Friday, April 27, 2012

A Khutbah is Like a Box of Chocolates...

A famous and often quoted line from  Tom Hanks' movie Forrest Gump  is when the title character is sitting on a bench with a box of chocolates on his lap. He declares, "My momma always said, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." 

When it comes to the Muslim community and the religious obligation of Muslims to attend Jummah (Friday) prayers, this quote can be modified a bit to summarize what it's like listening to some of the weekly Khutbahs (sermons) conducted by the knowledgeable in the community: "Khutbah's are like a box of chocolates...not enough of the delicious caramel kind, too many crappy ones with the orange filling."


Khutbah's these days are typically hit or miss and no matter what region of the world you're in, you've probably had to suffer one or more of those misses. I'm sure most of the readers have endured this scenario in some way, shape or form: 



Good Friday?


Oh great, another Khutbah from Sheikh Achmed Boremetodeath

You enter the Masjid on a beautiful afternoon--and for a good number of folks, it maybe the only time of the week they even step foot in the masjid--with the high hopes to hear something inspiring and thought-provoking. You expect the individual who rises up on the mimbar to deliver a hard-hitting punch to the gut reminder of your life's purpose. Someone who will toss you some valuable gems of spiritual wisdom passed down from the Prophet himself (peace be upon him). You sit patiently, yearning for that much-needed iman boost to rejuvenate your heart and make you exclaim, "Man, Islam is beautiful!". Maybe it's gonna be one of those young, vibrant and dynamic speakers who speak the language of todays youth and know what's "poppin' in the streets". Or maybe it's that wise, seasoned scholar who schools your mind with a profound history lesson from the days of the sahabah (companions of the prophet-may Allah be pleased with them) and relates it to today, giving us that shot in the arm we so desperately need. 

Instead, the man who steps up seems a little shaky and nervous. He shuffles some papers and clears his throat. Finally, he speaks and ughhh--good Lord have mercy! He has an accent. A  heavy and nearly incoherent one at that. Or you get someone who stands there and speaks Arabic for 15 straight minutes before finally sputtering out in English "Brahtharrs and seesthurrs, our toepic doday ees faith/salah/forgiveness/charity/hellfire etc." The topic is usually something very broad and one which more often then not has been done to death.

Example: The beginning of the Khutbah you're told that salah/charity is important and you should do it cause its a pillar of Islam (DUH!) 
If you don't pray Salah/give charity, you suck and will go to Hell. 
Moral of the past mind-numbing 30 minutes, please pray/give more money to charity, preferably the mosque.
Now, dont get me wrong, reminders are good. In fact, the purpose of a Friday Khutbah is to serve as a reminder of our Islamic duties. The Friday khutbah is supposed to inspire and enlighten us on the spiritual, social, moral, ethical, philosophical, cultural, and political issues which impact our lives  – and ultimately draw it all back to loving, serving, and glorifying God and improving the human condition. 

Sadly, more often than not, the khutbah falls flat and you're left not remembering even a morsel of information. If you exit the masjid in the same state of mind in which you entered, that my friends, should be seen as an EPIC FAIL. And sometimes, it's not your fault, but the fault of the Khateebs (those who give Khutbahs) for not knowing their audience and conducting a relevant survey which speaks to the people .

Special Delivery
Nowadays, the Friday Khutbah is crucial because we're living in a time where the Friday prayer--for an increasing segment of the community--is the ONLY time a Muslim individual even steps in the masjid, much less does anything remotely religious. More and more people are unfortunately taking the route of "one and done"; just go to Friday prayer, get your 40 minutes in and you're through for the week. No prayers the rest of the week, no reading Qur'an, no Islamic knowledge of any kind being learned and implemented. Some of these folks may be college students swamped with school or youth who spend their time goofing off and acting a fool. But there is also the adult professionals who only set aside time in their schedules for Jummah. The ones who show up late, park illegally, and rush on out of the doors the second after turning their head for the tasleem (salutation of peace that ends the prayer). 

It is absolutely vital for Khateebs to deliver something which may, by Allah's will, pierce the hearts and grab hold of the ears of the people, especially those "one and done'rs". Those qualified members of the community must realize that what they are about to say for those 20-25 minutes may be the only Islamic knowledge of the week for a segment of their audience, so it better be good!

Sweet Chocolatey Words of Advice

My advice to Jummah attendants is to be patient and not tune out when there's a khutbah of doom upon you. Try to listen for at least one morsel of information that can benefit you. Even if the khutbah is being delivered in a crummy way, the guy has to be saying something --even if it's one verse of a hadith or the Quran--which is beautiful and impactful. Another thing, even if the Khutbah is a thumbs down, before you go to the Friday prayer, go on YouTube or a website and listen to a lecture or talk. There's plenty of good ones out there. Search for a topic you want more explanation on or an issue in life you're struggling with. Islam has answers for all aspects of life so I am sure whatever issue you can think of, there is a speaker out there who has addressed it in a way that is satisfying.

All in all, don't be discouraged if your spiritual battery isn't recharged with a brilliant heart-warming, spirit-boosting khutbah. You can get some benefit while sitting there. Ponder about your life, your situation, your relationship with Allah and how you can improve yourself and your position. We're all trying to get to the same place (Paradise), so take the steps and put in the work to get there whether it's reading more, praying more, doing more in the community to help etc. In the meantime, stomach those orange filling chocolates and God willing, next week there will be a ooey-gooey caramel, double fudge with nougat khutbah that will give that kick in the pants you need.

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