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Sermons in churches, mosques should be lively enough to arouse interest

By Suleiman Shahbal | June 29th 2021
Suleiman Shahbal: If I am expected to be a captive and attentive listener, then please make some effort with your sermon. You owe it to us. [Courtesy]

Every Friday, millions of Muslims sit in mosques listening to the Iman giving his Friday sermon. Very often I watch my fellow worshippers and see the sheer boredom on their faces.

I see the same boredom in church. Christians are fortunate that they have song and dance as part of worship, but that is forbidden in the mosque.

Today I am writing polite request to our Imam’s and priests.

Worshippers are obliged to listen to the sermons. The Friday khutbah (speech) is mandatory for all Muslims during the Friday prayers.

Our Friday prayer was shortened to enable us listen to the speech. We are encouraged to close our business a couple of hours earlier to prepare for the Friday prayers and the compulsory khutbah.

My church-going friends are in a similar boat. They must listen to the sermon; there is no debate allowed and in both cases you cannot leave.

The imam and the priest have a captive audience. If we are obliged to listen, then our religious leaders also have an obligation to make that speech worthwhile for us.

We, the Muslims, are expected to go home and pass the message to our family members. There should be substance in the message.

Unfortunately, many of our religious leaders come unprepared. Many will ramble on incoherently. To compensate their lack of preparedness, they will shout as if the volume will force down the message. It doesn’t.

Our preachers have an obligation to remind us of our faith, rituals and obligations. This is the primary reason we attend religious functions.

Religious leaders are usually well versed on this, religion is their business after all.  However, there is more to religion than just faith.

The Bible says, “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. Islam refers to “din wa dunia” which means “religion and real life.” The message is clear, there is God in everything we do.

The power of religion has changed many countries. “Liberation Theology” led to many revolutions in South America. In Ireland, religion was the cause of civil war.

Iran is the best example of the relationship between religious leaders and revolutions. In Egypt, Islamists took advantage of the people’s revolt to seize power – or as they would argue, Islam became the political philosophy that brought democracy to Egypt, albeit for a short time. Religion, if well utilised can be a strong force for change.

I believe that the priests have an obligation to prepare their sermons to focus on three key areas.

These are matters of faith, addressing personal and family issues, as well as community and political challenges facing our country.

Many people are in problems and pain. They pray for help, solace and hope, seeking advice on how to deal with their personal relationships, health issues, problems at work or business. Both the Muslim and Christian holy books give words of advice and comfort. Show us the way.

Our religious leaders need to have a stand on community and political issues. Religious leaders do not need to endorse anyone, but they can educate their flock on the importance of ethics in public life, voting and good leadership.

If I am expected to be a captive and attentive listener, then please make some effort with your sermon. You owe it to us.  

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