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Muslim Perspectives

Sermon for the Soul
By M. Hanif Lakdawala

Friday khutbahs in mosques across India should be effectively used to initiate social revolution in the neighbourhood.

The Friday sermon (khutbah) is among the most important activities of any mosque or Islamic Centre. Given appropriate attention and planned wisely, using effective communication techniques and skills, it could bring about significant qualitative change in the local communities.

The Qur’an has referred to the Friday address, as “Dhikr Allah” i.e. remembrance and reminder of God, which indicates that the emphasis of the address should be on Dhikr Allah. Originally, the Friday address was delivered on behalf of the Muslim state, so it naturally focused on the collective affairs and circumstances of the citizens of the state.

In fact, the purpose of Friday khutbah is to remind the Muslims about their responsibilities and to motivate them to stop evil and promote good in their lives, families and in the community. It is also the purpose of the Friday khutbah to inform the Muslims about the condition of the Ummah and the world.

Trends Research and Analysis Center (TRAC) and Islamic Voice conducted a random sample across 24 mosques in Mumbai between 23rd December, 2005 and 10th March 2006 to find out whether the Friday khutbah is achieving its ultimate objective of social revolution in the neighbourhood. The total Friday khutbahs studied were 118. The findings are here:

1. The sub-themes of the khutbah do not flow in a logical sequence: 54%

2. Everything in the khutbah is not supported by a Quranic verse, an authentic hadith, or an acceptable fact: 41%

3. The khutbah discussing controversial issues: 27%

4. Affairs of the world Islamic community: 18%

5. Morals, ethics and values in society: 67%

6. Lack of a clear image of what the speaker wants to say: 37%

7. Insufficient preparation, making the speech too long: 29%

8. Local and neighbourhood issues such as cleanliness, lack of civic sense, lack of discipline, increasing crime, social issues- 3%

9. Khutbah is not on one main topic. The speaker talks about many issues and distracts the audience from a focus: 48%

Low salary, no job security, local politics, pathetic living conditions and negligence from the local community are sufficient reasons to de-motivate our mosque Imams.

What is very clear from the above statistics is that many imams who deliver the Friday khutbah are not motivated enough to deliver an inspiring or soul-stirring sermon. The local issues are totally neglected. Friday khutbah can be an important medium of social change. For that, the community must think in terms of coordinating with the Imams and local organisations and call in professional help to motivate the Imams to deliver an effective Friday khutbah.

The Friday sermon is a reminder, a call, guidance and a means of education. We learn that whenever Allah’s Messenger (Pbuh) delivered the sermon, his eyes would become red, his voice rose, with intense emotion as one giving a warning against the enemy. The motive was to remind the Muslims to be on the straight path. 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. He also contributes to the nation’s materialistic and intellectual development and connects the future with its glorious past.

For long, local mosque Imams in India are left to fend for themselves. Low salary, no job security, local politics, pathetic living conditions and negligence from the local community are sufficient reasons to de-motivate our mosque Imams. How can the community expect a helpless and de-motivated Imam to deliver a soul-stirring and inspiring sermon?

Another issue is the up gradation of the Imam’s knowledge. How many local mosques make the provision for a good reference library for the Imams?

As a short term solution to these issues, the local communities must form a body which meets regularly to discuss the issue of the Friday khutbah. His problems must be given priority and all possible help should be extended so that Friday khutbahs achieve its objective of initiating a social revolution in the mosque’s neighbourhood.