By Naeem Siddiqi
(March 20, 2015) – A few years ago I attended a khutbah on a Good Friday.
Being a public holiday, the room was packed with kids of all ages.
The khateeb spent the next 20 minutes going through all the signs of qiyamah.
One by one.
I’ve also attended similar Friday khutbahs during March Break, PA Days, summer holidays and Christmas breaks.
I’ve heard far too many khutbahs that could have been given on any Friday in the last 1500 years, when important world and local events have happened in the preceding week.
We’ve all gone to the Eid khutbahs that start with “Eid is a day of joy”, and then go downhill from there.
Every mosque will tell you that the youth are important and must be engaged.
I often wonder then, why khateebs don’t notice half the hall full of kids on a Friday and talk to them.
In some cases, where youth are addressed, it’s to lecture them on their hairstyles, bad attitudes and every other bad habit.
It’s not that complicated.
First, figure out the major school holidays.
Make sure the khateeb is aware and ask that at least half, if not the whole khutbah, is directed at them.
For the younger ones, talk to them about Ar-Rahman and Ar-Raheem.
God is good, Alhamdulillah.
This is a forgiving, peaceful, wonderful faith to be a part of.
Be proud of who you are and do good things.
You’re the luckiest kids in the world.
Tell simple stories that will get the point across and make them feel good about coming to the prayers.
Do this in language they can understand.
The in-depth analysis on the intricacies of Taqwa is great for another day, another crowd.
Don’t recite your PhD thesis in a room full of kids.
For the older ones, try to uplift them.
Give them examples of role models – preferably some from the past 10 years.
Inspire them with stories of effective actions, and stop there.
Don’t say, “and look at our youth today”, and then start lecturing them on everything that is bad about them.
Tell them what good can be done through activism.
Kids are smarter than we think – they’re aware of environmental issues, globalization, poverty, bullying, racism and other things in the news.
Help them deal with today.
Our kids get bombarded with Islamophobia and negative images of the religion on a daily basis.
Far too many of us come to the masjid with a cloud hanging over us, and sadly, leave with it there.
We get told how bad we are.
The youth are told, “each generation will be worse than the next.”
Yes, I understand it’s a hadith, but you can pick better ones for the children.
The masjid should be a safe space for our kids (and us).
One place in the city where a person can go to and feel at peace.
Not a place where the beating continues.
This is not to say that khateebs should not address the serious issues and warn us – just don’t do that every single week.
Give that happy, joyful Eid khutbah (you’ve given the reflective Ramadhan ones already).
Engage the youth.
Make the kids feel good about coming to the masjid – maybe they would even pay attention and enjoy the khutbah.
Naeem Siddiqi just wants to leave the prayer with a dark cloud smaller than what he entered with.