The most important day of God’s week in Islam and Judaism

Al-Jumuah is the most important day of the week for Muslims; just as Shabbat is the most important day of the week for Jews.

The importance of jummah for Muslims comes from the Qur’an, chapter 62. Surah Jummah takes its title from the instruction to (Muslim) believers to observe Friday prayer promptly when called: “Believers! When the call to prayer is made on the day of congregation (jumu’ah), hurry towards the reminder of God and leave off your trading – that is better for you, if you only new – then when the prayer has ended, disperse in the land and seek our God’s bounty. Remember God often so that you may prosper.” (62:9-11)

The importance of Shabbat for Jews comes from the Ten Commandments in the Torah. The 10 Commandments are listed twice in the Torah, first in Exodus and again in Deuteronomy. In the Exodus version, we are told to keep Shabbat “for [in] six days the Lord made the heaven and the earth,” In Deuteronomy, we are told to commemorate that “you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God took you out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm.”

Thus pausing to appreciate God’s creation; plus freeing oneself from the often self induced pressures of rat race stress; are the two basic outcomes of Shabbat observance.

Plus “It (Shabbat) is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased (paused) from activities, and was refreshed.” (Exodus 31:17) “A sign between Me (God) and the children of Israel forever” means that you can divorce yourself from God; but God will never divorce you from Himself.

The Biblical Book of Nehemiah states: “And if the (Jewish or non-Jewish) peoples of the land bring in goods or any grain on the Sabbath day to sell, (say) we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day.” (Nehemiah 10:31) And the Qur’an states: “When the call to prayer is made on the day of congregation (jumu’ah), hurry towards the reminder of God; and leave off your trading”

The Torah also states specifically: “You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath.” (Exodus 35:3) Kindling a fire was the first God-like thing that pre-human species were able to do. God does not stop His wonderful acts of creation on Shabbat, because God is tired.

Rather God paused creative activities in order to set an example for mankind to fully appreciate and enjoy the miracles of creation. So Shabbat stops human activities that lead to stress, in order to help us find joy, awe, beauty and contentment in our own lives.

Shabbat is a necessity, not just an obligation. Just as humans need air, light, water, and food in order to survive, we need Shabbat to live spiritually. It is also a day of worship when Jews recognize that God is Lord. “It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.” (Psalm 100:3)

The Midrash (creative commentary) Seder Eliyahu Rabbah says: A man who labors for six days and pauses on the Sabbath finds it possible to come closer to his children and the other members of his household. He also forgets all the vexation (stress) he has previously suffered.

This is why Prophet Isaiah states: “If you hold back your foot on Shabbat from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call Shabbat a delight, the Lord’s holy day, worth honoring; then honor it by not doing your usual things or pursuing your interests or speaking about them. If you do, you will find delight in the Lord. I will make you ride on the heights of the land and feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob.” (Isaiah 58:13)

The rabbis say that one way to make Shabbat pleasurable is by enjoying good food and drink. Also, many rabbis have the practice of taking a nap on Shabbat afternoon. Similarly, there are two narrations in Sahih Bukhari, reported by Anas, who says they would nap after the jummah prayers. A similar narration is found in Sunan Abu Dawud from Sahl bin Sa’d.

Even some of the details of honoring Jumuah and Shabbat are the same. Prophet Muhammad said in Sahih Bukhari: Anyone of you attending the Friday (prayers) should take a bath.” And the well known Jewish Philosopher Rabbi Moses Maimonides’ code of law states: “Take a hot bath on Friday and dress in festive clothes.”

It’s an essential practice for both Islam and Judaism to regularly donate charity and especially to give money to the needy, and giving charity on the day of jummah for Muslims is greater than on any other day! Shabbat rules prohibit Jews not only from selling or buying on Shabbat but even handling money. But for educational purposes many Jews encourage their children to put coins in a charity box prior to kindling the Shabbat lights.

Prophet Muhammad said: “No Muslim dies on the day of Friday, nor the night of Friday, except that Allah protects him from the trials of the grave.” (Tirmidhi) The Talmud also states “It is a good sign for one who passes away on the Friday eve of Shabbat.” (Ketubot 103b) and the great Jewish mystic Rabbi Isaac Luria said that one who passes away on Friday is spared from pains of the body’s decomposition, because the holiness of Shabbat cleanses the soul, without it having to experience the pains of the body’s decomposition.

Taking a break from work, school and other worldly activities to attend the Friday sermon is the best way for Muslims to mark jumuah prayers. It’s not enough to just attend. Those who talk while the Imam delivers his sermon are condemned. Ibn ‘Abbas said Prophet Muhammad stated:”If anyone speaks on Friday while the imam is preaching, he is like an ass (donkey) carrying books.” (Mishkat al-Masabih); and Rabbi Bahya Ibn Pakuda said “A pretentious ignoramus is like a donkey carrying books.”

The image of a donkey carrying books is given here because a pretentious ignoramus carries knowledge without benefiting from it, for merely being at the mosque for the sermon yet talking through it, leads to no benefit at all.

The Messenger said: “If anyone performs ablution, doing it well, then comes to Friday prayer, listens and keeps silence, his sins between that time and the next Friday will be forgiven.” (Sunan Abi Dawud) and Rabbi Hisda said; one who prays each Shabbat eve; his two ministering angels say to him, “your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is purged.” (Isaiah 6:7)

If Muslim men are healthy and able to, and if it’s safe to, they should attend jummah every week. Not attending three jummah’s in a row due to laziness results in hardness of the heart. In this regard, Prophet Muhammad has said: “He who omits Friday prayer (continuously) for three Fridays on account of slackness, Allah will print a stamp on his heart.” (Sunan Abi Dawud)

Jews sing traditional songs on every Shabbat such as Shalom Aleichem which means Salaam Alaykum in Arabic.

The biggest difference between Al-Jumuah and Shabbat concerns fasting. For Muslims fasting is recommended on any day of the year (except Eid al-Fitr). The companion Abdullah ibn Masud says: I rarely saw the Messenger of Allah not fasting on a Friday.” (Sunan ibn Majah) But fasting is prohibited for Jews on Shabbat. Indeed the Jewish lunar Calendar is adjusted to make sure that the fast day of Yom Kipper does not fall on Shabbat.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 450 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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