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Revolution 101: the Power of Friday Prayers

Sheikh Abdul-Jalil Mukdad preaches during Friday prayers at Pearl Square.

As demonstrated in Egypt, and being witnessed at present in Yemen and Bahrain, Jum’a is a weekly forum that brings about unity and social cohesion. It instills in its participants the doctrine of equality, justice and social awareness. The merits of such a forum cannot be taken lightly.

Sheikh Abdul-Jalil Mukdad preaches during Friday prayers at Pearl Square.As Egypt continues on its path of revolution, many are going to talk about different aspects that helped shape the popular uprising, one through which we witnessed the fall of Hosni Mubarak and the reassessment of Egypt’s ties with Israel. It was and has been unprecedented. We all watched and read in awe as images from Tahrir Square in Cairo, from Alexandria, Suez and other parts of Egypt were aired on live TV. It was all very overwhelming.

Some of the most powerful images that did come out were at the time of prayers. The chaotic crowds would assemble without delay as the call for prayers (Adhan) sounded, while tear gas was being flung their way and security forces shadowing over them.

Above all, it was the Friday prayers (Jum’a) that was the catalyst to the popular uprising. Friday would draw in the largest crowds, with worshipers flocking to the mosques to listen to the Khutbah (sermon) of the Imam. Just as some of us thought the momentum of the uprising is being crushed, along came another Friday, dubbed “The Day of Rage” or “The Day of Farewell” or “The Day of Unity”.

The Friday prayers played an instrumental role in bringing the Egyptian society together: the young and the old, the rich and the poor, men and women, the educated and the uneducated. Friday prayers were the very embodiment of what we later saw taking place at Tahrir Square in the course of the revolution – people camping out harmoniously to have their voices heard, sharing food and other necessities.

These prayers would then turn into some of the biggest protests witnessed by Egypt. The Friday prayer traditionally was designated so that the community could get together and certain civic and social issues could be raised. The Imams of Egypt rose to the occasion, turning the Friday prayers into another Tahrir. The Friday prayers were no longer limited to the religiously devout, they reached across to include every responsible member of the community.

The Jum’a and its Khutbah have been used throughout the history of Islam to raise social and political awareness amongst the people. Muawiyah spread his massive propaganda against the Imamate of Ali bin Abu Talib (peace be upon him) and then Imam Hasan bin Ali (peace be upon him) through the use of the pulpit, especially on Fridays. Devout followers and believers of Wilayat would then take the opportunity to refute such claims as they were being made from the pulpit. They would voice their objections publicly, in the middle of the Friday Khutbahs to work against Muawiyah’s propaganda.

Indeed, as a more recent example, the Islamic revolution of Iran was nurtured from these very Friday Khutbahs. This is why we see a massive effort on the part of dictatorial regimes of the Middle East to ensure the Khutbah for Jum’a is in accordance with “government policy”, and is at times even dictated. The power the Jum’a wields to create revolutions, bring down monarchs, raise social and political awareness, and bring together every member of the community is unfathomable.

As demonstrated in Egypt, and being witnessed at present in Yemen and Bahrain, Jum’a is a weekly forum that brings about unity and social cohesion. It instills in its participants the doctrine of equality, justice and social awareness. The merits of such a forum cannot be taken lightly.

“O you who believe! When the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday (the Day of Assembly), hasten earnestly to the Remembrance of Allah and leave business (and traffic): That is best for you if you but knew! And when the Prayer is finished, then may you disperse through the land, and seek of the bounty of Allah, and celebrate the praises of Allah often (and without stint) that you may prosper.” (The Holy Qur’an, Surah 62 – Al-Jum’a, verse 9-10)

About Arsalan Rizvi

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