Dear respected sir, I request your opinion on the following as you are a scholar of Islamic teachings. Last Friday I went to offer Friday Prayers in another Mosque in my town. Normally I go to the Mosque in my locality. There the Imam, during the sermon, said that a person who doesn't attend three consecutive Friday sermons is no longer regarded as Muslim. I am greatly disturbed to hear this. During my visit to Karachi last year I did not go for Friday Prayers for the fear of suicide bombers. Please let me know how I stand as a Muslim. I will greatly appreciate your reply. With deepest regards. Syed Hasan TEXAS-USA Texas, USA
In the Islamic Shari'ah, offering the Friday Prayer in congregation is an obligation. Everyone is obliged to attend the congregation. We know that the five daily Prayers can be offered individually and we also know that Friday Prayer is a replacement of the Zuhr Prayer. This means that basically it is sufficient if we offer all the obligatory Prayers individually if we cannot offer them in the congregations in the mosques. However, Friday Prayer has some additional value and corresponding degree of added stress. This additional value is obtained by the fact that it has political ramifications. In the Islamic State the believers have to show loyalty to the rulers and help them in their duties. Originally the Friday Prayers were led by the rulers. If a commoner among the believers dared to lead the people in the Prayer without permission by the rulers and their deputies it amounted to mutiny. In that case it marked one's expression of being loyal to the state and subservient to the rulers to attend the Friday Congregations in which the rulers could discuss political matters, seek the advice and help of the public and issue some policy statements. The first sermon was reserved for this purpose.
In such a situation setting up a separate congregation was considered rebellion and failing to attend the congregation meant that the believer no longer openly stood with the community. This is why such a failure could mean your departure from the community of the believers who were organized in a political set up to which they all adhered to and followed. It needs to be appreciated that failing to attend the congregation led by the rulers was a sign of one's departure from the political body of the believers. It did not mean loss of faith. This means that if one failed to offer the Prayer in the congregation he could be declared to have left the community. It was a political decision and not a religious verdict affecting one's faith.
Now when the rulers are no longer fulfilling their religious duty and it is only the religious scholars who consider a duty to keep the practice alive no matter in a distorted way, we cannot declare that attending the Friday congregation is the obligation of the same status. If someone cannot attend the congregation he cannot be declared non-Muslim not to say of non-believer. This is because the necessary elements of the Friday congregations are no more there in the practice.
I hope this helps.
Tariq Mahmood Hashmi