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Friday congregational prayer (salat al-jumah)

By: Hojjat al-Islam Muhsin Qaraati
So far, daily recommended {mustahabb} and nawafil prayers, post-prayer devotional acts {taqibat}, prayer of a traveler {musafir}, and compensatory {qadha} prayer have been discussed. These two types of prayer are the same daily obligatory prayer under particular circumstances (in travel, or after its appointed time).
There are other prayers, however, some of which are obligatory while others are emphatically recommended {mutahabb muakkad}. In order to complete the discussion about prayer, we shall also deal with them in brief.

Friday congregational prayer {salat al-jumah}
In the weekly social ceremony of Muslims, Friday congregational prayer {salat al-jumah} occupies a special status. It is not only an act of worship, but also a manifestation of Muslim power and the grandeur of Islam. It increases the awareness of followers of the Quran and is considered a religio-political prayer.
Regarding Friday congregational prayer, the Holy Quran says:

ٱ ٰ ٱ ٰ ٱ

O ye who believe! When the call is made for prayer on Friday, hurry up toward the remembrance of Allah, and leave all business.[1][594]

Manner of offering Friday congregational prayer
During the period of occultation {asr al-ghaybah} of Imam al-Mahdi (a), Friday congregational prayer is wajib takhyiri and one has the option to offer the Friday congregational prayer or the noon {zuhr} prayer.
Friday congregational prayer consists of two rakahs and it must be performed in congregation.
Before the prayer, there are two obligatory sermons {khutbayn} in which the khatib {the one delivering the sermons} shares socio-political issues with the congregation apart from inviting them to observe piety.
Its appointed time is from the beginning of zuhr up to about an hour after the recital of its adhan and later than that, it is no longer permissible.
The number of persons offering Friday congregational prayer should be at least five, including the imam.
The distance between the two places where Friday congregational prayers are offered should not be less than one farsakh (approximately 3 miles).
It is obligatory {wajib} to listen to the sermons of the Friday congregational prayer. Non-participation in the Friday congregational prayer for no reason at all is a sign of hypocrisy {nifaq}.
It is better for the prayer leader in the first rakah to recite Surah al-Jumah after Surah al-Hamd and Surah al-Munafiqun in the second rakah.
The Messenger of Allah (S) has said: Through the Surah al-Jumah, God has honored the believers. Thus, as glad tidings for them, the Prophet (S) has made it his tradition {sunnah} to recite Surah al-Jumah, and as a reproach to hypocrites, he has regarded it necessary to recite Surah al-Munafiqun.[1][595]

Importance of Friday congregational prayer
There are many hadiths which have been narrated in this regard and it is impossible to deal with them here.[1][596]
The Messenger of Allah (S) has regarded Friday congregational prayer as the Hajj pilgrimage of the poor[1][597] and as a means of forgiveness of sins.
Friday congregational prayer demonstrates the power of Muslims and is a meeting place of the faithful worshippers.
At the beginning of migration {hijrah}, the Apostle of Allah (S) held the first Friday congregational prayer for the people of Medina laying the foundation of this splendid and constructive gathering.
This prayer has political and administrative dimensions. The khatib and imam of Friday congregational prayer is either the ruler of Muslims or appointed by the leader to assume the post. There are many constructive educational and social blessings and effects this political worship. Some of them are the following:

1. Cultivating the spirit of fraternity and brotherhood
All people from different places gather in a single prayer ground and sit together, without distinction of race and color. Whatever is present in a congregational prayer is far greater and stronger in the Friday congregational prayerthis weekly gathering of Muslims.

2. Formation of the Islamic forces
This act of worship organizes the Muslims around the axis of worship and prayer, and strikes fear in the heart of the enemy as well as thwarts the plots and intrigues of the discord-mongers.

3. Intellectual and political development of the Muslims
According to the exigency of subject matters, the information given during Friday prayer sermons makes the people aware of political issues concerning their country and the world. By familiarizing them with social responsibilities, they tend to have greater participation in the society scene.

4. Enhancing the spirit of collectivity
Friday congregational prayer gathers the scattered drops of human beings into a single ocean, and through mutual communication and acquaintance, everybody acquires the spirit of collectivity, and thus, dissension and individualism gradually vanish.

5. The center for mobilization
The Friday congregational prayer stronghold is the best place to invite people and mobilize them for jihad, defence, solving social problems, and rendering assistance to others. This glorious power of the masses that is formed in the Friday congregational prayer has always been the focus of attention. During the early days of Islam, the Messenger of Allah (S) and the Commander of the Faithful (a) used to mobilize the people and dispatch them to the arenas of jihad.[1][598]

Life conduct {sirah} of the holy saints {awliya}
The conduct {sirah} of the Messenger of Allah (S) and the infallible Imams (a) in relation to Friday congregational prayer bespeaks of its importance and the need to increase efforts for this obligation.
It is recorded in the hadith that Ali (a) said: During Thursday, do not take medicine that weakens the body. He was asked for the reason. He said: So that it does not hinder you from attending the Friday congregational prayer.[1][599]
Imam as-Sadiq (a) says: The companions of the Prophet used to make preparation for Friday on Thursday because on Friday the time is limited (because of their works).[1][600]
The Commander of the Faithful (a) used to free those who were imprisoned on account of debt, accusation, and the like so that they could attend the Friday congregational prayer while their guardians used to guarantee that they would return to the prison cell. The Imam (a) also used to allow the imprisoned transgressors {fasiqun}, under guard, to participate in the congregational prayer.[1][601]
As a token of commemorating Friday congregational prayer and glorifying these rites, Ali (a) used to attend the congregational prayer barefooted, holding his shoes with his left hand saying, This prayer has a special divine status. He used to do so out of humility in the presence of the Lord.[1][602]
Keeping this in view, the importance of this obligatory act becomes clear, and any committed Muslim must not be heedless of attending this politico-religious assembly.
The Imam of the ummah has said: The Friday congregational prayer which is a demonstration of the sociopolitical power of Islam must be made more splendid and substantial. The great and dear nation should keep this Islamic fortress as majestic and splendid as possible so that by its blessing, plots of traitors and intrigues of corruptors would be thwarted.

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