By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
08 August 2018
As the Kingdom welcomes millions of pilgrims, many who have travelled from various parts of the world, there may be an opportunity to take advantage of their presence and retool our approach to prayer gatherings in mosques, and especially Friday prayers.
Friday prayers at the mosque nowadays are not simply about going through the motions for Muslims. They are a necessary part of bonding with other Muslims from around the neighbourhood, many of whom cannot attend daily due to work or other issues. Friday prayers are also an opportunity for Muslims to listen to the sermon of the preacher who leads the prayers in hope of spiritual enlightenment.
I often find myself wondering what the sermon of the day will be. The topics of recent times have not been inspiring enough. I must admit that I have found myself becoming increasingly dissatisfied with some of the topics our preachers choose to dwell upon.
I am sure that other readers will agree that sermons on historical incidents that hold little relevance to today’s times, while being informative, have little to do with us and do not necessarily address the real-time issues facing us collectively in this country. And for those inclined to learn more about such material, there are plenty of well-researched books on religious history that provide a more thorough analysis.
Nor am I interested in hearing about the goings-on in the Middle East or anywhere else on this planet in a mosque. We have live TV and other organs of the media for that, and they are often descriptive enough and leave no questions unanswered. And along those lines, I do not want our men of the cloth to dwell on the ills of the East or the West, when we have plenty of our own to contend with.
I would, on the other hand, welcome sermons that focus on subjects that residents of this country have to contend with in their everyday life. Themes on social and civic responsibility seem to have been either ignored or forgotten.
I would like to hear a preacher address the evils of corruption and neglect of duty, especially among those in the civil sectors whose duty it is to provide efficient service to their customers. While our media often carries such news, very little about such ills on which our religion has a clear stand is brought up in mosque sermons.
The respect for law and order is a theme that has to be weekly stressed on an undisciplined crowd. Many just pay lip service by nodding their heads during such sermons, only to be observed flinging trash out of their car windows once they are seated inside.
The protection and cleanliness of our environment is another area our religious scholars should emphasize. When I drive around the city, it is clear that this is an area of concern that should be brought up during Friday sermons. Those callous enough to engage in dirty habits may perhaps be alerted to the evils of such behaviour.
The rights of workers, both Saudis and expats, are another theme that I would like to see more preachers dwell on during their speeches. There are many examples of the righteous and humane treatment of those under our guardianship in Islam, and these must be hammered out, week in and week out, to get the message across to some of those who continue with their abuse.
Our propensity to promise but failure to deliver and our lack of discipline and ethics in the workplace should be another topic for our preachers to expand upon. Our respect for laws on the roads or in queues should also be discussed. It is Islamic to be respectful of others in such situations, and yet how often do we actually observe such dictums?
Tolerance of one another, regardless of faith or background, is another tenet laid down by Islam. It could be a focus of such talks by preachers who should be thinking out of their box of tried and true and age-old sermons.
And while we are at it, I would like to see translated copies of such preaching distributed to those attending sermons whose understanding of Arabic is limited. A glance around any mosque during Friday prayers confirms that a sizeable percentage of the attendees are expatriates. Copies of sermons in Hindi, Bangla, Malayalam, Indonesian, English and Filipino languages would facilitate a better understanding of Islam and its virtues among such people.
Preachers should understand that those attending sermons come from all walks of life and from various professions. Friday congregations, when the majority of the people of this country have their ears tuned to the sermon from the pulpit should address such present-day issues.
With such a captive audience, it would be a shame not to take full advantage of the situation. Let them be touched by the words reaching their ears.