Dear person on the treadmill,
I noticed your head perk up several times when we walked in hoards through the doors, your eyes going back and forth amongst us to discern why a mass of students not clad in activewear was making their way into a fitness center. When you spotted us making our way up the stairs heaving what appeared to be mats into a large room, you tilted your head sideways and threw in a final guess on what we were up to that afternoon—discounted yoga class?
Derived from Arabic for “gathering,” Jum’ ah is the last day of the working week in the United States—Friday. It is characterized by the congregational worship Muslims collectively enjoin in, Salaat-ul Jum’ ah, or the Friday Prayer, around midday when the sun begins to go down. Muslim students, employees, and alumni alike assemble from across the UCLA campus and its surrounding vicinities on this day to engage in the unified remembrance of their Lord in the John Wooden Center. Equipped with a sound system and lined with straw prayer mats, the center’s Pyramid room allocated for this observance houses the Muslim community’s act of worship in place of an available mosque nearby.
What distinguishes Salaat-ul Jum’ ah from the five obligatory prayers of the day is its accompaniment with a sermon. Delivered by a learned member of the community who typically later leads the congregational prayer (an imaam), a two-part khutbah is an essential component of Jum’ ah signaled by the call to prayer. This oration is a public address of the state of affairs of Muslims around the world; it sheds light on spiritual and social matters that reflect the circumstances of Muslims today and exhorts the remembrance of Allah in perseverance of day to-day trials. The attention brought to these topics is often supplemented with passages from the Holy Quran and parables set during the early years of Islam, bearing testimony to the religion’s principles being societally relevant ways of leading one’s life and not mere aged doctrines. The first segment of the sermon is made distinct from the second with the introduction of a pause. This brief silence is reserved for individual prayer, or du’aa, often for repentance. We use these minutes to pray in sincerity.
We pray for our next midterm to be generously curved; we pray that the dining halls serve halal chicken for dinner tonight.
We pray that our religion does not continue to be a reason there are targets for bullets on our foreheads; we pray that our children sleep soundly to their parents’ gentle goodnights and not the whistles of airstrikes.
With the end of the second part of the khutbah, a concluding supplication is recited by the imaam and the Friday prayer is commenced with the second call to prayer. We are then instructed to straighten our rows, align our shoulders, and bridge any gaps among us before solemnly offering the two-unit prayer.
The Jum’ah prayer is a significant contributor to the unification and strength of the Muslim population, particularly at UCLA. It creates an opportunity for numerous individuals with busy schedules from diverse walks of life to unitedly perform their religion’s obligation and fosters an environment that allows us to discuss the betterment of the livelihood of Muslims here and globally. Individuals who attend these prayers, including myself, often also look forward to exchanging greetings with other members of the community and receiving guidance on how to tackle the upcoming week. It has been recorded that praying in congregation is twenty-seven grades better than praying alone (Al-Bukhari), and millions of Muslims around the world embrace this bounty, especially on Fridays. Consequently, UCLA’s Muslim Student Association has strived to make this cherished practice one that is also accessible to the growing Muslim population here.
You, dear treadmill runner, are always welcome to witness this beloved, routine custom of our close-knit community on campus.
A person from the JWC Friday afternoon crowd