Friday sermons as a form of media [Archives:2008/1174/Culture]

July 21 2008

By: Almigdad Mojalli
For more than 14 centuries, Juma'a orations, or Friday sermons, at the mosque have been considered the first and most widespread method of addressing Muslims, discussing Islam, as well as social, political and personal issues.

Beginning at around noon and lasting 30 minutes to an hour, the sermon is divided into separate lectures of about 20 to 30 minutes each. Friday sermons must be given in Islamic countries every Friday before prayers and all Muslims men must attend.

For this reason, the sermons target all levels of society. During the sermon, attendees are to be attentive and not interrupt the preacher. In fact, no one is allowed to say even a word, either to the preacher or to any other attendee. Thus, the preacher is ensured a quiet atmosphere where listeners can best absorb the lessons, which he must prepare for a week in order to ensure that it's as effective as possible.

Friday sermons usually address Muslims' life incidents during the past week in relation to religion. For example, a preacher may talk about the International Criminal Court's accusations against Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir or about the importance of caring for orphans.

Preachers also may use their Friday sermons to teach Muslims their religious duties, such as prayer, since many are ignorant about their duties, but are shy to ask about such things, particularly if they are elderly.

“In Islam, a nation's ruler is the one who should deliver the sermon in which he informs his people about what has happened regarding the past week's political and social developments, relating them to religion,” explains Mohammed Al-Hammadi, a preacher at Ammar Ibn Yasser Mosque. “However, because there are millions of people and it's impossible to gather and address them all in one place, there are now preachers for every mosque in the country.”

He notes that mosque preachers must discuss their nation's social, political, economic and religious issues and relate them to Islam in an effort to show how Islam relates to all aspects of life.

During his Friday sermon, a preacher also must instruct his fellow Muslims about good behavior and remind them about the Resurrection Day, which is the coming hell for the guilty and paradise for those who are good.

Additionally, as Abdulwahed Mansour, a preacher at Museik Mosque, explains, “A preacher must know much about religion, such as interpreting verses of the Qur'an and the Hadith [sayings of the Prophet Mohammed].” He also must be able to speak and thoroughly understand modern standard Arabic or Fus'ha.

As one of the most effective and widespread ways to address Muslims, Friday sermons have led to demonstrations regarding local, national and international issues. “Friday sermons can have a very strong effect, especially if the preacher knows how to treat the issue at hand and how to evoke attendees' feelings,” Mansour notes.

“Many revolutions, demonstrations against Israeli aggression against Palestinians and against the United States have started after Friday sermons,” he adds.

However, as Al-Hammadi explains, mosque preachers also must be moderate and vary their topics because some subjects fall by the wayside, even though they may be more important and touch lives more.