The Juma' Experience - Pain or Pleasure?
- The Juma' Experience - Pain or Pleasure? By Shujaat WastyIt has become all too regular to see a disgruntled individual leave juma' (Friday) prayer as a result of the khateeb (man delivering sermon) taking too much time. It is almost remarkable to witness the endurance of the khateebs as they pull into their seemingly inexhaustible armory of words and surpass the allotted time without any type of regard to the people sitting before him.The irony is that such khateebs may be sharing - or flaunting - their religious knowledge, yet are acting against it. Not only are they failing to respect others by abusing the given time, but they are genuinely endangering the very livelihoods of fellow believing Muslims. Oftentimes, people return to work late or miss important meetings due to these firebrand preachers. How could this possibly help encourage employers to seek Muslims for work? If speaking an extra few minutes can cause a detrimental effect on the lives of Muslims, how can the damage justify the so-called benefit?Ironically, the very khateebs that are quoting the Prophet Muhammad (saw) are blatantly contradicting his sunnah - as they speak. The Prophet (saw) himself used to deliver shorter reminders in the khutbah (Friday sermon) and make the prayer longer; it is estimated that his entire khutbah never exceeded 15 minutes. He was a man of wisdom, a man who was understanding of different situations and who loved, respected and was compassionate towards his fellow human beings and their conditions. Some people will emulate the Prophet (saw) - and even follow him - by adhering to his minor, ritualistic aspects (including his functions as a human living in his immediate surroundings and available resources), yet fail to see the major aspect of his sunnah. Interestingly enough, it is sometimes those very people who are guilty of not respecting time and going beyond the limit.Some proponents of longer khutbahs claim that in North America or Europe, it is necessary as it may be the only time in the week that the masses are exposed to an Islamic reminder in congregation. That may indeed hold validity, but it still does not - and cannot - justify the detrimental effect on the livelihood of Muslims, which is the greater harm. Add the fact that psychologists say that the average attention span of a regular human being ranges between 12 and 20 minutes - incidentally, in line with what the Prophet Muhammad (saw) used to practice over 1400 years ago. The khutbah is supposed to be a reminder and motivator for Muslims to seek additional ways of being exposed to Islam. My personal experience, and those of many friends, proves that a khutbah of good quality can truly cause a positive effect of varying proportions in one's life. However, as they often stand now, it successfully does the exact opposite. Once again, as is the case with other aspects of religion, something beautiful is being abused to deter people from something associated with Islam.Ideally, juma' prayer should be accommodated within the lunch hour prescribed at most places of employment. For example, in Eastern North America, a juma' prayer can most certainly be completed between 1:00 and 2:00pm: khutbah can begin at 1:10pm and go up to 1:30pm. 10 minutes for the prayer brings it up to 1:40pm. That gives people time to head back to work (not everyone works right next to the place of prayer) or pray the sunnah prayers or extra nawafil. Rather than leaving with a feeling of stress, resentment and negativity, people can feel like they have gained something from the weekly reminder and can feel motivated to pray more or do more good and thereby spiritually cleanse themselves over the course of the day, the week, and so on.Additionally, by respecting the confines of the prescribed lunch hour, Muslims can practice their right of faith without causing a negative effect on anyone - whether work, school, business or society at large. It is a positive sign to demonstrate that we can do what is required of us without being a burden or needing special arrangements. After all, given that the khutbahs of the Prophet (saw) never lasted more than an estimated 15 minutes in an Islamic society where the conditions could have easily been arranged for much more, it is even more incumbent in the existing non-Islamic societies of contemporary times to take the circumstances into consideration.This may seem like something minute, but bear in mind that if an individual is forced to leave juma' due to some necessity as a result of some mullah who cannot bring himself to respect time, the mullah may have to bear the brunt of that on the Day of Judgment - and perhaps, by extension, the organizers of the juma', if they do not take all the required steps to ensure that time is respected. If this means instilling a policy of eliminating "repeat offenders" off the khateeb list, so be it.Until then, perhaps the only solution is for some conscious people to "remind" the khateeb delivering the reminder to respect the time - even during the khutbah if necessary. It is definitely not ideal, but it might actually work.Shujaat Wasty can be reached via e-mail at: shuj@...saiyed shahbazi