As the Muslim prayer is under attack again, with Noida police banning religious congregations at parks in Sector 58, ThePrint brings you a lowdown on namaz and its importance.
New Delhi: The Muslim prayer, namaz, is under scrutiny once again after the Noida police caused a furore by issuing an order that directed multinational companies in the city’s Sector-58 region to ensure that their Muslim employees do not offer Friday prayers in a community park.
The notice also warns the companies that they will be held liable for any violation by their employees. This follows an earlier row, in May this year, when Hindutva groups in Haryana’s Gurgaon stopped Muslims from offering Friday prayers in several open spaces.
What is the namaz?
Salaah or namaz is an obligatory prayer performed by a practising Muslim five times a day. The namaz is performed early in the morning, afternoon, evening, near sunset and late evening. Each namaz lasts for between five to 10 minutes, and so cumulatively the prayers take up around 30 minutes in a day.
Muslims face towards the city of Mecca and specifically to the Ka’abah while offering namaz and this direction is called the qibla.
The namaz is one of the five obligatory pillars of Islam, with the other four being faith in the oneness of God, performing charity, fasting in the Islamic month of Ramzan and undertaking a pilgrimage to Haj (Mecca) once in a lifetime.
“Through namaz, a Muslim is standing before the sight of Allah and in attendance, submitting to Allah’s will,” noted historian Rana Safvi told ThePrint. “Islam is all about submission to Allah’s will and namaz is a way when a Muslim considers herself closest to the lord.”
According to the Quran, namaz can be performed at any clean place except bathrooms and graves. The primary purpose of the mosque is to serve as a place where Muslims can come together for prayer, as praying together holds great importance in Islam.
Women can’t offer namaz in a Mosque is a myth, Islam allows both men and women to offer namaz at the same place. However, the condition is that women should pray in separate safs or lines formed during praying.
“The biggest example of women praying in a mosque is when they go for Haj which is one of our five pillars. Men and Women pray in Masjid Nabuwi, the mosque of Prophet Mohammad,” said Mohammad Irfan, a Delhi-based Maulvi. “There is no segregation between them in Masjid Nabuwi while in other masjids across the world, women pray in separate enclosures.”
Why are Friday congregational prayers important?
Besides the fact that the Quran specifically mentions about the namaz in a “congregational form”, the Friday namaz in the afternoon is a part of the Sunnah or the way of Prophet Mohammad’s life. It is the longest namaz, which alone takes around 30 minutes.
Friday is considered an auspicious day of the week and even those Muslims who are otherwise not regular with namaz try to attend prayers in mosques or participate in any open congregation.
Religious scholars say that “congregation” became an important part of Muslim prayers because in medieval times a lot of emphasis was laid on brotherhood.
“This was a religion that stood against slavery and racism. The core message of Islam is universal brotherhood,” Safvi said. “By standing in a congregation, the differences of status, class and rank disappear. Congregational prayers are a way of strengthening the brotherhood.”
“Ek hi saf mein khare ho gaye Mahmood-o-Ayaz, no koi banda raha aur na koi banda nawaz (Mahmood the king and slave Ayaz, in a line, as equals, stood arrayed, The lord was no more lord to slave while both prayed to the one master),” Safvi refers to Pakistani poet and scholar Allama Iqbal’s poem Shikwa to buttress her point.
The congregational prayer
Congregational prayers are also held on the two Eid festivals during the year. And it is not just these two occasions when Muslims are seen hugging each other. Safvi said after every Friday prayer, Muslims greet each other “Jummah Mubarak”.
In a digital age when people are socially becoming isolated, some Muslims say coming together through namaz gives them a chance to check on each other’s well-being.
Abdul Rashid, who performs the namaz regularly, said the congregations help in building strong social bonds.
“If we notice someone is absent from the mosque, we check with him whether he is fine the next day,” said Rashid, a businessman in Delhi. “Coming together is a way to help the society you are living in. Friday sermons are also about discussing the social problems.”
The Supreme Court observation made in the 1994 Ismail Faruqui case that a mosque is not an essential part of Islam and that namaz can be offered anywhere, even in open areas, leave another question mark on where Muslims should pray.
Safvi argues that the solution to the worries of those stopping namaz outdoors is to “build enough mosques”.
“Most of the historical mosques are under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) so one cannot pray there. Those praying in open areas are mainly workers or labourers,” she said. “If praying outside a problem, the solution is to build enough mosques for Muslims to pray.”
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