Friday prayers across the UAE will begin at 1.15pm to accommodate the new working week, the Government said on Tuesday.
Typically, Friday prayers begin at dhuhr – between noon and 12.30pm – dependent on the season.
The Government on Tuesday said that Saturday and Sunday will be the new weekend for public sector workers and that Friday will be a half day, with work beginning from 7.30am and ending at midday.
The decision takes effect on January 1, 2022.
To allow government workers time to attend Friday prayers at a mosque, the dhuhr prayer time has been moved forward about an hour, with the sermon beginning at 1.15pm. Friday prayers are led with the sermon in the mosque, followed by Jumaa prayers.
Prayer is the second of the five pillars of Islam and its timings were determined by the Prophet Mohammed according to the solar cycle. Five prayers are conducted throughout the day: fajr (dawn), dhuhr (midday), asr (afternoon), maghrib (sunset) and isha (evening).
Each must be prayed once the adhan – or call to prayer – is heard. Muslims are encouraged to pray immediately but have a window of a few hours before the next prayer is called.
Friday prayers are considered the most important of the week, and Muslims are encouraged to pray at a mosque in a group.
In a document containing questions and answers issued by the Government, authorities said there was no conflict between the Friday prayer timings and the half-day of work.
"This decision was based on fixing the timing of the prayer for 1.15pm throughout the year," the government said, indicating that the timing would not change based on the seasons as is typical.
Asked if working on a Friday went against Sharia and religious scripture, as Friday is the holiest day of the week for Muslims, the document said no and cited a passage from the Quran: "Oh ye who believe, when the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday [the day of assembly], hasten earnestly to the remembrance of Allah and leave off business [and traffic] that is the best for you, if ye but knew." (aya 9, of surat al Jumaa).