Since South Africa was placed under lockdown, on the 27th of March 2020, the Masaajid nationwide have been closed to musallees. The Jumu’ah talk is no longer available to worshippers on a Friday. Nothing is missed more than when it is lost. Was the Jumu’ah Lecture valued when it was accessible? In a 30 minute panel discussion, Maulana Sulaimaan Ravat, Mufti Yusuf Moosajee, and Maulana Ebrahim Daya, also featuring Maulana Ahmed Wajah, spoke about how the Jumu’ah talk has been treated in recent years, and the way forward in gaining maximum benefit from it in future.
The discussion began with Mufti Moosajee questioning whether musallees being consistently late undermined the Jumu’ah itself. He said he had noticed that some people, arrive, week in and week out, only when they know the speaker is done talking.
Maulana Ravat added to that by saying some people strut into the masjid, and their very body language indicates that they are saying to the speaker: I have come, only now that you’re done.
He said now that we cannot attend Jumu’ah in the masjid, was a good time to have this discussion. Maulana Ravat addressed the issue of what we can do collectively as an ummah to maximize on the Jumu’ah talk, saying there were three parts to this:
- What is the assessment of the status quo?
- What can a speaker do to maximize the impact of what he has prepared?
- What can the audience, and society in general, do to maximize benefit from the talk?
Maulana Ravat said, overall, the general approach to the Jumu’ah talk has become lethargic. He said while not all speakers are top tier speakers, people are exposed via social media to great orators from all over the world. Maulana Ravat proposed that that could be the reason musalees come to the masjid with a lacklustre attitude: “My imam is not going to match so and so.” In other words, there are unrealistic expectations of the speaker.
Another common complaint, according to Maulana Ravat, is that the speaker isn’t ‘contemporary’. Maulana says, “Yes you do have to be contemporary. However, you can take a subject like salaah, which is not contemporary as such, but which will apply to all times, and make it contemporary by the examples you give, and the points you put forward.”
Beginning with the status quo: Are people taking it for granted that there’s so much content available (for example Radio Islam, and other radio stations, Islamic magazines, and so forth) that the audience and the speakers have become lethargic, knowing that content can be obtained elsewhere? Are speakers intimidated knowing that people have access to top tier speakers?
Maulana Daya interjected that perhaps social media has caused our attention spans to diminish. He said, “On social media a clip is around 1 minute 30 seconds, at maximum 3 minutes. To listen to the speaker at Jumu’ah for 15 minutes has become challenging.” He says perhaps it has become almost impossible now for us to concentrate too long.
Mufti Moosajee’s take on the issue was that in big cities people live fast intense lives. They are pressured. They give their time to what’s most pressing at every moment. The Jummuah experience thus becomes minimized. He said, “People no longer wake up with nothing on their minds except the Jumu’ah. For the older ones it’s the highlight of their week. They take motivation and inspiration from the Jumu’ah talk. But for the most part people are grappling with demands of the busy lives we live in this era.”
Maulana Ravat said that a lot of people do make it early to the masjid but they can often be found procrastinating in the car park or wudhu khana, or the masjid courtyard. He said, “The local corner shop person, for example, waits for the last three minutes before the talk to close his shop. He still, on arrival at the masjid, has to use the bathroom, perform wudhu, perform his sunnah salaah, and by the time he has done all that, the Jumu’ah lecture is over.”
He added that people in corporate world, have said that their non-Muslim bosses tell them to leave work and go, when Jumu’ah sets in. He spoke about how top level advocates can be found in the Masjid at Jumu’ah for the full duration of a 25 minute talk.
Maulana Ravat said that often in a place, such as Lenasia, where there are Muslims to be found in abundance, the speaker is made to wonder if he should wait a few more minutes before commencing with the lecture, as there is barely anyone in the masjid to hear his talk.
Maulana stressed on the fact that people can make it on time for the talk if they prioritize.
One response that came from a listener tuned in to the program was: don’t look at who is speaking but listen to what is being said, so you can practice. Another was: during the lockdown, people are listening to old Jumu’ah talks to create the atmosphere on Jumu’ah.
Maulana Daya commented that the Jumu’ah talk is the one time in the week that you can hear something about your Deen, but that people were standing around their cars and talking, and only rush in when the adhaan is given for the khutbah, to which Maulana Ravat replied that it is sad that now we pine to listen to it. He then asked “Are we taking salaah for granted? We can’t now walk in (to a masjid) and see a speaker from whose talk we can benefit.
The discussion moved onto what speakers needed to do to ensure that people remained motivated to come to the masjid to hear the Jumu’ah lecture.
Maulana Ravat agreed that speakers had to take some of the blame, for the non-presence of listeners at their talk. He said in the last 20 to 30 years the quality of language used has improved, “In the main the level of language, presentation, oratory style has all improved. Younger speakers try to emulate that. But speakers need to improve further. They need to understand their audience. People coming into the masjid have a hectic life, so the speaker must be very well prepared. The content must be structured and well prepared. No matter whether you’re eloquent or not they will listen and appreciate it. “
Mufti Moosajee said, “If you listen to a speaker from beginning to end, you will leave the talk with some level of spirituality, because the talk is from Qur’aan and Hadeeth.
He said, “It’s about the frame of mind you enter the talk with, what you leave the talk with depends on that.”
Maulana Wajah agreed that the full lecture must be listened to. He said that some people arrive late on purpose, as they have already surmised over time that a certain speaker does not get one wondering, or make a person ask questions about themselves. In short, he doesn’t win some people’s interest. He said some speakers also feel overwhelmed in giving the talk, as they also have other commitments.
Maulana Wajah also agreed that for some that 15 minutes of the talk is the only dosage of spirituality for the week. However, he added that if the speaker is unable able to meet the demand of the audience, they would not come to listen.
Maulana Ravat reminded the panelists that it was very rare for an imam to be required to speak every week, or even every second week. The speakers’ shifts rotate, so they are required to give a lecture, in some cases, just once a term. That makes speech preparation and deliverance much easier.
He said, “You can prepare one good speech one and deliver it in maybe 3 or 4 different venues, where the congregation will also not be the same. And you can improve on it as you go along. Also, it is no longer so difficult to research. The content is readily available.”
Maulana Ravat added that while so many talks of scholars have already been transcribed, he was not a big fan of memorizing someone else’s work and regurgitating it verbatim. However, scholars would welcome it if content was taken from them. They would welcome it if points were taken from their work, as they would thereby gain extra reward for it, from the Almighty. He emphasized that it was not something to be feared that people have become more demanding of the quality of the work, saying, “Even though you might not be on the level of the ‘celebrity’ scholars, embrace it. If your talk is well structured and you have put effort into it, people will appreciate it.”
As far as the role of the audience was concerned, Maulana Ravat reiterated that with a positive intention, there will be benefit, no matter whom the speaker is. He said, “ If u go with this positive mindset, no matter if it is a flowery speaker or not, you will find that one point which is relevant to your life and from which you will benefit.” He said that he every Friday morning on his ‘Sabaahul Muslim’ slot, tells his listeners to “Go for Jumu’ah with the intention of learning one new thing about your Deen and practicing on it.” Maulana added that we as a society must stop talking negatively about the Jumu’ah talk, in general. He said, “Our children will grow up with this negative outlook if we portray it.” Maulana said, instead we must take it further, by not just listening to the talk, but by speaking to our children about it. He said, “Ask your children: what did the Imam talk about? What did you learn that we can share with the women folk? What lesson did you take from the talk?”
Maulana said that If we show more interest, that alone will serve as a motivation for the speakers. Ask the speaker for a greater explanation of an aspect of his talk. Give constructive feedback to the speaker, don’t just feed the speaker negative talk in the garb of feedback. In doing so the speaker will be motivated to do more.
Time ran out quickly, as it does with intense discussion, and the panelists expressed regret they did not have more of it for this particular topic. And so, Mufti Moosajee concluded with a Dua:
May Allah give all the relevant parties the ability to take heed and maximum benefit.
Umm Muhammed Umar