The year 2018 marks the onset of Friday-Namaz disruptions triggered by the right-wing groups, irked allegedly by fear of public land encroachment or possibly by large gatherings or mere abhorrence. What began in April this year, interruption of the Friday-assemblies has become a new tool in the armoury of the right-wing groups to harass Muslims and keep them in check.
Coming close on the heels of the Gurugram Namaz disruption occurrences, the Noida local Police authorities, acting allegedly upon the objections flagged by the local residents of nearby villages such as Bishanpura, issued an advisory to 23 private firms to hold them liable, if their employees were found offering prayers in open public spaces. Stung by criticism, hours later, the district administration and the Senior Superintendent of Police appeared to allay the public outcry and claimed that the notice was not religion-specific as was made out and cited the 2009 Supreme Court verdict which prohibits the religious activities taking place without the requisite permission of the local authorities.
Authorities, however, often don’t quote any ruling when they act slowly on those right-wingers who take the law in their hands to create troubles. How the Gurugram police responded in the face of numerous Friday gathering disruptions when the law machinery was completely hijacked by miscreants who ruled open spaces, obstructing prayers, for around one and half month during the month of April and May of this year, is an open secret. One could argue that the local Police were prompt to detain six youths from Wazirabad and Kanhai villages in Gurugram. But one should not turn a blind eye to how quickly they were granted bail by the City Court and how, sadly, they enjoyed the much-needed backing of the Hindutva outfits who did not shy away in throwing their weight behind them.
Friday congregation is an integral part of Islam as the day is considered the Eid of the week and is venerated beyond measures, with special gatherings and particular rituals. Another Tradition describes it the birth date of Adam as well as the Day of Judgment.
Amidst growing intolerance in India, Muslims, who are working or living in areas which are dominated by non-Muslims, should assemble for prayers only with the requisite go-ahead of the local authorities under the police vigil. As a corollary, if they are not armed with the written permission, they should not congregate in open spaces. With formal authorization, one space could be used twice for prayers and conventional sermons as the Friday prayer time starts with 12:30 hours onwards and ends around 15:00 hours. The prayer and sermon can be wrapped up in around 20 to 40 minutes depending upon the time one takes in delivering the weekly speech. The speech forms a key part of Friday assembly as it is employed to keep Muslims updated about the latest developments and the Islamic viewpoint about those happenings.
In addition, Friday assembly can be organized by the staff of one business firm and nearby Muslim staff members of another company could be invited to take part in prayers if both companies mutually agreed upon it. This could save a lot of time of the employees and augment their productivity.
Muslim scholars, though, differ in the opinion of the minimum number required for the Friday gathering, the correct scholarly view argues that it should be minimum three, as three is plural in Arabic, unlike English wherein more than one is plural. This view, put forward by Ibn-Taimiyah (1263-1328 CE)[i] and some scholars of Hanabli Jurisprudence, is endorsed by the Quranic verse 62:9. The verse stipulates the following:
O you who have believed, when [the adhan] is called for the prayer on the day of Jumu’ah [Friday], then proceed to the remembrance of Allah and leave the trade. That is better for you, if you only knew.
Another significant view, in this regard, is advanced by Abu-Haneefa(699-767 CE)[ii] that suggests that four people (three people in attendance with one leading the prayer) are enough to organise Friday assemblage. This position is important as the majority of Indian Muslims follow the Hanafi-Jurisprudence.
This brings one point home. The four Muslim staff members of any firm can organize the Friday gathering provided they are familiar with the basic procedure which is not too abstruse to be learned. On the other hand, one could opt for Fridays-off if he is employed with a firm that works on targets or has intense work pressure or rotational shifts. This sort of a company will not mind trading with a Sunday-off with the Friday-off.
These are some of the solutions which could be experimented. In the meantime, one should note that there is invariably no harm in taking liberal elements of other communities on board if communal harmony seems to be at stake or a communal flare-up is imminent. Each community has cooperative elements whose genial potential can be tapped to rein in anti-social thugs.
In addition, Muslims should exhibit an exemplary behavior in their day-to-day affairs, in their daily interactions with their fellow countrymen, in their trade and in their service to humanity. An effervescent, vivacious and compassionate Muslim is far better than an introvert and callous Muslim.
[i] Al-Ikhtiyaratul Fiqhiyyah Page No, 439
[ii] Islamweb.net, fatwa No 3476