9. O you who believe! When call to the prayer on Friday is sounded, hasten to activities for remembrance of Allah and leave the worldly business. That is good for you, if you but knew it!
10. Then as the prayer is ended, spread out on the earth to seek Allah’s favours. And remember Allah much, so that you achieve success.
These two Verses from the Qur’aanic Chapter 62 require the believers to disengage themselves from all normal business activities to turn to remembrance of their One Creator & Nourisher. This mandatory abstinence from even lawful business activities is just for about an hour till the completion of the Friday Prayer, and is to be universally observed in the entire area the Azaan is heard. That too only on one day in a week! Allah Almighty has indeed been very kind to the Muslims in this regard; the Jews had to abstain for a whole day in a week from business activities.
There however are some doubts on whether the modern-day Muslims are observing this divine edict correctly. One doubt relates to the practice of proclaiming the Azaan twice for the Friday Prayer. Which of these two Azaans should be the starting point for the said one-hour-or-so abstinence period? The 2nd Azaan was an addition made during the time of the Caliphs; it was not there during the Prophet’s time, i.e., during the time of revelation of the Qur’aan. On this account itself, the computation of the abstinence period ought to start from the time the 1st Azaan is proclaimed. Besides, if the 2nd Azaan is to be taken as the starting point, the period of abstinence would be too insignificantly small to deserve the special mention in the Qur’aan. Muslims, who say their prayers regularly, do observe the abstinence everyday during their noon prayers.
It is clear, from the Verses quoted above, that the divine edict of abstinence is to be universally observed by all Muslims, including those who are not in a position to attend the Masajid. The latter, including women, do not generally observe the edict and are seen engaged in mundane activities during the prescribed period of abstinence. Such persons become guilty of disobeying the divine edict. They too should shun their other activities and involve themselves in prayers and other acts of remembering Allah, even outside Masajid, during the prescribed period.
Another doubt arising in this context is whether the said Qur’aanic edict is applicable only to the noon prayer on Friday or also to the other prescribed prayers on that day. Going by the prevalent universal practice, it is applied only to the noon prayer, but, apparently, Verse 62:9 is applicable to all Azaans given on Friday! However, the Arabic term yawmil-jumuati literally means ‘time of congregation’. Congregation, referred to here, is obviously not that for the normal daily prayers, but a larger one for the weekly prayer. And the time universally and incontrovertibly fixed for the weekly prayer is that for the noon prayer on Friday. So there appears to be nothing wrong in the prevalent universal practice in this regard. But, to err on the safer side, let Muslims – at least those who can afford to – observe the abstinence edict during the times of the other prayers also, on Friday.