What are the chances of you attending Jumu’ah and hearing the Imam recite Sûrahs Al-A’lâ (sûrah 87) and Al-Ghashiyah (sûrah 88)?
From the Sunnah practice of our Prophet (ﷺ) is that he would frequently recite these two surahs within the Jumu’ah prayer on Fridays —as well on the Day of ‘Eid:
Al-Nu’man b. Bashir said:
‘The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to recite at the two ‘Eids (festivals) and on Friday, “Glorify the name of your most high Lord.” (Sûrah 87) and “Has the story of the overwhelming reached you?” (Sûrah 88) He also said: When a festival (‘Eid) and a Friday coincided [on the same day], he recited these two (at both Prayers).’ (Sunan Abu Dawud, 1122)
So, even when the Day of Jumu’ah happened to coincide with the Day of ‘Eid, the Prophet (ﷺ) would still recite these two sûrahs in both prayers. Furthermore, when the Prophet (ﷺ) would offer the Istisqa Prayer (prayer for seeking rain), he would gather his Companions and offer two rak’ats —in which he would recite this combination of surahs.
But why this combination? What is so special about these two surahs of the Qur’an? The Jumu’ah and ‘Eid prayers are the two most attended prayers by the Muslim community. The scholars of Islam have analysed the content of these two sûrahs extensively and concluded that these two surahs have messages of common relevance for every Muslim to take heed from. From both of them is the message of ‘reminding.’ Allah says in Sûrah Al-A’la:
“So remind, if the reminder should benefit; He who fears [Allah] will be reminded.” [Sûrah Al-A’la, 87:9–10]
And in Sûrah Al-Ghashiyah, Allah says,
“So remind; you are only a reminder.” [Sûrah Al-Ghashiyah, 88:21]
Just by the Prophet (ﷺ) reciting these two virtuous sûrahs he would be offering a reminder to his congregation. In essence, this is what the whole objective of Jumu’ah is: for us to be reminded of Allah, especially through the Jumu’ah Khutbah. We become busy within our daily lives— our jobs, our children, our family, etc. Each Jumu’ah Khutbah is designed to reconnect ourselves with Allah and to provide us with a charge to our imân, enough to take us through the week till the next Jumu’ah. Do we not feel our imân being boosted sky-high during the month Ramadan? This is what the Jumu’ah Khutbah should do for us on a weekly basis.
The greatest reminder that we can receive is of the pleasure and anger of Allah and this is what Allah discusses in these two surahs. If you are able to receive the pleasure of Allah, you have achieved the greatest success; and if you don’t want to bother, then you will suffer the greatest regret.
In Sûrah Al-A’la, Allah speaks about self-purification, and in Sûrah Al-Ghashiyah, Allah described the delights of paradise to show us that the path to entering paradise is through purifying oneself physically, spiritually and mentally. Allah says,
“He has certainly succeeded who purifies himself —and mentions the name of his Lord and prays.” [Sûrah Al-A’la, 87:14–15]
And then in Sûrah Al-Ghashiyah, Allah says, regarding the outcome for those who purify themselves,
“[Some] faces, that Day, will show pleasure. With their effort satisfied. In an elevated garden, wherein they will hear no unsuitable speech. Within it is a flowing spring.” [Sûrah Al-Ghashiyah, 88:8–12]
As for the one who does not make any effort to purify himself, he will find Allah’s purification of him through His fire; accordingly, Allah provides, in both surahs, detailed descriptions of the severity of this resulting process:
“But the wretched one will avoid it [remembrance] – [he] who will burn in the greatest Fire,” [Sûrah A’la, 87:11–12]
“[Some] faces, that Day, will be humbled, laboring, and exhausted. They will burn in an intensely hot Fire. They will be given drink from a boiling spring. For them there will be no food except from a poisonous, thorny plant.” [Sûrah Al-Ghashiyah, 88:2–6]
Another Sunnah practice of our Prophet (ﷺ) is to recite Sûrah Jumu’ah (Sûrah 62) and Sûrah Munafiqûn (Sûrah 63) within the Friday Jumu’ah Prayer.
Ibn Abi Rafi’ said:
‘Abu Hurairah led us in the Friday Prayer and recited Sûrah al-Jumu’ah [i.e., Surah 62] and “When the hypocrites come to you…” (i.e., Surah Al-Munâfiqûn, Sûrah 63] in the last rak’ah. He said: I met Abu Hurairah when he had finished the Prayer and said to him: You recited the two Sûrahs that ‘Ali used to recite at Kufah. Abu Hurairah said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) reciting them on Fridays. (Sunan Abu Dawud, 1124)
This second pair is a Sunnah that isn’t as well-known —or at least not so frequently practiced amongst the Muslims as is the first Sunnah practice of reciting Sûrahs Al-A’lâ (87) and Al-Ghashiyah (88). Nonetheless, it is known amongst some of the Muslims. Sometimes, the time of Jumu’ah is short and restricted, and as a result, the Imam does not have the time capacity of reciting these two sûrahs, which are slightly longer than the first pair. Sûrah Jumu’ah is named after this blessed day, and in this Surah, Allah instructs us to hasten to His remembrance when the adhan of Jumu’ah is called out, regardless of what we are engaged in,
“O you who have believed, when the adhan is called for the Prayer on the day of Jumu’ah, then proceed to the remembrance of Allah and leave aside trade. That is better for you, if you only knew.” [Sûrah Jumu’ah, 62:9]
And in the subsequent surah, Sûrah al-Munafiqûn, Allah tells us that nothing should distract us from the remembrance of Allah,
“O you who have believed, let not your wealth and your children divert you from remembrance of Allah. And whoever does that – those are the losers.” [Sûrah Al-Munafiqûn, 63:9]
The day of Jumu’ah should be a special day of the week for every Muslim, but for those of us living in the West, we tend to work on the day of Jumu’ah, preventing us from giving full attention to the virtues and blessings of the day. As result, we may treat the Jumu’ah Prayer as no more than an obligation which we are forced to complete rather than as a golden opportunity to reconnect with Allah, to realign ourselves with the objective of earning the pleasure of Allah, and to seek protection from the anger of Allah while having our sins washed away.
The above two combinations are established for the Jumu’ah Prayer and known to the Muslims. However, there is a further combination which has become somewhat less known and thus more abandoned in today’s time by our Khutabâh.
This third Sunnah practice of our Prophet (ﷺ) is the recitation of Sûrah Al-Jumu’ah (62) in the first rak’ah and Sûrah Al-Ghashiyah (88) in the second rak’ah of the Jumu’ah Prayer. This pair consists of one Sûrah taken from each of the two previously-mentioned combinations:
“Dahhak bin Qais wrote to Nu’man bin Bashir, saying: ‘Tell us what the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to recite on Friday along with Sûrah Al-Jumu’ah .’ He said: ‘He used to recite: “Has there come to you the narration of the overwhelming (i.e., the Day of Resurrection)?’” [Al-Ghashiyah (88)]. (Sunan Abu Dawud, 1123)
So now we have three authentic Sunan combinations of sûrahs for the Imam to favour in his choice of what to recite for the Jumu’ah Prayer:
- Sûrah Al-A’la (87) and Sûrah Al-Ghashiyah (88)
- Sûrah Al-Jumu’ah (62) and Sûrah Al-Munafiqûn (63)
- Sûrah Al-Jumu’ah (62) and Sûrah Al-Ghasihyah (88)
Our objective in this article is intended to remind us to fall back on the light of the Sunnah, and thus to bring us closer to Allah as we try to maximize the common practices of our Prophet (ﷺ) in our lives. If we do not revive Sunan actions —but continue to allow them to die out— then eventually people will be unfamiliar with many practices of the Sunnah and see them as something strange or even accuse them of being innovations!
In closing, consider the reward promised for those who would revive forgotten or neglected practices of our beloved Prophet (ﷺ), practices that would die out after he would be gone:
Kathir bin ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin ‘Awf Al-Muzani said:
“My father told me, narrating from my grandfather, that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
‘Whoever revives a Sunnah of mine, which people then act upon, will have a reward equivalent to that of those who act upon it, without that detracting, in the slightest, from their reward. And whoever introduces an innovation (Bid’ah) that is acted upon, will have a burden of sins equivalent to that of those who act upon it, without that detracting, in the slightest, from the burden of those who act upon it.'” (Al-Tirmidhi, 1/1/209)
Stated in another version:
Kathir bin ‘Abdullah narrated from his father, that his grandfather said:
“I heard the Messenger of Allah say: ‘Whoever revives a Sunnah of mine that dies out after I am gone, he will have a reward equivalent to that of those among the people who act upon it, without that detracting, in the slightest, from their reward. Whoever introduces an innovation (Bid’ah) with which Allah and his Messenger are not pleased, he will have a (burden of) sin equivalent to that of those among the people who act upon it, without that detracting, in the slightest, from their sins.'” (Sunan Ibn Majah, 1/1/210)