The Friday Prayer is one of the most important acts of worship in the religion of Islam. It is an act that isvery pleasing to Allaah. When performed properly, it acts as expiation for the worshipper. It wipes away the minor: sins he committed over a period of ten days. Such is Allaahs great mercy that, through this one act of worship, Allaah will overlook and pardon numerous sins that a person has committed.
The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, "Whoever makes ablution and excels in performing the ablution. then goes to the mosque and listens and remains quiet. then forgiven for him will be whatever he did [of minor sins] from that Friday to the previous Fridayplus an additional three days." (Muslim) However, this act of worship, like any other act, must be performed in the manner that is pleasing to Allaah to reap this bounty.
In other words, it must be done in accord with the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah. Importance of the Friday In the same way that Allaah guided Muslims to the best month (the month of Ramadan) and the best night (the Night of Qadr) , He has guided them to the best day of the week. This is from the numerous bounties that Allaah has blessed the Ummah of Islaam with. There are many hadith of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) indicating the importance, excellence and superiority of Friday.
The Messenger of Allaah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, "We are the last [with respect to time] but the first [with respect to excellence]. They were given the Book before us and we were given it after them. This day was prescribed for them but they differed about it, so Allaah, Most High guided us to it. It is Friday. The other people follow us after it, the Jews tomorrow and the Christians day after tomorrow." (Bukhaari and Muslim)
In another version of this hadith, the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, "We will be the first to enter Paradise." (Muslim) The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) also mentioned some of the great events which occurred or shall occur on Friday: "The best day upon which the sun rises is Friday. On that day was Adam born and on that day was he entered into Paradise and on that day he was expelled from Paradise. And the Hour will only be established on Friday." (Muslim)
The Importance of the Friday Prayer
As for the wisdom behind the Friday Prayer, al-Qaraaf (RAH) wrote: "Since the hearts become rusty due to forgetfulness and sins, like iron becomes rusty, divine wisdom has decreed that once in a week one receives an admonition, and that the community gathers together so that the rich may get an admonition (reminder) from the poor, the strong from the weak, and the pious from the impious. For that same reason, people are asked to come from all corners of the world to gather for the pilgrimage once in their lives." (adh-Dhakeerah)
It is important for Muslims to take the Friday Prayer very seriously. The proper performance of the Friday Prayer entails a great deal of virtues and forgiveness from Allaah. The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, "Whoever makes ablution and excels in performing the ablution, then goes to the mosque and listens and remains quiet, then forgiven for him will be whatever he did [of minor sins] from that Friday to the previous Friday plus an additional three days." (Muslim)
Unfortunately, a number of Muslims are lax in the observance of the Friday Prayer. Some people miss the Friday Prayer just because they are too busy to be bothered! The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) has sternly warned against missing the Friday Prayer for no valid reason. Indeed, a person may have his heart sealed if he continues to miss the Friday Prayer.
The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said: "The people must cease from not performing the Friday Prayer or Allaah will put a seal over their hearts and they will then become from the heedless." (Muslim) Some say that the exact meaning of the sealing over the hearts is that Allaah will cut these people off from any kindness and the sources of good. Others say that it means that Allaah will place some ungratefulness or infidelity in their hearts. Upon Whom is the Friday Prayer Obligatory? The Friday Prayer is obligatory upon every free, sane, adult, nontraveling Muslim male. The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, "The Friday Prayer is a right and obligation upon every Muslim in the community except four: a slave, a woman, a child [nonadult] or a sick person." (Abu Dawood)
How to Perform the Friday Prayer
The Friday Prayer consists of two parts: the khutbah or speech followed by a two rakah prayer. As for the prayer itself, in essence, it is the same as any other prayer. It must meet the same conditions. The acts that are disliked or that nullify the prayer are the same. Time of the Friday There is a difference of opinion among the scholars concerning the proper and acceptable time for the Friday Prayer.
However, there are sufficient authentic hadith that clearly state the answer to this question. Basically there are two opinions on this question. The first opinion states that the time for the Friday Prayer is exactly the same as the time for the Dhuhr or noon prayer. Thus, offering it before this time is invalid. The second opinion states that the time for the Friday Prayer is not exactly the same time as that of the Dhuhr prayer and it is permissible to perform the Friday Prayer before the time of Dhuhr.
Some of the authentic hadith on this question, which are clear, are the following: Salamah ibn al-Akwa (RA) said, "We would perform the Friday Prayer with the Messenger of Allaah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) when the sun would pass the meridian and then we would come back [from the prayer] and seek some shade." (Bukhari and Muslim)
Also Jabir (RA) reported that when the sun would pass its zenith, the Messenger of Allaah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) would perform the Friday Prayer. (Tabaraani with a hasan chain) Abdullah ibn Saidan al-Salami stated: "I performed the Friday Prayer with Abu Bakr as-Siddeeq and his khutbah and his prayer was before midday. Then I performed the Friday Prayer with Umar [i.e.,after the death of Abu Bakr] and his khutbah and his prayer would be until one would say, "Midday has come." Then I performed the prayer with Uthmaan and his khutbah and prayer were until the time that one would say, "Midday has passed." I did not see anyone objecting to it or rejecting any of their practices [in this regard]." (ibn Abu Shaibah)
From the ahadith above it is clear that it was the practice of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) and his Companions to perform the Friday Prayer either before or after the zenith of the sun. This means that sometimes they performed it before the time of Dhuhr started and sometimes they performed it after the time of Dhuhr began. With regard to the end time of the Friday Prayer, almost all scholars agree that the time for the Friday Prayer continues until the beginning of the time for the Asr Prayer.
Hence, if someone prays at least one rakah of the Friday Prayer before the time of Asr, he would have caught the Friday Prayer. If, however, a congregation does not pray at least one rakah of the Friday Prayer before the time for Asr, they must then perform the Dhuhr Prayer instead of the Friday Prayer because there is no qadha (paying back) for the Friday Prayer, as mentioned earlier.
What Constitute a Congregation? This is, unfortunately, another area in which there are numerous opinions yet very little proof for those opinions. Abdul Haqq and as-Suyooti (both are famous scholars of hadith) stated that there are no authentic hadith whatsoever that state a minimum number of people required for the Friday Prayer. Hence, the scholars tried their best to determine the best opinion on this question. The problem with almost all of the opinions expressed on this matter is that the evidence for them is either irrelevant or not exacting or, if the report is specifically related to the question, the report that is used is weak or rejected.
One example should be sufficient to demonstrate this point. According to some scholars the minimum number for the Friday Prayer to be valid is twelve. This is based on the following report: While the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) was leading the Friday Prayer, a caravan arrived and the Muslims left the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) to go to the caravan. Only twelve people remained with the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) atthattime." (Bukhari)
Obviously this report cannot be used to prove that there has to be at least twelve people for the Friday Prayer to be valid as there is nothing in that report that states that the few whowere left with the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) constituted the minimum necessary. It is difficult to determine the strongest opinion among the different opinions. However, it is easy to weed out some of the opinions.
There seems to have been a consensus that a congregation is required for the Friday Prayer. It has never been narrated that it is acceptable for one person alone to pray the Friday Prayer. On the other hand, those opinions that require twelve, forty and so on are without a basis. The correct opinion seems to be that either two people (one of them being the Imam) or three people (one of them being the) Imam) are necessary and sufficient for the Friday Prayer. Allaah knows best.
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited