In addition to the five daily prayers, Muslims may offer extra prayers in the late night or late morning, or before or after the five formal prayers. There are also holiday prayers and designated prayers for rain, solar and lunar eclipses, and seeking guidance in decision-making.
Friday: The Day of Gathering
On Fridays, the Dhuhr (noon prayer) is replaced by a congregational prayer at the mosque, where worshipers also listen to a short sermon. This prayer is called salaat-l-jumu'ah, or the gathering prayer. Attendance is required for men and optional for women.
At this prayer, Muslims gather in a central mosque in their city to pray and listen to a khutbah (sermon). Most often, the imam gives the sermon; however, this duty may be performed by an invited guest or another member of the community. Usually, the speaker begins with words in praise of God, and recites and reflects on a short passage of the Qur'an. He may then address current issues or general affairs of the community and offer supplication for the welfare of all Muslims worldwide. After this, the imam leads the congregation in a short formal prayer. The whole gathering lasts for approximately one hour.
On the occasion of the two Islamic holidays, the community at large offers special holiday prayers — salaat-l-'Eid. On the morning of the first day of the holiday, all Muslims (men, women, and children) gather at a large open area, dressed in their finest clothing. It is a day of celebration, happiness, and recognition of God's blessings and mercy.
The performance of the holiday prayers varies slightly from the norm. There is no adhan, and worshipers repeat the phrase Allahu Akbar (God is Great) several times at the beginning of each cycle of prayer. The short prayer is followed by a sermon, in which the people are reminded of the blessings of God and their duties toward Him. Again, the worshipers make special supplications to God, asking Him to look after and show mercy to the Muslims all over the world.
Despite the special status of salaat-l-jumu'ah, Friday is not a Sabbath or day of rest. After gathering for the community prayer, Muslims should resume their work or daily routine. However, most modern Muslim countries include Friday in their official weekend so that families may spend the day together.
Personal Prayers and Supplications
Aside from the daily formal prayers, Muslims constantly seek forgiveness, guidance, and mercy from God through personal prayers and supplications. These personal prayers are called du'a (“calling upon”), in the sense that the supplicants are calling upon God for help.
Unlike the formal prayers, personal supplications do not have a specific time frame, format, or language. The Qur'an advises, “When My servants ask you concerning Me, [tell them] I am indeed close to them. I respond to the call [du'a] of every supplicant who calls on Me. Let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me, that they may walk in the right way” (Qur'an 2:186).
Many Muslims recite personal prayers recommended by the Prophet Muhammad, or which they find in the Qur'an. Muslims are also free to seek help from Allah in their own language and choice of words. After all, God understands all languages and knows even the deepest secrets of our hearts.