Designating Saturdays as a weekly h...

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

Designating Saturdays as a weekly holiday


What is your opinion on taking Thursdays and Fridays as work-free days instead of Fridays and Saturdays?
Does this entail imitating non-Muslims?



Legal ruling

It is legally established that the actions of a ruler are contingent upon the interests of the people; he is entitled to restrict the permissible.
Holidays and designating certain days for them are among what are considered permissible in the Shari'ah [En. Islamic law] since there is nothing prescribed in it with regard to them. Therefore, there is no legal connection between holidays and feasts.

Our pious predecessors did not designate the weekly feast, Friday, and the two annual feasts (al-Fitr and al-Adha) as holidays; Arab and Islamic communities agreed upon these days because of an interest that was convenient to either their time or place.

The Shari'ah encourages work but not idleness

Except for observing the prayers of these feasts and purifying himself for them, a Muslim is not to cease working during these feast days nor at any other time out of religious restraint or a legal incentive. A Muslim's work during these occasions is only governed by a personal or public interest. A ruler, due to the position entrusted to him by Allah, regulates the interests of the public.

Evidence from the Qur'an

- Allah Almighty prohibited selling or conducting any type of transactions after the announcement of the second call [Ar. Adhan] to Friday prayers. He says:
O you who have believed! When [the Adhan] is made for the prayer on the day of Jumu'ah [Friday], then proceed to the remembrance of Allah and leave trade [Al-Jumu'ah, 9].

The above verse proves the permissibility of all forms of transactions and daily activities before Friday prayers and the obligation to cease such activities for the sake of the Friday Prayer. However, this injunction only concerns those who are eligible for Friday Prayers. In the next verse, Allah Almighty says:

And when the prayer has been concluded, disperse within the land and seek from the bounty of Allah [Al-Jumu'ah, 10]; meaning, to resume normal activities after prayer, do what is beneficial for one's religion and life and pursue the purpose for which we were created—worshipping Allah and administering the world.

The above verse does not advocate adopting Fridays as work-free days nor does it prescribe remaining in the mosque after Friday Prayers by way of obligation or recommendation.

• Scholarly opinions

In his meta-commentary on "ibn al-Qasim", the commentator of the text of "Abu Shuja'" on the fiqh of the Shafi'is, the Sheikh of Islam al-Baijuri, stated in the chapter entitled al-Ijara: "It must be known that nothing may be deducted from the wages of an employee who is employed for a known period of time, for purification and prayer breaks—even for supererogatory prayers. This is because these breaks are a legal exception. The same applies to Saturdays and Sundays for the Jews and Christians."

It is evident from the above citation made by al-Baijuri who lived relatively close to our time (died in 1277 A.H) that Muslims did not adopt Fridays as work-free days and that Saturdays and Sundays were the holidays of non-Muslims. Furthermore, it demonstrates that designating Friday as a holiday was not originally prescribed in Islamic law but was a new development in Muslim communities. It is assumed that Friday was chosen for a particular reason that suited their communities at that time.
Based on the above, designating one or more days of the week as vacation days is based upon an agreement on the ensuing benefits.
Designating Saturdays as a holiday depends upon the public interest and does not entail imitating the Jews

The argument that choosing Saturday as a work-free day imitates the Jews is rejected because it is known that objectionable imitation of the Jews must be either deliberate or involve something that is religiously unique to them. Otherwise, if the matter is free from any religious aspect that is specific to the Jews, distinguishes them from the followers of other religions or is free from deliberate imitation, then it is not prohibited.

Evidence from the acts of the Companions

- 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, emulated the Romans in establishing many institutions in the Islamic State's administration; no one accused him of introducing a reprehensible innovation or imitating the disbelievers.
- When the Muslims conquered Persia, the Companions of the prophet observed prayers in traditional Persian garments known as sirwals and this was not considered imitating non-Muslims.
Present day Muslims wear clothes that were originally unique to non-Muslims and which, over time, lost this distinguishing feature.

In his book, Fath al-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani mentioned 'al-Taylasan' [A piece of cloth that covers the head, shoulders and back originally worn by Jews] in relation to the hadith, "Whoever imitates a people is one of them." He maintained that it is permissible for Muslims to wear taylasans because [at his time] they were no longer considered a token feature of the Jews, and in the words of Ibn ‘Abdel Salam he mentioned it among the permissible innovations.

No one can claim nowadays that taking Saturday off is only seen as a token feature of the Jewish holiday because most countries in the world consider Saturday as the weekly holiday for some sort of an interest to them so it is no longer a private holiday for the Jews only. Moreover, if Muslims saw a potential benefit in taking Saturday as a weekly holiday then they are allowed to do so out of concern for their interest without paying much attention to the issue of resembling the Jews.

Therefore we can conclude that taking Friday and Saturday as weekly holiday is a matter which is determined based on the public’s interest and the country’s policy. In other words, what we should be concerned about is exerting our efforts to look for our best interest in choosing one day over another. We also need to give some space to practical experience to determine the correctness of our preferences. As for only determining the impermissibility of the matter under the guise of resemblance and bad imitation or the like is a sheer aberration of the true teachings of Islam.
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