Khutbah or sermon is one of the requisites for Salat-al-Juma, the Friday congregational prayers.

According to fiqh books, the aim of khutbah is to remember Allah first and then advise the congregation about issues related to faith, social and moral values.

The jurists state that the time of recitation of the Qur’an during the fard (obligatory prayer) should be longer than the khutbah.

Prophet Muhammed (s) delivered the khutbah in five to ten minutes.

However, research concluded in February 2018 shows that the duration principle of khutbah is not being applied by most khatibs and imams at Friday prayers being held in Sydney.

Husnia Underabi recorded and analysed the Friday sermons of 48 mosques in Sydney as part of her PhD thesis titled “Mosque Sermons and Audience Receptivity.”[1] The results show that the duration of almost 95% of Friday khutbahs delivered in Sydney are longer than the ones delivered by the Prophet (s).

She points out “varying from the tradition set by Muhammad (s), (the proto-p for the role performed by the imam) most sermons fell within the range of 20 to 40 minutes. On a limited number of occasions, the sermons exceeded 50 minutes in length” (p 167).

According to the research results, 28% sermons are delivered between 20-29 minutes, 29% between 30-39 minutes, 23% between 40-49 minutes and 15% exceed 50 minutes. The remaining 5% were delivered between 5-10 minutes.

In some mosques, Friday sermons are delivered in three languages which takes longer time than expected.

The khatib and imams view Friday congregation as an opportunity to educate people on various issues. Imams feel a moral obligation and spiritually responsibility for educating Muslims.

However, most Muslims go to the mosques to primarily for performing obligatory Friday prayer and not to necessarily listen to the speakers or seeking education.

Due to long Friday sermons, sometimes some people leave the mosque without performing prayer, especially professionals who attend mosques during their lunch time which is half an hour to an hour max.

It is a fact that most of the khutbahs are given extemporaneously. The research indicates that “the sermons were also rated as being either highly articulate, basic or as having frequent mistakes”. The research does not include how imams and khatibs prepare spiritually for the khutbahs.

When biographies of great imams are analysed, they used to spend hours to prepare themselves spiritually and mentally for delivering khutbahs by performing tahajjud, making duas and other nafil (optional) types of worship until Friday prayer.

For example, Imam al-Ghazali used to start preparation for Friday prayer after sunset on Thursdays.  His short but influential  khutbahs affected congregation’s hearts and minds.

In my view, instead of delivering an hour long khutbah, imams should seclude themselves for the recitation of the Qur’an, making dua and dhikr for 45 minutes and leave 15 minutes for delivering the khutbah.

By doing so they will influence hearts and minds and achieve their goals of making a lasting impact on their congregations.

As far as imparting education for their congregations, the imams could have alternative classes held at times of mutual convenience.

[1] For detail information read Husnia Underabi theses:

https://researchdirect.westernsydney.edu.au/islandora/object/uws%3A46114/datastream/PDF/view