Let’s face it. Because it is required for men to attend Friday prayers, more often than not, it’s more of fulfilling a duty. They either come in early or leave later on Friday working days. It’s called making it work and handling your business. Parents need to teach their boys that concept as well. No other ritual prayer is emphasized as much as Jumu’ah. And because ritual prayer forms an integral part of our Muslim identity, it is important for parents to inculcate their sons with the importance of Jumu’ah.
From the Qur’an we find the verse, “Oh you who believe, when the call to prayer for Jumu’ah is made, then proceed to the remembrance of God and leave trade. That is better for you if you knew. And when the prayer has concluded, then go forth and disperse in the land and seek the bounties of God and remember God frequently so that you might succeed,” Surah Al-Jumu’ah. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “The difference between us and them [non-believers] is prayer. Thus, whoever leaves it [prayer] has disbelieved,” Musnad Imam Ahmad. Since Jumu’ah is part and parcel of ritual prayer, its neglect is wrongful. While there is great debate among scholars if the neglect of prayer constitutes major or minor disbelief, the stronger opinion is that it is minor disbelief. In other words, one is not a non-believer or taken out of the fold of Islam, but the sin of minor disbelief due to the constant neglect of prayer is a great sin, albeit the person is still within the fold of Islam. The sin of the neglect of Jumu’ah is evinced in the hadith, “Whoever [referring to men] leaves the Friday prayer three times out of neglect, Allah will place a seal on their hearts,” Sunan Al-Tirmidhi. These verses and authentic narrations show us that attending Jumu’ah is directly related to one’s identity and spiritual formation. Many parents are keen to have their daughters wear the headscarf. The headscarf is obligatory. However, the neglect of proper attire comes no where close in magnitude to the neglect of one’s prayer.
While it can be argued that not all middle school aged boys have hit puberty, it’s safe to say that the overwhelming majority of them are considered adults according to Islamic law by the time they are in high school. And it can be argued that since many middle school students don’t get to pick their classes and electives with greater freedom as much as some high school men enjoy, it is without a doubt that the onus is on high school men to arrange their periods to allow for Jumu’ah prayer. Let’s take a quick survey of the academic school year. High schoolers can attend Jumuah during these times:
2-3 Jumuahs during Christmas/Winter Break
1 Jumuah during Spring Break
8 during Summer
1 Jumuah for Thanksgiving
For 2016, there are exactly 53 Fridays. In other words, depending on your school, a male student could be missing out on 40 Jumu’ahs. Over 4 years, a male high school student could be missing up to 160 Jumu’ahs! I want all parents to think about this number. If this number isn’t alarming, then I don’t know what else is going to alarm you.
Therefore, what are some steps you as a parent should take:
- Inculcate the importance of Jumu’ah starting from a young age. That the father attends Jumu’ah on time and takes the boys is the first step.
- Be sure to pick a community where you have relevant sermons being given. Because many of our masajid have uninspiring speeches, our youth are automatically tuning out the sermon. That way, when they grow up, even if they can’t attend, they will appreciate Jumu’ah.
- If possible, have your boys talk to the school counselor to arrange classes on Friday to free up a period for Jumu’ah.
- If possible, create a carpool list where older boys who can drive to Jumu’ah take the other boys.
- Find out if the high school has a Muslim Student Association chapter or group. This is the best method. High schools with MSAs tend to offer Jumu’ah. As a suggestion, if you have two high schools in your area of equal academic standards, go with the one that has an MSA that offers Jumu’ah.
- Research your local school district rules on “exemptions” on religious grounds. Find out if a letter from your local masjid is needed.
- Be ready to undertake the responsibility of taking them with you to Jumu’ah if need be.
- Teach them the rules of Jumu’ah – Showering on Fridays, not talking/texting during the speech, and dressing appropriately etc.
- Set up workshops on how to perform a basic Friday sermon in cases where their MSAs need students to volunteer.
- Make it clear to them that even if they can’t attend Jumu’ah due to logistical or administrative reasons (no close Masjid or MSA sponsored Jumuah, or school periods can’t be moved etc.), they still need to know that Jumu’ah is important and pray Dhuhr prayer instead. At the end of day Allah will ask you as parents and your boys if you all did enough homework and research to say that you had a legitimate excuse to miss Jumu’ah. If you’ve done your research and exhausted your means, then you can say that you tried.
- An active lifestyle of learning Islam within your household.