Has the Friday sermon lost its initial influence?
One cannot help but notice the apathy on the faces of some of the youth, men, and women as they step out of the mosque after the Friday sermon and prayer.
At some mosques, the sermon is so interesting that you wish it would extend for hours, but at others, the sermon fails to spark your interest.
Why do some worshipers leave the mosque after the sermon without an uplifting feeling, a powerful urge to improve our community, a sense of unity, and renewed spiritual energy?
All Muslims are obligated to join in the Friday prayer and listen attentively to the speech at the mosque. For children and women it is voluntary.
The Friday sermon should educate, inspire, unite the community, and give solutions to rectify existing social problems. It should address imperative and relevant issues of concern to the people and the challenges they are facing.
A learned man, Ibnul Qayem, used to say, “Through his Friday sermon, the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to fill the hearts of people with faith and he established monotheism and knowledge about Allah and the past nations. The Prophet’s Friday sermon was profuse with meanings of guidance, monotheism, mentioning the attributes of Allah, the many blessings of Allah, and how to worship Allah in a way that makes Him satisfied with them.”
Is today’s Friday sermon lacking its original impact? The purpose of the Friday sermon was to fortify faith, soften the heart, open the door of hope and repentance, change bad habits, and positively shape the morals of the individual and the society at large.
As for 17-year-old Oubada Dahma, he said, “These days the Friday sermon is often repetitive and monotonous. The sermon today does not serve the purpose that it used to fulfill during the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Some sermons seem detached from the reality of what we are experiencing. I wish Imams would be more sensitive to the pain that Muslims are enduring, respect our intellect, and address the events important to the Muslim world. Rather than still talking about how to perform ablution and prayer, the sermon should discuss issues such as human rights and racism. At times, the Friday sermon is a mere routine and it often fails to engage my heart and mind.”
Another young man, Yousef Sait, said, “Important aspects of social life and moral conduct should be given far more attention to during the Friday sermons. We are in need of hearing a sermon that encourages people to help those in need, to maintain social ties, to love our fellow Muslim brothers, and respect all members of society.”
“Unfortunately, on rare occasions does the Friday sermon these days truly pull me and motivate me to improve my own self and to serve my community. The topics are repetitive; scholars should select topics to help us deal with the problems we are facing. I would like to hear a speech that would help me in decision making, how to utilize the istikhara prayer (done to seek guidance from Allah when making a tough decision), and sermons that would help shed light on recent local and global events that are impacting the lives of Muslims,” said Basil Al-Subee.
“After the Friday prayer, when I leave the mosque, I remember about half of the sermon. I wish the Imam would take into consideration the needs of the youth and address topics like overcoming obstacles in our lives, the hope of repentance to Allah and fixing the mistakes we make,” said Anas Sibai.
One young worshiper tried going to several mosques to attend the Friday sermon until he finally found the one that drew him and inspired him.
“At the mosque where I attend the Friday sermon, the Imam talks about important humanitarian and mind-stimulating topics. That is the only mosque that I prefer going to because the Imam inspires me to think of others, to search for ways to alleviate human suffering, and to seek forgiveness for my own shortcomings and sins,” said Abdul Rahman Hashem.
Ideally a sense of belonging and attachment to the community should be established because all Muslims gather together each week for the Friday sermon: Muslims of all ages, education levels, diverse cultures and races, and different occupations. It is a shared worshiping, informative, educational, and belief-oriented social activity for everyone. The Friday sermon if utilized properly by orators could have a very positive influence on the state of Muslims worldwide, because Muslims listen to 52 sermons each year, which could be equivalent to a well-rounded study course.
The Friday sermon should reflect the needs of the people and the sincerity, knowledge, and passion of the speaker.
When asked about the influence of the Friday sermon on worshipers, Al-Hasan Al-Basry said, “If the words come from the heart they reach for the hearts, but if they come from the tongue they only manage to reach the ears.” (Al-Bayan Wal Tabyeen by Al-Jahez)