Quarterly: Issue No 70
JUMU’AH KHUTBAHS OF TODAY
All Praise is due to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala), our only Sustainer and Creator. And Blessings and Peace be upon His beloved Messenger Muhammad, his family and all his companions.
We bear witness that there is none worthy of worship but Allah Alone, and we bear witness that Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) is His servant and the Seal of all His Messengers.
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 given on Friday just before performing Friday Salaah (prayer). It is considered very important to the extent that it is part of Salaah. The daily noon prayers are composed of four cycles (Raka’aat), but the Friday Salaah is composed of two cycles — he khutbah takes place of the other two cycles. 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 ordered in the Qur’an, as Allah says: O you who believe! When the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday (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 62:9)
b. Listening to the Khutbah is obligatory. If he does not listen, he does an evil act and as a result has no reward. Allah’s beloved Prophet (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). They are also obligated to be silent whilst listening to it.
c. Besides the people, the angels also listen to the Khutbah, and more importantly Allah (SWT) is listening to it. Therefore, much care must be taken to avoid saying anything which is not pleasing to Allah (SWT). The Holy Prophet (SAW), while persuading Muslims to go to the Masjid on Friday at their earliest, has 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 people, the Jumu’ah Khutbah is the only source of Islamic information.
Khateeb (plural khutabaa – in Arabic) i.e. one who delivers the Friday Khutbah in English and Arabic.
The issues and concerns of Jumu’ah khutbahs are being discussed by many scholars for several years now. Unfortunately, the situation is only deteriorating weekly. Whilst there are notable exceptions of the most brilliant and powerful khutbahs given by some excellent khateebs those who deliver the Friday sermons in English and Arabic - the overall state of our khutbahs can best be described as de-spirited, ineffective and lacking reality and relevance to our times and the assembled gatherings. There are several key areas where these khutbahs are ineffective in reaching audiences, as people either space-out, sleep, or make serious struggles to get some benefit from these khutbahs. This might be true for other Muslim countries as well. While it may seem to be a trivial matter to many, it is an important issue with serious ramifications for the greater Muslim community.
Before getting into actual details, let us remind ourselves 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 attending the 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 to serve humanity and do 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 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 is already happening in many masaajid today.
Let us look at some of these issues and concerns, hopefully for the better, insha Allah.
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: 14:4). 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. The masaajid need to stop having khateebs who speak in thick Indian or Arab accents. 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 actually 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: 25-28) This is a great guidance for us in the field of effective communication. A Prophet of Allah is begging Allah after being given the Message to be able to express it clearly to those around him. If a Prophet of Allah is so concerned about this, then how can we - as lesser human being – ignore it? If the khateebs of today, who are essentially the inheritors of the Prophetic tradition of inspiring and reminding people, cannot express this message clearly in ways that their people can understand, then they should not be allowed to continue delivering khutbahs. If they continue to do so in this manner, then this will result in one of following possibilities:
a. The congregation (audience) will not understand what these khateebs are saying and thus receive no benefit from it;
b. The congregation becomes bored and drift off or starting sleeping during their talks; or
c. They become so disgusted with the khutbah that coming to Jumu’ah becomes a boredom - instead of a blessing - with the actual listening of the khutbah being the hardest part.
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 need to just start shouting out aloud with the typical focus on emphasizing that “we all are going to hell”. 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 examples, and most importantly encouraging people by giving them hope – not letting them leave the masjid disheartened 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 main focus of the khutbah. It’s really 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 his main points of the 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 is necessary to translate it immediately so that there is no confusion in the minds of the audience as the khutbah proceeds.
Amongst many other issues, the Khateebs need to choose topics that are relevant to the present times with focus on spiritual development, considering that the greatest crisis in the Ummah today - amongst all the crises that exist - is the death of spirituality amongst us. Khutbahs need to focus on exhorting people towards taqwa (being conscious of Allah at all times – in public or private); 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 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 all latecomers who missed 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 that listeners can practise on to achieve their goals towards achieving taqwa.
Finally, we must remember that despite how boring a khutbah can be, it is our own individual obligation to pay attention and try to benefit from it, regardless of its delivery or deliverer. 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 English and Arabic). 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 in preparing and are trying their best. Whilst we do believe that there is room for much improvement, we as the audience cannot use a khateeb’s inability as an excuse for not taking the khutbah seriously. If the audience members cannot make this initial effort, no matter how great the speaker is, no matter how effective the presentation is, most listeners are still going to go away empty headed.
Let us now summarise the above as some simple traits of a good khutbah and khateeb:
1: The effectiveness of a khutbah is directly proportional to the amount of khutbah generated from the khateeb’s heart (sincerity).
2: Khutbahs should not be diluted with un-Islamic politics or other non-spiritual matters.
3: Arabic terminology must be translated immediately so that people can understand them.
4: Khateebs must be able to speak good English without any hard foreign accents.
5: The effectiveness of a khateeb is directly proportional to the amount of interest and enthusiasm a listener has before even entering the masjid.
6. In order to deliver an effective khutbah, it is recommended to pick and prepare the topic of the khutbah much early in the week.
7. The objective of the khateeb should not be to say what the people want to hear, but to say what they need to hear.
8. The khutbah needs good preparation. If it is a half hour khutbah, that time does not belong to the khateeb. It is a trust for the listeners, and the khateeb need to respect that time. The khutbah needs to have beneficial knowledge and that requires some research (e.g. checking hadith authenticity, medical facts, statistics, etc. if possible). You don’t want to say something that some of your audience knows is wrong because that takes away from their overall credibility of the khateeb.
9. Respect your audience as there may be more knowledgeable people than you in the audience. So don’t command people by saying “do this, don’t do that.” Rather give the reasons why something should or should not be done.
10. Some khateebs always talk about mistakes. Change this approach. Don’t be like a fly, which comes around a person wearing the best of clothing and if there be on it one speck of dirt, it focuses in on that one dirty spot.
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 humble duas!
Abdul Haq Abdul Kadir
Kyalami Glen, Gauteng
Johannesburg, South Africa