (zuhr), the sunna is to pray the strongly emphasized (sunna mu’akkada) four cycles (rak‘as). The sunna is to pray another four cycles, with one set of exiting salams at the end, after the Friday prayer is over.
Finally, there are two miscellaneous issues to keep in mind. Firstly, what if ‘eid happens to also fall on a Friday? The overwhelming majority of Islamic scholarship held that the obligation to pray the Friday prayer remains, and nobody has an excuse to omit it. Not that it requires clarification, but the ‘eid prayer is a duty (wajib), yet the Friday prayer is a decisive obligation (fard), and getting priorities right would entail ensuring that the obligation gets taken care of before something lesser. And secondly, ladies aren’t obligated to attend the Friday prayer.
But if there is some benefit to be attained, such as being with religiously upright company (suhba), or hearing an inspiring lecture live, then it would be fine to attend on condition that (a) it doesn’t entail the neglect or non fulfillment of other duties, (b) the sanctity of the space is upheld by, for example, dressing in modest, covering clothing, and (c) there is a safe and dignified space for women.
The Sermon (Khutba)
Allah Most High says, “O believers! When the call to prayer is made on Friday, then proceed diligently to the remembrance of Allah and leave off your business. That is best for you, if only you knew.” (Sura al-Jumu‘a 62:9) The general rule is that whenever there is a sermon, one is duty-bound to remain silent and be attentive, irrespective of the language the sermon is being delivered in. As an aside, giving a sermon in other than Arabic in environments where Arabic is not understood is both valid and permitted.
The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “If you say to a fellow attendee on Friday, ‘be quiet,’ and the imam is delivering the sermon, you have slipped.” (Bukhari) Note that what is meant is that he has violated the sanctity of the sermon. The most emphasized of sermons is the one before the Friday Prayer, given that it is a condition for the prayer’s validity. Consequently, it is the kind of sermon that many people will often be in attendance for, and thus, it is important to know the details of how to act therein.
The moral obligation to remain silent extends to all forms of speech as the sermon is being delivered, whether it be saying the greetings of salams to a fellow attendee or “amin” to the imam’s supplications, and until the end of the prayer itself. Technically, the duty begins at the moment the imam proceeds to rise for the pulpit (minbar). What then of the position that the “moment of acceptance [of supplication]” occurs between the two sittings of the sermon?
The scholars explain that the supplication made in the heart at this time is also of real consequence, and the moment will not be missed by supplicating sincerely without actually uttering anything. Your spiritual state can also be a form of supplication (lisan al-hal). The imperative to remain quiet at this time is so emphasized that even in the case of harm, you would only say something if it cannot be averted by mere motioning and the like. (As for a pre-sermon lecture, one should give it the respect it deserves, but the rulings aren’t quite the same.)
The same applies to the sunna four cycles (rak‘as) before the Friday prayer, namely, that it is impermissible to pray them during the sermon as it would distract one from the duty to be attentive, let alone the recommended prayer of greeting the mosque (tahiyyat al-masjid). However, if you’re already praying, you may simply complete the prayer. If you do arrive late, and during the sermon, you would delay this sunna prayer until after the obligatory Friday prayer, whereby you would pray two sets of four cycles (rak‘as).
The only exception to praying at this time would be in the case that a person missed the same day’s dawn (fajr) prayer. The reason for this is that maintaining order (tartib) between makeup prayers (qada’) is also a duty, yet more so, since the subsequent prayer’s validity depends upon its fulfillment. Hence, you would pray in this instance to ensure that your Friday prayer is valid.
Praiseworthy Deeds and Actions
There are a number of other meritorious actions which can obviously take place at any time, but are specifically encouraged by the scholars on Fridays. Marriage ceremonies, for example, are ideally to occur on Fridays and after the mid-afternoon prayer (‘asr). Similarly, visiting graveyards on Fridays is generally praiseworthy, as is giving something in charity (sadaqa). Another tremendous act of devotion is the prayer of glorification (salat al-tasbih). This is specifically encouraged by the scholars as a prayer which should be prayed, at the very least, yearly. The person who can make a consistent habit out of it, such as on Friday mornings, is certainly somebody blessed and chosen by Allah Most High. Note that the prayer of seeking aid in memorizing the Qur’an is to be prayed on Thursday night.
As for traveling on Fridays, it is permitted without dislike, as long as you avoid doing so after the entrance of the time of the noon prayer (zuhr). In such a case, you would need to pray before heading out. Any type of trade after the first call to prayer (adhan), or anything which delays one’s attendance at the Friday prayer, is usually wrong and impermissible. Another issue is that fasting is both valid and permitted on Fridays. However, due to the fact that there are conflicting traditions (ahadith), and consequently differences between the jurists, it is perhaps superior, barring other considerations, to omit fasting that day unless it coincides with your fasting habit or you conjoin with a day before or after it.
In closing, let us remind ourselves of the virtue of those who die on Fridays. It is reported that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Whoever dies on Friday or its night is inscribed with the reward of a martyr, and is protected from the tribulation of the grave.” (Tirmidhi) We ask Allah to bring our hearts to life by virtue of our striving to bring our Fridays to life. And we ask Him to increase us in the great, lasting good deeds (baqiyat salihat), particularly those on Fridays, with the kind of sincerity and love that will be pleasing to Him for eternity.
And Allah alone gives success.