At 12:10 pm Friday, men and boys in a Muslim neighbourhood in Sri Lanka’s capital did something everyone had warned them not to do: They came together to pray.
Hundreds gathered at the Masjidus Salam Jumma mosque for their communal Friday prayers, one of many mosques that conducted services despite warnings of more bomb attacks by Islamic State-claimed militants.
And while praying through tears to Allah to help their fellow countrymen, all stressed one thing. The Easter attacks targeting churches and hotels that killed at least 250 people came from people who didn’t truly believe the teachings of Islam.
They are “not Muslims. This is not Islam. This is an animal,” said Akurana Muhandramlage Jamaldeen Mohamed Jayfer, the chairman of the mosque. “We don’t have a word (strong enough) to curse them.”
Up until the call to prayer echoed through Colombo’s Maligawatta neighborhood at noon, it wasn’t certain the community would be able to pray. On Thursday, the US Embassy in Sri Lanka issued a stark warning over Twitter that places of worship could be targeted by militants through the weekend. Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also told The Associated Press he feared some of the suspects “may go out for a suicide attack” and local authorities urged Muslims to pray at home.
But Friday prayers hold a special importance to Muslims as the Quran has its own chapter on the worship called “Al-Jumah,” or Friday in Arabic.
“When the call is made for prayer on Friday, hurry toward the remembrance of Allah, and leave all business,” the Quran commands.
For Muslims, Friday prayers means dressing in their nicest clothes and communing with others, often sharing a meal after listening to the imam and praying.