Aspects of Islamic Faith — 57: Late Arrivals For Friday
Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals
& Information - By Adil Salahi
Jabir ibn Abdullah, a companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him), reports:
“A man came into the mosque when the Prophet was giving his sermon before Friday
prayer. He said to him: ‘Have you prayed?’ The man said: ‘No’. The Prophet said:
‘Stand up and offer your voluntary prayer.’” (Related by Al-Bukhari).
This Hadith explains what we should do if we arrive in the mosque, on Friday,
when the imam has already started his sermon. What is normally required when the
imam delivers his speech is for all the people in the mosque to listen
attentively to the sermon, trying to make the maximum benefit of it. Anyone
arriving late should sit wherever he finds space at the end of the congregation.
He must not walk through them, causing them to lean sideways to allow him
The question is whether the one arriving late, with the sermon in progress,
should sit and listen, or should start by offering a prayer of two short rak’ahs
in greeting to the mosque. Normally, we offer this short prayer at any time we
come into the mosque. With the imam delivering his sermon, a special situation
arises. Hence the question whether late arrivals should sit down and listen or
offer the mosque greeting first.
The Hadith tells us that the man, Sulayk Al-Ghatafani, sat down, but the Prophet
spoke to him and told him to rise and offer this short voluntary prayer.
Nevertheless, scholars differ as to which alternative is the right one. The
Maliki school of thought argues that this was a special case and its import
should not be applied in all cases. Maliki scholars look at other reports of the
incident and say that when Sulayk arrived, the Prophet saw him wearing clothes
that indicated his extreme poverty. Hence, the Prophet wanted him to be seen so
that some generous people would help him. Actually this happened.
Other schools of thought, particularly the Shafie and Hanbali schools, argue
that although helping the man might have been intended by the Prophet, there is
no indication that the case was a special one, applying particularly to Sulayk.
They say that the Prophet did not specify that offering the greeting to the
mosque was not allowed after the imam had started his speech. What is not
allowed is to get up and pray it after one has sat down listening to the speech.
Since the greeting prayer is recommended, not compulsory, a late comer has the
option of either sitting down on arrival to listen to the sermon, or to start by
offering two short rak’ahs before sitting down.
Either alternative is good, because we are in worship from the moment we enter
the mosque. If one sits down to listen, then one must not get up again to pray
before the end of the sermon and the congregational Friday prayer is completed.
We note that the Prophet mentioned to a few of his companions what he intended
when he ordered Sulayk to rise and pray. This tells us how sensitive the Prophet
was on this issue.
He did not want to ask people directly to help Sulayk, because such an order
might be embarrassing to the man. He left it to people to realize the poor
condition of their brother and to take action as they felt fit.