Appeal to Khateebs – Breaking My Wings
I recently came across an excellent article by Marwa Aly entitled Breaking My Wings. It provides a reflection on Juma that many of us have felt – attending with high hopes, with a need for spiritual rejuvenation, only to be left standing at the altar. I initially wanted to post a few relevant excerpts, but the entire article is a must-read, so I have pasted it here below with some brief comments after:
It is with a saddened heart that I write this post. I have been writing and gathering material for khutbas at Wesleyan and Trinity for the past three years. I have trained brothers on how to deliver the khutba and offer guidance on the Arabic pronunciation. Sometimes I really love the khutbas that I write. Other times, I feel the need to be nourished and want to hear another’s voice- another’s words. So, you can imagine the expectation I have when I finally find the resolve to take my 13 month old daughter with me to Jumua’ prayers at the masjid. In a hurried rush to get everything in order (sippy cup, blueberries, wipes, diapers….oh yea, and my keys and phone) I accidentally forget my wallet but decide while driving that I would miss too much of the precious khutba if I were to turn around now. I would continue on making the dua’a of the traveler and praying that a police officer does not pull me over.
Sumaya and I ended up parking very far so I wouldn’t get stuck trying to get out of post Jumua’ gridlock. I carried my little munchkin and as we cut through the palpable humid air, my spirits were beginning to rise. Yes, this is exactly what I need after a tough week. As we entered the masjid, I took off my shoes, offered salaams to women I did not know and made my way up the stairs to the women’s section. The athaan began to resound against the walls and I wondered how familiar Sumaya was by now with the inflections and rhythm of the melodic call to prayer.
Taking a toddler to Jumua’ is no easy task. One needs an arsenal of distractions, in order that others may not be distracted by Sumaya’s need to talk over the khateeb. The khutba began and I could instantly tell that this wasn’t what I was looking for. The khateeb was speaking about dhulm (oppression) and the various ways we can oppress. While this may have been a timely topic, I was so discouraged by the style. I felt patronized and I surely did not go to my beloved masjid to be yelled at. You see, my dear khateebs, life is not easy. There are moments everyday that we struggle to be good. We have the option to relax, but with our heads bowed down we plow through. We plow through the desires, the dirty diapers, the incessant whining, the burnt toast, and the sticky humidity. There are moments that we fail, we fail miserably actually. Our fuse too short, our struggles too shallow. I know that and I bet my fellow brother sitting far away knows that too. And so, what I need from you, ya khateeb, is to allow me to leave the masjid inspired. I know it is not easy to inspire. It is much easier to shout. And you too will have your off days. Maybe you won’t be able to inspire me, but if you can’t do that, then maybe you can leave me with some hope. You see, even during my summer vacation, I look forward to Fridays and the weekend. I look forward to becoming the person I ultimately envision myself to be- and shouting at me for trying- well, I just can’t accept that. I need you to tell me the stories of Muhammad, Yaqub, Musa, and Mariam. We all have a story to tell, but you are the ultimate storyteller. Every Friday when men are obligated to listen to you, you have the ability to transform their lives- with a dose of sheer will power here, Divine guidance there, and the feeling that successful indeed are the believers, always. Give us the opportunity to feel our mini-ascensions with Allah.
And if still you cannot do that, please do no harm- the harm of turning away a brother on the brink of giving up his faith, or the sister that has seen religion break up her family.
My dear khateeb, as Muslims living in America, we need to be tough everyday. We put our best foot forward in the workplace and the grocery stores. We lower our gazes when we just want to take our family to the park. We have built a tough exterior as we hear the false statements accepted as truth about our beloved religion. And so, each step we take towards our masjid, every shoe that fits inside the cubicle, every sajda that is made on the carpet floor sheds our armor. Our armor is so very heavy. Allow us, if you will, for those few beautiful moments as your listeners to feel weightless.
Allow me to fly. If you cannot, I beg you, please do not cut off my wings.
Once you become a regular khateeb it’s easy to lose sight of the basics. Standing on the pulpit of the Prophet (saw) is a trust between you and your Lord. You have a duty to convey a message that brings the congregation closer to Him. A message that inspires them and motivates them to want to be closer to Him.
A khateeb must also be well acquainted with the struggles that all Muslims face on a daily basis. As Marwa said, we have to be tough every day. The kids getting made fun of at school, the guy who just lost his job, the husband and wife who just had a fight, the parents who are frustrated with their teens, the youth struggling to live right – all are in the congregation. Tailor your message accordingly. Be uplifting, be welcoming, make things easy for the people and invite them.