Book Review: The Art and Technique of the Friday Khutbah
Dr Munir El-Kassem. Compass Books 2021
Launching a book about how to give a khutbah during the COVID-19 lockdown, when masajids are closed or having severely curtailed jummuahs, is an irony and an extra challenge. Perhaps, as someone consoled me, with all this extra time on their hands, khatibs will be able to put aside extra time for studying that they would not normally have.
When Dr Munir offered us his manuscript for publication we jumped at the chance. A visit to a local masjid’s bookstore confirmed that, while there are several books that are collections of khutbahs, there was nothing about how to give a khutbah. The how-to publishing industry is well-established, from How to Train Your Dragon to How to Make Money in Stocks. How to give a khutbah is rare, and as many of us will attest, a much-needed skill. We often listen to khutbahs that lack clear messages, meandering through many topics, delivered in sleep-inducing ways, shouted at us requiring ear plugs, or mired in the past with little apparent relevance to today’s anxieties.
Enter Dr Munir’s superb book, The Art and Technique of the Friday Khutbah. Consisting of a short preface, nine chapters and brief conclusion, Dr Munir addresses crucial aspects of public speaking as well as delivering khutbahs. Some of the book is generic to anyone who wants to speak in public, and some of it is addressed explicitly to the needs of khatibs. Unique for an English-speaking audience is his reference to the Qur’an, the Sunnah, the Rightly Guided Caliphs and other Islamic scholars for his examples and guidance for those wishing to hone their craft of delivering khutbahs.
Dr Munir begins with his personal story based on forty years’ experience giving khutbahs, noting that these days Imams in the West are tasked to be superhumans with the ability to excel in too many areas, from being a hafiz to an expert marriage counsellor, and orator. Yet, he notes, speaking in public is a widespread fear affecting many of us, including imams. Thus, he offers The Art and Technique of the Friday Khutbah as a how-to guide for both the experienced, and the up-and-coming, khatib. Meant as a practical guide, a notable feature of the book are the exercises at the end of each chapter for the reader to practice implementing the lessons learned. There is an extensive glossary covering all the Islamic terms used in the book.
- Chapter One begins with the “Khutbah Essentials” – how to choose a topic, how to organise and deliver the speech.
- Chapter Two covers how to research the topic, the advantages and disadvantages of improvising, practicing in advance and memorization
- Chapter Three discusses the three components of a good khutbah: introduction, body, conclusion
- Chapter Four notes the educational qualifications a khatib should develop, including the Qur’an, the Sunnah, the Seerah, History, Social Science, and Global Trends
- Chapter Five focuses on the khatib’s moral attributes
- Chapter Six discusses oratory skills and vocal training
- Chapter Seven looks at the khatib’s appearance, such as clothing and body language
- Chapter Eight highlights Islamic jurisprudential considerations
- Chapter Nine covers things the khatib should avoid
The book closes with Dr Munir’s final thoughts, in which he expresses his wish that The Art and Technique of the Friday Khutbah fills the void in English language materials meant to assist those giving khutbahs, both experienced and novice.
Lately, the Muslim community in Canada is developing professional skills in areas outside the traditional ones of engineer and doctor. While delivering a khutbah also requires specialised skills, it has been neglected as a topic. Compass Books is proud to be part of Dr Munir’s efforts to rectify this.
Reviewer: Katherine Bullock Founder of Compass Books (https://compassbooks.ca) and Lecturer, Department of Political Science University of Toronto Mississauga, Toronto, Canada