Guidelines for Delivering Friday Khutbah
As-Salam `alaykum! Dear scholars, as we witness nowadays many Imams delivering Friday khutbahs (sermons) without taking steps or making efforts to make that sermons penetrate people’s hearts and have impact on their lives. Friday sermons are no longer aspiring to many, thanks to the poor styles adopted by many Imams in giving khutbah, as if they don’t care whether people are listening or not. Please, give advice on this issue?
Name of Counsellor Sheikh Muhammad Al-Gazali
Topic Friday Prayer
Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Dear brother in Islam, thanks for your interesting question, which tackles the issue of great importance to the du`ah (Islamic callers) in general and to Imams in particular. As we all know the importance of Friday Prayer, and it how serves as a unity mechanism for Muslim Ummah, our Imams should try to enhance their methods of delivering khutbah (Friday sermon). They must bear in mind that the khutbah has a great role to play in enlightening Muslim Ummah and in unifying their stand vis-à-vis challenges facing them.
Putting all this into consideration, we find it relevant to cite the following guidelines, set forth by the late prominent Muslim scholar and da`iyah Sheikh Muhammad Al-Gahzali:
“The mosque is the heart of the Islamic community and the place where the believers meet day and night to fulfill their obligations to Allah and seek His guidance and help, glory be to Him.
The Friday khutbah is a major Islamic ritual, which penetrates the hearts in moments when people are ready to accept the guidance. That is why the message of the khutbah is extremely effective.
The Imam who studies his subject and presents it well is contributing a great deal in teaching the Ummah and leading its revival. He also contributes to the nation’s materialistic and intellectual development and connects the tomorrow with its glorious past.
I aspire to contribute to bettering the quality of the khutbahs in the masjids (mosques). I would like to make the pulpit a true image of Islam’s pure knowledge and supreme education. The masjid is a place where great emotional and intellectual energy is stimulated. This is especially true on Friday when the worshipers listen attentively to the Imam. The Imam explains to them the teachings of Islam and shows them the rules that Allah has put forth, as well as Islam’s pure knowledge and education.
Therefore, I would like to give these brief guidelines for what I believe is essential for the Friday khutbah. These guidelines will make the khutbah a spring for spiritual and intellectual growth:
1. It is recommended that to make khutbah on one main topic. The speaker who talks about many issues distracts the audience from a focus. The result would be that he alternates between different emotions and ideas. Regardless of his eloquence and fluency, he would never succeed in drawing a clear image about the teachings of Islam. Clarity is crucial for education. Ambiguity and excessive generalization is of no use. The Friday khutbah is not a theoretical session, but a practical explanation of the truth.
2. The sub-themes of the khutbah should flow in a logical sequence. The audience should feel as if they are ascending steps. At the end of the khutbah the audience would reach the conclusion that the speaker has aimed for. The speaker should be selective of which scripts facilitate the objective of his speech.
3. The khutbah is mainly discussing the Islamic values, which are derived from the Book of Allah, the Sunnah, and the traditions of the salaf (the early righteous Muslims). Thus, each and everything in the khutbah should be supported by a Qur’anic verse, an authentic hadith, or an acceptable fact. There should be enough contained in these sources for advice and guidance. Therefore, it is not acceptable at all for a khutbah to include non-authentic stories, let alone fabrications. Scholars permitted the use of non-authentic hadiths for certain actions. However, they put on their use the condition that these hadiths do not violate the core Islamic basics and fundamentals. I think that there is enough authentic hadiths for the learned speaker. Moreover, there are enough stories in the hadiths of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), the guided Caliphs, and the leading scholars.
4. The khutbah should never discuss controversial issues. It should never present only a single Islamic opinion and leave out others that are valid. The mosque should unify and not divide people. The Ummah should be gathered around the fundamentals of iman (faith) that every person agrees upon versus matters that are subject to personal opinion. There are numerous principles that can make good topics. Muslims have suffered enough from divisions among themselves, and it is about time that the mosques provide unity and harmony.
5. A good speaker cannot ignore current affairs of the world or the Islamic community. If his speech is discussing a different place, time, and people, then he is totally discredited. This is precisely why the Qur’an was revealed over a period of twenty-three years. It dealt with events over time, and therefore, was most effective in its guidance. The Qur’an is a cure for social illnesses, but the speaker must diagnose the disease accurately. Then, he would extract from the Book or the Sunnah the required medication. This process requires experience. Otherwise, he would give the wrong medication and as a result would never be able to cure the disease. Furthermore, if he makes a mistake in the diagnosis, then his khutbah is useless, even if it includes a variety of authentic scripts.
6. There is a group of hadiths that promise tremendous rewards for simple deeds. Highly developed scholars warned that these hadiths should not be taken literally. They should be put into context. This means considering the level of sincerity of these good doers. Therefore, a speaker should never include these hadiths in his khutbah without proper explanation. Otherwise, he would create a disproportionate representation of the different categories of deeds.
7. Islamic education is meant to foster morals in society and explain the rewards or consequences thereof. There is no harm in mentioning the rewards for good and the punishment for evil in the Hereafter. But it is not recommended to spend the entire khutbah on intangible punishments and rewards.
8. It is beneficial to mention political and intellectual achievements in Islamic history. Islam founded a great civilization that sprang from the intellectual movement that the Qur’an initiated and the human consciousness that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) awoke. The objective behind such khutbahs is to raise self-confidence among Muslims and to remind them of their global mission.
9. It is well known that some foreign philosophies and atheism infiltrated the Muslim Ummah during its recent historical fall. Thus, it is natural that a good khutbah would refute such ideologies. The khutbah should avoid excessive arguments, but should focus on presenting the positive Islamic facts. It should, moreover, avoid the mentioning of names. The objective of the khutbah, rather, is to protect our spiritual and academic history, and not to defame others publicly.
10. Before facing the audience, a speaker should have a clear image of what he wants to say. He should rethink of his speech to ensure that he is presenting correct arguments that will not cause any negative psychological or social effects. He should also check his evidence. If it is a verse, he is to memorize it well, and if it is a hadith he should narrate it accurately. If he is quoting a book, then he should make his as close to the original as possible. Good preparation is a sign of respect to oneself and one’s audience.
However, sometimes, one is faced with a situation where he is forced to make a speech from the top of his head. The ability to make a speech on the spot comes after much experience with prepared speeches. After some time, one will have accumulated a wealth of speeches that enable the speaker to lecture in numerous situations. However, experience in winging it should not prevent a scholar from good preparation. This shows how much he desires to fulfill his obligation truthfully and how much he appreciates the attentiveness of the people to his message.
11. A khutbah that is concise enables the audience to better focus on its teachings and enables the speaker to convey the message more clearly. Excessive speech causes people to forget many details. The most important objectives of the khutbah might be lost in the midst of all these additions. Can’t one see that a piece of land needs only a certain number of seeds? A farmer must necessarily uproot the extra plants to enable the rest of the plants to grow and bear fruits. Similarly, a human soul does not absorb values unless they are well defined and well presented. Too much talk and presenting too many facts would cause the minds of the listeners to overflow with the information, regardless of how precious those facts are.
Insufficient preparation causes the speech to be too long and thus, boring to the audience. A speaker who moves randomly among rules and instructions is not sure about the effect of his speech and whether or not people are convinced or to what extent. He will keep repeating what he previously said, and will in the process lose the audience’s attention.
Excessive talk might also be caused by a misjudgment of time. A lack of common sense can lead the speaker to think that he needs to say all that he has to say, and that people have to listen attentively, whether or not they like it. This is a grave mistake. Conciseness requires making choices, canceling some parts, and confirming other parts. But random talk requires less effort. Actually, five minutes is enough to convey an immense amount of knowledge. And ten or fifteen minutes is enough for a good khutbah or lecture.”
Allah Almighty knows best.
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