Khatīb Diaries: Fundraising Requests
This is the first installment of what will hopefully become a new series on khateeb stories. What sets this apart is that the average guys like you and me go through a completely different set of experiences than Imams/scholars who give khutbahs. And that is namely because we don’t get the “shaykh treatment” – we get the “we can walk all over you because you’re a volunteer” treatment.
One of the most annoying things about giving khutbah is the incessant fundraising requests. At your local masjid, it is understandable, but what about when you are just a guest khatīb? My contention is that a fundraising request is one of those things with the most propensity to ruin a good khutbah. I proffer the following situations (which actually happened to me).
I was set to deliver the orphan child khutbah (otherwise known as the 2nd or 3rd jamat for overcrowded masjids – you know, the khutbah where anyone with a beard and a thobe can get up and talk and the board doesn’t even care). Before going up, someone asks me to solicit funds for the masjid at the end of my khutbah. Normally I would argue, but I decided it was not worth the hassle and I would throw in something.
This happened to be one of those khutbahs where I got fired up, lost myself in the moment, and felt that I gave one of my better khutbahs (I don’t remember the topic, but it obviously wasn’t humility). After ending on a high note, and completing the closing supplications, I was about to announce the commencement of salah. And then I caught myself. Before I could, I had to say,
Oh.. uhhh… and the masjid requested you to donate something
So what was accomplished? My wonderful khutbah ended on a lame and annoying note. And on top of that, I doubt anyone was actually encouraged to donate any money as a result of this announcement. Would it be better to skip the announcement, and then lie if asked about it?
Established but Smaller Masjid
This one is unavoidable. As I get ready to stand up on the minbar, I get handed a sheet of paper and simply told, “for the end of your khutbah brozer.” It’s a half sheet of typed announcements. I tuck it behind my notes and think nothing of it.
I finish the khutbah (again on a high note), and then see that piece of paper. “oh … uhhh… hold on” And then I proceed to read about 5 announcements. 3 of them about parking, one about fundraising, and the last one was probably something important about family or kids or something, but I can’t remember now.
Again, effective? No. But that’s just the way it’s done, so the masjid did it.
The comforts of the rented store-front, where expectations are practically zero. It’s where you can deliver an average khutbah and still feel like Siraj Wahaj. During this fleeting moment after salah, I got blindsided. The uncle making announcements (an elder, and father of a friend) gets up and says, “…and now Br. Omar will speak a few words.” It took me a second to realize he meant I was going to speak a few words in support of this masjid [to which this was my first visit] and raise funds.
I have never fundraised. Ever. Fundraising takes a special type of personality and charisma – neither of which I have. Completely flabbergasted, I said a few words in support of the masjid and their Imam (a friend) and sat back down in about 10-15 seconds flat.
The obvious one is this: Masjids, do your own fundraising. Stop putting khatībs on the spot.
But when you get stuck, what do you do? So far I have found only one solution.
Picture dinner at the house of a hospitable family. You eat a full meal and dessert. But the host begins to insist that you take more dessert even though you’re full.
“Come on, come on, one more,” they say while putting it in your plate. You keep politely declining and pulling the plate away. If you know urdu, think of takalluf.
You need to treat the fundraising request the same way. And remember, you have the power of the minbar.
One time a board member handed me a sheet of announcements, and told me to read it at the end. I smiled and said, “no you.” And he looked confused, then smiled back and said, “No, no, you have to read this at the end of the khutbah” and I smiled and said, “No, no, you have to read this after salah” and then I got up on the minbar. Discussion over.
I don’t like having to do that, but it seems to be the only way out of making a disingenuous announcement, and also zapping the energy out of your khutbah.