It is Friday, and for Muslims the day to come together in collective prayer. Muslims often talk about “Jum’a” [Friday], and congregational prayer, but how often do we ponder what is meant by the congregation?
Prayers in Islam are always a means of bringing together the interior and the community. Muslims often illustrate this through stories. Here is a much-cherished one.
A man came to see the Prophet Muhammad, and prayed next to him. When he came to talk with the Prophet, the Prophet said to him: “You did not pray. Go back and do your prayers.” The man said: “I just prayed.” The Prophet said: “Get up and go pray again.” Three times the man prayed, and three times the Prophet told him to return to prayer. “Your heart was not in it, go back and do it again.” Finally, the Prophet said: “There is no prayer without presence of the heart.”
All too often we focus on the prayers from a perspective of congregation, of standing shoulder to shoulder, and oh how we love the toe-to-toe. [if you have not seen it, you might enjoy this humorous video of some of the distractions in prayer. ] Yes, there is a lovely symbolism of unity in prayer. But how rarely do we pause to reflect on the need to have our own inner jum’a, our own congregation of the soul, where everything that we are comes together.
How lovely would it be to stand, just once, and have our heart and soul, body and spirit, attention and intellect, all coming together in our own congregation.
We have seen the lovely congregational mosques, the great “Jami’” mosques of Esfahan, Delhi, Fatehpur Sikri, Cairo, Istanbul, Fez, Lahore, and elsewhere.
And how lovely would it be to have each person standing in prayer be a Jami’, bringing together all the Divine qualities.
May it be that each of us is a mirror for divine qualities, a mirror for God’s beautiful quality of al-Jami’ (the one who unites, the One who brings together).
That would make the Friday, and every day, a blessed gathering, a blessed Jam’, a blessed Jum’a.
Jum’a Mubarak, indeed. Blessed Friday.
Thank Allah it's Friday.