There was an excellent khutbah (sermon) last week in my local mosque. I looked around to see if everyone was enjoying it just as much as I was and they were! The vast majority of people were really engaged into his talk. Usually most people are not really paying attention. This got me thinking that how great it would be if we had more quality khutbahs in the mosques on a regular basis. The reality is that most khutbahs on Fridays are low quality and it is very difficult to follow the khateeb (speaker). Most Fridays I’m just internally begging the guy to hurry it up and finish so I can go. Afterwards, I can recall little to nothing from what was discussed. I usually end up day dreaming and just delving into my own thoughts during the speech. But it wasn’t like that last week. I was really engaged the whole time. There are a number of reasons why most khateebs give bad quality khutbahs. Following five are the most common ones that I’ve found:
1) English is not their first language – They cannot communicate the message across very well. The listener is lost due to bad grammar, mispronunciation, bad sentence structure, etc. This is not to say that there aren’t some khateebs who give great khutbahs despite English not being their first language. But this is the exception not the rule.
2) They’re not qualified to be speaking – They mix random things up and deliver a khutbah that makes little to no sense and occasionally isn’t even Islamically acceptable.
3) The khutbah is not relevant to the audience – These are khateebs who talk about issues that the vast majority of the audience doesn’t care for because they’re not relevant to their lives. This is why it is ideal that the khateeb be someone who can connect with the culture in which he is giving the khutbah. He shouldn’t be someone who lives in a bubble and is ignorant of what’s going on around him.
4) The khutbah is void of wisdom – This is when a khateeb gives advice in a way which may not be appropriate for the time. Either it is too harsh of an advice or too soft depending on the situation and the topic at hand. The khateeb should be careful and make sure that what he’s saying is not taken either too lightly or too harshly, otherwise, the audience will reject the message. This also includes speaking about issues that the audience is not yet ready for or may find too idealistic. The message should be practical. For example, demanding that people should regularly pray five times a day in the mosque while many may not even be praying regularly in their houses. A better khutbah would be to talk about the importance and benefits of praying five times a day.
5) The speaker is not built to speak – Public speaking is a form of art and not everyone can do it. I’ve seen very knowledgeable people who cannot give good khutbahs. Some people are just not speakers. They’re not meant for it.
The question is then why do mosques allow this to continue? It’s very simple. There is more demand and less supply. There are so many Friday prayers going on around the country and the mosques are desperate to fill those spots with people willing to give khutbahs but there aren’t enough good quality khateebs available to fill the spots. Most mosques do more than one prayer every Friday plus satellite locations for many of them. If the mosques were to make a good quality khateeb a condition, then you’re not going to be having too many Friday prayers in the country because the supply is too low. So what ends up happening is that mosques will put almost anyone forward as long as they can comfortably talk just to fill the demand of khateebs.
I hope we can have more quality khateebs in the future one day so that they can permanently replace bad quality khateebs. Imagine if we could have good quality khutbahs given each week all across the U.S. It is then, I hope insha’Allah, that more Muslims will get positively influenced and the religion revived among the masses.
I am a Pakistani-American Muslim blogger. I hold a B.S. in Information Technology and a B.A. in Islamic Studies. I am also a follower and a student of the Hanbali school of Islamic law. Read more