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How to Unlock the Treasures of the Friday Sermon

Many courses and seminars have been organised both in our city and in others with the objective of developing the sermon givers and equipping them with the necessary tools to effectively communicate the message of Allah and His messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) to the masses. This article, however, will not address the matter of the Friday sermon from the perspective of the sermon giver but from the perspective of the rest of us as listeners. How do we ensure that our presence during this weekly visit is effective? How can we make sure that what we hear transfers us from phase to phase, from grade to grade with respect to the ladder of iman and worship? After all, this is the purpose of the Friday sermon. Allah says,

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا نُودِيَ لِلصَّلَاةِ مِنْ يَوْمِ الْجُمُعَةِ فَاسْعَوْا إِلَى ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَذَرُوا الْبَيْعَ ذَلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

“O you who have believed, when the adhan is called for the prayer on the day of Friday, then proceed to the remembrance of Allah and leave trade. That is better for you, if you only knew.”  [Al-Qur’an, Surah 63, Ayah 9]

What is meant by the “remembrance of Allah” in this Ayah is the Friday sermon as well as its Salah. Furthermore, Allah commands that at that point people must “leave trade”, but not just trade, rather everything that occupies us at that time. The matter of trade was singled out in mention here because it is what most commonly distracts people from their Salah.

The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would strongly emphasise the importance of arriving early to the Friday Khutbah, saying:

«مَن اغْتَسَلَ يَومَ الجُمُعَةِ غُسْلَ الجَنَابَةِ، ثُمَّ رَاحَ فِي السَّاعَةِ الأولى فَكَأنَّمَا قَرَّبَ بَدَنَةً، وَمَنْ رَاحَ في السَّاعَةِ الثَّانِيَةِ، فَكَأَنَّمَا قَرَّبَ بَقَرَةً، وَمَنْ رَاحَ في الساعة الثَّالِثَةِ، فَكَأنَّمَا قَرَّبَ كَبْشًا أقْرَنَ، وَمَنْ رَاحَ في السَّاعَةِ الرَّابِعَةِ، فَكَأنَّمَا قَرَّبَ دَجَاجَةً، وَمَنْ رَاحَ في السَّاعَةِ الخَامِسَةِ، فَكَأنَّمَا قَرَّبَ بَيْضَةً، فَإذَا خَرَجَ الإمَامُ، حَضَرَتِ المَلاَئِكَةُ يَسْتَمِعُونَ الذِّكْرَ»

“Whoever does Ghusl on the day of Friday and then comes to the Masjid in the first hour, it is as if he sacrificed a camel. Whoever comes at the second hour, it is as if he sacrificed a cow. Whoever comes at the third hour, it is as if he sacrificed a horned ram. Whoever comes at the fourth hour, it is as if he sacrificed a chicken. Whoever comes at the fifth hour, it is as if he sacrificed an egg. Then when the imam comes out, the angels come in to listen to the reminder (khutbah).”    [Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Abu Huraira]

How does one calculate these hours? They begin from the rising of the sun until the Adhan is called. If we then divide the time in between into five parts, each part will constitue as an ‘hour’ as was mentioned in the Hadith.   [As was the opinion of Imam Ash-Shaafi’i, Imam Ahmad and others]

We see from this first Hadith just how keen the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was to ensure that in the wake of every Friday, our main concern which occupies our thoughts is none other than the Friday sermon. He would also emphasise the importance of bathing oneself before making way to the Friday sermon.

The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) explicitly said,

إِذَا جَاءَ أَحَدُكُمُ الجُمُعَةَ فَلْيَغْتَسِلْ

“If any of you witness Friday, then he should bathe himself.”  [Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Ibnu ‘Umar]

And he would say,

غُسْلُ يَوْمِ الجُمُعَةِ وَاجِبٌ عَلَى كُلِّ مُحْتَلِمٍ

“Bathing one’s self on Friday is an obligation on every person who has reached the age of puberty.”   [Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Abu Sa’eed]

And in another Hadith which is commonly not understood, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,

مَنْ غَسَّلَ يَوْمَ الْجُمُعَةِ وَاغْتَسَلَ، ثُمَّ بَكَّرَ وَابْتَكَرَ، وَمَشَى وَلَمْ يَرْكَبْ، وَدَنَا مِنَ الْإِمَامِ فَاسْتَمَعَ وَلَمْ يَلْغُ كَانَ لَهُ بِكُلِّ خُطْوَةٍ عَمَلُ سَنَةٍ أَجْرُ صِيَامِهَا وَقِيَامِهَا

“Whoever washes on Friday and washes himself, and goes early, arriving early, and walks and does not ride, and sits close to the Imam and listens to him, and does not engage in idle talk; for every step he takes he will have the reward of one year’s worth of fasting and praying.”  [Narrated by Abu Daawood in his ‘Sunan’, on the authority of Aws Ibn Aws]

What is meant by “bathes another and bathes himself”? Some have said that it means that he washes his head and then washes the remaining parts of his body. This is the opinion of the majority of scholars, as the arabs used to use oils and creams for their hair and thus the emphasis of first washing the head was made. Others have said, including Imam Ahmad and Imam Al-Qurtubi, that was is meant by “bathes another” is the bathing of Janaba/major impurity. So it is in reference to a person who engages in matrimonial relations with his spouse and therefore he has become the reason for somebody else’s Ghusl as well, thus the expression “bathes another”.

Those who cite this second opinion say that the wisdom behind this is to ensure maximum clarity of mind in preparation for the Khutbah. Having put one’s desire to rest via the Halal, one becomes far more receptive to what the Khatib is saying and the clouds of distraction are lifted. Ponder at how keen the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was to ensure that the Khutbah has its effects on people.

It does not stop there however. It is common knowledge that the effects of clean clothes on one’s sense of happiness and clarity of mind are profound. Thus the Prophet’s (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) guidance included how we dress on this day. He said,

ما على أحدِكم إن وجد سَعَةً أن يتخذَ ثوبينِ لجُمُعتِهِ سوى ثَوْبَيْ مِهْنَتِهِ

“It would be good if, should you be financially capable, to purchase two garments specifically for the day of Friday, rather than arriving in your work clothes.”   [Narrated by Ibnu Maajah in his ‘Sunan’, on the authority of ‘Aisha]

Similarly, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would prohibit people from separating between two people who are sat next to one another. This once happened in front of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) as he was giving the Khutbah and he said to him, اجلس فقد آذيت “Sit down! You have caused harm.”  [Narrated by Abu Daawood in his ‘Sunan’, on the authority of ‘Abdullahi Ibn Busr]

His aim was to remove every obstacle that may prevent people from benefiting on this day and leaving as reformed people.

Upon arrival to the Masjid, the companions would make a point of ensuring that their hearts were entirely with the speech of the Imam. Az-Zuhri said,

كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ” إِذَا أَخَذَ فِي خُطْبَتِهِ اسْتَقْبَلُوهُ بِوُجُوهِهِمْ حَتَّى يَفْرَغَ مِنْهَا

“Whenever the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would begin his Friday Khutbah, the companions would turn their faces towards him till he ends his Khutbah.”       [Narrated by Al-Bayhaqi in his ‘Sunan Al-Kubra’]

They would neither look left nor right, let alone fidget with a phone or speak with one’s neighbour. In fact, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was so keen for our hearts to be entirely with the Khutbah that he would prohibit the listeners from telling others to be quiet if they were talking. He said,

إذا قلتَ لصاحبِك يومَ الجمُعةِ أَنصِتْ، والإمامُ يَخطُبُ، فقد لَغَوتَ

“If you say to your friend on the day of Jumu’ah ‘be quiet’ whilst the Khatib is speaking, then you have engaged in idle talk.”       [Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Abu Huraira]

And he would say,

من مسَّ الحصَى فقد لغا

“Whoever touches the pebbles (i.e. on Friday whilst the Khateeb is speaking) then he has engaged in idleness.”     [Narrated by Muslim, on the authority of Abu Huraira]

And he would say,

ومن لغا فلا جمعةَ لَهُ

“And whoever engages in idleness, then there is no Jumu’ah for him.” i.e. his Friday prayer will constitute as a Dhuhr prayer and he would have missed out on the reward of the Friday prayer. So the attendee on Friday does not speak to his neighbour, does not initiate salaam, does not draw lines on the carpet, does not fiddle with hair or clothes, does not enjoin what is good or forbid what is evil.

What are all these instructions for? To ensure that we are present both physically and mentally, ascending the ladders of Godliness and worship every single week. The year has 12 months and each month has 4 weeks, which is 48 Friday sermons a year, covering a very wide variety of topics, so wide that some sermon givers complain of not knowing what to speak about, whilst others request ideas from people, since, according to them, they had discussed everything. So, with that in mind, we must ask: What affects have these sermons had in our lives? Bearing in mind the 10/20/30 years’ worth of sermons that you have attended, how are you a different person?

If the answer to these questions is, ‘Not much’, then another question must be asked: ‘Why?’ ‘Why am I still the same person?’ ‘Is it the Khatib’s fault every time? Or is there something in me that needs readjusting?’ With that said, allow me to suggest four practical steps which will help us ensure that we take from the Khutbah just how the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) intended that we take from it. Steps which, if applied, will change our perception towards the Friday sermon altogether.

The first: Ensure that you are fully aware of how this day is to be prepared for

The same way that a footballer does not leap off the bench and into the pitch without prior warming up and stretching, a Muslim must ensure that the necessary preparations are made for the day of Friday beforehand in order to maximise the benefit, having paved the way to receive the guidance which you will hear on this day.

We have alluded to some, including Ghusl, clean clothes, arriving early, not walking over people who are sat down and focusing exclusively on the Khutbah. Others that were not expounded upon include the applying of scents for brothers, the usage of Siwak, the recitation of Surat Al-Kahf, drawing as close as one can to the Imam, sending abundant salutations upon the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) during the day of Friday. All of these matters, if applied, play a significant role in ensuring that one is in the correct frame of mind before exposing his heart to revelation. 

The second: Ensure that you bring your heart with you to the Masjid as well

Although it is wonderful to see the effort that people make to attend the Friday prayer at the expense of study, work or its like, a quick glance at some of us as the Khutbah is being delivered makes it apparent that some of our hearts have been left behind. Some of us are targeted heavily by Shaytan, whereby we only ever find ourselves feeling drowsy during the Friday sermon. Should the gathering be one of gossip or banter however, you would find that energy and vitality reappear.

Thus the scholars have said that drowsiness on the battlefield is a sign of iman. The companions experienced this during the battle of Badr after Allah had sent down tranquility upon them, Allah said:

إِذْ يُغَشِّيكُمُ النُّعَاسَ أَمَنَةً مِنْهُ

“Remember when He overwhelmed you with drowsiness giving security from Him”   [Al-Qur’an, Surah 88, Ayah 11]

They say: On the contrary, drowsiness during Salaah is a sign of hypocrisy.

If the heart is absent, then this Khutbah will be of no benefit even if it was to be repeated to him every day of the week, for Allah said,

إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَذِكْرَى لِمَنْ كَانَ لَهُ قَلْبٌ أَوْ أَلْقَى السَّمْعَ وَهُوَ شَهِيدٌ

“Most surely there is a reminder in this for he who has a heart or who listens while he is present in mind.” [Al-Qur’an, Surah 50, Ayah 37]

Do not allow your heart to wonder off and should it do so, chase after it and bring it back to the Masjid. The moment you walk into the Masjid and shelve your shoes, shelve with them every other worry of yours. Shelve your business concerns, family worries, exam stress, the thought of which snack you’ll choose this afternoon, or your next Facebook status. Empty out your heart from everything to create uninterrupted space for the Khutbah and do not be like those whom Allah condemned by saying:

وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَسْتَمِعُ إِلَيْكَ حَتَّى إِذَا خَرَجُوا مِنْ عِنْدِكَ قَالُوا لِلَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ مَاذَا قَالَ آنِفًا

“And among them, are those who listen to you, until when they depart from you, they say to those who were given knowledge, “What has he said just now?””   [Al-Qur’an, Surah 47, Ayah 16]

This is an example of a people who sat in gatherings of remembrance physically but their hearts were absent, thus the Ayah was concluded with:

أُولَئِكَ الَّذِينَ طَبَعَ اللَّهُ عَلَى قُلُوبِهِمْ وَاتَّبَعُوا أَهْوَاءَهُمْ

‘Those are the ones of whom Allah has sealed their hearts and who have followed their desires.’

The third: Ensure that your intention on this day is to genuinly apply the knowledge which you shall aquire, as opposed to merely amassing it

You may discuss a particular Deen-related matter with an individual and s/he is aware of its ins and outs and brings to the table information that you did not know. But one’s heart is broken after realising just how far away such a person is from this knowledge when it comes to their application of it.

Imam Ibnul Qayyim said, لَو نفع الْعلم بِلَا عمل لما ذمّ الله سُبْحَانَهُ أَحْبَار أهل الْكتاب

“If knowledge without application was beneficial, Allah would not have criticised the scholars of the people of the book.”   [ Al-Fawaa’id]

They possessed knowledge, but the lack of application is what brought upon them Allah’s blame. In fact, the two harshest analogies given in the Qur’an are both pertaining to those who learn and memorize but do not apply. In one Ayah, they were compared to donkeys. [Al-Qur’an, Surah 62, Ayah 5]

Whilst the donkey possesses a tremendous ability to carry heavy loads on its back – and thus the Arabs nicknamed him Abu Saabir”/Father of patience – but he is known to be أبلد الحيوانات/ “the dopiest of animals”, as Imam Ibnul Qayyim said.

The second analogy was to that of a dog, whether you chase him or leave him alone, he continues dangling his tongue and pants away.   [Al-Qur’an, Surah 7, Ayah 176]

These are, according to the Qur’an, the analogies of those who learn but do not apply.

“The Khatib mentioned this statistic/this Hadith/this observation..”

It is great that you recall it, but what about its application? Bearing in mind that one of the questions which each and every one of us will be asked in the court of Allah pertains to what we did with our knowledge, this milestone is an immediate must.

The fourth: Feel that you are the one who is being addressed

As Ibnu Mas’ud said,

 إِذَا سَمِعْتَ اللَّهَ تَعَالَى , يَقُولُ : يَأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا ، فَأَرْعِهَا سَمْعَكَ , فَإِنَّهُ خَيْرٌ يَأْمُرُ بِهِ ، أَوْ شَرٌّ يَنْهَى عَنْهُ

“If you hear Allah saying, ‘O you who believe’, then lend it an attentive ear, for it is good which you shall be commanded with or evil which you shall be forbidden from.”    [Tafseer Ibn Kathir]

Anas Ibn Malik said,

 خَطبَ رسولُ الله صلى الله عليه وسلم خُطْبة ما سمعتُ مثلَها قَطٌّ ، فقال : «لو تعلمون ما أعلمُ لضَحِكتم قليلاً ، ولبَكَيْتمْ كثيراً» ، قال : فَغَطَّى أصحابُ رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وجوههم ، ولهم خنين

“The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) once delivered a sermon which, in my life, I’d never heard anything like it before. He said, ‘If you knew what I know, you would have laughed a little and cried a lot’. Thus the companions covered their faces and cried.”   [Bukhari]

These reminders shook the companions, their hearts broke, their eyes shed tears, having truly felt that they were individually being spoken to and not their neighbours. One of the greatest signs of a heart that is still asleep is when we hear or read a reminder and immediately think, “He is referring to so and so” or “if only so and so were here listening to this, he needs this” This is not a sign of a healthy heart.

There was a man called Dimad who came into Makkah and was yet to embrace Islam. He heard ignorant people accusing the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) of being a madman. So he approached the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and said to him,

يَا مُحَمَّدُ إِنِّي أَرْقِي ، وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ يَشْفِى عَلَى يَدِي مَنْ شَاءَ ، فَهَلْ لَكَ

‘O Muhammad, I treat people and God cures people through me. Would you like me to treat you?’ The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) responded to him by saying words that you and I hear a lot. He said,

إِنَّ الْحَمْدَ لِلَّهِ نَحْمَدُهُ وَنَسْتَعِينُهُ، مَنْ يَهْدِهِ اللَّهُ فَلاَ مُضِلَّ لَهُ وَمَنْ يُضْلِلْ فَلاَ هَادِىَ لَهُ وَأَشْهَدُ أَنْ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ لاَ شَرِيكَ لَهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا عَبْدُهُ وَرَسُولُهُ

‘All praise is due to Allah, we praise Him and we seek His assistance. Whoever Allah guides, none can misguide and whoever He misguides, then none can guide and I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and messenger.’

Dimad said, أَعِدْ عَلَىَّ كَلِمَاتِكَ هَؤُلاَءِ ‘Repeat those words again.’ And so he did three times, to which Dimad said,

لقَدْ سَمِعْتُ قَوْلَ الْكَهَنَةِ وَقَوْلَ السَّحَرَةِ وَقَوْلَ الشُّعَرَاءِ فَمَا سَمِعْتُ مِثْلَ كَلِمَاتِكَ هَؤُلاَءِ ، ثمّ قَالَ : هَاتِ يَدَكَ أُبَايِعْكَ عَلَى الإِسْلاَمِ

‘I have heard the words of the soothsayers and the magicians and the poets but I have never heard anything like this before. Give me your hand so that I can pledge allegiance to you.’ The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said to him, ‘On behalf of your community as well?’ He said, ‘On behalf of my community as well!’     [Narrated by Muslim, on the authority of Ibnu ‘Abbaas]

It was just a few words which turned around the life of Dimad and rescued him and an entire community from the fire. Look at the effects of revelation when one opens his heart to it, having removed every obstacle and satanic influence, and felt that Allah was speaking to him.  

Similarly, when the verses pertaining to the prohibition of alcohol were revealed, the then-alcoholic community of companions poured out their barrels of alcohol into the streets and that was it. They had no need for hospital treatment or rehabillitation programmes.

Similarly, when the verses pertaining to Hijab were finally revealed, our mother Umm Salamah said,

خَرَجَ نِسَاءُ الْأَنْصَارِ كَأَنَّ عَلَى رُءُوسِهِنَّ الْغِرْبَانَ مِنَ الأَكْسِيَةِ

“The women of the Ansar came out looking as if there were crows on their heads, because of their clothing.”  [Narrated by Abu Daawood in his ‘Sunan’]

It was not sermon after sermon and article after article and seminar after seminar which affected them, it was the one Ayah because they felt that Allah was speaking to them. We may hear an entire Khutbah on the topic of Salah, yet the size of the congregation at ‘Isha Salah is exactly the same. We may hear an entire Khutbah about the impermisibility of backstabbing, or the boycotting of another Muslim, or of a particular financial dealing, or about the Islamic dress code as was understood by the companions, or about audio/visual material which displeases Allah, or about the abuse or neglect of one’s wife and children, and yet a person leaves the Masjid as if he had not heard anything because he does not feel that he is being spoken to.

Let the next Khutbah you attend be your key which gives you the access to the Friday sermons to come as was intended by the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam). Allow the Friday sermons to play the role in your life which Allah intended when He offered us this weekly privilige. Approach the Khutbah with a mentality which says,

‘I want to fix myself every week. I want Allah to be pleased with me and this Friday I am going to find out how to do that.’

With that mentality, the treasures of the Friday sermon will unlock themselves to you and after that, only Allah knows of the happiness that He will shower you with in this world and in the world to come.

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