Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Samee al-Yakti
I heard that it’s not allowed to talk during the Friday sermon. Is this considered disliked (makruh) or prohibited (haram)? Can I remind my friends to be silent during the sermon?
Praise be to Allah, and may peace and blessings be upon our Master Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah. To answer your question:
According to a hadith reported by Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “When you say to your companion, ‘Be quiet,’ on Friday while the Imam is delivering the sermon, you have engaged in vain talk.” [Bukhari, Muslim]
The Meaning of “Vain Talk” and What It Entails
There are two opinions among the Shafi’i scholars regarding this matter:
The first opinion holds that talking during the Friday sermon is strictly prohibited. Based on this opinion, the Prophet’s statement “you have engaged in vain talk” means to have sinned or done away with the reward of your Jumua prayer. But the prayer still counts and is not invalidated.
The second opinion views talking during the sermon as disliked (makruh). According to this view, “vain talk” means idle speech, so you have defied proper etiquette. The Jumua is also valid.
Not Just Speech
Every type of activity that takes you away from the sermon is counted as “vain talk,” such as using your phone to browse the web or WhatsApp and other things that some men unfortunately do.
Alerting Others to Be Silent
In light of these opinions, it is permissible to gesture with your hand to alert your friend to stay silent. If they do not understand the signal, you can communicate with them verbally to the degree necessary. Allah knows best.
A Detailed Explanation:
The religion determines specific distinctions for Friday due to its virtue that sets it apart from other days of the week. It is a significant weekly occasion for Muslims, marked by unique Sunnah practices and special rulings. These include performing ghusl (ritual purification), using perfume, wearing one’s finest clothing (mainly white), attending the Friday prayer early, engaging in abundant dhikr (remembrance of Allah), and sending blessings upon the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), among other things.
One of the specific instructions associated with Friday is the requirement to listen attentively to the sermon and avoid being distracted by anything else. This is done to ensure that the full benefit of the Friday sermon is realized and that some of the objectives and wisdom for which the Friday sermon was established are achieved.
Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever performs ablution, and does so with excellence, then goes to the Friday prayer, listens, and remains silent, will be forgiven for whatever occurs from then until the next Friday plus three days more. Whoever touches the pebbles has also engaged in vain talk.” In another narration, he says, “Whoever bathes and then comes to the Friday Prayer, then prays was prescribed for him, then stays silent until the Imam finishes from the sermon, and then prays with him, he will be forgiven for whatever occurred between then and the next Friday Prayer, plus three days more.” [Muslim]
The Two Shafiʿi Opinions
After this vital introduction, we return to the question: What is the ruling on speaking during the Friday sermon, even to call someone’s attention?
Regarding this matter, the Shafi’i scholars hold two opinions [See: Imam Taqiy al-Din al-Hisni al-Shafiʿi, Kifayat al-Akhyar fi Hill Ghayat al-Ikhtisar]:
The first opinion holds that talking is strictly prohibited, even to alert someone, because remaining silent is obligatory. This is the opinion of Imam Shafi’i according to the earlier position. Abu Hurayra narrates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “When you say to your companion, ‘Be quiet,’ on Friday while the Imam is delivering the sermon, you have engaged in vain talk.” [Bukhari, Muslim] The meaning of “vain talk” according to this position is to sin and do away with the reward of the Jumua without invalidating it.
Ali ibn Abi Talib (Allah be pleased with him) said while on the pulpit in Kufa, “Whoever says, ‘shush’ to his brother during Jumua has engaged in vain talk, and whoever engages in vain talk gets nothing from that Jumua of his.” Then he said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) say that.” [Abu Dawud]
Jabir ibn Abdullah (Allah be pleased with him) said, “Abdullah ibn Masud entered the mosque while the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was delivering the sermon. He sat next to Ubay ibn Kaʿb and asked him about something or told him something, but he did not respond to him, so Ibn Masud thought that it angered him. When the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) turned around after his prayer, Ibn Masud said, ‘Ubay, what prevented you from replying to me?’ He said, ‘You did not attend the Jumua with us.’ He asked, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘You spoke while the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was delivering the sermon.’ Ibn Masud stood up and entered upon the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), and he mentioned that to him. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) told him, ‘Ubay has spoken the truth. Obey Ubay.’” [Sahih Ibn Hibban] This hadith indicates the loss of the reward of Jumua, without losing its validity. If the Jumua of Abdullah ibn Masud were invalid, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) would have instructed him to pray the Dhuhr prayer in its place.
The second opinion considers talking during the sermon as disliked (makruh) but not strictly prohibited (haram), and remaining silent as recommended (sunnah). This is the opinion of Imam al-Shafiʿi in his later position, and it is the more accurate opinion in the madhhab. According to this view, “vain talk” is a lapse in etiquette and improper. The Jumua is still valid.
Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) narrates, “While Umar ibn al-Khattab was delivering a sermon to the people on Friday, Uthman ibn Affan entered. Umar gestured to him and said, ‘What is the matter with some men who come after the adhan!’ Uthman said, ‘Amir al-Muʾmineen, when I heard the adhan, I did nothing more than perform ablution, and then I came.’ Umar said, ‘Ablution, too?! Did you all not hear the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) say, “When any of you comes to the Friday Prayer, let him bathe”?’” [Muslim, Bukhari]
It was also reported that a man entered while the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) delivered the Friday sermon and asked, “When is the Final Hour?” The people gestured to him to be silent, but he did not and repeated what he said. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) replied after the second time, “Wretched you! What have you prepared for it?” He said, “Love for Allah and His Messenger.” He said, “You will be with whomever you love.” [Bayhaqi, al-Sunan al-Kubra]
The critical indication is that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) did not rebuke them; if it were forbidden, he would have done so.
Jabir ibn Abdullah narrates that a man came while the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) delivered the Friday sermon to the people. He asked the man, “Did you pray?” He replied, “No.” He said, “Then stand up and pray.” [Bukhari, Muslim]
Imam Nawawi summarised the issue in his commentary on Sahih Muslim:
The meaning of “you have engaged in vain talk” means that you have used idle speech, which is speech that is futile, useless, false, and unacceptable. It was also said that it means to have said something incorrect, as well as to have said something improper. The hadith indicates a prohibition against any type of speech during the sermon, alerting therewith to everything else.
If saying, “Be silent!” is called vain talk, and it is in and of itself a command to virtue, then any less significant kind of speech would also be such a fortiori. If someone wants to stop someone from speaking, the way to do so is to gesture to him to be silent, if he would understand. Otherwise, he may stop him with very few words, not exceeding the least amount of speech possible. The scholars disagree over whether speech is forbidden or disliked, and there are two opinions in the Shafiʿi madhhab to indicate both. [Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim, 6.138]
The Ruling on Actions Other Than Speech
Every type of activity that distracts someone from the sermon is counted as vain speech during the sermon, including using the phone, browsing the web, using WhatsApp, and other things that some men do, unfortunately. This is due to the hadith above, which mentions, “whoever touches the pebbles has engaged in vain talk.”
To complete the full benefit, we should mention some other rulings that relate to the question:
- There is no prohibition or dislike of speech before or after the sermon or during the silence between the two halves of the sermon.
- If the voice of the one giving the sermon is inaudible for any reason, then it is recommended to listen silently or remain busy with dhikr.
- If you see something important that requires attention or may result in danger, such as a blind man coming close to a stairway, a scorpion, etc., it is not prohibited to speak or alert, without a doubt. [See: Yahya ibn Abu al-Khayr al-Imrani, al-Bayan fi madhhab al-Imam al-Shafiʿi, 2.599]
In conclusion, it is permissible for you, my dear brother, to gesture with your hand to alert your friends to remain silent during the sermon if they would understand the gesture.
If they would not, then with as little speech as is necessary. But any other speech that distracts from the sermon, using the phone, and other things all fall under the ruling of the details we mentioned: either disliked (makruh) or prohibited (haram). Allah knows best.