Al salam alaykum brothers. Yesterday I went to the mosque for Friday Prayer and arrived before the Adhan, during the Quran recitation. I didn't really look around looking to see if anyone else is praying. I prayed Tahiyyat Al Masjid and sat down. After the Adhan, 95% of the people in the masjid including almost all of those who were there before me, started praying two rakhas. Did they not pray Tahiyyet Al Masjid when they came in during the Quran? Or is there another Sunnah prayer that is done right after the Friday Prayer Adhan?
Note that during the time of the prophet () there was only one call for prayer (adhan) of jumu'ah. But during the time of 'Othman a second call was introduced which was held earlier than the first call with a time gap.
In some madhhabs it is allowed or even recommended to pray a sunnah (or nafl) during this time gap. Some may pray therefore the sunnah ratibah (related to) dhohr (as the jumu'ah is usally held after noon which is the beginning of the time for the dhohr prayer). This means that you may find people praying during this time gap up to four raka'as (For details see How many Sunnah and Nafl rak'at one should offer in Jumuah salah according to all the 4 Imaams?). And I assume that they pray either a sunnah/nafl before jumu'ah prayer or the sunnah before dhohr.
Note that the sahabah () on Friday used to enter the mosque and pray whatever they were able to pray of nafl raka'a's and stop when the imam came out.
Reciting Qur'an (by one person while the rest listens) before jumu'ah is not reported to be a sunnah of the prophet () nor is holding a lesson as it is often practiced in mosques.
On praying tahiyyat al-masjid during a recitation of the Qur'an
So basically this recitation could be considered as bid'ah by some scholars, and we are asked to follow the sunnah which is offering a two raka'a prayer: the greeting/salutation of the mosque (tahiyyat al-masjid). As it is reported:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "If anyone of you enters a Mosque, he should not sit until he has offered a tworak` at prayer." (Sahih al-Bukhari)
When any one of you comes for the Friday (prayer) and the Imam comes out (from his apartment), (even then) should observe two rak'ahs (of prayer). (Sahih Muslim)
and many more ahadith on this matter, some even quoting the prophet () ordering somebody to perform it while he (the prophet()) is holding his junu'ah sermon!
Note even if you entered a mosque in a different situation for example for a lesson on tajweed or recitation of Qur'an and you found people or one of them reciting the Qur'an you should perform your two raka'as first and than join the recitation. As the mosque is a place for worship and meant for prayers in first place:
Say, [O Muhammad], "My Lord has ordered justice and that you maintain yourselves [in worship of Him] at every place [or time] of prostration(1), and invoke Him, sincere to Him in religion." Just as He originated you, you will return [to life] - (7:29)
(1) in Arabic al-Masaajid.
The mosques of Allah are only to be maintained by those who believe in Allah and the Last Day and establish prayer and give zakah and do not fear except Allah , for it is expected that those will be of the [rightly] guided. (9:18)
Sulaiman b. Buraida reported on the authority of his father that when the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) had said prayer a man stood up and said:
Who called for a red camel? (Upon this) the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: May it not be restored to you! The mosques are built for what they are meant.
(Sahih Muslim 1 & 2 and Sunan ibn Majah)
See also this fatwa on islamweb on what to do if one enters a mosque during Qur'an recitation islamweb #23858.
On the interpretation of the verse ordering to listen to the Qur'an recitation
As for the interpretation of verse (7:204)
So when the Qur'an is recited, then listen to it and pay attention that you may receive mercy.
as an order of listening to the Qur'an when it is recited, is interpreted by scholars according to two different views:
The hanafis say it is an order and it is general some (of the hanafis) consider it a fard 'ayn (fard on everybody listening) and others consider it fard kifya (fard to listen to it at least by some muslims) (for details on fard kifya refer to Can someone give me examples of fard kifaya?). Only the first view (fard 'ayn) is creating an issue here, but as explained if the matter really is a bid'ah your sin if listening might be bigger than the one of not listening to Qur'an while praying your two raka'a's. Also praying the two raka'as doesn't take significant time.
The second view -which is held by the majority of scholars- is that only ordered during the prayers and in any other situation it is mustahab and mandub (recommended)! For details refer to this fatwa on islamqa #88728.
The verse above is also considered as an order to do the opposite of the disbelievers who said:
And those who disbelieve say, "Do not listen to this Qur'an and speak noisily during [the recitation of] it that perhaps you will overcome." (41:26)
Like it is mentioned for example by ibn Kathir in his tafsir:
After Allah mentioned that this Qur'an is a clear evidence, guidance and mercy for mankind, He commanded that one listen to the Qur'an when it is recited, in respect and honor of the Qur'an. This is to the contrary of the practice of the pagans of Quraysh, who said, ("Listen not to this Qur'an, and make noise in the midst of its (recitation)'') ﴿41:26﴾. Ibn Jarir reported that Ibn Mas`ud said; "We would give Salams to each other during Salah. So the Ayah of Qur'an was revealed;
(When the Qur'an is recited, then listen to it.) (Source qtafsir)
So what one should avoid during a recitation is speaking noisily or loudly and disturb the recitation, not praying his two raka'a tahiyyat al-Masjid.
The Greetings of The Mosque prayer is different to the Sunnah volntary prayers of Zuhr. The Greetings of the Mosque prayer only stands when you enter a mosque:
Abu Qataadah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “When one of you enters the mosque, let him not sit down until he has prayed two rak‘ahs.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1167; Muslim, 714
The below stands whether you are within a mosque or not, it is prefered to engage in such prayers at home and perform the obligatory in the mosque:
Al-Nasaa’i (1817) and al-Tirmidhi (428) narrated from Umm Habeebah (may Allaah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever prays four (rak’ahs) before Zuhr and four after it, the Fire will not touch him.”
In regards to the permissiveness or validity of praying voluntary prayers while Quran is being recited I am unaware of the legal ruling on this, especially in the context you mentioned.
Considering the below, it would seem that it is wrongful for the mosque to allow for the loud recitation prior to the commencement of the Friday sermon as this is a time when new arrivals such as yourself engage in voluntary prayer and recite Quran quietly; the loud recitation of other would be more of a distraction in my view.
“So, when the Qur’aan is recited, listen to it, and be silent that you may receive mercy” [al-A’raaf 7:204]
I am also unaware of whether this is an authentic practice or it is considered as an innovation.
As far as I know it is a strong Sunnah to offer Greetings prayers but it isn't to recite Quran loudly prior to the sermon, based on this I would just pray as soon as I arrive whether Quran is being recited or not, but I don't have complete knowledge on whether this is the best approach or not.