JEDDAH - The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has ordered Imams not to deliver lengthy Friday sermons, stressing that those who do not keep their sermons short and meaningful will be punished.
Dr. Azam Al-Shewair, Chief of the Committee for the Assessment of Imams and Khateebs at the ministry’s branch in Riyadh, said the Imams who ignore the ministry’s instructions will be forced to undergo training. If they repeat the offense, they will get a final warning and their salaries will be cut.
He said Imams should take into consideration that there are old and sick people, particularly those with diabetes, among the worshippers who cannot tolerate sitting and listening to sermons for long periods. He said Imams should follow the wisdom of keeping sermons short and meaningful.
Al-Shewair said it should be borne in mind that the Friday sermon serves as a lesson for the believers because it handles a certain subject about the affairs of Muslims or discusses a purely jurisprudential topic. Imams should, therefore, immediately delve into the topic of the sermon and be to the point.
Dr. Saleh Al-Humaid, a member of the Board of Senior Ulema and Chairman of the Supreme Judiciary Council said, “The impact of the sermon is not measured by its length but by the eloquent, concise and precise wording. Imams should refrain from flowery and bombastic language and delve directly into the core of their sermon.”
The Prophetic method
Dr. Saud Al-Fainaysan, Dean of the Faculty of Shariah at Imam Bin Said Islamic University in Riyadh, said, “According to the Prophetic method, the sermon should be short and comprehensive. It should also consider the different standards of the worshippers.”
He stressed that the Prophet’s sermon was short and its sentences could be counted easily. This shows the importance of content rather than length.
He said some young Khateebs made lengthy sermons of between 30 minutes and one hour. He said this duration was not required from a religious or humanitarian perspective.
Dr. Khaled Al-Gassem, a professor of “Aqeeda” at King Saud University, who is also Supervisor of the Prince Sultan Chair for Contemporary Islamic Studies, supported Fainaysan’s argument that Khateebs often deliver sermons which are too long. According to the Prophet’s Tradition, sermons should not be more than 10 to 15 minutes long, he said.
He said there are some Imams who harm worshippers, especially those who sit outside the mosque under the scorching sun during the summer season and in Ramadan.
By doing so, he said these Imams contravene the Prophet’s method. The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to shorten prayers when he heard a child crying. “Some Khateebs lengthen their sermons and refer to useless matters that don’t benefit worshippers.”
He said Imams should consider the three jurisprudential conditions of the sermon. The first condition is that the sermon should not be long; the second one is that it should consider the conditions and needs of the worshippers; and the third is that the Khateeb should refer to the Qur’an as much as possible to support his argument.
Dr. Majed Al-Mersal, a member of the Advisory “Monsaha” Committee, accused some Khateebs of lacking knowledge of Islamic Jurisprudence (Fikh). He said these Khateebs copy Friday sermons from books and the Internet and read them out in full without understanding their content.
Imams should understand that lengthy sermons result in worshippers losing interest and concentration, he added.
Dr. Ahmad Al-Mawrai, a member of the teaching staff of Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah said, “I have noticed that there are some Khateebs who deliver lengthy sermons. In fact, some of them elaborate on the topic by repeating themselves and going around in circles. In many cases they jump from one topic to another. This is why their sermons are tedious and boring.”
Dr. Muhammad Al-Irqsousi, a member of the teaching staff at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah, agreed that most Khateebs do not stick to the time set for the sermon. He said the Ministry of Islamic Affairs should organize training courses focusing on the principles governing the Friday sermon. - SG