In Islam, the Friday Prayer is
an obligation. Every believer is obliged to attend the weekly congregation.
There is however, a little difference between the five daily prayers and the
Friday Congregation. The former can be offered individually whereas the latter
is necessarily a congregation. It is also acknowledged that the Friday Prayer is
originally the zuhr rayer, which it replaces. This means that basically it is
sufficient if we offer all the obligatory prayers individually when we cannot
offer them in the congregations in the mosques. However, Friday Prayer has some
additional value and corresponding degree of added stress. This additional value
is obtained by the fact that it has political ramifications. In the Islamic
State, the believers have to show loyalty to the rulers and help them in
discharging their duties.
Originally the Friday Prayers were led
by the rulers. If a commoner among the believers dared to lead the people in the
Prayer without permission by the rulers and their deputies, it amounted to
mutiny. In that case it marked one’s expression of being loyal to the state and
being subservient to the rulers to attend the Friday Congregations in which the
rulers could discuss political matters, seek the advice and help of the public
and issue some policy statements. The first sermon was reserved for this
In such a situation setting up a
separate congregation was considered rebellion and failing to attend the
congregation meant that the believer no longer openly stood with the community.
This is why such a failure could mean one’s departure from the community of the
believers who were organized in a political set up to which they all adhered to.
It needs to be appreciated that failing to attend the congregation led by the
rulers was a sign of one’s departure from the apparent and political body of the
believers. It did not mean loss of faith. This means that if one failed to offer
the Prayer in the congregation, he could be declared to have left the community.
It was a political decision and not a religious verdict affecting one’s faith.
Now when the rulers are no longer
fulfilling their religious duty and it is only the religious scholars who
consider it a duty to keep the practice alive albeit in a changed form, we
cannot declare that attending the Friday congregation is the obligation of the
same status. If someone cannot attend the congregation, he cannot be declared
non-Muslim not to say a disbeliever (kāfir). This is because the necessary
elements of the Friday congregations are no more alive in the practice.