My aim in this article is to provide some guidelines for giving a khutbah (Islamic sermon). Being a khateeb (also spelled khatib) is perhaps the most honorable position that a Muslim can hold, it’s a fulfillment of part of the mission of the Prophet ﷺ. As Ibn Hilal said “the scholars and imams are the messengers of the Prophet ﷺ.” Therefore, a khatib has an extremely challenging task, and this can easily be proven by examining the experience of some of the Companions on the minbar. When Abu Bakr stood on the minbar he immediately realized who stood there before him decided to move up one step, knowing that the Prophet stood on the very same spot; he felt the heaviness of his weight. The same thing happened with Umar– realizing the status of the two people who stood in the same spot, he decided to move up one more step so he would not be standing where the Prophet ﷺ or Abu Bakr stood. When the third caliph Uthman ibn Affan stood on the minbar he became speechless, weeping for a while, and than he stood up and said, “You are in need of a just caliph more than a long-winded one, and if I stay in this position you will receive khutbah after khutbah. After hardship Allah will make ease.” Then he sought refuge in Allah and descended. Each of these three unique scenarios illustrates a challenge that every khatib experiences.
To continue the conversation about youth at risk, and how imams and Muslim chaplains can respond, I asked my dear friend Sh. Jamaal Diwan to offer a reflection on the points raised in my article “What Happened to Ahmad: Responding to Muslim Youth at Risk.” The following is his insightful response:
Since I was asked to write about this topic from the perspective of a student of Shari’a, I would like to begin my comments with some reflections on the role of the imam in America and then work from there towards my thoughts on the relationship between chaplains and imams.
Generally, the imam is looked to as the leader of his community and the source of guidance for his congregation. In America this is no different and requires the presence of certain traits in the ideal imam. From these traits are things such as the following: having a strong training in and knowledge of the traditional Islamic sciences; understanding the people and culture that he is serving; speaking English fluently; knowing how to deal with people, empowering and motivating them; being aware of the major trends in society and cultivating the ability to address them from the perspective of Islam; having a spirit of humility, self-sacrifice, and servitude; and so on.
I recognize that it is very rare to find all of these traits in one imam, but it does represent an ideal that we as a community should strive towards. It is of note here that from the previous description, it is necessarily a part of the imam’s role in the community for him to engage in pastoral services at some level. However, that does not mean that this is what the imam is usually primarily trained in nor does it mean that it is the best place for the imam to spend large quantities of his time. In many of our communities we find that imams are busy in a never-ending flow of counseling sessions that wear them out spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. This has the devastating effect of taking them away from the crucial roles of religious instruction, guidance, and their own personal studies. We face many challenges and imams that do not have the chance to even review things that they learned in their studies, let alone increase their knowledge, will find themselves incapable of addressing these challenges and come up short in providing thought and guidance for the people.
There is something I am extremely passionate about… something I quit my job last year for and packed my car up and moved to Detroit in one day for… something I spend 80+ hours a week on to make a success… something that is my life until 2011: Bilal’s Stand
Bilal’s Stand, (in case you haven’t heard), is a seriously good Sundance-accepted award-winning film by a young, talented Muslim, Sultan Sharrief. Sultan is a close friend of mine and after he got into Sundance and realized this movie could go somewhere, he asked me to come out and join him as his business manager. After reflecting and praying on it, I decided to go for it. Why? Because I realized the best way to counter the rising tide of Islamaphobia was to be found in media – in Muslims gaining control of how we define ourselves and how Islam is perceived by the masses through the television and movies they see.
Imagine this. You are standing in front of a crowd of people, whom the majority you do not even know. You have been contemplating for weeks, months, some even years about this important decision that you are about to make. A ton of emotion and thought runs through your body.
Something had been missing your whole life, there was always something that didn’t feel right, and you never really knew why, but you continued to search until this day. After keeping faith, hope, and never giving up, you finally found exactly what was missing-Islam. And at this very moment, your are about to proclaim your faith. Suddenly, it’s said “ashadu a lā ilāha illa Allāh, wa ashadu anna Muḥammadan rasūl Allāh.”
Immediately everyone rushes you with gifts, kisses, handshakes, hugs, and advice. Those strangers whom you were looking at 5 minutes ago, now claim to be your brother and your sister in Islam. It is now that you are officially accepted, integrated, and welcomed by all who surround you. Your emotions run like crazy: the discovery of truth, the feeling of peace, joy, and for some…fear.
Sadness reigns as a result of the disapproval by your loved ones. Fear settles at the bottom of your gut because you now have to hide from ridicule and remarks by those who you trust. Uncertainty develops as you practice something you are completely new at, and unfortunately, those who called you a brother or sister in Islam don’t even realize it. Their backs are turned, and the help that was professed on day one is no longer there. You begin missing your salah’s without feeling any regret. Your mentality of the very existence of Allah is starting to diminish, and before you know it, you are no longer practicing Islam…
HOW CAN WE HELP?
In order to address such issues, SALAM Center’s Outreach Committee presents a series of topics given by a panel of convert scholars and activists to help identify the unique needs and situations of converts, along with how to best assist our new brothers and sisters with integrating into Islam and the Muslim community.
The night will reflect understanding, encouragement, and change for many. Although the event is targeting a majority convert audience, we hope to have born Muslims, convert Muslims, and re-dedicated Muslims attend; as the message will relate to each group in a special way.
Each speaker will speak about issues including: Islam & Family, Culture & Islam, Islam in the Workplace, Women & Islam, and the American Convert Experience. Attendees will be given an opportunity to express issues they have faced after embracing Islam. For those of the immigrant community, attendance is encouraged. A well respected environment filled with thought is an absolute must for those who would like to help assist and understand their Muslim brothers and sisters.
Event will be held September 18, 2010 in Sacramento, CA
Registration is Required, Please Register Today!
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DINNER WILL BE PROVIDED!
Below is a short bio of our selected panel of scholars and activists:
Br. Khalil Abu Asmaa (Christopher J. Moore)
Khalil Abu Asmaa (Christopher J. Moore) was born and raised in America into a practicing Christian family. While on the path to becoming a professional musician, he went through a deep spiritual and emotional journey that led to his conversion to Islam in the summer of 1994 at the age of nineteen.
He later traveled to the Muslim world in search of sacred knowledge and a balanced understanding of the prophetic legacy. He has studied in the blessed city of Madinah (1996 to 1999), the deserts of West Africa, the Atlas Mountains of Southern Morocco, and the Hadramawt Valley of Yemen.
He holds a B.A. in English, with a minor in Religious Studies, from George Mason University (2001) and a M.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland (2007). He has also studied Arabic-English translating and interpreting at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.
Ustadh Usama Canon
Born and raised in California, Usama Canon embraced Islam in 1996. Since then, he has had the honor of studying various Islamic Sciences both at home and abroad under some of today’s foremost scholars. Currently, Usama Canon serves as an Instructor at Zaytuna Institute and as a Muslim Chaplain for the State of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Usama Canon is the Founding Director of Ta’leef Collective and maintains an active role in various facets of outreach and education, concentrating on issues facing Muslim youth, assisting converts, and developing support systems for Muslim ex-offenders.
Br. Mustafa Davis
Mustafa Davis embraced Islam in February 1996 in Santa Clara, CA. After traveling to many countries in the Muslim world he attended the Badr Institute for Arabic and studied various Islamic Sciences with a focus on Shafi’i Fiqh at Dar al Mustafa Institute in Tarim, Yemen. In 2003, he returned to the USA where he pursued studies in filmmaking at the New York Film Academy (Universal Studios – Hollywood, CA). Upon graduation Mustafa relocated to the Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates where he established the Media Division of the Tabah Foundation for Islamic Studies and Research. He held the executive positions of Media Division Director, Film Producer/Director and Media Advisor. Mustafa resides in the California Bay Area and is an established documentary film producer and instructor.
Br. Aaron Haroon Sellars
Aaron Haroon Sellars was born in Washington, D.C. and attended Virginia Commonwealth University, where he majored in graphic arts and developed a special interest in film, photography and music. Subsequently, after joining the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists/Screen Actors Guild, he worked for four years as an extra in movies and television, acted in commercials, and did voiceover work for film and radio broadcasts. For over two years he was lead singer and songwriter for the alternative band Motiongrind as well as a producer of a large body of material as a solo artist.
He converted to Islam in 1994 and has been serving as the audio-visual technician at Zaytuna College (former Zaytuna Institute) since 2001. At Zaytuna he uses a variety of media including digital photography, audio and video to document and share the college’s historic mission to be the first fully accredited Muslim College in America. A published poet, he lives with his wife and their three daughters in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Br. Isa Shaw
Isa Shaw was raised the son of a Pentecostal pastor and a Baptist minister. He converted to Islam in year 2000 after serving with the Marines in the Gulf War. His spiritual journey began while living on a Baptist theological seminary that his mother was attending.
Brother Isa works as an outreach volunteer for the Muslim Community Association of the Bay Area where he teaches the 5 week Discover Islam class for people of all faiths and the 14 week Exploring Islam Class for new Muslims. He also serves on the Executive Committee for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area.
Sr. Christine Chase
Christine Chase has been a Computer System Administrator at NASA Ames Research Center for about 14 years. She is an American who became Muslim as a young adult. She married an Egyptian Muslim and has 7 children aging from almost 13 to 25 years old.
She has been involved with the Santa Clara Muslim community for over 25 years. She has volunteered in many positions such as the women’s committee, the outreach committee, the funeral committee, and the Granada Islamic School Board. Her children have grown up in the Muslim Community Association of the Bay Area. They are active volunteers in the MCA community as well as in the greater community. They have also been volunteers at Stanford Hospital, Red Cross, and Second Harvest Food Bank.
Post submitted by Br. Joshua; a student of UC-Davis and fellow convert.
To the untrained eye, he might look like a student or adviser to the primarily international students. But the 28year-old master’s candidate at Hartford Seminary is the school’s first Muslim chaplain. For years, leaders from faiths including Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism have tended to the spiritual needs of students, but this marks the first year that Choate’s Muslim population— representing the Sunni and Shiite sects — has been larger than just a few students.
Framed descriptions of Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam hang from the walls inside a common room that bears trustee Bill Spears’ name and is used for moral and spiritual purposes, as Spears desired. After weekly informal dinner meetings, the newly formed Muslim Student Association, with a membership of 13, heads to the multi-purpose space to pray, discuss the Qur’an and what it means to be a Muslim in America, and plan interfaith events.
“It’s not my job to actually force anyone to go either way, but to actually respond,” said Long, a California native and convert to Islam, on promoting religious views.
The new association and chaplain are part of the school’s response to a changing international population. Several religious officials have called the move proactive and forward thinking, in line with universities such as Yale, Princeton and Duke, which have all recently hired Muslim chaplains, graduates of Hartford Seminary’s program.“We have more and more international students who do not come from Asia,” said Stephen Farrell, Choate’s dean of faculty. “Twenty-five to 30 years ago, almost all of them were Asian students. But we’ve really moved into the Middle East and Africa.” International students make up 14 percent of Choate’s 850 students.
Students from as far away as Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Malaysia reached out to the Rev. Marc Trister, the school’s Protestant chaplain and head of campus ministries, early in the school year. Trister led the group to Hartford, where it met with Mumina Kowalski, assistant director of the Islamic chaplaincy program.
After several interviews, Long, a first-year master’s degree candidate in Islamic studies and Muslim-Christian relations seemed to be the perfect fit. His youth and way of coming to the religion likely play a role in his ease with the diverse group. “Everybody agreed that this was an important step for the school to make,” Trister said.