A Practical Guide to Giving Friday Sermons, By Ustadh Amjad Tarsin
A collective obligation for the Muslim community is establishing the Friday Prayer (Ṣalāt Al-Jumuʿah). Because of its great importance in the religion, we should take particular care in properly establishing it. God the Exalted says in the Qurʾān,
“Believers! When the call to prayer is made on the Day of Congregation (Jumuʿah), hurry towards the remembrance of God and leave off your trading—that is better for you, if you only knew—then when the prayer has ended, disperse in the land and seek out God’s bounty. Remember God often so that you may prosper.” (62:9-11).
The Friday Prayer (Ṣalāt Al-Jumuʿah) centers on the sermon (khuṭbah). This sermon is so essential to the prayer service that even merely speaking during it invalidates one’s reward for that Jumuʿah. The Messenger of God s said, “Whosoever speaks on the Day of Congregation (Jumuʿah) while the imām is giving the sermon, then that person is like a donkey carrying books. And the one who says to that person, ‘Listen!’ has no (reward for) Jumuʿah.”
This brief guide and template seeks to clarify some of the requirements of a Friday Sermon (khuṭbah) in order to have a sound and valid Friday Prayer (Ṣalāt Al-Jumuʿah). This guide is not meant to be comprehensive or scholarly, but it is meant to be a practical guideline that can easily be followed and established in mosques, community centers, universities, and schools.
In addition to clearly defining the essential integrals (arkān) of the Friday Sermon, this guide provides advice on delivering effective sermons that will beneficial for the audience, insha Allah.
Also included (in the full PDF format) are two appendices:
- Appendix A: A template for a Sermon that only contains the bare minimum in order for it to be legally valid. This template is meant for beginners.
- Appendix B: A template for a Sermon that contains many of the recommended sayings and verses that the Prophet s said in his Friday Sermons; this is meant for those who want something more robust than the bare minimum and are more comfortable with the Arabic language.
Success is from God the Exalted, and His assistance and support is sought.
Fiqh of the Sermon & Varied Opinions
The legal (fiqh) aspects of the Friday Sermon (khuṭbah) vary with respect to the aspects scholars categorize as essential (farḍ) or recommended (mustaḥab). This guide presents the basic obligations and recommended aspects of the Sermon according to the Shāfiʿī School of Law because it generally fulfills the requirements of the other Schools of Law.
Integrals (Arkān) of the Sermon
The Friday khuṭbah consists of two Sermons that are divided by a brief period of the imām sitting. Below are the necessary integrals that must be present in the Friday Sermon in order for it to be considered valid:
- Standing: To be in a standing position while delivering both khuṭbahs.
- Praise: To begin both khuṭbahs by saying, “Al-ḥamdu lillāh” (“Praise be to God”), or a variation of that. For example, “Inna al-ḥamda lillāh” (“Praise is for God”) or “Al-ḥamdu lillāhi rab al-ʿālamīn” (“Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds”).
- Salutations: To invoke God’s peace and blessings upon the Prophet Muḥammad s in both khuṭbahs. This can be fulfilled by merely saying, “Allāhumma ṣalli ʿala Muḥammad,” (“O God, send your blessings upon Muḥammad”) although it is better to include the Prophet’s family and companions in the invocation. For example, “Allāhumma ṣalli ʿala Sayyidinā Muḥammad wa ʿala ālihi wa ṣaḥbihi wa sallim” (“O God send your peace and blessings upon our master Muḥammad, and upon his family and companions”).
- Call to Taqwā: To urge the attendees to have taqwā (fear and consciousness of God) in both khuṭbahs. This can be fulfilled several ways, for instance, by reciting verses of the Qurʾān that call to taqwā, or by simply saying, “Ūṣīkum bi taqwā Allāh” (“I counsel you to be mindful of God”).
- Sitting: To sit briefly between the 1st and 2nd khuṭbah for no longer than the time it takes to pray 2 brief rakʿahs.
- Verse of Qurʾān: To recite one verse of the Qurʾān in either of the two khuṭbahs. One verse, or an understood portion of a verse, fulfills this requirement.
- Prayer for Believers: To supplicate (duʿāʾ) for the believing men and women in the 2nd khuṭbah for something which benefits them in the hereafter. This is fulfilled by saying, “Allāhumma ighfir lil-Muʾminīn wa al-Muʾmināt” (“O God, forgive the believing men and women”).
Prophetic Practices (Sunnahs) of Friday
It is especially important upon the one giving the Friday Sermon (khaṭīb) to perform the Sunnahs of Friday. The following are a few of the recommended acts for Friday.
- Ghusl: Performing the ritual bath (ghusl) before the Friday Prayer.
- Wearing White: The Prophet s used to love white clothing, and he encouraged wearing white clothing to Ṣalāt al-Jumuʿah.
- Reciting Surat al-Kahf: It is highly encouraged to read the 18th Surah from the Qurʾān on Friday.
- Good Scent: It is also a Sunnah to adorn oneself with a nice scent.
Practical Advice on Public Speaking
For many people, the Friday Prayer is their primary method of revitalizing spiritually for the entire week. For this reason, it is important to both prepare a good sermon and convey it well. A poorly delivered khuṭbah can have adverse effects on the community and should be avoided.
These are some basic guidelines that apply to public speaking in general and should be used when giving the Friday Sermon:
- Speak in an audible voice, making it easy for those listening to hear and understand.
- Speak clearly and do not be monotonous!
- Use certain gestures and hand movements to clarify and highlight important points, but do not be excessive in using them.
- It is important to be even more formal during the Friday Sermon for Ṣalāt Al-Jumuʿah than one would normally be while teaching a lesson or presenting a lecture. Jokes and other types of informal speech should be avoided.
- Make appropriate eye contact to make sure that attendees are focused and listening.
- Do not read verbatim from a printout!
- Repeat the most important points of the lesson and give a summary of what was just mentioned.
- Tell stories to gain the attention and concentration of those who are attending—preferably stories about the Prophet Muḥammad s, other prophets and messengers, and righteous people.
- Be appropriate in length—give the topic its due right, but do not wear out the attendees. A 20-25 minute time limit is ideal for the khuṭbah. Depending on the group one might need to make the Ṣalāt al-Jumuʿah short—e.g. People taking a lunch break from work to attend the Friday Prayer.
- In the case of the short winter days, be cognizant of the short time window of Ẓuhr; therefore make sure to complete both the khuṭbah and Prayer before the time of ʿAṣr.
- Select an appropriate topic that is both relevant as a khuṭbah and relevant to the realities of life of those who are hearing it.
- Speeches that can be divisive or controversial should be avoided. Do not mention sectarian terms such as “Salafī,” “Ṣufī,” or “liberal Muslims,” because the Friday Sermon is meant to gather all Muslims and unite their hearts in mutual love and piety. Khuṭbahs should be spiritually uplifting and inspiring, giving people the drive to make it through the next week.
- Khuṭbahs are primarily spiritual reminders, but can also be a platform for mentioning current events. In this case, find a religious topic that relates to the current event and tie the two together—be sure not to lose the spirituality of the khuṭbah, but also do not forget to address the current affairs that are pertinent to the congregation.
- It is also of the utmost importance that one’s ideas are organized during the Friday Sermon to provide a clear message to attendees. One should be sure to clearly introduce the topic, and then support the topic by presenting relevant verses, ḥadīths, and stories. In addition, the khaṭīb should highlight the lessons and wisdoms to be taken from the verses and ḥadīths.
- Make sure to translate any important Qurʾānic verses, ḥadīths, and duʿāʾ—especially since the majority of people attending the Friday Prayer will most likely not understand Arabic.
- Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, one should conclude by connecting the passages quoted to a practical way of implementation for the attendees, so that the khuṭbah does not remain abstract and theoretical; rather, worshippers can realize the lessons mentioned are relevant to their lives.
Khuṭbah Topic Suggestions
Here are some suggested topics that, in shāʾ Allāh, may be of benefit. These suggestions are not exhaustive, and one should be conscious of choosing the most appropriate topic for the congregation.
- Social Responsibilities
- Community Service
- Respect Towards Parents
- Rights and Responsibilities of Brotherhood/Sisterhood
- Love of God and His Messenger
- Reflecting on the Names and Attributes of God
- Thankfulness to God the Exalted
- Lessons from the Life of the Messenger of God
- Turning Towards God
- Repentance, Fear & Hope
- Benefits and Worship in Ramaḍān, Dhul Ḥijjah, etc.
- Good Character & Prophetic Virtues
- Basic Explanation of a Short Chapter of the Qurʾān and/or Ḥadīth
- Importance of Prayer (ṣalāt) and Supplication (duʿāʾ)
Our heartfelt thanks to Ustadh Amjad M. Tarsin, SeekersGuidance teacher and Executive Director of the Muslim Chaplaincy of the University of Toronto. To download a beautiful formatted copy of the above guidelines, plus the appendices, click here.