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Quarterly: Issue No 102

Rabi-us-Saani 1443 – November 2021

 

JUMU’AH KHUTBAS OF TODAY

 

All Praise is due to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala) and peace and blessing of Allah be upon his beloved Messenger Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam).

 

The Khutbah (plural ‘khutab’ in Arabic) is a religious talk or advice given on Friday just before performing Friday Jumu’ah Salaah. It is considered very important to the extent that it is part of the Jumu’ah Salaah. The daily noon (Dhuhr) prayers are composed of four Raka’aat (cycles), but the Friday Jumu’ah Salaah is composed of two Raka’aat — the khutbah takes place of the other two Raka’aat. A dedicated concern and attention should be given to aspects and conditions of the Jumu’ah Khutbah.  Its importance is known by the facts that:

a.       It is commanded in the Noble Qur’an, as Allah says:  O you who believe! When the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday (Jumu’ah - the Day of Assembly), hasten earnestly to the Remembrance of Allah, and leave off all business transactions: That is best for you if you only knew!  (Surah Al-Jumu’ah 62: Verse 9)

b.       Listening to the Khutbah is obligatory. If one does not listen, then one is committing an evil act that results in the khutbah having no reward for him. Allah’s beloved Messenger (SAW) said: “When the Imam is delivering the Khutbah, and you ask your companion to keep quiet and listen, then, no doubt you have done an evil act”. (Bukhari, Muslim, Malik, and Abu Dawood).  This indicates that we are also obligated to be silent whilst listening to the khutbah. 

c.       Besides the audience, the angels also listen to the Khutbah, and more importantly Allah (SWT) is listening to it.  Therefore, much care should be taken to avoid saying anything which is not pleasing to Allah (SWT).  Our beloved Prophet (SAW), while persuading Muslims to go to the Masjid on the Day of Jumu’ah at their earliest, also said: “Because when the Imam comes out (to deliver Khutbah) the angels come to listen to the Dhikr” (Sahih al-Bukhari).

d.       More people listen to it than any other medium of Islamic Education.  For most Muslims, the Jumu’ah Khutbah is the only source of Islamic information.

 

Khateeb (plural ‘khutabaa’ in Arabic) is one who delivers the Jumu’ah Khutbah in Arabic – optionally with a translation preceding it in any other language i. e. English, Urdu, Zulu etc.

 

The issues and concerns of Jumu’ah khutbahs are being discussed by many scholars for several years now.  Unfortunately, the situation is only deteriorating. Whilst there are some notable exceptions of the most brilliant and powerful khutbahs given by some excellent khateebs (khutabaa), the overall state of our khutbahs (khutab) can best be described as de-spirited, ineffective, and lacking reality and relevance to our times and to the assembled gatherings. There are several key areas where these khutbahs are ineffective in reaching out to the audiences, as people either space-out, sleep, or make serious struggles to get some benefit from these khutbahs. While it may seem to be a trivial matter to many Muslims, it is an important issue with serious ramifications for the greater Muslim Ummah.

 

Before getting into actual details, let us be reminded that this article is NOT meant to criticise the khateebs.  Neither is this article meant to question the sincerity of the khateebs or their intentions.  Instead, these are just some impressions and assessments made by the general Muslim public – mainly the youth - who attend the Jumu’ah Friday prayers.

The Jumu’ah Salaah and Khutbah are supposed to remind people’s obligations and commitments to Allah.  It is supposed to encourage them to re-establish that spiritual relationship with Allah, to remind them of serving humanity and doing righteous deeds, etc.  It is NOT meant to be a tool for un- Islamic political publicity unless it is directly related to the true Islamic Khilafah. The fact remains that this is the time when most Muslims come to the Masjid searching for pristine pure Islamic Education and self-purification - but mixing material and worldly issues before the prayer is adulterating and diluting the purity and spirit of the Jumu’ah Khutbah.

 

Unless key issues are highlighted and brought to the attention of the Ulama and Trustees of our Masaajid, we fear the current de-spirited situation will not only continue but will steadily deteriorate until the Jumu’ah Salaah becomes a prayer wherein people will schedule their time to arrive just as the “iqaamah” starts. This has already started happening in many Masaajid today.

 

Let us look at some of these issues and concerns, hopefully for the better, in sha Allah.

 

Khutbahs must be clearly understood by the audience

Allah says: And We did not send any messenger except (speaking) in the language of his people to state clearly for them, and Allah sends astray (thereby) whom He wills and guides whom He wills. And He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.”  (Surah Ibrahim: 14: Verse 4). I think this is clearly the biggest issue. Many khateebs lack the ability to speak and express their message clearly to their audience in the terms, metaphors and examples that the audience can understand. Khateebs need to know the dynamics of their audience i.e. they should know who attends their gathering, their attention time span, what are current issues of interest within the Ummah, etc. Of particular importance is to understand that most people that attend the Masaajid are English-speaking Muslims. Therefore, the trustees of Masaajid need to realize this and not have people who cannot speak or pronounce English properly.  No matter how knowledgeable or accomplished a speaker is, if he cannot get his message across to the people, he has no right to be up there, as he is alienating and driving people away from the Masjid. This is a serious issue that most people do not realize. When one reads the story of Prophet Musa (Alayhis Salaam), after he is given the revelation, the du’a that he made was: “My Lord, expand for me my breast (with assurance) and ease for me my task; and untie the knot from my tongue so that they may understand my speech.” (Surah Taha: 20: Verses 25-28).  This is a great guidance for us in the field of effective communication. A Messenger of Allah is begging Allah after being given the Message to be able to express it clearly to those around him. If a Messenger of Allah is so concerned about this, then how can we - as lesser human being – ignore it?  

 

Khutbahs must be entertaining and lively. We must admit that we live in an age of entertainment, where people are used to being entertained, implying that most people have extremely short period of time to keep attentive. This doesn’t mean that khateebs need to have smoke screens and laser light shows to accompany their khutbahs (Astaghfirullah). However, this does mean that they cannot deliver the khutbah in a monotone voice that is typical of the majority of the khateebs. While it may work at times, khateebs must realize that they need to speak in differing tones, with energy, enthusiasm and sincerity (i. e. ikhlaas - speaking from their hearts with feeling for their audiences) if they really want their audiences to benefit from their talks and sermons.  This does not necessarily imply that the khateebs should start shouting out aloud to their audience as if they are all kids.  Entertainment, specifically, must be defined according to the Shari’ah for khutbah-settings as something that will keep the audience’s attention alive for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Therefore, this includes - but is not limited to - having a lively topic, voice variations, relevant stories and most importantly encouraging people by giving them hope with regards to their life after death and the hereafter. 

 

Another fact worth noting is that many khateebs just ‘flavour’ their talks with Qura’nic verses and Ahadith liberally, without taking the time to explain or comment on quoted verses and hadith or tying them back into the focus of the khutbah. It’s not much use to most people in the audience - especially if they don’t know Arabic or the Qur’anic verse - if the khateeb does not take the effort to explain and relate them to the main points of his khutbah.  Also, many khateebs seem to wander off into extensive Arabic, over-using Arabic terminology in places where English would suffice. Khateebs must understand that the majority in their audiences do not know as much Arabic or the Qur’an as they do - and must therefore make extra effort to ensure their audience understands what they’re saying.  A simple rule of thumb should be that if one uses an Arabic term, phrase, Qura’nic verse or a Hadith, then it should be translated immediately so that there is no confusion in the minds of the audience as to what is the focus of the khutbah.

 

Amongst many other issues, the Khateebs need to choose topics that are always relevant to the present times with focus on spiritual development and taqwa (being conscious of Allah – in private or public), considering that the greatest crisis in the Ummah today - amongst other crises that exist - is the death of spirituality and taqwa amongst us.  Khutbahs need to focus on exhorting people towards taqwa; acts of righteousness; reminding them of Allah’s favours and their responsibilities to Him and His creation; encouraging them to seek forgiveness despite their sins; instilling within them a deep respect and love for the Prophet (SAW); outlining the pristine pure beliefs (aqaa-id) of orthodox Islam – as opposed to the anti-Sahaba hatred and kufr beliefs of some people today; and motivating them to develop good character in their daily lives. Unfortunately, khutbahs either completely forego these topics in favour of other Islamic political topics or only touch on them on a minimal basis. 

It is also extremely important for the khateeb to summarize his khutbah at the end in 2 or 3 sentences to re-emphasize his main points. This will not only drive home the main points to the audience but will also give the crux of the khutbah to latecomers who missed the earlier parts of the khutbah. This is very useful for attendees to have a few gems of wisdom which they can take with them when leaving the masjid. The khateeb also should end with some practical “take-home” points those listeners can practise on to achieve their goals towards achieving taqwa.

 

Finally, we - as audience - must also accept the fact that despite how boring a khutbah can be, we also have an obligation to pay attention and try to benefit from it, regardless of its delivery or deliverer. Why? Because the Jumu’ah Khutbah is part of the Jumu’ah Salaah. Just as we strive to have concentration and excellence during our actual Jumu’ah Salaah, we must strive to have that same concentration during the actual Jumu’ah Khutbah (both the Arabic – and its translation in any other language where applicable). This means, amongst other things, that we should strive to come early to listen to the khutbah and pay careful attention to it - no matter how difficult it gets.

Let us understand that Allah knows that we are struggling to fulfil this obligation, and the harder it is to fulfil this obligation, the more rewarding and pleasing it is to Allah. Moreover, we also must understand that none of these khateebs are purposely delivering “broke” khutbahs.  Subhaanallah, all of them do put in a considerable amount of effort and try their best. Whilst we do believe that there is room for much improvement, the audience cannot use a khateeb’s inability as an excuse for not taking the Jumu’ah Khutbah seriously.  

 

O Allah! Your Forgiveness is far greater than my sins and I have more hope in Your Mercy than in my own deeds.

 

Requesting your duas!

 

Abdul Haq Abdul Kadir

Johannesburg, Gauteng

South Africa