Sabbath in Islam

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The Sabbath, in Hebrew שַׁבָּת‎ (shabat), in Arabic سبت (sabt), is a day when Jews are supposed to take a rest.

In Islam

There are 9 words from the root سبت in the Quran. Sometimes it refers to sabbath, sometimes to "rest". [1] The Quran affirms that Jews are supposed to observe the Sabbath (to take a rest [2]):

And We raised over them the mount for [refusal of] their covenant; and We said to them, "Enter the gate bowing humbly", and We said to them, "Do not transgress on the sabbath", and We took from them a solemn covenant.

Quran 4:154 (Sahih International)

The word سبت itself also means "Saturday" in Arabic. [3]

Muslims have Friday as the day of worship, but Jews observe the Sabbath (=Saturday in Arabic and Hebrew). A hadith claims that the Jews were diverted from Friday into Saturday. So Friday was the original correct day:

It is narrated by Abu Huraira and Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:

It was Friday from which Allah diverted those who were before us. For the Jews (the day set aside for prayer) was Sabt (Saturday), and for the Christians it was Sunday. And Allah turned towards us and guided us to Friday (as the day of prayer) for us. In fact, He (Allah) made Friday, Saturday and Sunday (as days of prayer). In this order would they (Jews and Christians) come after us on the Day of Resurrection. We are the last of (the Ummahs) among the people in this world and the first among the created to be judged on the Day of Resurrection. In one narration it is: ', to be judged among them".

Sahih Muslim: Book 4, Hadith 1862

In Quran 2:65 we read that Allah transformed Jews into apes because they didn't observe the Sabbath (=Saturday):

And you had already known about those who transgressed among you concerning the sabbath, and We said to them, "Be apes, despised."

Quran 2:65 (Sahih International)

So Allah commanded the Jews to observe the wrong day and then punished them when they didn't do it.

In the Bible

The Bible says that they should rest on the 7th day just as god rested on the 7th day after he created the world:

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

The Bible (NIV), Exodus 20:8-11

Seven days week in Islam

The traditional Jewish and Christian view of the Sabbath relates its existence to creation of the world in six days, with God resting on the seventh. This notion, however, is explicitly rejected in the Quran:

And We did certainly create the heavens and earth and what is between them in six days, and there touched Us no weariness.

Furthermore the traditional Islamic commentariat has been even more explicit in its rejection of the idea that God would have need for rest:

From Tafsir Ibn Kathir:

Qatadah said, "The Jews, may Allah's curses descend on them, said that Allah created the heavens and earth in six days and then rested on the seventh day, which was the Sabbath. This is why they call it a holiday. Allah the Exalted then sent down denial of their statement and false opinion.

Tafsir Ibn Kathir on 50:38

Rather than the certainty around the question found in the traditional Jewish and Christian commentariats around the question, to this very day the Islamic clerical community remains undecided on the divine origin of the the seven-day week:

We cannot be certain about anything with regard of the division of the week into seven days, or the time when this division began – was it before the creation of the heavens and the earth, or was the creation of the heavens and the earth what led to this division? The reason for that is that we have no clear evidence which states anything certain to that effect..


  2. Tafsir al-Jalalayn explains the verse as "`do not act unjustly in the Sabbath` by fishing during it"