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Khuṭbah

By:
Hadia Mubarak
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Khuṭbah

An address called a khuṭbah is delivered by a khaṭīb (orator) as part of a religious service. As a religious ritual with fixed rulings, the khuṭbah fulfills a religious mandate associated with specific occasions such as the weekly congregational Friday service, the two ʿĪd holidays, and the Day of ʿArafāt (the ninth of Dhū al-Hijjah) during ḥajj. The khuṭbah is also delivered on other occasions, such as a marriage contract ceremony or during an eclipse or excessive drought. In the Friday service, the khuṭbah precedes the prayer, whereas the prayer precedes the khuṭbah during the two ʿĪd services.

In a marriage ceremony, the imam also delivers the khuṭbah before officiating the contract. The khuṭbah during the marriage contract (khuṭbatu al-nikāh) is recommended but not obligatory based upon the Prophet  's tradition. The marriage khuṭbah follows a simple format: the imam recites three verses (Qurʿān 4:1, 3:102, 33:70–71) and a Prophetic tradition (ḥadith) related to marriage. In addition to this, the imam can also remind the couple of their rights and responsibilities toward each other, invoking their sense of God-consciousness (taqwā).

Although the khuṭbah can take various forms, the most common form is the weekly Friday sermon, which is a prerequisite for the congregational Friday prayer. The word jumʿah (Friday), the name of the day during which the khuṭbah is delivered, is derived from the Arabic verb jamaʿa, which means to gather, to collect, and to unite. The institution of the jumʿah prayer brings together Muslims in congregation for the fulfillment of this weekly obligatory ritual. Hence, praying in congregation is a condition for the validity of the Friday service, which explains the relationship between the words jumʿah (Friday) and jamaʿah (congregation).

According to Muslim tradition, God chose Friday as the day for the obligatory congregational khuṭbah and prayer because Friday is the most virtuous day of the week. In their commentaries on verses 62:9–11, the exegetes assert that Friday is the most virtuous day because it was the day when God finished the creation, the sixth day, during which He created the heavens and earth. Based on prophetic sources, exegetes also say that God created Adam on a Friday; placed Adam in Heaven on a Friday, and ironically, removed Adam from Heaven on a Friday. Muslims believe that the Last Hour will commence on a Friday. Furthermore, a Prophetic tradition speaks of a certain hour on Friday in which all prayers are answered by God. Religious scholars disagreed on when exactly that hour occurs, although most agree that it is either between the khuṭbah and the prayer, or at the end of the day.

Before the Prophet migrated to Medina, the Muslim community did not hold Friday services in Mecca. The institution of the Friday (jumʿah) service developed later on in Medina, as a result of the revelation of sūrat al-jumʿah. Congregational Friday prayers were instituted in direct fulfillment of the verse, “O you who believe, when the call is made on the day of congregation (al-jumʿah), hasten to remember God and put aside your business. That is better for you if you only knew” (Qurʿān, 62:9). Hence, the primary function of the khuṭbah is to engage in the remembrance of God in congregation based on the Qurʿānic terminology dhikr Allāh (remembrance of God).

Thus, the congregational prayer on Friday, which replaces the zuhr prayer (the second prayer of the day) at noon, was made obligatory for every free adult Muslim male. Although women may attend the jumʿah khuṭbah and prayer, it is not obligatory for them. There are five conditions that make it mandatory for a person to attend the Friday service: 1. being a resident (muqīm) of the city or town, since travelers are exempt from attending; 2. being male; 3. having reached the age of puberty; 4. being free; and 5. being healthy, as sick people are exempt from attending.If a person meets these conditions, attending the congregational khuṭbah and prayer becomes obligatory unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as a heavy rain, taking care of someone who is sick, or any life-threatening situation that prevents a person from attending.

The Friday khuṭbah follows a specific format. In the Shāfiʿī school of law, the prerequisites for the Friday prayer include praising God (hamdalah), sending blessings (salawāt) upon the prophet, and declaring the shahādah (testifying in one God and Muhammad as His messenger). All these must be delivered in Arabic. In the Ḥanafī school of law, this is recommended practice (sunnah), but not necessary. The khuṭbah is divided into two segments, the first longer than the second. Although not a legal requirement, the first segment tends to be more religious in nature, whereas the second segment of the khuṭbah delves into everyday affairs and tends to be more political. The khaṭīb sits in silence between the two segments of the khuṭbah. The imam concludes the khuṭbah by sending blessings upon the Prophet and praying (duʿāʿ) for all the Muslims. Due to the insistence of some scholars that the khuṭbah be delivered in Arabic, it is sometimes delivered in Arabic in countries where the majority of people do not speak or understand Arabic. In some cases, the first segment of the khuṭbah is delivered in Arabic, whereas the second segment is delivered in the native language of the people.

The Political Function of the Khut.bah.

The Prophet, and eventually his successors—the caliphs and provincial governors—became imams or leaders of the collective worship, which took place in the chief mosque of the city. Some sort of address was made at the gathering, which was identified as a political community. The significance of the mosque gathering was embodied in the minbar (pulpit), an elevated structure from which the khuṭbah is delivered, following the precedent of Muḥammad. The minbar gradually became a kind of throne used on official occasions by state dignitaries. In his inauguration ceremony the caliph would ascend the minbar, receiving the homage of the community, and deliver a khuṭbah. In the provinces the governors stood in the same relation to the central mosque as did the caliph in the capital: they too made their formal entry into office by ascending the minbar and delivering a khuṭbah.

There also developed a political custom that the enemies of the ruler and his party be cursed from the minbar. Along with this tradition there emerged the practice of bestowing a blessing on the ruler in whose name the Friday khuṭbah was delivered. The khuṭbah was also used for defending policies, stirring public emotion, and disseminating propaganda.

During the ʿAbbāsid period (750–1258 CE) the expansion of the Islamic domain and the preoccupation of the caliphs with ceremonials and traditions of the Persian monarchy prevented officials from delivering the khuṭbah personally. Instead, a man learned in religious matters was appointed to the position of khaṭīb.

After Prophet Muḥammad 's death, schools of legal thought developed among religious scholars, who were people without institutional support and had devoted their lives to the study of religion. Guided by the methodology of their legal schools, these scholars studied, commented on religious matters, and became involved in legal and community affairs as judges, administrators, and teachers. Thus they gained social and religious leadership of the masses, who turned to them rather than to the caliphs for religious instruction and moral guidance.

With the expansion of Islam, the appearance of imperial caliphal administration, the emergence of the popular preachers, and the development of independent religious authorities, the mosque became less an instrument of polity and more a place for religious practice. The khuṭbah, which in earlier days was pronounced by the sovereign himself or his governors and generals and dealt with political, military, and other state affairs, became less important. It gradually became more of a religious service or sermon with the dwindling of the political function of the mosque.

Nonetheless, the political character of the mosque never entirely disappeared. Utterance of prayers for the ruler during the khuṭbah remained one of the recognized tokens of sovereignty under Muslim rule; its omission was a signal of revolt. The political character of the mosque had also been retained in another sense. The religious scholars endorsed the validity of praying for the leader of the Islamic state, as long as the leader was not praised for things that were untrue. In the case of a major crisis or community dissatisfaction, members flocked to the mosque to discuss the problem or seek remedy. Throughout the history of Islam the mosque has been the center of numerous uprisings, revolts, and social movements, often led from the minbar. In this respect, the role of the minbar in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is especially notable during periods of unrest precipitated by Western incursion into Islamic territory.

Colonization of Muslim lands and the increasing political and commercial influence of the Christian West shocked Muslim leaders. The experience of colonialism motivated widespread use of the minbar in anitcolonial movements. Shāh ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (1746–1824), a well-known religious leader, issued a fatwā declaring all land under British occupation to be dār al-ḥarb or the territory of the enemies of Islam. Through his preaching from the minbars of two chief mosques in Delhi, he maintained contact with the masses and disseminated his anticolonial views.

In 1890 Nāṣir al-Dīn Shāh of Iran granted a concession to a British subject for the control and sale of tobacco. The indigenous tobacco growers and merchants opposed the idea and sought assistance from the religious leaders, who were also unhappy about the influence of the Christians in the country. When the shah persisted, a fatwā proclaimed from the minbar banning the use of tobacco was unanimously accepted throughout the country. The shah was forced to cancel the concession in 1891. Fourteen years later the conflict between a group of religious leaders and the state was an important factor in the development of the constitutional movement in Iran. The alliance between the reformists and these religious leaders helped develop a truly national movement in which the minbar played a significant role.

As emphasized by noted scholar Philip Hitti, the congregational mosque has always been more than a building for devotion. He further noted that “the principal outbreaks against European authority in Syria and Egypt have had their inception in the Friday mosque meetings” (p. 267). Although Hitti does not directly discuss the role of the minbar in these meetings, the following cases leave no doubt about the involvement of the minbar in the struggle against colonialism.

After abolishing the monarchy in 1952, the new regime in Egypt recognized that Islam remained the widest and most effective basis for consensus both within Egypt and among Arabs more generally. Therefore, in 1968 it proclaimed that the mosque, state, and community would be closely associated under government guidance. In practice this meant not only that opposition parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood were barred from the mosque, but also that the content of the Friday khuṭbah was under strict control. Egyptian preachers were directed by the state to amalgamate socialism, nationalism, and industrial development with the tenets of Islam. The new regime had already revived the symbolic fusion of state and religion in Islam. For example, during the invasion of Egypt by England, France, and Israel in 1956, Gamal Abdel Nasser as president of the republic performed the Friday prayer of the assembly in al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo on November 2 and 9; he then ascended the minbar and delivered orations similar to other fiery speeches he gave during this national crisis.

King Muḥammad of Morocco and President Nasser of Egypt used the khuṭbah to promote modernist policies in the garb of “true Islamic traditions”; by contrast, Abdur Rauf, a Pakistani social scientist, has openly recommended the Friday khuṭbah as an instrument for social change and for transforming traditional lifestyles Rauf has suggested that a mass movement for the development of rural life in Pakistan could be extensively and effectively implemented through the Friday khuṭbah, which should be made simpler in language and more relevant to the daily problems of the rural population. He argues that the problems of apathy, ignorance, ill health, and low productivity can be effectively solved with the help of communication via the minbar, backed by such measures as a well-planned training program for mosque leaders and promotion of the attendance of women and children at the Friday prayers. Unlike the Moroccan and Egyptian governments ’ use of the mosque, in the Pakistani case the religious assembly in the mosque is not confined to political communication. Rauf implies that with creative planning and imaginative use, the Friday khuṭbah could compete with the cinema, radio, television, and novels, which some believe distract Muslims from focusing on God, and promote harmful alien cultural values and deviant standards of behavior.

The cases discussed above point to the revival of the political and social functions of the khuṭbah and other orations from the minbar. The subject matter of the khuṭbas delivered in millions of mosques across the world provides a glimpse into the social and political challenges facing that particular community. For example, a glance at the transcript of the Friday sermon at the al-AqṢā Mosque in Jerusalem a few days before May 14, 2007(the fifty-ninth anniversary of Israel 's creation), reflects the political turmoil facing Muslims in Jerusalem as they remember that day—which Arabs refer to as the nakbah, the catastrophe. In his khuṭbah, the khaṭīb emphasized Jerusalem 's religious significance to Muslims and reflected upon the Isrāʿ and Miʿrāj (the Prophet 's Night Journey) from the al-Aqsā Mosque. He then stated:

"Next Thursday, May 15, we will mark the anniversary of al-Nakbah. Palestinians were expelled from the land, where their fathers and forefathers were born, and are living in every country of the world. Our land is not like other pieces of land. God blessed this land from al-ʿArīsh[in Egpyt] to the Euphrates and honored its men and women by enabling them to stand fast until the day of resurrection. Those living on the coast of Greater Syria or in and around Jerusalem are considered mujāhidīn until doomsday. This land is the land of messages and the cradle of religions. Prophets came here. Jesus the Christ and his mother were in Jerusalem; Moses was brought by God to Jerusalem to perform prayer along with the other prophets; Ibrāhīm, God bless him, came from his homeland, Iraq, and lived in Palestine; and Ishāq and Yaʿqūb came and left for Egypt… We, the Palestinian people, are aware of what is going on here. Jerusalem is being Judaized. Yesterday, the planning and construction committee at Jerusalem Municipality decided to establish 20,000 housing units outside the city 's wall. Those saying that the wall is the border are wrong. They want the entire land without people."

As noted by the Friday sermon above, the khuṭbah has expanded beyond its function as a religious ritual and has become a forum for the expression of social and political concerns. In the case of Iran, because of the split between the state and the religious leaders, the minbar had increasingly become a rallying point against the government since the turn of the century. In Morocco and Egypt, with the revival of the fusion of state and religion the governments have consistently used the khuṭbah to their own advantage. For instance, in Egypt recently the mosque has become an arm of the government and has often been used as an instrument for the legitimization of government programs. The attention of Muslim intellectuals to indigenous institutions such as the khuṭbah as a means of establishing rural community development programs, and the minbar as a medium of public communication combating the allegedly harmful effects of modern mass media, is exemplified by the Pakistani case discussed above.

By serving as a means to unite, educate, and build the Muslim community, the Friday khuṭbah has been transformed beyond a religious ritual into an important social institution. The content of the khuṭbah can be viewed as a social commentary on the conditions that confront that particular Muslim community. For example, in the West, the khuṭbah has come to serve an important educational, social, and political function. The content of the khuṭbah in the West often reflects the problems facing the Muslim minority community such as dealing with Islamophobia, reaching out to non-Muslim neighbors, and resisting un-Islamic cultural influences like alcoholism, dating, and gambling.The Debate on Female-led Friday Khut.bahs. A female-led Friday khuṭbah delivered in the United States on March 18, 2005, provoked a worldwide controversy regarding the permissibility of the female-led prayers and khuṭbahs. Amina Wadūd, a scholar of Islamic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, decided to lead the Friday sermon and prayer in a historically unprecedented move to establish female khaṭībs. Although hailed by a few Muslims of the progressive Muslim movement as a courageous step, the female-led khuṭbah and prayer were condemned as heretical and blasphemous by Muslim scholars and laymen throughout the world. The action of a single woman provoked an onslaught of fatwās, articles, and books all clarifying the juristic position on female-led prayers. Religious scholars as renowned as yūsuf al-Qaradāwī ʿAlī Jumʿah (ʿAli Gomaa), and Hamza Yusuf all commented on the event and the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, ʿAbd al-ʿAziz al-Shaykh, accused Ms. Wadūd of “trying to corrupt the community,” according to an article entitled “The Quiet Heretic” that appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education. One female Muslim scholar in Egypt accused Wadūd of being an apostate.

Several mosques declined to host the prayer because of security concerns, so the prayer was ultimately held in a hall on the grounds of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, in Manhattan. Although Wadūd had led a mixed congregation in prayer before, it was the first time that the female-led khuṭbah and prayer were publicized. Initiated by Wall Street Journal reporter Asra Nomani and sponsored by the Progressive Muslim Union, the first public female-led jumaʿ prayer garnered much publicity in Muslim and mainstream media. Some newspapers in the Middle East called Wadūd heretical, crazy, dangerous, and deviant. The most troubling of all to Wadūd were Web sites calling for her death. As the Chronicle article reported, “ ‘HEAVEN DOESN ’T WANT YOU & HELL IS CALLING YOU, ’ one person wrote. A Web site called the Jawa Report started an ‘Amina Wadud Death Watch. ’ One post began ominously,  ‘What do you bet Amina Wadud gets murdered? ’ An anonymous writer called on Osama bin Laden to issue a fatwā against her” (August 12, 2005).

The scholars who opposed the female-led Friday service cited centuries of Islamic tradition forbidding women from leading men in prayer (although women have traditionally been allowed to lead other women). For example, Ali Gomaa, the Grand Muftī of Egypt, responded to the controversy by examining the validity of female-led prayers of mixed congregations employing two methods: reviewing the normative practice of the Muslim ummah for the last fourteen centuries and examining the primary textual sources on this issue. As for the normative practice of the community, Gomaa says that all Muslims—in the East and West and in the past and present—have come to a consensus that a woman should not call the official adhān nor lead the prayer (for mixed congregations) nor lead the Friday khuṭbah. “In its fourteen hundred years, the history of Islam has never witnessed a woman leading the Friday sermon or leading men in prayer, even during dynasties that were ruled by a woman, such as Mamluk Egypt during the reign of Shajaratul Dur,” wrote Gomaa (p. 60).

As for textual sources, there are two prophetic traditions related to a woman leading men in prayer. In one of the traditions, the Prophet permitted Umm Waraqah, a female companion, to lead the men of her household. In a second tradition, the Prophet forbade women from leading men in prayer. Both traditions, however, have a defect in their chain of narration, which undermines their use as sufficient proof. Gomaa then resorts to secondary sources of legal opinions on the matter. He writes, “The scholars of the four legal schools; rather, the scholars of the eight legal schools, and the seven jurists of Medina all agree that it is impermissible for a woman to lead men in an obligatory prayer, and that the prayer of the man who prays behind her is invalid” (p. 61). Nevertheless, he then cites a few scholars who deviated from the dominant position and allowed men to pray behind women, such as Muhyī al-Dīn ibn al-ʿArabī, Abū Thawr, al-Muznī; and Ibn Jarīr al-Tabarī.

See also ʿABD AL-ʿAZīZ, SHāH; and MOSQUE, subentries onHISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT and THE MOSQUE IN POLITICS.

Bibliography

  • “An-Nikah: The Marriage.”Soundvision.com: Islamic Information and Products. Sept. 5, 2007. www.soundvision.com/info/Islam/marriage.nikah.asp. A discussion of both Islamic legal requirements and customary practice related to marriage ceremonies and the khuṭbatu al-nikah.
  • Antoun, Richard. Muslim Preacher in the Modern World: A Jordanian Case Study in Comparative Perspective. Princeton, N.J., 1989. Anthropological study of the relationship between a rural community and its preacher who, through his Friday khuṭbahs, functions as a mediator between the forces of change and indigenous ways.
  • Borthwick, Bruce M.“The Islamic Sermon as a Channel of Political Communication.”Middle East Journal21, no. 3 (1967): 299–313. Based on the author 's 1965 doctoral thesis, this article deals with the renewal of the political function of the khuṭbah in Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.
  • Fathi, Asghar. “Preachers as Substitutes for Mass Media: The Case of Iran, 1905–1909.” In Towards a Modern Iran, edited by Elie Kedourie and Sylvia G. Haim, pp. 169–184. London, 20, no.2 1980. Demonstrates the important role played by the pulpit in disseminating opposing views during the Iranian Constitutional Revolution.
  • Fathi, Asghar. “The Islamic Pulpit as a Medium of Political Communication.”Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion20, no. 2 (1981): 163–172. Compares the Islamic pulpit with the modern media of public communication from a sociological perspective.
  • Haggay, Ram. Myth and Mobilization in Revolutionary Iran: The Use of the Friday Congregational Sermon. Washington, D.C., 1994. Explores the role of the Friday khuṭbah to mobilize support for Iran 's revolution and during times of crises such as the Iraq-Iran War.
  • Hitti, Philip Khuri. History of the Arabs. London, 1958. An examination of the political function of the mosque and its role in anti-colonial resistance movements in the Arab world.
  • Ibn al-Jawzī, Abū al-Faraj ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn ʿAlī. Kitāb al-Quṣṣās wa-al-Mudhakkirīn. Translated and edited by Merlin L. Swartz. Beirut, 1971. Study of the khuṭbah and khaṭīb in the late ʿAbbāsid period, including their political use. The translated book also contains what would today be called a code of ethics for Muslim preachers.
  • Ibn Kathīr, Ismāʿīl ibn ʿUmar. Al-miṣbāḥ al-munīr fī tahdhīb tafsīr Ibn Kathīr. Riyāḍh, 2000. www.tafsir.com/default.asp?sid=62&tid=53801. A classical exegesis on Qurʿānic verses 62:9–11, this discusses the significance of Friday in the Muslim tradition and the reason for its selection as the day for the congregational service.
  • Jumʿah, ʿAlī. Al-bayān li-mā yashghalu al-adhhān. Cairo, 2005. A compilation of the Egyptian Grand Muftī 's fatwās on controversial social and religious issues, including the female-led Friday prayer.
  • Khairo, Wael. Speaking for Change: A Guide to Making Effective Friday Sermons (Khutbahs). Beltsville, Md., 1998. This study examines the importance of the khuṭbah as an educational resource in the West and provides guidelines for delivering effective khuṭbahs that are relevant to the context of Muslims in the West.
  • Mangera, Abdurrahman ibn Yusuf. “Marriage: How to Perform the Nikah According to the Sunna in the Hanafi School.”SunniPath: The Online Islamic Academy. July 5, 2005. qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?id=2123 An outline of the legal requirements for a valid marriage according to the Ḥanafī school of law.
  • Mubarak, Ali. “The Khuṭba: A Symbol of Royalty in Islam.”Sind University Research Journal, Arts series, Humanities and Social Sciences (1979): 89–96.
  • “Near/Middle East: Round-up of Friday Sermons.”BBC Worldwide Monitoring. May 14, 2007. A transcript of the sermon delivered in al-AqṢā Mosque in Jerusalem a few days before May 14, 2007, marking the fifty-ninth anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel.
  • Pedersen, Johannes. “Khaṭīb.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam, vol. 4, pp. 1109–1111. Leiden, 1960–.
  • Pedersen, Johannes. “The Criticism of the Islamic Preacher.”Die Welt des Islam2 (1953): 215–231.
  • Pedersen, Johannes, et al.“Minbar.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2d ed., vol. 7, pp. 73–80. Leiden, 1960–.
  • Pellat, Charles. “ḳāṣṣ.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2d ed., vol. 4, pp. 733–735. Leiden, 1960–.
  • “The Quiet Heretic.”Chronicle of Higher Education. Aug. 12, 2005, p. 10. chronicle.com/subscribe/login?url=/weekly/v51/i49/49a01001.htm. An extensive article that expounds upon Amina Wadūd 's rationale for advocating a female-led prayer and the consequences she faced as a result of her decision.
  • Rabbani, Faraz. “The Fiqh of Friday Prayer.”SunniPath: The Online Islamic Academy. Aug. 5, 2005. qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1 ’ID=1001 ’CATE=4. A ḥanafī jurist, Rabbani discuses the virtues of Friday, the recommended etiquette for Muslims on Friday, the legal requirements for the Friday khuṭbah and the significance of the Friday prayer.
  • Rauf, Abdur. “A Mosque-Centered Rural Development Plan.”Islamic Education6 (1973): 26–36. Advocates the use of the Friday khuṭbah as an instrument for social change to support rural development in Pakistan.
  • Sakr, Ahmad. Khuttab from the Mihrab. Lombard, Ill., 1998. Provides sample khuṭbahs on various topics based on the format and method of the khuṭbahs delivered by Prophet Moḥammad.
  • Samb, A.“Masdjid.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2d ed., vol. 6, pp. 644–707. Leiden, 1960–. An encyclopedia entry that explores the development of the mosque 's religious and political role throughout Islamic history.
  • Wensinck, A. J.“Khuṭba.”In Encyclopaedia of Islam, edited by P. Bearman, T. H. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, and W. P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2007. Brill Online. August 29, 2007. www.brillonline.nl/subscriber/entry?entry=islam_SIM-4352. An encyclopedia entry on the legal rulings surrounding khuṭbah as well as its historic evolution.
  • Yusuf, Hamza. “Can Women Serve as Imams?”Seasons Journal3, no. 2 (Spring 2007): 47–64. This work examines the plurality of legal opinions on the validity of female-led prayers among the four dominant Islamic legal schools.
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