Breaking my Wings

It is with a saddened heart that I write this post. I have been writing and gathering material for khutbas at Wesleyan and Trinity for the past three years. I have trained brothers on how to deliver the khutba and offer guidance on the Arabic pronunciation.  Sometimes I really love the khutbas that I write. Other times, I feel the need to be nourished and want to hear another’s voice- another’s words. So, you can imagine the expectation I have when I finally find the resolve to take my 13 month old daughter with me to Jumua’ prayers at the masjid. In a hurried rush to get everything in order (sippy cup, blueberries, wipes, diapers….oh yea, and my keys and phone) I accidentally forget my wallet but decide while driving that I would miss too much of the precious khutba if I were to turn around now.  I would continue on making the dua’a of the traveler and praying that a police officer does not pull me over.

Sumaya and I ended up parking very far so I wouldn’t get stuck trying to get out of post Jumua’ gridlock. I carried my little munchkin and as we cut through the palpable humid air, my spirits were beginning to rise. Yes, this is exactly what I need after a tough week. As we entered the masjid, I took off my shoes, offered salaams to women I did not know and made my way up the stairs to the women’s section. The athaan began to resound against the walls and I wondered how familiar Sumaya was by now with the inflections and rhythm of the melodic call to prayer.

Taking a toddler to Jumua’ is no easy task. One needs an arsenal of distractions, in order that others may not be distracted by Sumaya’s need to talk over the khateeb. The khutba began and I could instantly tell that this wasn’t what I was looking for. The khateeb was speaking about dhulm (oppression) and the various ways we can oppress. While this may have been a timely topic, I was so discouraged by the style. I felt patronized and I surely did not go to my beloved masjid to be yelled at. You see, my dear khateebs, life is not easy. There are moments everyday that we struggle to be good. We have the option to relax, but with our heads bowed down we plow through. We plow through the desires, the dirty diapers, the incessant whining, the burnt toast, and the sticky humidity. There are moments that we fail, we fail miserably actually. Our fuse too short, our struggles too shallow. I know that and I bet my fellow brother sitting far away knows that too. And so, what I need from you, ya khateeb, is to allow me to leave the masjid inspired. I know it is not easy to inspire. It is much easier to shout. And you too will have your off days. Maybe you won’t be able to inspire me, but if you can’t do that, then maybe you can leave me with some hope. You see, even during my summer vacation, I look forward to Fridays and the weekend. I look forward to becoming the person I ultimately envision myself to be- and shouting at me for trying- well, I just can’t accept that. I need you to tell me the stories of Muhammad, Yaqub, Musa, and Mariam. We all have a story to tell, but you are the ultimate storyteller. Every Friday when men are obligated to listen to you, you have the ability to transform their lives- with a dose of sheer will power here, Divine guidance there, and the feeling that successful indeed are the believers, always. Give us the opportunity to feel our mini-ascensions with Allah.

And if still you cannot do that, please do no harm- the harm of turning away a brother on the brink of giving up his faith, or the sister that has seen religion break up her family.

My dear khateeb, as Muslims living in America, we need to be tough everyday. We put our best foot forward in the workplace and the grocery stores. We lower our gazes when we just want to take our family to the park. We have built a tough exterior as we hear the false statements accepted as truth about our beloved religion. And so, each step we take towards our masjid, every shoe that fits inside the cubicle, every sajda that is made on the carpet floor sheds our armor. Our armor is so very heavy. Allow us, if you will, for those few beautiful moments as your listeners to feel weightless.

Allow me to fly.  If you cannot, I beg you, please do not cut off my wings.

Hussein Eid - July 9, 2011 - 7:08 pm

Absolutely beautiful !!! This is so on point, its necessary for the khateeb to “sell” his audience what they want to hear with the words that he must say, great post Marwa !

Ayman Mansour - July 10, 2011 - 3:21 am

Barakullah feeki ya akhtena! Unfortunately, I’m sure many youth have the same sentiments, including myself, about the khutbahs. I really wanted to post something for a while to sarcastically criticize those lectures that make us sleep, uncomfortable, and sometimes just plain exasperated. Maa’ shaa’Allah you’ve put into words my feelings- I’ll e-mail your article to a few select brothers and sisters whom may benefit from your article; and I’m posting it… just one question, if you’re training khateebs for 3 years shouldn’t you have a nice selection of good khateebs? Anyway- continue doing your good work, don’t give up, and never be shy to go to the board of the masjid and give them your “2 cents”…

Osamah Salhia - July 10, 2011 - 5:46 am

Mashallah, sister Marwa this is absolutely beautiful! Thanks for sharing the thoughts.

Marwa - July 10, 2011 - 1:57 pm

Thanks brothers for the encouragement- it seems like many people have the same sentiments in regards to some of the khutbas we have had to sit through. Ayman, I do have some fairly good khateebs now, but there are a couple of issues:
a) I do encourage them to write their own khutba, but many of them cannot due to their busy school schedules, so even when I do offer training, they still end up reading from a piece of paper which significantly reduces the impact the khutba may have
b) they are currently on summer vacation and away from campus, so there are no Jumua prayers at the universities at this time.

Br. Osamah, I look forward to hearing your khutbas soon insha’Allah. May Allah facilitate your studies in al-Azhar.

Hussein, I guess in a sense the khateeb is marketing Islam- and that’s a heavy responsibility- but it doesn’t need to be flashy at all- just sincere, sincerely curious about the world, our inner dimensions, and what Islam has to say about our human condition.

Sarah - July 10, 2011 - 5:24 pm

Masha’Allah sister! It’s the first time I’m reading your blog and I absolutely loved this post. Masha’Allah. The words you used to express your feelings are amazingly put. Very nice. And I absolutely agree with everything you said. Really, THIS inspired me.. <3 jazaki Allahu khair :)

Sharif - July 11, 2011 - 12:16 am

Masha’Allah Marwa – very real post. I agree a 100 percent. How many youth go to a masjid who are going through some serious problems, hoping to find answers and inspiration in Islam, and are later pushed further away from the deen because of one khutba that you mentioned. Unfortunately it happens too often. The khateeb has a responsibility and it’s not a light one at all. JazakiAllahu Kheiran for sharing.

Fatimah - July 11, 2011 - 11:34 pm

Completely blown away!!! I can relate to this so much! Especially being on a college campus and going to certain sermons where I felt so empty after and completely unmoved by what I just heard. Love the last line! Please continue to inspire. This should be a khutba in and of itself!!

Begaeta - July 13, 2011 - 3:46 am

This is great Marwa!!! Agree with everything — well said!!

And this post on jumah makes me realize I haven’t been to one since I left Trinity… :( Need to stop being lazy and drive to Berlin mosque! Insha’Allah I will see you there one of these upcoming Fridays!

Dave - July 14, 2011 - 10:57 pm

Oh man. I really hope nobody ever thought this after I gave a khutba. Please make du’a for me, and may Allah grant you tawfiq and taysir in all of your efforts, ameen.

Amr - July 15, 2011 - 2:07 pm

Great Post! I made a mistake a few years ago of taking a non-Muslim to a khutbah in a masjid in CT. He asked to visit the masjid and I know that this masjid often had beautiful khutbahs so I took a chance. The khateeb literally yelled with fuming anger the entire time. Even when we lined up to pray he yelled at us like a drill Sargent to make our lines straight. Needless to say, my non-Muslim friend was turned off.

ibnabeeomar [Qalam Institute] - July 16, 2011 - 3:38 pm

assalamu alaikum,

we’re organizing a khateeb workshop through qalam institute. we held one last summer and alhamdulillah it was a great success, and we’re holding one this upcoming new year’s weekend inshallah.

if you don’t mind you can email me at the address i left with this comment, maybe there is some room for collaboration or at the very least getting some advice/input from your experiences thus far.

Abdul Nasir Jangda - July 17, 2011 - 8:33 pm


I know you’ve taken the Meaningful Prayer course with me and I also had the pleasure of attending one of your very beneficial sessions at the MSA east zone conference in Boston, Alhamdulillah.

Your post is something that I can definitely relate to. It was based on this that I initiated, along with Br Omar a Khateeb Training Workshop from Qalam Institute.

May Allah bless you for your work and allow you to remain an inspiration for all of us.

JazakAllahu khayran.

Abdul Nasir Jangda

Marwa - July 18, 2011 - 5:41 pm

Salaam Brothers Omar and Abdul Nasir,
Jazakum Allahu kheyran for your comments and I look forward to helping in anyway that I can insha’Allah. You brothers have continued to inspire us with your work in Bayyinah and Qalam Institute. You have an arsenal of heavy-weights masha’Allah for the Stand Up and Deliver workshop which is a wonderful initiative- may Allah put baraka and continued success in it. I sent an email to Br. Omar about some of the points that a khateeb should be aware of- let me know if they are of any benefit.

Nazihah Malik - August 11, 2011 - 7:23 am

So well stated :o) This topic has come up in many discussions, and it’s so hard to articulate why shouting is annoying in khutbahs, and really, you did a superb job of capturing all the emotions and thoughts relating to it.

Keep up the good writing :)

Umma - November 27, 2011 - 4:17 am

Salam, I understand that being yelled at is not very kind, but we must be careful not to expect the speakers to “sell” inspiration or to “entertain” the audience. Teaching Islam with a gentle heart is the best, but being a “motivational speaker,” just to make us feel good (e.g. the Christian Joel Osteen) should not be the ideal either.

Munjed - December 1, 2011 - 12:15 am

Shukran ya Marwa for the important reminder. We could do well with more gentleness in khutbahs. Are we not to walk in the footsteps of the mercy to all? A gentler and more inviting tone is indeed needed. I’d imagine it’s sunnah : )

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