This past week, after nearly six years away from public speaking, I finally returned to the minbar and delivered a khutbah. I had stopped giving khutbahs for a variety of reasons, one of which was because of an imām in one of our communities who so strongly emphasized the weight and responsibility of delivering the khutbah (and by extension speaking about the religion in general) that I really wanted nothing to do with religious public speaking.
Another reason for my reticence was that getting on the khutbah circuit was an immense time drain, especially since many times the khutbah planning chairperson would try contacting me (or others) when the scheduled khateeb would bail out at the last possible moment (seems a bit common), leaving me to prepare an ad hoc khutbah on Thursday night. I remember one time the khateeb didn't show up, and I was asked to give one right there. I asked for a minute to think about it, and then delivered a khutbah on Uthmaan (RA) and the lessons we could take from his life and characteristics. How did I come up with that khutbah? I didn't – it was the Islamic Sunday School class I had taught earlier in the week!
I returned this week because the UC Berkeley MSA was organized enough to have scheduled me four months in advance, giving plenty of time to think and prepare. During that time, I returned to reading books on public speaking, and re-thinking what I had liked in the past and what I liked now. It was also great for reflecting with a fresh set of experiential eyes on what was really important for the community-at-large, rather than pseudo-student of knowledge ankle-biting.
So here's my question to all of you – what makes an awesome khutbah, and what makes a disaster khutbah?
For example, awesome khutbah for me was a couple of months ago when imām Tahir Anwar visited and spoke about what the differences among Muslims to amounted to for him, and how we should deal with it. Disaster khutbah was a fresh student of knowledge getting on the minbar and running as through a marathon refutation of something he read online for 90 minutes.