Behind the rows of a Friday Prayer in Tehran

Madi Jahangir – People are arriving from every street in groups or few as single person. Since an hour before, part of streets reaching Enqelab square are closed and cars are banned to pass by. So there is a short distance to walk. Some men are washing their hands and face for prayer as is obligated to do in Islam. Everybody is trying to find a place in the more front row, filling the gaps and expand the prayer mats in a way that men remain in front and women in the back. This place is not a mosque, nor a traditional place of Muslim worship. Here is Tehran University and the people are getting ready for the sermons of Friday prayer.

Female Participants 

In Iran the week begins on Saturday and ends on Friday. Friday corresponds to Sunday in Christianity and Saturday in Judaism, as a holy day. In some Muslim countries including Iran, Fridays are off days and Iranians observe the Friday prayer as many other Muslims do around the world. Based on the Islamic history, Friday prayers had been the regular tradition of every Friday at the time of Prophet Mohammad. Fridays were used ever since to gather Muslim community together and share with them the domestic and international issues of the time. But the history of Friday prayer in Tehran is not that old. After years of being banned under the Pahlavi rule, by victory of Muslim revolutionaries, the tradition of Friday prayer was again officially revived in 1979 which has never been stoppedsince then. During Iran-Iraq war and afterward, Friday prayer was not only a normal weekly ritual but a place for Iranians to show unity and solidarity with revolution and the soldiers and protests against imposed wars and sanctions. The sermons have been mostly political, covering domestic & international issues. The Imam of the prayer usually carries a rifle as a symbol of resistance against Satan and also the evils of the world, giving the message of standing against the world tyrants and oppressors even in the prayer clothing.


Tehran’s first official Friday Prayer

Why am I writing about Friday prayer here? Religion is an important part of Iranian culture. Nowadays thousands and many times millions citizens of Tehran regardless of their social class and place of residence participate in the prayer every Friday. Specially those ones that are led by Supreme leader are the most crowded. Even though nowadays every Iranian city holds the Friday Prayer, the one in Tehran has remained rather more symbolic for being held in a symbolic place. From February 1978 until September 1979 andthe first official Friday prayer in Tehran, there were prayers which had been held here in there and mostly in universities.

People listening to sermons

Unlike the religious cities, Tehran had a shortage of huge mosques to hold a ceremony as big as Friday Prayer. Beside that, many of the young revolutionaries were in fact university students and it was a way to show the unity between religious clergy and students of the modern studies after the Islamic revolution. For that matter, the first official Friday prayer was held in a vast auditorium of the Tehran university as the eldest modern university founded in Iran and known as a center of knowledge and research that time. Tehran university had a great participation in the revolution and many protests in Tehran against Pahlavi royalty used to start from that place and go on as far as Azadi square. The street in which the university is located was named Enqelab which means Revolution in Persian.(I shall write about this university in another article.)

The crowd at a Friday prayer led by Supreme Leader

The place to hold Friday prayer has still remained the same even though there is a huge Musalla (Grand mosque) under construction in Tehran. Enqelab street is still as lively as those times with the difference that in Friday it looks more like a walking pavement. People together with their families and friends arrive there to observe their Islamic duty. When the prayer ends, on the sides of the streets nearby, the street venders have already expanded their selling items and ready themselves for people who walk back to their cars or public transportation. The available items in the market is quite diverse, be it an old second hand book, headscarf or even the small plastic decoration. If there is no protest afterward, some people stop by and negotiate with the street sellers. Some others take the time and walk to Laleh garden which is just other side of Northern Kargar street for some BBQ or snack and to enjoy an off day with family and friends. Life in Enqelab is now back to its routine of traffic and crowd until the next Friday and another prayer.

Sunni Participants in the friday prayer

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