My aim in this article is to provide some guidelines for giving a khutbah (Islamic sermon). Being a khateeb (also spelled khatib) is perhaps the most honorable position that a Muslim can hold, it’s a fulfillment of part of the mission of the Prophet ﷺ. As Ibn Hilal said “the scholars and imams are the messengers of the Prophet ﷺ.” Therefore, a khatib has an extremely challenging task, and this can easily be proven by examining the experience of some of the Companions on the minbar. When Abu Bakr stood on the minbar he immediately realized who stood there before him decided to move up one step, knowing that the Prophet stood on the very same spot; he felt the heaviness of his weight. The same thing happened with Umar– realizing the status of the two people who stood in the same spot, he decided to move up one more step so he would not be standing where the Prophet ﷺ or Abu Bakr stood. When the third caliph Uthman ibn Affan stood on the minbar he became speechless, weeping for a while, and than he stood up and said, “You are in need of a just caliph more than a long-winded one, and if I stay in this position you will receive khutbah after khutbah. After hardship Allah will make ease.” Then he sought refuge in Allah and descended. Each of these three unique scenarios illustrates a challenge that every khatib experiences.
Points that are related to the khutbah:
a- Seriousness about learning. As stated above, the khatib is a messenger of the Prophet. He needs to realize the responsibility on his shoulders and acquire the right tools to make his mission successful. Therefore, the more knowledge the khatib obtains the more effective his khutbah. Remember that the Prophet ﷺ asked Allah to increase him in one thing “O my lord increase me in knowledge.”
b- Seriousness about increasing his experience through training and halaqahs (study circles) that can help him improves his skills.
c- Making sure that his method is totally nourished by proofs from the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet ﷺ. “Had it been from anyone other than Allah you will find in it many contradictions, many discrepancies.”
d- Observing the background of his congregation. It helps to realize that people do not have the same intellectual level, thus making sure that that the khutbah is in a language and style that the average Muslim can comprehend. “We have not sent a messenger expect in the language (lisan) of his people.”
e- Developing a method that is contemporary to his audience, speaking to people in the context of their day to day life.
f- Staying away from exaggeration and scenarios that are more of a myth than a reality. (more…)
To continue the conversation about youth at risk, and how imams and Muslim chaplains can respond, I asked my dear friend and student at al-Azhar’s College of Shari’ah, Jamaal Diwan, to reflect upon the points raised in my article “What Happened to Ahmad: Responding to Muslim Youth at Risk.” The following is his response.
Since I was asked to write about this topic from the perspective of a student of Shari’a, I would like to begin my comments with some reflections on the role of the imam in America and then work from there towards my thoughts on the relationship between chaplains and imams.
There is something I am extremely passionate about… something I quit my job last year for and packed my car up and moved to Detroit in one day for… something I spend 80+ hours a week on to make a success… something that is my life until 2011: Bilal’s Stand
Bilal’s Stand, (in case you haven’t heard), is a seriously good Sundance-accepted award-winning film by a young, talented Muslim, Sultan Sharrief. Sultan is a close friend of mine and after he got into Sundance and realized this movie could go somewhere, he asked me to come out and join him as his business manager. After reflecting and praying on it, I decided to go for it. Why? Because I realized the best way to counter the rising tide of Islamaphobia was to be found in media – in Muslims gaining control of how we define ourselves and how Islam is perceived by the masses through the television and movies they see.
Imagine this. You are standing in front of a crowd of people, whom the majority you do not even know. You have been contemplating for weeks, months, some even years about this important decision that you are about to make. A ton of emotion and thought runs through your body. Something had been missing your whole life, there was always something that didn’t feel right, and you never really knew why, but you continued to search until this day. After keeping faith, hope, and never giving up, you finally found exactly what was missing-Islam. And at this very moment, your are about to proclaim your faith. Suddenly, it’s said “ashadu a lā ilāha illa Allāh, wa ashadu anna Muḥammadan rasūl Allāh.” Immediately everyone rushes you with gifts, kisses, handshakes, hugs, and advice. Those strangers whom you were looking at 5 minutes ago, now claim to be your brother and your sister in Islam. It is now that you are officially accepted, integrated, and welcomed by all who surround you. Your emotions run like crazy: the discovery of truth, the feeling of peace, joy, and for some…fear. Sadness reigns as a result of the disapproval by your loved ones. Fear settles at the bottom of your gut because you now have to hide from ridicule and remarks by those who you trust. Uncertainty develops as you practice something you are completely new at, and unfortunately, those who called you a brother or sister in Islam don’t even realize it. Their backs are turned, and the help that was professed on day one is no longer there. You begin missing your salah’s without feeling any regret. Your mentality of the very existence of Allah is starting to diminish, and before you know it, you are no longer practicing Islam.
To the untrained eye, he might look like a student or adviser to the primarily international students. But the 28year-old master’s candidate at Hartford Seminary is the school’s first Muslim chaplain. For years, leaders from faiths including Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism have tended to the spiritual needs of students, but this marks the first year that Choate’s Muslim population— representing the Sunni and Shiite sects — has been larger than just a few students.
Framed descriptions of Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam hang from the walls inside a common room that bears trustee Bill Spears’ name and is used for moral and spiritual purposes, as Spears desired. After weekly informal dinner meetings, the newly formed Muslim Student Association, with a membership of 13, heads to the multi-purpose space to pray, discuss the Qur’an and what it means to be a Muslim in America, and plan interfaith events.
“It’s not my job to actually force anyone to go either way, but to actually respond,” said Long, a California native and convert to Islam, on promoting religious views.
The new association and chaplain are part of the school’s response to a changing international population. Several religious officials have called the move proactive and forward thinking, in line with universities such as Yale, Princeton and Duke, which have all recently hired Muslim chaplains, graduates of Hartford Seminary’s program.“We have more and more international students who do not come from Asia,” said Stephen Farrell, Choate’s dean of faculty. “Twenty-five to 30 years ago, almost all of them were Asian students. But we’ve really moved into the Middle East and Africa.” International students make up 14 percent of Choate’s 850 students.
Students from as far away as Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Malaysia reached out to the Rev. Marc Trister, the school’s Protestant chaplain and head of campus ministries, early in the school year. Trister led the group to Hartford, where it met with Mumina Kowalski, assistant director of the Islamic chaplaincy program.
After several interviews, Long, a first-year master’s degree candidate in Islamic studies and Muslim-Christian relations seemed to be the perfect fit. His youth and way of coming to the religion likely play a role in his ease with the diverse group. “Everybody agreed that this was an important step for the school to make,” Trister said.