Friday is according to the Qur’an not a day of rest. It is true that a whole chapter of the Qur’an is called Friday though. But this chapter explains that we should put down our work on Friday afternoon in order to prepare for the Sabbath. Unfortunately, even in Muhammad’s time many returned after the Friday prayer to their business and pleasure. Yet, Friday and Sabbath are the two special weekdays: Friday as a day of preparation and Saturday as God’s day of rest.
Friday in the Qur’an
In the last two newsletters we saw that the Qur’an proclaims Saturday to be God’s day of rest. Is this not a contradiction to the Muslim religious life? Do they not keep the Friday as a day of rest?
In most Muslim countries the weekend consists of Friday and Sabbath. Only in Afghanistan, Brunei and Iran Saturday remains a working day. But there are also a number of Muslim countries that have their weekend like the West on Saturday and Sunday: Indonesia, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Tunisia and Turkey. What is the reason for this?
Friday is not considered a day of rest in Islam. Only the Friday afternoon prayer with the sermon before makes Friday a special day. One Muslim scholar told me once when I asked him whether Muslims do not have a day of rest: “God does not rest. Therefore Muslims do not have a day of rest either.” But what does the Qur’an itself say about Friday?
There is a sura with the name Friday: al-Jumu’a. It has eleven verses. What does it teach?
God’s commandments are for all men
“In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. All that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth extols the glory of God, the Sovereign, the Holy, the Almighty, the All-Wise. / He it is who has sent to the Arabs a messenger from among themselves, one who rehearses to them His verses, purifies their lives, and imparts the them the [Holy] Scriptures and the wisdom. Although before that they were in utter error.” (al-Jumu’a 62:1-2)
The almighty and merciful God wanted the Arabs to learn to know God’s message: his book, the Bible and the wisdom of his commandments, Sabbath included.
“… He is the most mighty, the most wise. / Such is God’s favor: He bestows it on whomsoever He pleases. God is the Lord of abounding favor. / The parable of those who were charged with the Torah and then they failed to live up to it is that of a [stubborn] donkey laden with books. What an evil parable for the people who lie with God’s verses. God does not guide such wrong-doers.” (al-Jumu’a 62:3-5)
It becomes obvious that God finds no pleasure in those who break his commandments. They are like stubborn donkeys who consider his commandments – Sabbath included – to be a burden which they protest against.
Fatal assurance of salvation
“Tell them: O you who confess to be the ‘people of God’! If you arrogantly fancy that you are God’s favorites to the exclusion of all people, then wish for death [because thus you will secure eternal life], if you are truthful in your claim. / But they shall never wish for death because of the [evil] deeds they have committed. God knows the unrighteous. / Tell them: The death from which you flee will certainly overtake you. Then you will be returned to Him who knows what is hidden and what is manifest. Thereupon He will let you know all that you used to do.” (al-Jumu’a 62:6-8)
How terrible, if men who live a life of disobedience and break the Sabbath think they have assurance of salvation and deny others salvation. God cannot be deceived!
Friday: end of working week
“Believers, when the call for prayer is made on Friday, hasten to the remembrance of God and give up all buying and selling. That is best for you, if you only knew” (al-Jumu’a 62:9)
On early Friday afternoon that time has come to shut down your businesses. Because now you should prepare eagerly for the beginning of the Sabbath in order to remember God’s creation and his lordship on the throne. Do not the Scriptures say: “Remember the Sabbath day?” Friday prayer is good moment in time to start preparing for this. The radical for remembrance and remember used here in Arabic is dh-k-r. Etymologically it is exactly the same radical that is used in the Sabbath commandment in Hebrew: z-k-r. Arabic and Hebrew are closely related.
Friday is preparation day
“But when the prayer is ended, disperse in the land and seek God’s favor and remember God much so that you may prosper.” (al-Jumu’a 62:10)
After prayer, everyone should go home to his family and seek God’s favor in preparing for the moment when the sun sets to remember God much. Exactly when the sun sets the muezzin will call again to prayer as he does each day. Then all preparations have to be fulfilled.
Fatal Sabbath profanation
“Yet no sooner than they saw some business or amusement, they flocked to it and left you standing by yourself. Tell them: That which is with God is far better than amusement and business. God is the best provider of sustenance.« (al-Jumu’a 62:11)
But many do only think of business and amusement. They come “piously” to prayer, yet the do not prepare for the Sabbath after it is done. Instead they leave you, Muhammad, standing by yourself in your endeavor to honor God through your keeping the Sabbath. They are looking for profit and pleasure. Yet God can provide for us better physically and mentally if we keep his Sabbath commandment.
That is absolutely all that the Qur’an says about Friday!
Two special weekdays
Let us summarize: Nowhere does the Qur’an command to rest on Friday. Instead he commands to end our weekly business on Friday afternoon to prepare for a Sabbath of communion with God. He reproves those who strive against God’s commandments like a stubborn donkey and continue to do their business on Sabbath or to abuse it for their own amusement. This sura and the Sabbath verses we discussed in the previous newsletters show how the Qur’an highlights two days of the week: Friday as the weekly day of preparation and Saturday as the weekly day of rest.
Day of a double portion Manna
The Bible does the same: Is speaks not only of the Sabbath, but also of the Friday. Friday in the Bible is a day of a double portion of “rain”. On Friday the double amount of Manna falls because it is the day of preparation. Manna had to be gathered, cooked and baked for two days (Exodus 16). In Arabic to gather means jama’a. This is the radical the word jumu’a Friday is made from. Day of assembly is the usual translation with reference to the Friday prayer. Day of gathering would be maybe even more to the point. As a double portion of Manna was gathered on Friday, the believer should gather himself and prepare for the Sabbath. In fact, the verb jama’a can be translated as “prepare, arrange” in certain contexts.