Should Commercial Enterprises Close For Prayers?
If you think that waiting for a long time to buy something is bothersome, think again. On my way to the cash register, I found a huge line awaiting me. It took me 20 minutes to become second. Then when it was my turn, the salesperson said, “It’s time to close. ” He wouldn’t even let me purchase the coat. “Why? ” I asked. “Because of Prayers! ” I was frustrated. I’ve been waiting for the past 30 minutes and he expects me to come back after the store opens. Why can’t he just take the money and let me be.
He says, “Because it’s against the law. And we are in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabian law says that commercial enterprises must close daily during prayer times to ensure that all Muslims pray. That would be five times a day and 30 minutes for each prayer. But instead of praying, some people end up waiting in the car next to a store. And it becomes a hassle for non-Muslims. Also, not all Muslims are devoted enough to go pray the minute the stores close. Even though it is preferred to have the prayer on time, God gave us the whole time between prayers to perform these tasks and accommodate for other things in life.
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And the devoted Muslims would do that without the stores having to close. So why have that law if not all Muslims follow it? All it does is make life harder for both Muslims and non-Muslims. They are forced to rush while shopping and eating so they aren’t either kicked out or locked in. But the main problem is that this law is heresy. The Saudi Arabian Constitution states, “Saudi Arabia is a sovereign Arab Islamic state with God’s Book and the Sunnah of His Prophet, God’s prayers and peace be upon him, as its constitution. ” But nothing in Arab and Muslim history proves that shops must close during prayer times.
Mr. Marzouk bin Tenbak says, “There is no evidence that shows the men of Al Hesba (the religious police) ordered the closing of businesses during the prayer. ” The Quran also declares, “When the call to prayer is made on the day of congregation (a Salat al-Jumu’ah- Friday prayers), hurry towards the reminder of Allah and leave off your trading. ” This means that the stores should close only during the Friday prayers. It is because Friday is considered by Muslims as a blessed day during which the faithful must abstain from all sins and multiply good deeds.
This is why Friday’s collective prayer is the most important service of the week for Muslims. But nothing in the Quran mentions that stores should close at every prayer. Therefore, this law is useless. The closing of businesses in Saudi Arabia, with its huge economic activities, cannot be justified by the Sharia (Islamic Law). According to Dr. Abdul Aziz Dakhil, “The four daily breaks for prayer translate into a loss of four hours of work per day,” making newspapers and websites fall behind Al Hayat.
He stresses that the repeated shutting down of commercial companies are affecting productivity and retailers. But not only is this affecting the economy but the people themselves. According to my dad, it becomes difficult for people to manage their time when they have allocated things to do in their allowed times. It also takes longer to finish a task, especially when it involves going to so many places where the time of prayers will fall in the middle and time will be wasted. Also, Prayers only take 5 to ten minutes but shops close for 30 to 40 minutes.
The rest is wasted time for Muslims and the whole time is wasted for non-Muslims. It is also difficult for non-Muslims to cope with the continuous changes in prayer times. And what I find really annoying is that people close the shops and stay inside not praying. This defeats the purpose of the law. Therefore, Saudi Arabia should abandon this law. The shops, banks and businesses should remain open allowing people to choose to continue business while those Muslims who wish to pray may go. Also, the salespeople should have shifts.
When it is time to pray the Muslims can leave and the non-Muslims can take care of the store. If there are only Muslims in one store then they would switch giving enough time for each person to pray. Or if the government is set on this law, then the times of closure should be reduced. It does not take 30 minutes to pray. Also, some shops close for 20 minutes while others for 45 so there should be an exact time frame. I personally like abandoning this law because it is fairer to non-Muslims.
If there is anything I learned, it is that people cannot impose religious acts. God would not reward any act if it is not that person’s true desire. At the same time the country should respect people’s rights in terms of religious practices. The practices are imposed on the society to the degree that it is part of the routine and, at the same time, non-Muslims are not allowed to have their own worshiping places. Everyone is entitled to their own practices and no law should restrict that.