Samurah b. Jundub narrates that Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: "Whoever performs ablutions on Friday, it is well and good. And whoever takes a bath has done what is better."

The status of the hadîth

This hadith is related from Samurah b. Jundub by way of al-Hasan al-Basrî in Sunan al-Tirmidhî (497), Sunan Abî Dâwûd (354), Sunan al-Nasâ'î (1379), and Sahîh Ibn Khuzaymah (1757), among other sources.

The hadîth has been criticized for two reasons.

1. There is disagreement about al-Hasan al-Basrî. It is narrated that he heard the hadîth from Jâbir or from Anas, or from Abû Hurayrah, or from Samurah. However, the correct chain of transmission is that he heard the hadîth by way of Samurah.

2. There is disagreement about whether al-Hasan al-Basrî actually heard any hadîth directly from Samurah b. Jundub.

Many eminent scholars of hadîth assert that al-Hasan al-Basrî heard hadîth from Samurah b. Jundub. These scholars include `Alî al-Madînî, al-Bukhârî, al-Tahâwî, al-Hâkim, and al-Nawawî. However, other scholars have denied this, namely Shu`bah b. al-Hajjâj, Ahmad b. Hanbal, and Ibn Hibbân.

Al-Nasâ'î sserts that al-Hasan al-Basrî heard one hadîth directly from Samurah b. Jundub. This is a hadîth about the `aqîqah which is found in Sahîh al-Bukhârî (5472).

Al-Bazzâr, explains al-Hasan's other narrations from Samurah b. Jundub as follows:
Al-Hasan heard the hadîth about the `aqîqah from Samurah b. Jundub, then became disinterested in hearing anything else from him. When he met Samurah's children, they presented to him a written document of what they had heard from their father. Al-hasan would narrate from the document without asserting that he heard these hadîth, since he did not hear them directly from Samurah.
Ibn al-Qayyim comes to the hadîth's defense in I`lâm al-Muwaqqi`în (2/125) where he writes:
It is established that al-Hasan heard some hadîth from Samurah. The only possible criticism here is that he read this hadîth from a written source – and Muslims have relied on written documents from the outset up until the present day. The Companions, including the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs – were unanimous in their consensus that written documents could be used. People on the scholarly community rely exclusively upon books. If they refused to do so, the whole field of Islamic law would come to a standstill.

Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) used to send written dispatches to outlying areas and the recipients of those dispatches would act upon them without hesitation. The Rightly Guided Caliphs and all people since then have done the same. Rejecting hadîth on this basis is unfounded and wrong. Memory can fail us at anytime, while what is written down remains faithful from the time of writing.
There are also a number of supporting narrations for this hadîth. Though all of their chains of transmission are weak taken individually, they are of the kind that reinforce one another, so that we can attest with confidence to the hadîth's authenticity.

These include a narration of the hadîth from Anas b. Mâlik in Sunan Ibn Mâjah (1091). There is another from Jâbir in Sunan al-Bayhaqî (1/295) and Sharh Ma`ânî al-Athâr (1/119). A third narration of this hadîth comes from Ibn `Abbâs in Sunan al-Bayhaqî (1/295).

The hadîth as been declared authentic by al-Tirmidhî, Ibn Khuzaymah, al-Baghawî, and others.

Its legal implications

The hadîth brings up the ruling of taking a full bath on Friday.

Ibn Rajab says: "There is full agreement that a bath is not a condition for the Friday prayer's validity. The prayer is valid in any case."

What scholars disagree about is whether it is a separate religious duty to bathe on Friday before attending the Jumu`ah prayer. Some scholars say it is a duty to do so, while the majority of scholars say that it is just strongly preferred.

The first opinion is that bathing on Friday is obligatory. This was the view of a few Companions, including Abû Hurayrah and `Umar. It is the opinion adopted by the Zâhirî school of thought.

They cite the hadîth where the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Bathing on Friday is an obligation on everyone who has reached sexual maturity." [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (879) and Sahîh Muslim (846)]

They also cite where the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "If any of you finds it to be Friday, he should take a bath." [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (877) and Sahîh Muslim (579)]

Then there is where the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "It is every Muslim's duty to bathe once a week, washing his head and body." [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (897) and Sahîh Muslim (582)]

These are all authentic hadîth.

The second opinion is that bathing on Friday is strongly recommended and preferred, but it is not a religious obligation. This was the view o the vast majority of Companions. It is also the official ruling of the four schools of law.

The Mâlikî jurist Ibn `Abd al-Barr asserts: "The Muslims have agreed, throughout the ages, that bathing for Friday is not obligatory. This is sufficient to put and end to much argument." [al-Tamhîd (10/79)]

They cite as evidence a number of authentic hadîth.

1. `A'ishah said: "The people used to engage in their various employments. Then when they went off to the Jumu`ah prayerr in the state that they were in, they were told: 'Would that you had taken a bath'." [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (903) and Sahîh Muslim (847)]

This hadîth states the reason for taking a bath. It is so that the people attending the prayer will be clean and not bring an unpleasant smell with them into the crowded mosque form their having worked and sweated all morning.

Moreover, these people were told "Would that you had taken a bath." This indicates encouragement, not obligation.

2. `A'ishah also tells us: "People used to go out on Friday from their homes and families. They would get dirty. They would sweat and become covered in dust. One such person approached Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) while he was with me. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: 'If only you people would bathe for this day of yours'." [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (902) and Sahîh Muslim (847)]

This hadîth is like the former in that it specifies the reason for taking a bath on Friday and indicates that doing so is preferable.

There s a similar hadîth narrated from Ibn ``Abbâs. [Sunan Abî Dâwûd (353)]

3. Samurah b. Jundub narrates that Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: "Whoever performs ablutions on Friday, it is well and good. And whoever takes a bath has done what is better." [Sunan al-Tirmidhî (497), Sunan Abî Dâwûd (354), Sunan al-Nasâ'î (1379)]

This hadîth – the authenticity of which we have already discussed – is decisive in that wudû' on Friday is not only sufficient, but something good. Bathing is only preferred.

The strongest opinion – and Allah knows best – is that bathing on Friday is strongly recommended and preferable, but not obligatory as a general rule. However, it is obligatory for those who exert themselves on Friday morning and work up a sweat and for those who generally have a bad smell when they do not bathe. For such people, bathing is incumbent upon them before they go to attend the Friday prayer. This is so their smell does not cause discomfort for others in the congregation. This is the reason that we find indicated in hadîth of `A'ishah and Ibn `Abbâs.

This is the conclusion that Ibn Taymiyah arrived at in his Ikhtiyârât (30).

Though this conclusion considers all of the evidences, the fact that we have the Prophet's statement – "Bathing on Friday is an obligation on everyone who has reached sexual maturity." – should make us feel uncomfortable about neglecting to bathe on Friday. The eminent Companion Sa`d b. Abî Waqqâs said: "I never saw any Muslim neglecting to bathe on Friday."

And Allah knows best.