It is a scene that is replicated each Friday in hundreds of homes across the country. Over hearty servings of Akhni or Dhaal Chawal, the post mortem of the freshly delivered Jummuah lecture begins. As family members lop over their chairs and to a concomitant choir of burps and slurps, the eagerly awaited verdict is delivered.
Menfolk in attendance would typically declare that the lecture was ‘just too boring’ or that it had ‘put them to sleep’; bemoaning the amount of times they had heard the same or similar lectures before. The jury would rap speakers over the knuckles for yelling their lungs out or doling out to their congregations yet more servings of hell and brimstone. Some would then even pompously pronounce how they tinkered their timing so well as to arrive just when the last syllable of “wa akhirud da’wana anil hamdulillahi rabbil aalameen” had been uttered.
In the alternative scenario, the presentation from the Mimbar would be applauded, the buzzwords this time being ‘solid’, ‘powerful’ or the more colloquial ‘killer’ and ‘tops’.
For one Johannesburg based aalim and author, such characterisations of the Jummuah lecture are either just too simplistic or even deeply problematic, at worst. Speaking to Cii Radio’s Ulama In Focus recently, Moulana Sulaymaan Kindi reasons that both these typical responses could likely be rooted in a mindset whose sole benchmark is entertainment.
“To what extent have we imposed our desires for entertainment on our religion, instead of the other way round,” he asked.
“Because we are having this mindset that everything has to be entertaining, in my Jummuah Khutbah I am not listening to that man speaking there as a representative of Rasulullah SAW. Rather I am listening to him as an entertainer with the same attitude I would have were I to be watching a comedy, action movie and so on.”
Moulana Kindi says listeners should be recalibrating their criteria to achieve the intended benefit of the weekly Naseeha. “When I say ‘that was a good bayaan’ or ‘that wasn’t a good bayaan’, I have to ask myself in full honesty, what do I actually mean. Do I mean that I learnt something and this is what I am going to actually practice upon, or do I really mean that it was in fact an entertaining Bayaan, and that is why I characterised it as good.”
The aalim attributed the 21st century human being’s penchant for entertainment to the influence of television, which he said germinated the desire for rolling amusement and instant gratification.
TV, he said – referring to a book by Neil Postman titled ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’ – had already left deep scars on the practice and understanding of Christianity, and due to the medium’s pervasiveness even among Muslims, could potentially pose a similar detriment to the Muslim faith.
“If the entire environment of a community is one steeped in entertainment, that sacred event of a Jummuah talk is now also going to become just one extra channel of entertainment. I am not coming to the Masjid, I am actually just pressing a remote now and this is an add-on to my routine of entertainment. How then are our minds going to be moulded into understanding that we have to be reforming ourselves when the Masjid has just become another ‘channel’ for us. We are saying: ‘we will not change, the Masjid should change to accommodate us.”
He clarified that criticising the entertainment appeal sought by the masses did not absolve Khateebs of the responsibility of adequate preparation and speaking understandably to their congregations. Addressing audiences according to their level of understanding, he said, was a proven Sunnah of Rasulullah SAW. “Rasulullah SAW was the most eloquent of the Arabs and always took the care to address different Arab tribes according to their respective dialect of Arabic. So eloquence is a Sunnah, yes. And addressing people according to their level of understanding is also a Sunnah”
What is required according to Moulana Kindi is an appreciation of the role meant to be served by the Jummuah Khutbah which he said was a tool for the “mental revolution” of the Ummah.
For listeners, he said it was necessary to reaffirm the intention for their presence in the Masjid each time they arrived for Jummuah Salaah. “For this short while, (consider yourself) entering the Court of Allah SWT listening to someone representing the teachings of Rasulullah SAW. For the love of Rasulullah SAW, listen to him. Be there not to criticise, but rather to learn, benefit and draw closer to Allah SWT.”