The Friday Khutbah: Three Neglected Sunnahs for the Imaam

In the Name of Allaah, the Most Beneficent, the Ever Merciful…

The Friday khutbah (sermon) may be the only time to reach many Muslims. With this in mind, it is essential that the khateeb (the one who delivers the khutbah) deliver it in a way that accomplishes the goal of reminding the Muslims about essential matters of Islamic belief and practice, encouraging them towards goodness and warning them from all types of evil.

As the best guidance is the guidance of the Messenger of Allaah (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace), let us extract from his amazing teachings three relatively easy ways a khateeb can significantly improve his delivery of the Friday khutbah and make it as effective as possible, as it relates to the style, level of involvement, and length.

1 – STYLE: The Khutbah Should be a Passionate and Moving Admonition, not an Academic Lesson!

Jaabir ibn ‘Abdillaah (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that when the Messenger of Allaah (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) would deliver a khutbah, his eyes would redden, he would raise his voice, and his anger would intensify, to the point that it was like he was warning of an imminent military invasion! [1]

Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have Mercy on him) explained:

He used to do that because it is more effective upon the listeners. He would behave this way for a benefit. Otherwise, it was well known that he (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) was the best of the people in character with the softest disposition. However, there is a specific way of addressing each situation. The khutbah must move the hearts and affect the souls, which is accomplished through the content, as well as the method of delivery. [2]

PRACTICAL ADVICE: Instead of teaching an academic breakdown of an important topic, select a few points on the topic where many Muslim neglect matters, and raise your voice with emotional reminders of the importance of those things and what harms they face when they do not give them proper attention. Save the detailed breakdowns for an academic class.

2 – INVOLVEMENT: The Khateeb Should be Connected to the People and Their Needs.

Khateebs who ignore their audience to read speeches directly from paper are rarely effective. Aside from the lack of any real emotion or genuine engagement in the topic, they are usually unaware of what is happening around them. They do not notice violations which need corrected, like people playing with their phones, talking, or sitting in the masjid without offering two rak’ahs first. They fail to provide solutions to problems faced by the listeners which may prevent them from benefitting from the khutbah.

The Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) taught leaders to be concerned for the needs of their followers. He taught them to consider the weak, elderly, and those occupied by urgent needs. [3] As the imaam of congregational prayer and the best example of leadership this planet has ever seen, he would shorten his prayer if he heard a child crying. [4] He would remind someone who sat without praying to offer two rak’ahs, even interrupting his khutbah to do so! [5] He would listen to the people complain of emergency situations, even during Jumu’ah, like the man who requested him to supplicate for rain during a drought. [6]

PRACTICAL ADVICE: Simply do not read a khutbah! Use an outline of main ideas if needed, but remind your brothers with live, engaging admonitions, while you remain aware of their situation. If they need to move up to make room for more people, tell them! If someone sits without praying, remind him! Take control of the situation and remove obstacles that prevent them from benefitting. Many khateebs may feel this might be overly burdening, yet that is likely due to negligence of the next point…

3 – LENGTH: The Friday Khutbah Needs to be Short and to the Point!

Not only would our finest example (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) give a short, concise khutbah himself, [7] he told us that delivering short khutbahs is a sign of a person’s good understanding of Islaam and ordered us to be concise! One day, ‘Ammaar (may Allaah be pleased with him) gave a very short and powerful khutbah. The people requested him to lengthen it, but he refused, and then quoted the following hadeeth:

إن طول صلاة الرجل، وقصر خطبته، مئنة من فقهه، فأطيلوا الصلاة، واقصروا الخطبة
“Verily, the length of a man’s prayer and the brevity of his khutbah are signs of his fiqh (understanding), so lengthen the prayer and shorten the khutbah!” [8]

In the West, many khateebs neglect the time-related needs of their followers. The followers may only have a short lunch break in which they can offer the Jumu’ah Prayer. Others may be missing class at the university to attend Jumu’ah. These needs are not to be neglected by the khateeb. He must manifest his good understanding of the Religion and obey the Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) by keeping his Friday khutbah short.

PRACTICAL ADVICE: Prepare a concise set of three to five important points and practical tips which a Muslim could adopt and improve his practice of Islam through. Back up these points with some clear evidences from the Book and the Sunnah. Benefit from the writings of the scholars when preparing. This should be easy enough for most khateebs to accomplish.

The trap is like this – Once you believe that a khutbah must be a half-hour or more, you likely need to read it from a paper. This typically becomes a boring speech with more information than most attendees can even take in, even if it is correct. The tempo and style of the khutbah suffers greatly. By the end of a 40-minute khutbah like this, how many people are just wishing you would shut up and pray?!

So, khateebs, may Allaah give you success!  Bring back the Prophetic Sunnah! Short, powerful, engaging reminders and warnings, relevant to the people’s needs, will make your masjid the place to be on Friday -in shaa’ Allaah-, not the place to avoid!

And Allaah knows best.

Written by: Moosaa Richardson (1436/10/09). 


[1] Saheeh Muslim (no.867)

[2] Sharh Riyaadh as-Saaliheen (2/334)

[3] ِAs collected by both al-Bukhaaree and Muslim from the report of Aboo Mas’ood al-Ansaaree (may Allaah be pleased with him).

[4] Anas (may Allaah have Mercy on him) reported that the Messenger of Allaah (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) said:

والله إني لأسمع بكاء الصبي وأنا في الصلاة فأخفف، مخافة أن تفتتن أمه
“By Allaah, I hear the crying of a child while praying, so I shorten (the prayer), in fear of his mother facing difficulty (through that).”

It was collected by at-Tirmithee in his Jaami’ (no.376), who called it hasan-saheeh. Al-Albaanee called it saheeh.

[5] As collected by both al-Bukhaaree and Muslim, from the report of Jaabir ibn ‘Abdillaah (may Allaah be pleased with him).

[6] As collected by both al-Bukhaaree and Muslim, from the report of Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him).

[7] Al-Hakam ibn Hazn described the Prophet’s khutbah (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) as, “a few light words, good and blessed.” It was collected by Aboo Daawood in his Sunan (no.1098), and Al-Albaanee called it hasan.)

[8] Saheeh Muslim (no.869)

17 thoughts on “The Friday Khutbah: Three Neglected Sunnahs for the Imaam

  1. JazakAllaahu khayraa.

    Could you give us a guideline of how long a khutbah should be, about how many minutes?

    Also …

    Look at the mercy of our Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa salam), whereby he would shorten the salaah during the salaah due to the difficulty a mother may be facing because of a crying child.

    Whereas today, many of the Imaams of a masjid continue to pray in the same manner even though it’s obvious that a child is crying in the background. Instead, the person with the child gets told off for bringing a child into the masjid – which makes him/her feel even more guilty!

    Once I remember in a masjid in Saudi Arabia ,during the salaah, a man shouted to shorten the salaah. I felt that the Imaam didn’t pay attention to this man’s request.

    Maybe you can remind the readers of the hadith about the man who left the salaah due to its long length …

    • Subhaan Allaah.

      Sometimes I feel people do something ignorantly thinking that they are defending/following the sunnah when in fact they are actually going against it!

      For example, a child may cry during prayer and because of the imaam’s ignorance of the hadith pertaining to the crying baby mentioned in the article, he ( the imaam) will think to himself “I will fear Allaah and I won’t recite a short surah and throw my prayer under the bus for a crying baby” and he will recite a mid-length/long surah thinking that he is standing up for Allaah’s religion against the people’s desires!

      Subhaan Allaah, it’s incredible how knowledge of some ahaadeeth (or lack thereof) can really affect the day-to-day practice of the deen.

      May Allaah increase us in knowledge. Aameen.

  2. As salaamu alaykium..what is the pre -requisite for the one actually giving the khutbah..what kind of qualifications must he have?

  3. As salaamu alaykium what is said about the khateeb who gives his own tafsir when explaining these ayats and ahadiths?Is it a must that we refer back to the statements of our salaf and scholars when explaining these verses to the people?

  4. Assalamu alaykum
    How can the imam lengthen the prayer when it is Sunnah to recite surah abasa and ghashiya? They are not long surahs.

    • Wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. That is exactly how the prayer is lengthened according to the Sunnah: By reciting al-A’laa and al-Ghaashiyah, al-Jumu’ah and al-Munaafiqoon, or al-Jumu’ah and al-Ghaashiyah. These are three three established Sunnahs for the recitation of the Jumu’ah Prayer.

      • So presumably the salah is to be longer than the khutbah? I mean, for example, reciting the above surah will take maybe 5 minutes? So is the imam to longen the sujud etc?

        • While some scholars did actually say the prayer should be longer than the khutbah (based on the hadeeth), I do not see how it clearly establishes that. And Allaah knows best. Anyway, a nice slow recitation of A’laa and Ghaashiyah with calm movements throughout the prayer should be at least 10 minutes. Perhaps Jumu’ah and Munaafiqoon is 15 minutes. And we have scholars and students even today who give khutbahs in less than 15 minutes.

  5. Not directly related but it would be much appreciated if you could reply.
    Basically, I was reading an ayah about Allah making everything in pairs. Now I am confused. It is obvious that animls are in pairs like male and female but some organisms visibly aren’t like bacteria or viruses etc. And then you have the theoretical physicists claiming everything has an anti-particle etc.
    Please could you explain this to me.

    • A Muslim does not need Science to confirm what Allaah has said. When scientific findings confirm certain things in the Quran, we are happy for those scientists who might be convinced to accept Islaam, but we have already believed in it with certainty. A modern form of hypocrisy is to consider Allaah’s Speech to be conjecture until it is proven by Science. Essentially, such a person does not have any eemaan, as he does not believe in Allaah with any level of certainty or conviction.

      Allaah -the Mighty and Majestic- has said: (إنما المؤمنون الذين آمنوا بالله ورسوله ثم لم يرتابوا), which means: “The believers are only those who believe in Allaah and His Messenger and thereafter entertain no doubt…” [al-Hujuraat 49:15]

      And He -the Most High- has described the hypocrites as (وارتابت قلوبهم فهم في ريبهم يترددون), which means: “And their hearts wavered in doubt, so they speculate back and forth in doubtful confusion.” [at-Towbah 9:45]

  6. As salaamu alaikum , May Allah preserve you, I was recently told my husband is considered a disbeliever because he missed three consecutive ju’mah. He works outside of a city here in the states it would take him 30min. to get to the nearest city and his lunch is only 30min. He works in construction and is laid off often and doesn’t miss ju’mah when he isn’t working. If this is true that he is a disbeliever due to this is it impermissible for me to remain married to him and on what condition would he reenter into Islam when he returns to making ju’mah salat. BarakAllahu feekum.

    • Wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. Takfeer (declaring someone to be outside of Islaam) is not applied to someone like this. Takfeer is a serious matter, and a person only leaves Islaam with the same level of clarity that he enters Islaam with. We encourage your husband to establish his Islaam within his job, and to take time off for Jumu’ah prayer, and to live in a place where Jumu’ah prayer is established. May Allaah bless him and you and grant us all success.

      Convey my salaams to the person who told you that your husband is a disbeliever, and tell them to fear Allaah and get control of their tongue. The Messenger of Allaah (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) said:

      إذا كفر الرجل أخاه فقد باء بها أحدهما
      “If a man declares his brother to be a disbeliever,
      it must apply to one of the two of them.”

      The hadeeth means that if a Muslim claims that another is not a Muslim, then that claim is either valid or not. If it is not valid, then the claimant is accountable for an act of kufr. May Allaah save us from kufr, the least and most severe of it. And Allaah knows best.

      • Asalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh, I have a question similar to that of our sister, and thought perhaps it may be of benefit for others as well.

        I am an over-the-road truck driver and constantly travel from place-to-place. I consider myself a traveler, due to the nature of my job, and have taken the privilege to shorten and combine my prayers, in light of this.

        However, I often leave town on Thursday and may not return for over 2 weeks, wal’Hamdulillah.

        Should I be making an effort to redirect my trips to stop on Fridays, in towns where I can make a Jummu’ah Salah?

        Also, my loads are planned by the company and my truck is very large, even bigger with the trailer, and I may not be able to reroute to a nearby masjid, due to size and planning.

        Finally, some of the small towns I visit do not have a masjid, and many of those that do are not known to be upon the Sunnah.

        Baraak Allaahu feek and may Allaah give us success.

  7. Thanks! This was beneficial as I am a Khateeb. I ask Allaah to reward you with good. But I give my Khutbahs for 25-30 minutes, and the Salaah lasts ~ 10 minutes. Please advise me:

    1. How many minutes should the Khutbah be, and the Salaah? “Long” and “short” are very vague to me from the Hadeeth.

    2. I know the Masaajids will be angry with me if I said: “We need to make the Khutbah shorter” (because they give plan a fixed length). What should I do in this case?

    • 1. The Prophet’s khutbahs (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) were short and concise. There are three Sunnahs for the choice of recitation in the prayer that I know of: [1] al-A’laa (87) & al-Ghaashiyah (88), [2] al-Jumu’ah (62) & al-Munaafiqoon (63), and [3] al-Jumu’ah (62) & al-Ghaashiyah (88). The shortest recitation would be about one page from the mus-haf in each rak’ah, with the recitation of the Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam), stopping at each Verse, about 15 minutes. The longest would be a page and a half in each rak’ah, about 20-25 minutes. These are rough estimates, and Allaah knows best.

      2. Ask them to read the article and work together to collect ideas connected to the benefits of being known for short khutbahs locally. There are some Muslims who look for the shortest khutbah in their area. The burden upon the khateeb becomes significantly less in terms of preparation. Giving a loud and effective khutbah is a task that requires energy and focus. 20 minutes is drastically easier and less stressful on the khateeb than 30 minutes for example. Remind them about the difference between a khutbah and a class. If more education is needed, then give a class after Jumu’ah, but be merciful on the people and remember that people are OBLIGED to attend Jumu’ah, so be afraid of overburdening them & and thus making fitnah for them. When you have a class, and choose to teach for one hour or even more, then its optional and no one is being oppressed. Anyone who needs to go can excuse himself and go. But the khutbah is not like that. Remember also, people who need those daylight hours for business are religiously closing their business or refraining from working during that time, to fulfill their oligation. Be easy, merciful, lenient, and considerate, may Allaah bless you!

  8. As salaamu alaykum Ahk moosa may Allah reward you for your detailed explanation on gambling and insurance had me think deeply about other matters what do the scholars say about lay away goods like putting things on lay away at stores putting a percentage down??? Then at a certain time you have to pay it off?? Sorry for putting it here I couldn’t find forum else where jazakAllahu Khair ahk moosa taweel..

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