Answered by Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam
Question : I have a brother who is contemplating a career change primarily because he would not be able to hold a teaching position at the elementary school level if he had to leave every week for Jumu’a. I have apparently been told that the Syrian Hanafi position is that Jumu’a is not mandatory in the West because there is no Muslim ruler or established Islamic authority.
: The position of the mainstream and majority of scholars, both from the Subcontinent and the Arab world, is that the condition of having a Muslim ruler (sultan) in order to establish the Friday prayer is not a condition in of itself; rather, a means to ensure that there is no dispute regarding the establishment of the Friday prayer.
The renowned Hanafi Jurist (faqih), Imam al-Kasani (Allah have mercy on him) explains in his Bada’i al-Sana’i that the condition of having the Sultan’s permission is to avoid any possible disputes and arguments, because the Friday (jumu’a) prayer is offered in a large congregating and to lead such a massive congregation in prayer is indeed a great privilege; hence, it may lead those who like to be in the limelight into competing and arguing with one another to acquire the post of leading the Friday prayer. For this reason, appointing the right person to lead the Friday prayer was left to the discretion of the Sultan, so that he may appoint whomever he feels fit for this esteemed position. As a result, there would be no dispute, for others would be forced into obeying the Sultan and may even fear his punishment. (Bada’i al-Sana’i, 1/261)
He further states that the above is when the Sultan or his representative is present. However, if the Sultan was not able to attend for one reason or another and the time of Jumu’a Salat came in, then there is nothing wrong in the congregation uniting in the appointment of an Imam and praying behind him. This is supported by what Imam Muhammad has narrated that when Sayyiduna Uthman (Allah be pleased with him) was surrounded by the enemies, people appointed Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him) to lead them in the Friday prayer. (ibid)
In light of the above explanation and in light of the explanation given by many other jurists, it is not a condition of the Friday prayer that it be performed in a Muslim land. In the absence of a Sultan or a Muslim ruler, it is completely permissible for the Muslims to choose someone to lead the Friday prayer and such a Friday prayer would be considered valid.
When the Friday prayer is considered valid, it becomes obligatory upon each and every Muslim male to attend the prayer unless there is a dire and genuine excuse. Missing the Friday prayer without a legally accepted excuse would be extremely sinful.
Allah Most High says:
“O you who believe! When the call for Friday prayer is made, hasten towards the remembrance of Allah (Prayer and Khutba) and leave all transactions. This is best for you if you know.” (Sura al-Jumu’a, V: 9)
The above is the position of most contemporary Ulama. What you have been told regarding the Syrian Hanafi position, it is incorrect; rather, many top Syrian Ulama concur with the position of the Subcontinent Fuqaha, in that the Friday prayer is obligatory even in the West. I myself once heard Shaykh Muhammad Sa’id Ramadhan al-Buti (Allah preserve him) refuting quite vigorously the isolated position of Jumu’a not being obligatory in the West.
Hence, your brother will be doing the right thing by looking for an alternative job if he is unable to offer his Jumu’a prayer at his current post. It will not be permitted to take up a career where one is regularly unable to offer one’s Friday prayer, even in the West.
And Allah knows best
Muhammad ibn Adam