Jum’ah Khutbah at an Ivy League University:
The Magic Powers and Potential of a Good Speech
Recently, an opportunity arose for me to give Jum’ah Khutbah in an Ivy League University.
This, after having been shooed off from delivering Jum’ah Khutbah for all these years past in any significant mosque in America.
When the idea was first mooted, I was over 300 miles away from the place of the proposed or possible Khutbah. So, if the opportunity were confirmed, I would be required to rent a car, as some other people would have the use of my car for that weekend, and drive close to 350 miles in either direction.
Or fly maybe. And flying is not as simple as it may sound.
So, I wrote to the folks, in this Ivy League School Muslim Community in question asking for a firm commitment that I was indeed going to be the Khateeb.
I also took this opportunity to share with them a few things about the nature and purpose of the Jum’ah Khutbah. Because, the Muslim Community, it would appear, is basically uninformed of the true nature of Jum’ah Khutbah.
Muslims by and large do not seem to fully comprehend or appreciate the true purpose, use and function of Jum’ah Khutbah in the lives of Muslims in particular and in the life of the society in general.
So, below is some of what I wrote in the mail I sent to some of the movers and shakers of this particular Muslim Community in this particular Ivy League University in the United States. I have expanded it a bit for www.Islamicsolutions.Com for a wider circulation.
I am writing to confirm that I am available to do Khutbah on Friday – such-and-such-a-date, Inshallah.
Here is what it takes on our part: Confirmation by you that I am really doing it, Inshallah. And doing so as quickly as possible. That means, please let me know in a day or two.
And here is why:
I will be traveling roughly 350 miles either way to give the Khutbah, if that is what God wants me to do.
And incurring all the costs involved in the trip, including car rental, and other expenses, should that be how God decides to do things.
So, it will help to know early – that means in a day or two – whether or not I am confirmed to do Khutbah on such-and-such-a-date, so arrangements can be made at my end.
At the same time, if you can share this mail with So-and-So and also So-and-So, that will be good too. For, I see hope in them.
We should not forget that everything we do should come out as an attempt to educate and motivate each other.
Because, just like the Hadith says:
That means the spirit of the Deen is to keep telling and admonishing each other, and to keep giving each other good and wise counsel, and inviting each other to Allah.
That should be the very purpose, direction and orientation of our life at all times and in all places.
And then here is some serious soul searching for all of you to do – in this wonderful Muslim Community, at this most prestigious Ivy League University:
The time allotted for Jum’ah Khutbah and Salah by you in your community, or Jama’at, is 20 minutes. Unless I got it wrong.
And that, if again I did not get it wrong, includes the time for the Speech of the Khutbah and the Salah.
Actually the words Speech of the Khutbah is a redundancy. For, Khutbah in Arabic means Speech. Just, plain, simple speech. You can call it formal speech if you want.
But the Jum’ah Khutbah certainly is not a Sermon.
For, in Islam, there are no sermons – which you can consider to be “holy” speech. That is because sermons are delivered by priests and there are no priests in Islam. It is as simple as that.
Deduct from that time slot – from those 20 minutes I mean – 5 minutes that some people may want to take for an elaborate and leisurely singing out of the Adhan, and that brings the actual Khutbah time to no more than 15 minutes most likely.
That is, then, the actual Speaking Time, as it were. For, the expression Khutbah in Arabic language is nothing but “Speech.”
Again, whether or not this includes the Salah, I do not really know at this time.
And, mind you, this tiny little slot of time is set aside for a Khutbah – a most important speech or lecture – that is addressed to a slice of the creme de la crème, as it were, of the Muslim Ummah in a manner of speaking.
And the gathering invariably consists of faculty members, graduate and undergraduate students, and staff persons and others from all around the world. And almost all of them are in one way or another part of an Ivy League University environment in the United States of America!
One of the premier places in America that the world – including the Muslim world – goes to educate itself.
Thus, a group of Muslims in this particular Ivy League University Jama’at has decided that 15 precious minutes a week is all that it could spare or arrange for Jum’ah Khutbah – not for this particular Khutbah that I may end up delivering but for Jum’ah Khutbah in general, regardless of who delivers it and when.
If Muslims understood the true nature of Jum’ah Khutbah, they would know that the Jum’ah Speech – for, that is what it is: a Speech – was by far an activity on which the present and future of Muslims in this part of the world may depend.
And on which may also depend the present and future of Muslims throughout America and the Western Hemisphere.
And on which may depend in fact the fate of the entire world.
Go read that Hadith – and I think it is a Hadith unless I am mistaken – that makes it crystal clear what the role of a Speech could be in human life.
The Hadith says that human speech could have the power of magic.
The words of the Hadith the way I seem to recall them at this moment go like this:
Inna Minal Bayaani La-Sihraa!
You can do all the Sanad-checking you want in order to establish the strength or weakness of this Hadith, if it is a Hadith at all. But I would simply say this:
Don’t look to Demosthenes and Cicero of ancient times to know the powers and magic of human speechmaking.
Don’t even look to a Churchill or a Kennedy.
Just look at the way Barack Obama – President # 44 & 45 of the United States of America – talked his way into the White House, right before your eyes.
Do that and then argue among yourselves all you want whether or not the Jum’ah Speech, properly conceived and effectively delivered, could play a most powerful and magical role in the affairs of communities, societies and nations around the world.
And then compare this 15-minute time allocation for this most important activity of our life with all the other allocations of time we make in all sorts of other activities in our life.
That should tell us everything we need to know about ourselves – why we are the way we are and why the world of Allah is the way it is. Because we were, after all, appointed by God as the servants, caretakers and helpers of all the people of the world.
Kuntum Khayira Ummatin Ukhrijat Linnaasi!
“You are absolutely the finest people in the world,
as you are raised up to work for the betterment of the entire human race.”
I am not saying there are no reasons and constraints that work to keep this Jum’ah Speech window so tight – close to 10 minutes, more or less. University people, both students and professors, have to attend classes. And people are busy.
Absolutely. No one disagrees with any of that.
And in Islam, we should all know that education is nothing less than worship. Education is in fact one of the finest forms of Ibaadat.
And you walk, we are told in the Hadith, under the shade of angels’ wings when you walk the pathways of education.
Yet, if people really understood the true nature of the Khutbah, and if they appreciated the educational, motivational and nation-building potential and function of the Khutbah in society, and around the world, they will make sure that they find an additional minute or two from wherever they could.
And thus possibly make the Jum’ah Khutbah a full 30 minutes, instead of its present 10 or 15 minutes.
And they will also do something else. They will not spend all those minutes in singing Adhan in the most elaborate sort of way. They will shave off whatever minutes they can by calling the Adhan in the most clear, beautiful and yet crisp and concise sort of way so those saved minutes could then be added to the actual body of the Khutbah – The Speech: the Magic Part of the Jum’ah Salah, if you would go by the words of the Hadith that says Inna Minal Bayaani La-Sihraa!
Paraphrase of Hadith:
“Some speeches could have magical effect.”
That is more likely to happen if Muslims understood the true essence, spirit and purpose of the Khutbah as a divine tool in human hands for the continual and ongoing education, motivation, renewal and regeneration of not only a specific community, or even society or nation, but of the world as a whole.
And where is the surprise in any of this? Does not God Almighty mention speech and articulation as among the special things with which he endowed this very special creation of his – the Insaan – The Human Being?
Just go read the Qur’an: