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Confessions of a Public Speaker: Masjid Edition


I recently finished a great book, Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun, and thought it would be interesting to contrast some of what is in the book with masjid ‘speaking’ experiences. Berkun’s book offers interesting discussion on public speaking itself, observations, and then a few tips and tricks.

What follows here are my random notations and thoughts from when I read through the book. The focus is heavily on the main public speaking activities in the masjid (i.e. khutbahs).

Lesson: Four Versions of Each Talk

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He quotes Dale Carnegie as saying,

Good speakers usually find when they finish that there have been four versions of the speech: the one they delivered, the one they prepared, the one the newspapers say was delivered, and the one on the way home they wish they had delivered.

This is perhaps one of the most important lessons for any public speaker. Everyone has something they wish to communicate, a formulation of it in their head, and then there’s what actually comes out. Often though, the speaker ends up obsessing about points that do not matter – in fact, as Berkun notes, they’re often the opposite of what the audience even cares about.

It’s kind of like that khateeb who quotes some esoteric ‘point of benefit’ that he feels is truly amazing, but no one else gets. Then after the khutbah, you see him going around asking everyone what they thought about that one point, and no one cares. Then he cannot figure out why people didn’t like his talk. The book gives a poignant advice that everyone should keep in mind,

It’s the mistakes you make before you even say a word that matter more. These include the mistakes of not having an interesting opinion, of not thinking clearly about your points, and of not planning ways to make those points relevant to your audience.

I cannot emphasize enough how much this describes the vast majority of khutbahs and halaqahs I have listened to at the masjid. What I find is not necessarily a lack of knowledge from our speakers, but rather a lack of the simple skill of planning your talk. The more that it is planned and mapped out, the less likely that the audience will walk away with something you weren’t expecting.

The Conundrum of Finding a Good Khateeb

They must find speakers who are:

  1. Famous or credible for a relevant topic
  2. Good at speaking
  3. Available

Two out of three is often the best they can do.

This is true for most general organizations. Most masjids can only meet one of the three criteria, and it is usually the last one. While there is a vicious cycle of too many spots to fill without enough qualified people, there are some steps we can take to mitigate this.The primary one is an attitude shift in our communities. Congregations need to raise the bar for what they expect out of the khutbah and communicate it to the administration. This is the only spiritual nourishment many people get for the entire week, and if the person giving the khutbah is just a warm body with an audible voice, then we have failed the community. The second thing that needs to happen is for the masjid administration to put more emphasis on having a good khutbah.

Too many masjids just worry about filling the spot without looking at the quality. If your regular khateeb isn’t a good speaker – send him to Toastmasters. Do SOMETHING. But administration has to take this responsibility seriously. Once they fully grasp the importance of the khutbah, then khateebs will also step it up and stop mailing it in every Friday. There has to be an effort to find the best khateebs and do whatever you can to bring them in to your community.

The Sunnah Helps the Speaker

We all know that we should sit as close to the speaker as possible to show that we are paying attention, and so on. Keep in mind that this benefits the listener as much as it benefits the speaker. When someone is talking and the crowd looks empty, it can negatively affect them. This is true even if 500 people are in the room, but it’s a room that holds 3,000.

For an hour I sucked – an endless hour of misery, speaking into the Grand Canyon of rooms, with each and every word traveling slowly across a sea of empty chairs. I heard every word twice, once when I said it, and two seconds later when it echoed against the back wall, unimpeded by the sound-absorbing powers of an actual crowd. … The solution to this … rests on the density theory of public speaking … I realized that the crowd size is irrelevant – what matters is having a dense crowd.

So next time you are at the masjid, move in closer to the speaker. It will make the speech itself better too.

Simple Keys to a Good Speech

Great speakers are connection-makers, sharing an authentic part of themselves to create a singular, positive experience for the audience.

If anyone has ever looked for a guideline on how to do a halaqah or khutbah, this is an indispensable piece of wisdom.

The difference between you and JFK or Martin Luther King has less to do with your ability to speak – a skill all of us use hundreds of times every day – than it does the ability to think and refine rough ideas into clear ones. Making a point, teaching a lesson, or conveying a feeling to others first requires thinking, lots and lots of thinking, before the speaking ever happens. But we don’t see the thinking; after all, it’s not very interesting to watch. We only see the speaking…

Also, never forget why people are there to listen to you speak. They might want to learn, or be inspired. Whatever the case may be, make sure to service that purpose. A speech given without the audience on your side is doomed to failure. The key to keeping them on your side is the preparation.

Audiences are very forgiving. They want the speaker to do well, so they will overlook many superficial problems. But if the speaker is not going to think carefully about his points, willfully disregards his own material, and gets lost as a result, how forgiving can the audience be?

In other words, most people don’t care to hear random rants and raves, and people definitely notice when a speaker is mailing it in. If you have the responsibility to speak to a crowd of people, take it seriously and prepare.

How I Feel About a Lot of Islamic Speeches

All talks and presentations have a point of view, and you need to know what yours is. If you don’t know enough about the topic to have an opinion, solve that problem before you make your presentation. Even saying, “Here are five things I like” is a strong position, in that there are an infinite number of things you did not choose. With a weak position, your talk may become, “Here is everything I know I could cram into the time I have….”

I also call this “quotation knowledge.” You all know the types. It’s that one speaker, who every time he speaks, the talk is just full of quotations. It might be ayaat, hadith, quotes from famous scholars – but it’s just quotes. No reflection, no communication. Have you ever heard a khutbah on adab, and it sounded like the speaker was just reading the titles of Bukhari’s chapter headings? I have. It’s not fun to sit through.

What’s Your Point?

Points are claims. Arguments are what you do to support your points. Every point should be compressed into a single, tight, interesting sentence. The arguments might be long, but no one should ever be confused as to what your point is while you are arguing it. A mediocre presentation makes the points clear but muddles or bores people with arguments. A truly bad presentation never clarifies what the points are.

This reminds me of pretty much every single fiqh debate/discussion I have ever heard random people in the masjid engaging in.

Make Objective Decisions

Before I continue, I need to put something out there. I detest the fact that people want to kill the sunnah of moonsighting and replace it with an unfounded calculation system. There, I said it.

My biggest problem with regards to this issue is masjid boards who establish policies about which opinion to follow – and it all comes down to communication.

Know the likely counterarguments from an intelligent, expert audience. If you do not know the intelligent counterarguments to each of your points, your points cannot be good. For example, if your presentation is about why people should eat more cheese, you should at a minimum know why the Anti-Cheese Foundation of America says people should eat less cheese.

Let’s keep our masajid and communities intellectually honest. If you have a position of responsibility, then the onus is on you to make sure you’ve investigated all sides of every issue. If you are going to speak to an audience, and advocate something, then know it inside and out. If you are going to establish a moonsighting policy for your local masjid, then make sure you have objectively read all the arguments both against and in favor of it. I’m not advocating that average masjid board members give fatwas, but we need to be realistic. When you are in that position, you have an amaanah. Choosing things based on convenience or because its the latest fad is not acceptable. The more people are educated about their own contentions, the better off we will be. I’m fairly certain the vast majority of fights in Muslim communities are a result of people simply not thinking things through. So there’s the answer, properly evaluate things before saying something.

Specific Tips for A Khateeb

Practice, practice, practice.

If you’re too lazy to practice, expect your audience to be too lazy to follow.

Have a title for your khutbah (in other words, focus),

If you had only one single point, what would it be?

Make good notes. For what it’s worth, I don’t buy the theory that the top echelon of giving a khutbah is not having notes. I feel that the key is learning to make effective notes.

Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt all used a short outline of five or six points – often with just a few words per point – to help them recall their hour-long speeches while giving them. If you do enough thinking in advance, all your brain needs is a little list, and most of the speaking will take care of itself.

Public Speaking is Story-Telling

Concern the audience with stories. Communication needs to be a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. Berkun gives a great example,

It’s one thing to say, “Here’s line 5 of the new tax code.” That’s just a boring fact … It’s quite another to say, “80% of you in the audience confused line 5 with line 6 on your last tax return, which cost you $500. Here’s how not to make that mistake.” Even a topic as mind-numbingly dull as tax forms becomes interesting if the speaker cares both about the problem and the people affected by it. When an audience is curious about the story you’re telling, they’ll follow your lead almost anywhere.

Ever wonder why two speakers can talk about the same topic, use the exact same reference materials, but one is amazing and the other one not so much? This is a big reason why.

The Broken Feedback Loop

Feedback is critical, and it’s especially difficult to get good feedback in the Muslim community. Most people, even when asked, will simply give curt responses like “It was fine.”

As a result, there are thousands of bad public speakers running around under the impression that they’re doing OK. The feedback loop for speakers is broken, and they have simple never been told they did not perform well, much less how they can improve. Like singers in the early rounds of American Idol who sincerely can’t believe they’re not the next Whitney Houston or Frank Sinatra, many people live inside a bubble of denial. They’ve heard enough polite compliments to safely ignore any painful truths that slip through. They may even jab back, decreasing the odds that people will offer any future critiques.

I’m 100% positive that every single Muslim (at least in America) has met that guy. Please, don’t be that guy.

Always get feedback from people. Berkun gives a great set of quick questions you can use,

  • How did my presentation compare to others?
  • What one change would have most improved my presentation?
  • What questions did you expect me to answer that went unanswered?
  • What annoyances did I let get in the way of giving you what you needed?

Even when someone compliments you, take it to the next level. Ask them what specifically they learned, and what you could do to make it better. Ask them to email you a critique of your speech.

If we all encourage one another, and humble ourselves just a bit, we can raise the bar for the entire community.

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Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters and Qalam Institute. He teaches Islamic seminars across the US including Khateeb Workshop and Fiqh of Social Media. He has served in varying administrative capacities for multiple national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow his work at



  1. Amad

    September 29, 2010 at 12:38 AM

    You know when Omar writes for MM, then that itself is a Cause célèbre. Even before I read the post!

  2. Kashif Dilkusha

    September 29, 2010 at 2:23 AM

    Masha ALLAH. the points are very clear. Insha ALLAH it will help me preparing in mu khutbas and lectures

  3. Ismail Kamdar

    September 29, 2010 at 5:31 AM

    I need to hang this up in my house somewhere were I can read it before any lecture.

    Very crucial and beneficial points mentioned here.

    One thing which helps me a lot is that before a lecture is that I make a colorful Powerpoint presentation of the key points. Even if nobody sees the presentation except me, it makes preparation fun and engaging as well as organized.

  4. Yasir Qadhi

    September 29, 2010 at 7:12 AM

    Salaam Alaikum

    What a coincidence… I just finished reading this book as well!!

    Great book, one of the best and most frank that I’ve ever read.


    • Syed J.

      September 29, 2010 at 10:12 AM

      Wa alaikum as Salaam Br.Yasir.

  5. abu Rumay-.s.a.

    September 29, 2010 at 7:46 AM

    Excellent Points, jazak Allahu khairun…

    I’m sure most of us recall back in the days being called on Thursday night to deliver the Khutbaah because the imam was travelling..what I used to do at times is transcribe word for word shaikh Yahya Ibrahim’s/Mohammad Shaeerf’s khutbahs which were masha`Allah pack filled with inspiration and knowledge (jazakum Allah khairun shaikhain)…I learned a lot about some of the points you mention just by listening to their khutbahs and that is another point is to listen to good speakers and see how their talks impact you personally and how you could use those points with your audience..

    for an effective khutbah, one important point that is already understood but needs emphasis with each speaker is an individual’s sincerity to please Allah ta`ala by this deed…you may have noticed at times simple people with immense sincerity achieve enormous success in this…some of the shuyookh would always pray extra nawafil before the khutbah in solitude to ask Allah’s help, purify their intentions, and pray for its acceptance….

    lastly, as you mentioned, this is not something anyone can attain in a few speeches, rather, i think it is a long learning process which requires a lot of practice and development….for some it is easier because it is in tune with their natural dispositions while others have to work at it much more due to many other “handicaps”..

    wallahu ta`ala alam…

  6. Hicham Maged

    September 29, 2010 at 8:52 AM

    This is an essential guide for every speaker who is willing to deliver a public speach in general and khutba in particular.

    As a normal Muslim, I felt bored from the “quotation knowledge” khutba that has no reflections from the khateeb. In this case, you can’t identify the character especially if the quotes are in a bulk form. Indeed they are important but if are distributed among the khutba with reflections.

    This is a feedback from a normal Muslim person to our khutabaa everywhere :)

    Finally, May Allah reward you and MM. This portal always publish excellent articles but this is among the best ones I’ve ever read.

  7. Sami

    September 29, 2010 at 8:55 AM

    Its funny how some the above compliments do exactly what the articles tells you not to do! lol. I do that all the time as well.

    As a khateeb, I think particularly important is the quotations and feedback points. It would also be nice if some of the “good” khateebs can sit it on the “training” khutbaa2 and give them feedback. I’ve given very few talks with an effective Imam or public speaker in presence, and they usually provide valuable feedback.

    JAK Omar – your articles are always excellent – write more! We love other writers as well (like Amad) but we all know he doesn’t have a problem posting 20 articles a week! :-D

  8. ibnabeeomar

    September 29, 2010 at 9:25 AM

    JZK for all the comments!

    if you hang up anything on your wall before giving an islamic talk, it HAS to be this advice from ibn al-qayyim:

    Jabir informs:

    “When the Prophet delivered the khutbah, his eyes became red, his voice rose, and his anger increased as if giving a warning to the enemy.” This is related by Muslim and Ibn Majah. An-Nawawi says: “It is preferred for the khutbah to be in an eloquent and proper Arabic, and it should be an organized speech that the people can understand. It should not be a speech, which is over the heads of the people, nor should it be shallow or contain foul language as that would defeat its purpose. Its words should be chosen carefully to make them attractive and meaningful.”

    Giving his views on the subject, Ibn al-Qayyim says:

    “The khutbah of the Prophet reinforced the fundamental articles of faith, like belief in Allah, the Exalted, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the meeting with Him. He would mention the paradise and the hellfire and what Allah, the Exalted, has promised to His devoted servants and the people who obey Him and what Allah has promised to His enemies and the miscreant. While listening to his khutbah, the hearts would be filled with belief in Allah, His oneness, and His majesty. His khutbahs were not like speeches of those who speak only of matters of concern of common folk, lamenting earthly life and frightening people of the approaching death. Such speeches cannot inspire faith in Allah or strengthen belief in His oneness or move people by allusion to His mighty works in history, nor can they kindle in hearts intense love for Allah, making the listeners look forward eagerly to the time they will meet Him! The people who hear such speeches gain no benefit at all, except that they will die and that their wealth will be distributed and their bodies will be turned to dust. Woe to such poets, what sort of faith is fostered by such sermons, and what sort of tawhid do they teach or knowledge disseminate? If we study the khutbahs of the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam and his companions, we find them embued with perspicuous guidance, tawhid, attributes of Allah, explaining the basic articles of the faith, inviting people to Allah, and drawing their attention to His providential care that makes Him so beloved to His slaves. His khutbahs referred to Allah’s dealings with others in the past so as to wam his listeners against His wrath and exhort them to remember Him, thank Him and win His pleasure and love. Those who heard these khutbahs were inspired with the love of Allah and they looked forward eagerly to meeting their Lord. As time went by, the example of the Prophet was forgotten and other things prevailed. The main purpose of the khutbah was forgotten. The eloquent and nice words that moved the hearts became rare in speeches. The main thrust of the khutbah was neglected. The hearts were no longer touched and the basic purpose of the khutbah was lost.”

  9. Mezba

    September 29, 2010 at 9:48 AM

    This is a very good article and should be a must-read for any khatibs.

    At the Islamic Foundation this Ramadan (Toronto), we had Sheikh Sulaiman Moolah giving talks and even though they were long, they were very captivating. He did four things very well
    – good knowledge of subject matter from an Islamic perspective
    – condense the story to the essentials
    – make stories of Sahaba and the Prophet relate to modern day problems
    – good command of the English language (vocabulary, good accent) etc.

    I find in many places the third point is completely missing and bad accents make the fourth very mute.

    Of course then there are just bad jummah khatibs a symptom of which is this:

  10. MR

    September 29, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    If only I had this information when I was in the MSA.

    This is good when giving talks to family as well at weddings or gatherings.

    JazakAllah khair Omar.

  11. Yaser Birjas

    September 29, 2010 at 10:33 AM

    Masha’Allah, nice article.

    As a public speaker and Khateeb I can definitely testify for this and for more.

    When someone comes to you after the khutbah and say: “I have been attending khutbahs for the past 20 years in my life, and this is one of the top ten I have ever been to.” You realize how colossal the problem is.

    Just imagine the kind of generation that was raised in such a khutbah environment all these past years!

    jazaka Allahu khayran

    • Daughter of Adam (AS)

      September 30, 2010 at 1:14 AM

      subha7nAllah, in the Islamic school I attended, the administration rotated between four or five khateebs regularly. To see all the Muslim children and parents (who would come for Ju’muah occassionally) fall asleep while a respected doctor gave an hour and a half long khutbah about not-very-relevant topics was depressing – (benefits of honey? for an hour and a half? for 5-12th grade jumpy students?)
      Sadly, there were even people in the audience that could’ve given better khutbahs, but I feel sometimes it’s taken as a political issue- that person should give the khutbah because a, they’re on the board of such and such, b, they’ve given so much money to such and such, c, they’ll be offended and not support us any more financially if we don’t let them talk.


      • Ibraheem

        September 30, 2010 at 9:55 PM

        Aslam a lacum

        I agree with your comments. So many times at the mosque the MD board members rotate to give Khutbahs when their are many better qualified speakers seated in the audience.

        Look around during the Khutbah and you find Muslims trying their best to stay awake.

  12. amad

    September 29, 2010 at 11:02 AM

    wow, only positive comments thus far… let’s see if we can set a new record for zero negativity :)

    look omar, i told u we need u back!

  13. O'shay

    September 29, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    Salaam, what is yasir qadhi’s email.

    • Amad

      September 29, 2010 at 1:03 PM

      yqadhi at (publicly available email)

  14. Kamran

    September 29, 2010 at 12:58 PM

    ibnabe is a legend and an inspiration when it comes to writing smooth flowing articles. MashaAllah. Yes, you can throw dirt at me :)

  15. Asad

    September 29, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    “They must find speakers who are:

    1. Famous or credible for a relevant topic
    2. Good at speaking
    3. Available”
    …..”Most masjids can only meet one of the three criteria,”

    Its easy to criticize the ECs even though I do agree they need change their outlook of khutbah management. But as someone who has scheduled khutbahs, I must say scheduling is not an easy task. You have your regular line up (particularly the Imam) and then there are backups, in case of a last minute change. You also got the guest scholars coming to town, you try to schedule. Still the number of people having the ability and willing to deliver the khutbahs is pretty low. For masajids in smaller towns, you dont even have this privilege of creating a line up. So most ECs start relying on the people who can do it, rather than keep searching for the awesome speakers out there. Over a period of time the scheduler kind of develops a relationship with the khateebs and tends to schedule the same people as it is less of a hassle. Remember that most of the khateebs are willing brothers taking out their time and preparing for the khutbahs and sometimes travelling miles to give the khutbah. Its important to appreciate their effort and handle them with care.

    There is this one instance I had scheduled an amazing youth speaker, I had worked with a few times. He was running late and would not return calls. After waiting for 10 minutes into the khutbah time, I called upon a back up speaker in the congregation, not necessarily the best speaker around for the younger audience, but a willing older brother who wanted to help. A few minutes into the khutbah the youth speaker arrived and was a little offended that we had replaced him without notice. I tried to apologize to him later on, but after this incident he was a little reluctant to give khutbahs at our masajid.

    As long as we dont professionally treat the entire khutbah management things like these will continue to happen. Masajids should definitely look into investing in the khateeb development programs based on the community they serve. If the community is young, develop youth speakers. Yes they might not be the MLKs and JFKs for now, but given the tools and proper time (community has also be patient with them), inshallah they will be able to develop.

    • ibnabeeomar

      September 29, 2010 at 1:34 PM

      As long as we dont professionally treat the entire khutbah management things like these will continue to happen. Masajids should definitely look into investing in the khateeb development programs based on the community they serve. If the community is young, develop youth speakers. Yes they might not be the MLKs and JFKs for now, but given the tools and proper time (community has also be patient with them), inshallah they will be able to develop


      I agree with the sentiment, my issue is where masjids DONT take this task seriously. When there’s a will there’s a way. its true, some situations are just going to be bad, and there’s not room to work. but other situations can be mitigated and worked on if taken seriously – the problem is many EC’s that have the ability to improve the quality of the minbar simply don’t take it as a priority and it never improves.

      i know of one major islamic center in the US offhand [i could easily come up with more if pressed] that not only has access to young dynamic speakers, but even has one on payroll. yet, they insist on only giving the minbar to elder (and heavily accented) speakers of one specific ethnicity.

  16. AbdulNasir Jangda

    September 29, 2010 at 2:03 PM

    Shameless plug alert! :)

    Seriously, one thing I had been wanting to do for quite some time and was finally able to get around to earlier this year was conducting a Khateeb training workshop. Alhamdulillah it was held back in June in Dallas with 50 participants from around the country with a variety of instructors and specialists. The author of this article was not only a student at the workshop but also ran logistics.

    It will be held again Summer 2011 inshaAllah. Qalam Institute will also be conducting a more general speaker training workshop to include sisters as well inshaAllah. Keep an eye out!

    • Amina Wadud

      September 29, 2010 at 11:09 PM

      Good to hear!

  17. mystrugglewithin

    September 29, 2010 at 2:09 PM

    Before reading your article, I decided to have a look at the book first .. the first page was a big surprise, lol, I hope none of my colleagues noticed anything!

    • ibnabeeomar

      September 29, 2010 at 3:30 PM

      what was on the first page?

      • hamza21

        September 29, 2010 at 4:30 PM

        It’s a picture of a nude male from behind standing on stage with title “I Can’t See You Naked”

  18. abu Rumay-s.a.

    September 29, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    brother ibnabeeomar, based on your knowledge of this important subject, please share with us the names (and audio/video) links of a khateeb (s) you think best exemplify the attributes you mention in your article.

    to start, I’ll share a few of the khateebs which I think best exemplify an effective khateeb..I’d also like to get the others recommendations… (Y. Fazaga) (M. Shareef) (Y. Ibrahim) (Y. Qadhi)

    May Allah ta`ala bless our beloved shuyookh and reward them abundantly for their inspiring khutbahs..ameen..

  19. ibnabeeomar

    September 29, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    abu Rumay-s.a. –

    i think that the recommendation should be rephrased-

    who I personally find to be a good khateeb is not necessarily as important as who the masses of the people are affected by. when i find that a particular speaker is really well loved by a large number of people, i find that its important to force myself to listen to that speaker to try and see what they are doing that is effective – whether i personally like that speaker or not.

    with that said, i think you got a good start, obvious choices are instructors from various institutes (eg bayyinah, almaghrib).

    but since you asked, lately the people i’ve been trying to make an effort to listen to more are suhaib webb and yasser fazaqa (esp yasser fazaqa i think is an excellent khateeb and theres a lot to be learned from how he delivers his khutbahs)

    final note – i have to say my vote for best khateeb in north america is imam siraj wahhaj. i dont think its even a contest. no matter what the situation, setting, or a muslims background, you find hundreds, if not thousands, of people moved by his speeches (mashallah, may Allah preserve him and bless him).

    • abu Rumay-s.a.

      September 29, 2010 at 4:21 PM

      …ameen…indeed imam siraj (hafithahullah)is in a league of his own….i also forgot to mention the beloved shaikh zaid shakir who is an eloquent speaker masha`Allah and speaks with deep and powerful conviction….and Imam Khalid Yasin who has been granted a gift masha`Allahu tabarak Allah that a few have been granted indeed…may Allah increase them all in goodness…ameen..

  20. Syed Junaid

    September 29, 2010 at 3:39 PM

    Mashallah excellent article. I would have to say that Nouman Ali Khan is perhaps one of our most vibrant and inspirational speakers in the west. His Khutbahs and tafseers are of the chart. Mashallah i heard one of his khutbahs regarding how we should act to the Quran burning incident and it just really opened my eyes. We really have some talented youth they just need to get the chance to speak.

    • BintKhalil

      September 29, 2010 at 5:57 PM

      Assalamu alaikum

      I second brother Nouman Ali Khan. He is in a league of his own.

  21. Faiez

    September 29, 2010 at 6:01 PM

    I liked reading your articles before I knew you. Now I just hear your voice in my head when reading.

    I agree and disagree with everything you have said.



    • AsimG

      September 29, 2010 at 9:04 PM

      Chicago’s callin

  22. ibn Insaan

    September 29, 2010 at 6:22 PM

    Would you be able to do a similarly brilliant article on how to simplify one’s thoughts in a systematic manner, please?

    I believe in terms of writing it’s often called “top down writing”. Im sure a similar technique could be employed when trying to encapsulate the thought you’re trying to get across in the tightly worded one-lines that is usually very difficult to achieve (and could, be big part of why many khutbahs/talks are leaving audiences without the clear vision/message.

    Would you consider taking thsi on pls?

    • ibn Insaan

      September 29, 2010 at 6:38 PM

      So to clarify ..

      How to avoid:

      “A truly bad presentation never clarifies what the points are.”

      There’s probably more to clarifying those initial points succinctly – and in memorable fashin -than most people may imagine. Allah knows best

  23. Abdul-Qadir

    September 29, 2010 at 6:32 PM

    @ author:

    How do you read books? Meaning, do you take notes as you read, read them twice, etc. When I personally find a good book, I try to do one of the two to get the most out of it, but I find sometimes that this slows me down since i have several books I want to read. So I wanted to ask you what method you use to retain what you read, if you in fact use any method at all.

    • ibnabeeomar

      September 29, 2010 at 7:14 PM

      i write in the book. i underline, and if something i read triggers something in my mind, i write that note into the margin. so for example, when i read the 3 qualities of a good speaker, i immediately wrote “struggle to find good khateebs” in the margin of the book.

      lately though, i have converted to e-books, and i use the kindle app on my ipad. i read confessions of a public speaker in this way, and just made my highlights/notes in there.

  24. AsimG

    September 29, 2010 at 9:02 PM

    I’m one of those people who believe taking notes up with you is not a good thing :P

    Anyone who did high level high school/college speech team believes in this as well. I had very evil high school coaches who almost made me cry the first time I went up to speak without notes and forgot everything.
    I never want to experience that again :P

    But ya, khutbahs are different. Just be a little organized, have some eye contact and don’t write every word down.

    • abu Rumay-.s.a.

      September 30, 2010 at 2:27 AM

      in my opinion, i believe that it is better for amateur khateebs (students of knowledge) to write down the whole khutbah or greater than 90% before they deliver it because:

      – makes khutbah easier where one’s focus can be on delivery and communication instead of thinking extemporaneous which can be very dangerous in a khutbah, especially for a student of knowledge
      – it organizes your thoughts and can make your arguments stronger when it is done ahead of time and on paper
      – the pulpit is too great of an amanah and therefore should be taken seriously with all the words and thoughts in their proper place
      – i would advise students to try to use the good khutbahs that have already been delivered by our shuyookh and take notes or transcribe them to a great extent…this will save you the responsibility of any major errors in understanding a topic or issue…for example, one could listen to a khutbah on dhikr by 2-3 shuyookh, then take the points he deems are relevant and combines them in a consolidated khutbah…

      for instance, if you listen to shaikh Yasir Fazagha, he is able to draw benefits from the texts because of his extensive islamic scholarship, his expertise as a socialigst/psychologist, his expertise as a counselor/imam, his masha`Allah great wisdom, intellect, foresight….the average “abdullah” like you and me will not be able to do that for obvious reasons, therefore, it is safer to listen and take notes and deliver the message in the best way possible instead of spending most of your precious time trying to recreate the wheel..

      wallahu ta`ala alam….

      • Abdul-Qadir

        September 30, 2010 at 8:22 AM

        I agree with this. I think poeple who are new to it should use pre-made ones, then organize them in the way they want. I personally would not write most of it out. Just enough to remind you of what you are going to say. If you are a newbie, you shoudl have at least rehearsed your speech a few times before, so you should already know what you are going to day.

    • Faiez

      September 30, 2010 at 10:07 AM

      Says the guy who has never given a khutbah….

      It’s good to write everything down but don’t use it when you go to deliver the khutbah. It also helps in recycling at different masajid/schools.

      I sometimes bring paper to a khutbah even if i have everything already in my head just to make it easier for young guys who might want to eventually give khutbah not to feel like they can’t. When they see that I’m using a piece of paper they won’t feel shy from doing it when they want to start.

      • ibnabeeomar

        September 30, 2010 at 10:18 AM

        role model faiez. jeethay ro

      • AsimG

        October 1, 2010 at 12:35 AM

        Can I come to your apartment and give my first khutbah? You pick the topic!

        I agree that one should be careful with Islamic topics and not talk extemporaneously.
        Still, if I ever give a khutbah, maybe to some preschool non-Muslim kids, I might go without notes :P

        • Siraaj

          October 1, 2010 at 12:42 AM

          YQ’s preferred approach for all khateebs is no notes at all, and developing oneself to the point that speaking without notes becomes natural. At most, a notecard, and then after a few khutbahs (like 10), move on to freestyle land.

          Can’t say I’ve done it myself, haven’t given a khutbah in many years now (5, I think), but just thought I’d share someone else’s thoughts :)


          • abu Rumay-s.a.

            October 1, 2010 at 4:01 AM

            I’d definitely agree that would be the ultimate goal of every khateeb, w/o notes…

            however, due to many practical factors, some of which was mentioned above, that can be difficult for average person. For instance, preparation time is usually limited, upto 50% of the khutbah could be ayat and hadeeth, which if you haven’t memorized you need to refer to source/text to avoid errors. Some people’s memory is not as sharp as others, especially when standing in front of 500+ people and even if it is, the order of presentation is important…. the greatest reasons for writing down the khutbah for me is amanah, its just too great of a responsibility..

            even if it is written down, it doesn’t mean one reads in monotone, one has to deliver it in the most proactive manner and it can be just as good as a khutbah delivered w/o notes, I’ve personally witnessed this point…. in the end, a khutbah with or without notes would depend on the particular individual, what is most important in my opinion is delivering the message in the best way in order to reach out to the audience and let everyone benefit..

            for speakers such Shk YQ, Ustad NAK, they have masha`Allah developed their naturally speaking abilities and they have the sound knowledge and experience…I’m just amazed by shk YQ’s (masha`Allah) remarkable ability of delivering a detailed talk (>1hr) without even referring to his notes even once, I was just noticing that yesterday when I was listening to his talk…may Allah ta`ala increase them and protect them…ameen..

            @Asim – stand up for yourself man!!! :) Your welcome for your first khutbah at my place…with the condition that you first enroll at the Qalam Institute!!! :) If your low on cash, let me know… (smile) :)

  25. AsimG

    October 1, 2010 at 12:58 AM

    Siraaj and YQ to the rescue!

  26. Ismail Kamdar

    October 1, 2010 at 5:10 AM

    Personally, I think it depends on your experience and level of knowledge, for example:

    When I first started lecturing, I would literally read from a piece of paper without looking up, my entire lecture wass written out. After a while, I started looking up and using the written lecture as reference, soon I started limiting it to a small page with just some Quranic verses and Hadith as reminders.

    Nowadays, I either lecture without any notes (especially if it a last minute call and I never prepare), or have key-points/Quranic verses on me either on a page (or in some situations a laptop) as a reminder. The latter end up being better lectures because they are more organized.

  27. AbdulNasir Jangda

    October 1, 2010 at 6:13 AM

    One distinction that needs to be made is the difference between special lectures (particularly academic ones) and Khutbah which is primarily a reminder and meant to be motivational. Therefore while notes might be desirable to some while giving lectures, the khutbah is better served when coming “straight from the heart” i.e. without notes. This approach is very helpful in adding more emotion in delivering the Khutbah, which in turn motivates the listener. Mission accomplished :)

    Allah knows best.

    • abu Rumay-s.a.

      October 1, 2010 at 7:10 AM

      jazak Allahu khairun Ustadh…I agree with you that coming from the heart and motivation is key…but when I say reading from from notes, I mean it is done with absolute eye contact and connection with the audience..i also agree that there is a big difference between a Khutbah and a lecture or dars….

      I used to hear khutbahs from an amauter who used to transcribe the whole khutbah and some of those Khutbahs would have many of the people in tears during the khutbah, masha`Allah…

      i remember one khutbah many years back about child/parent relationship where there was a beautiful story about a child who wanted to memorize quran but his father would prevent him and later on that boy grew up abusing his parents because he was prevented from good in his youth… that story had a parent come to the khateeb confessing that he had abused his children and didnt want that to happen to him and he was seeking help…. that whole khutbah many people were crying, including the khateeb, but it was all from transcribed notes read out and delivered in a very motivational manner… and that happened more than once….

      so i would agree with all that delivery, communication (with audience), sincerity, etc. are some of the main ingredients to an effective khutbah…

  28. Daily Hadith Online

    October 2, 2010 at 12:10 AM

    The best advice I received for giving a khutbah is to have a definite, recognizable theme. Because people will forget most of what you say, including the ayat and hadith, so they should be made to remember the overall point. If they leave the khutbah forgetting what is was about overall, then it was a failure.

  29. Yahya Ibrahim

    October 2, 2010 at 5:44 AM


    Speaking to an audience about any subject can be a hit or miss. Even for a skilled orator. A khateeb need not be a scholar and certainly not all scholars are proficent in public speaking. WHen you listen to a Khateeb you are mesmerised for fleeting moments. All that you remember is the emotion and the substance is rarely retained, wa Allahu a’laam.

    The Khateeb paints a picture in your mind.
    The scholars teach.
    Both are needed.

    When you give a good talk you know it. When you don’t give a good talk you know before you even begin.

    My routine is easy.
    I pray two rakaa before leaving home or the hotel or whatever.
    I like to have two minutes to myself right before the talk.
    I like to get into the masjid half a minute before I start.
    I make dua for my father and mother, wife and children, brothers, sisters and friends and send my Salaam to the prophet (s)
    I ask Allah for help and then
    I just talk about the topic in a way I would want to hear it or learn it myself.
    That can be applied to any discussion you lead. For example, I just gave a seminar:
    click on pdf

    The Topic: Burqa, Jihad, and Halal meat – The Life of A Muslim Student?

    It went off…as we say here in the Land of OZ

    • ibnabeeomar

      October 2, 2010 at 10:44 AM

      any chance the talk was recorded for us to listen to? :)

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