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Europe's Imams and Friday Prayers


By  El-Sayed Amin



"The Sultan is a symbol of Allah on earth. He who humiliates him is humiliating Allah."1  This was a statement that I heard in faltering Arabic recited in a Qur’an-like fashion. I am honestly translating it as put by the Mosque's imam at the peak hour of the Friday sermon.


Instantly, I started putting myself in a new convert’s shoes imagining how serious the outcome might be.  I thanked Allah that most of our new converts take sometime to learn Arabic before they become fully convinced of their new faith. To keep the decorum of the Mosque, to keep my reward intact, and to spare myself unwanted looks, I suppressed my laughter or in other words my exasperation!


I hurried up after the prayer to the outside premises of the Mosque to start a discussion with one of the regular attendees of the Mosque about what happened. Much to my chagrin, he said, "brother, I only come here because this Mosque is very punctual and hence I manage to catch up with my afternoon lectures on time. Unlike…2, I prefer this Mosque although the Friday sermon is not useful at all, at least to me." He also whispered to me, "I think this is your first time to hear this Khutbah." I said, "Yes, sure." He then commented, "That is why. As I think I have heard it recited like we recite the Qur’an more than fifteen times!"


EU Mosque's Khutbahs


Certain ideas come into our minds after reading such a depressing story, but it forcibly reminds us of the glorious days of the Muslim Ummah when Muslims used to pray for their Sultans from the Friday pulpits in public. Once proceeding with a sensible way of thinking, I discovered the complete irrelevance of the talk to our status quo in Europe as people who are supposedly led by democratically elected governments in the 21st century.



What do you think of the writer's point of view on the Friday Khutbahs in the mosques of Europe? 


It is not an exaggeration to say that a sizable number of the worshippers on that day along with me have had that gut feeling after they were forced to go to this Mosque for the first time as a result of lack of co-ordination during the Easter vacation from the ISOC committee at the University where we all are studying.

How sad is it to enter the Mosque on Friday overpowered by the feeling that what you have heard the last week is the same you are going to hear this week except for very little changes. How is it psychologically, emotionally, and religiously destructive to find that many of our European Mosques have become spiritless and emotionless places?


How frustrating that Friday Khutbahs are limited to traditional sermons that take people to the Hellfire in order to virtually taste its scorching heat or roam with them in Paradise to endear it to themselves without daring to touch other important vistas! I am not claiming that these two topics are less important or trivial to be raised in a congregational Friday Prayer, but I am against limiting our discourse to the Hereafter only3.  Why don’t we equally attempt to apply the famous traceable tradition?!


“Work for this world as if you will live forever and work for the Hereafter as if you will die tomorrow.”




Do you think a Khutbah in Arabic by an Arab imam is appropriate for a European mosque?

Imams & Politics


I think the discourse of our imams should equally consider worldly issues in the same way as they emphasize the Day-of-Judgment issues. Although an imam whom I know confessed to me that one of the "terms and conditions" of the recent contract he signed with the Mosque committee is never to "talk politics", I think there are tens of thousands of issues that our imams in Europe can raise.


As Mosque attendees, it is our right to feel that we still live in this world especially inside the Mosque. We may sometimes feel this only when there is an appeal to "the brothers and sisters to donate generously4," or there is a local council election and the "brothers and sisters are encouraged to vote."




Having raised the problem, there are numerous solutions capable of bringing the dilemma of the discourse of our imams to an end as follows.


The imams themselves should first admit that they are facing a dreadful challenge to which they should react by being fully aware of the problem and fully convinced that it needs a solution.

"There is no age for learning." They should perfectly adopt up-to-date learning strategies5.  This applies to seeking religious sciences as well as studying social sciences, such as sociology, psychology and neuroscience, etc.

Reading a lot will help them broaden their vistas to a better new world.

Mastering different religious sciences to the best of what they can.

Accompanying their new reading approaches with another practical reading of the vicissitudes of life around them.

Becoming totally convinced that their receptive audience in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Middle East are not the same as their audience in Berlin, Paris, London, and Amsterdam; even though Muslims in these areas may belong to the same ethnic origin.

Starting to address topics that touch people’s day-to-day lives.


Raising children in non-Muslim majority communities; reacting to non-Islamic behavior in the streets; donating blood to local NHS hospitals; cleaning initiatives to local gardens and parks and how far they are important in Islam; empowering the role of European Muslim women and giving them more access to Mosque leadership; enhancing our sense of loyalty and belonging to our religion and to our societies; addressing "taboo issues" such as sex education, marital problems, domestic abuse, anti-social behavior; as well as Muslims' attitude towards non-Muslim neighbors.

Adapting themselves, gradually, to a new discourse that gives special attention to mind inspiration, not neglecting emotions based on an accurate translation that leads to tangible outcomes in the surrounding environment.

Feeling that heavy responsibility should transcend a handful amount of GBPs or Euros towards a sincere intention of maintaining the community’s moral and religious wellbeing.

Seeking a spiritual help and support from Allah and raising their hands day and night with the following supplication:


"We put our trust in God. Our Lord, expose the truth [and judge] between us and our people, for you are the best judge 6  (7: 89)"

What do you think of the writer's point of view on the Friday Khutbahs in the mosques of Europe? What about your district mosque's imam and Khutbah? Do you think a Khutbah in Arabic by an Arab imam is appropriate for a European mosque?


El-Sayed Amin is currently a PhD candidate in Islamic Studies at the University of Birmingham, UK. He is also a junior lecturer, Department of Islamic Studies in English at Al-Azhar University, Cairo.


1. The exact Arabic phrase was: ‘As-sultan ramz Allah fi al-arad faman ahana al-sultana faqad ahana Allah’.


2. These dots refer to another famous prayer room in the local area.


3. By the way, I guess that the topic of the Khutbah I attended was about ‘Death’. I came to this conclusion after hearing a single Arabic phrase that may perhaps occurred in a slip of the tongue by the orator. Also, I discovered right before the Friday Prayer that there was no relation between the topic of the speech (i.e. the one given in Urdu and broken English) and the Arabic Speech. As a general observation, the first was read from few sheets of paper and the second was read from the pulpit from a hardcover book.


4. During the Khutbah I attended, there was an appeal to raise funds to ameliorate the car parking area outside the Mosque. The imam started shifting his discourse to encourage the community to ‘donate generously’ for this purpose after he received a written directive from a member of the Mosque committee.


5. Sadly, an imam whom I know refused a generous offer from an experienced and professional Muslim of his community to give him a one-to-one course of how to be a ‘good presenter and speaker.’!


6. M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, The Qur’an A New Translation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 100.



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