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.
I was sitting in the library preparing for class when the director of our Islamic chaplaincy program walked in with a worried look. He informed us that someone had requested a Muslim chaplain from our school to attend to a patient in the intensive care unit; and he was looking for volunteers.
I had never attended to a person in a hospital before as a chaplain– only as a son– and I did not know just how to proceed. However, I was interested in helping. I asked one of the fellow students who had more experience than I if he would go with me; and a third volunteered. Part of me was nervous, while I was scrolling through my mind and heart to find everything that I might say or do to help the family that called us to their aid.
My dear sisters imagine what if you were receiving proposals from all over the world, but your father denied all except those who were seekers of knowledge? And brothers, what if you were seeking a wife and her dowry, which she asked of you, did not include dollars or cents but rather that you contribute some way to the community? Sisters, imagine what it would be like to be so well known for your knowledge that the leader of the Muslim community asks for you- by name– to sit on his advisory board? Brothers, have you ever asked a shaykh a question and, him not knowing, referred you ask to his daughter? Would you believe that all of this has occurred?
What I am about to share with you is not about just one amazing life, but an amazing perspective on life shared in common by the most righteous of people.
And so ends the first year of my graduate studies in Connecticut. So far I have moved away from home, left behind my family and community, had to adjust to my new environment while seeking work, and found that when alone my biggest supporter (besides Allah insha’Allah) is my own desire to succeed. Alhumdulillah, Allah has opened up many doors for me (some of which I feel like I have been pushed through.. lol) and I am thankful for the continuous lessons. This year He has honored me with being the first Muslim Chaplain at a prestigious international school and has given me the opportunity to begin volunteering at a state prison. Had I stayed in California Allah knows best what I would be doing now!
But, in the end what did I learn? I did not come to Connecticut for her strange weather, nor for her (lack of) city life. I must admit though that her winter was a pleasure, and so too the color of her trees. And even though I have traveled 3,000 miles away from home it cannot compare to the amount of traveling I have done now within my soul. As my hopes for the future have converted from prayers to possibilities I feel the weight of religious responsibility growing on my chest. Any man or woman cannot help the fact that as they seek more religious knowledge, and struggle to act upon as much of it as they can, they become willingly- or unwillingly- an example for others to rely on.
I know I could have done better this year, but I hope that what I have done so far is acceptable by my Lord and those around me can forgive me my shortcomings. The academic year has ended, but seeking to better one’s self does not stop. I have become more realized to the fact that a student of religious knowledge is never beyond the boundaries of their classroom. Each moment we are either gaining, or letting something slip away.
This ends my first year here in Connecticut, and God knows best how many years remain.