O ye who believe! When the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday (the Day of Assembly, yawm al-jumu'ah), hasten earnestly to the Remembrance of God, and leave off business (and traffic): That is best for you if ye but knew!
And when the Prayer is finished, then may ye disperse through the land, and seek of the Bounty of God: and celebrate the Praises of God often (and without stint): that ye may prosper (62:9-10).
Each week the faithful answer the call to ijtama’a1, which literally means to gather people together. Human beings, from those who may come from long lineages and cultural attachments to Islam; to newcomers to the faith; to those simply curious, have always made up the congregation of the Jumu’ah prayer since the early days of its establishment as a rite in the city of the Prophet ﷺ. In the wake of last Friday’s tragedy in New Zealand, we may find ourselves consumed by the images and the reporting, which then gives way to fears of future copycat attacks or reprisals. It is in such moments that each of us should look deeply at the significance of our central rites and traditions, as a way to connect us to the enduring reality of God.
The Hu2 & The Human: Understanding the Nobility of Gathering People
And We have certainly honored the children of Adam… (17:70)
God informs us of our own nobility in the famous hadith, “God created Adam in his image” (Bukhari and Muslim). While emphasizing God’s transcendent reality (tanzih), understanding the human being as a worldly manifestation (tajalliat) of God’s immanence is critical for our self-awareness. Humans have the innate capacity to possess attributes that God has also described Himself with, although our attributes are contingent and relative while God’s attributes are eternal and absolute3.
Another salient point raised by scholars is that our form is heavenly in origin. God states, “We will show them Our signs in the horizons (al-afaq) and within themselves (anfusihim) until it becomes clear to them that it is the Truth” (41:33).
Therefore, humans occupy a space of duality between the physical finite realm (‘alam al-afaq) and the spiritual infinite realm (‘alam al-anfus), as well as the apparent (dahir) and the hidden (batin). The physical world is a microcosm, while the spiritual world is the macrocosm. For example, when we view the relationship of the body and soul from the point of view of our perception, the breast appears to be larger than the heart and encompasses it. However, at the metaphysical level it is the heart that is larger4. There are amazing examples of God’s creative output, yet God never said about such things that they were created “in the best of forms (40:64)” or “of the best stature (95:4)”. God exalts each human being above even his attending angels when He says of those who persist in their religious practice (not turning away): “He loves them, and they love him (5:54)”. This is exclusively bestowed upon us as humans, above all others, as a grace from God and a Divine favor.5 There is an indication that love is not simply an effect, or something earned by obedience, or a resultant of being free of evil, because God also says, “God loves you and forgives your sins (3:31)”. The “and” in this verse denotes a sequence — God Loves them first, they then love Him, He then forgives them, as they ask for forgiveness. To forgive necessitates love6. When we join together, forgoing our normal business each Friday to worship and adore God, a central point is knowing and loving each other. If we expand this principle outside of the silo of our own faith tradition, we can clearly see that while there is hate, there is an overwhelming amount of love in a world created by a loving God. Without the darkness of the shadows, one cannot fully appreciate the brightness of God’s light in the world.
Our Prophet ﷺ directed us to the cosmological Truths of the day of Friday in this temporal life and the heavenly afterlife of a believer:
“The best day the sun rises over is Friday; on it God created Adam. On it, he was made to enter paradise, on it he was expelled from it, and the Last Hour will take place on no other day than Friday.” (Ahmad and Tirmidhi)
Friday, then, is intrinsically tied to the creation of humanity and the covenant that binds each us together,
“When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): “Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?”- They said: “Yea! We do testify!” (This), lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment: “Of this we were never mindful”” (7:172).
Our Prophet said, “our prayer rows have been made like the rows of the angels” (Muslim, also see (37:1,165)). Angels chronicle our attendance at Jumu’ah and listen to our sermons (Bukhari and Muslim). The Jumu’ah hour, in addition to symbolizing our covenant at our collective origin, also intuits the Last Hour (al-sa’ah), serving as a weekly reminder of not only our existential end, but also our communal beginning. Our eschatology plays role in our religious acts. When we stand in prayer rows facing Mecca and the plain of Arafat, the reported location of the covenant to worship God alone and of our final judgement7, we are proactively preparing for the day when we stand (an alternate title for the Day of Judgment is the Day of Standing (Qiyama)), lined up in rows before our Lord’s throne (‘arsh) on the Plain of Assembly (Ard Al-Hashr) at the end of time. Friday, as the final day of the work week, should remind us of the final day wherein we will be questioned about our actions as they relate to our creator and our fellow creation. The Day of Judgment is the day that all “debts are due” (Yawm Al-Din), wherein we will be judged as to our fidelity to the original covenant we each made communally to recognize one God alone.
After the Jumu’ah gathering ends, the Qu’ran directs us to, “celebrate the Praises of God often (and without stint): that ye may prosper” (62:10). In the wake of this tragedy, and the growing fears of whether any mosque can properly secure itself, we would do well to weigh out any potential risk with the higher realities of the prayer. Put our minds and our trust in Providence (Qadr) in both its perceived “good” and “evil” dichotomies. Celebrating the Praises of God is a cure for melancholy.
Today, unlike generations past, we face a new form of anxiety, stemming in part from the influence of supermodernity. Whereas postmodernism theorizes an anxiety that results from the collapse or loss of meaning, through the lens of supermodernity it appears that the new anxiety is evoked more by an excess of meaning generated by the rapid acceleration of human life and the media's daily bombardment with serious global, national, and local concerns as we have all experienced this past week. Jumu’ah serves as an antidote to the void left by the diminishment of religious involvement and practice, creating a place for meaning-making. In essence Jumu’ah is as much about our beginnings as much as our endings and in that vein echoes the verse prescribed for tragedies, "We belong to God and to God we shall return” (2:156). Each of us should see our sacred rites as assisting each of us in building on a cognitive approach that emphasizes meaning in our lives. Demonstrating that to fight our anxieties, and the stated goals of terror actors effectively, we as practitioners of our faith must take part in a deeper exploration of their meanings as they relate to our Creator and our bonds with our fellow humans. This week, and God-willing future weeks thereafter, when your Imam reminds the congregation, “to pray this prayer as if it is your last prayer”, we hope that as you line up in straight rows you will better appreciate this beautiful rite and take steps to have a more meaningful connection to your Lord and to each other.
1. See: https://en.bab.la/dictionary/arabic-english/%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%AA%D9%85%D8%B9
2. Hu or Huwa is the pronoun used with God or God, and is used as a name of God.
3. Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid; Bayhaqi, Kitab al-Asma’ wa’l Sifat (See Younas, Salman response: https://www.seekersguidance.org/answers/islamic-belief/what-does-the-narration-allah-created-adam-in-hishis-image-mean/ )
4. Elias, The Throne Carrier of God: The Life and Thought of Al’a ad-Dawla as-Simnani, P. 68
5. Al-Qushayri, Sharh asma God al Husna, p130-131
6. al-Ba'uniyyah, A’ishah(Translated by Th. Emil Homerin), The Principles of Sufism, p59
7. See Al-Haddad, Lives of Man
By Muhammad Noor , 21 Mar 2019