By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
God has chosen Friday as the best day and made it superior to all other days of the week. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said about this day: “The best day on which the sun has risen is Friday; on it Adam was created, on it he was made to enter Paradise, and on it he was expelled from it. And the Day of Judgment will take place on no day other than Friday.”
God has singled out Juma prayer as it differs from other prayers. Islamic scholars have unanimously agreed that it is an obligatory ritual for every Muslim, who is capable of performing it.
It is the only prayer mentioned in the Holy Qur’an in the sense that everyone who hears the call for it should leave their businesses and go to the mosque to perform the prayer. The Holy Qur’an says:
“O you who have believed, when (the adhan) is called for the prayer on the day of Juma (Friday), then proceed to the remembrance of Allah and leave trade. That is better for you, if you only knew.”
The Friday prayer is not obligatory for women, young boys, as well as for the sick and travellers. There are different opinions among scholars about the number of worshippers required for holding Juma congregational prayer. Some scholars say the number is 40 while some others say it is 12 or that even a minimum number of three is permissible. According to Abu Yusuf, a scholar representing the Hanafi school of thought, there should be at least 12 worshippers for Juma prayer in addition to the imam.
There are two sermons for Juma prayer. The imam will deliver a sermon before the prayer. After praising God, he calls on the faithful to be pious and fear God in all walks of life. The imam will recite a few verses from the Holy Qur’an and pray for the Prophet (pbuh) and his family members and Companions. Then, he speaks about any of the problems facing the Muslim community and concludes by proposing solutions for them in the perspective of Islamic principles based on the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah. In the second sermon, which is not much different from the first, the imam emphasizes that God commands justice and charity and forbids indecency, evil and abominable things.
The length of the sermon or its shortening differs from one imam to another. However, everybody would agree that long speeches are not at all appropriate. Television channels are used to air programs on religious subjects with the participation of scholars and intellectuals before the Friday prayers every week. These speeches are eloquent and are an in-depth analysis, much better than any Friday sermons. Some of the Friday sermons are replete with repetition of the same matters.
For a long time, I have taken a special interest in listening to Friday sermons delivered by various imams. This interest has led me to move between the mosques in many of the countries where I have worked. In most non-Arab countries, the imam delivers a sermon in the native language of the country and then reads two short sermons in Arabic before leading the prayer.
While working in Japan, I saw only one mosque in Tokyo that was built by Turks after fleeing Central Asia following its occupation by the Soviet Union. The mosque continued to be administered by the Turkish community. The Turkish imam delivered the Friday sermon first in Turkish, then in Japanese and finally in Arabic, taking equal time for sermons in these three languages.
Perhaps, I have moved the most from mosque to mosque in order to listen to Friday sermons and offer prayer in Jeddah and Riyadh, where there are large numbers of mosques. However, I have only found a small number of mosques where I was impressed by the Friday sermon delivered. In most cases, the sermons were either long and boring or appropriate but spoiled it with frequent repetitions.
Perhaps the shortest Friday sermon I ever heard was delivered by an imam in Sudan. After entering the pulpit, he urged the faithful to be God fearing. He emphasized in his speech that feeding the hungry is better than building 1,000 mosques.
For the past several months, I have attended the Friday sermon at a mosque in Rehab district in Jeddah. It is with great attentiveness I that have listened to the imam’s extremely awe-inspiring sermons. He delivers the first sermon in not more than ten minutes, dealing with a current problem related to the community. The second sermon lasts for around five minutes.
Last Friday, the imam, in his first sermon, addressed the issue of sponsors, who hire workers without having any job for them to do. Hence, these sponsors ask the workers to find a job by themselves. In return, they charge the workers monthly amounts, and those who refuse to comply with the sponsor’s orders are sent back to their country. The imam emphasized that this is wrong on religious, legal and moral grounds. He further said that those who do this should seek forgiveness and stop doing it, because they will be held accountable for it on the Day of Judgment.
This was the first time I had ever heard an imam speaking about this serious matter in a Friday sermon. He had chosen this subject to shed light on the unethical practice being pursued by some people who do not seem to live in fear of God.
— Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs.