For purposes of this article, Prophetic communication is in the context of a general community address. Practically, that means khutbahs, family night presentations, and general halaqahs or reminders. It is not directed at classroom instruction, seminars, or other such mediums.
The three pillars below are meant to serve as a reminder to the speaker. These are fundamentals that must be kept in mind when crafting a speech.
Verily, Allah has prescribed excellence in everything. (Muslim)
I was speaking to a brother about khutbah preparation process. He said that he would go sit on the minbar on Friday, and as the adhan was being called, he would think about a topic. Then, he would stand up and deliver it. This was a bit of a humblebrag - being so knowledgeable that you can literally get up and wing it.
This is not something to aspire to, it’s actually disrespectful to an audience. If you get up to address a congregation without having put any effort into the message or construction of your speech, the audience will tune you out.
So what does ihsan tangibly look like? For purposes of a general talk or khutbah, use the following bullet points as a starting checklist:
There is a clear one sentence take-away message that summarizes the entire talk.
You have done at least 10 times the amount of research on the subject you are speaking about. Rule of thumb - for a 30 minute talk, you should have a minimum of 5 hours of preparation invested.
Practice and rehearse your talk multiple times to iron out inconsistencies in speech flow or development of talking points.
If that sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is a lot of work. Addressing an audience is a privilege. Addressing an audience from a position of representing the religion is an amanah (trust) between the speaker and The Creator. The hard work is a prerequisite to speaking.
Excellence in a talk comes from crafting a meaningful message to deliver, constructing a speech to communicate that message, and then delivering it in a manner that makes the audience receptive to receiving it.
Make Things Easy
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Make things easy for the people, and do not make it difficult for them, and make them calm (with glad tidings) and do not repulse them (Bukhari).
God did not send me to be harsh, or cause harm, but He has sent me to teach and make things easy. (Muslim)
Whatever your message is, make sure the audience can implement it. It is the job of the speaker to anticipate objections to their message, or obstacles that can prevent it from being practiced.
Some adopt an attitude of “dropping knowledge”, or “establishing the hujjah (proof),” and leaving the audience to fend for themselves. This is rooted in arrogance. It is one of those characteristics, like unapologetically telling the truth, that is incorrectly lionized.
The Prophetic model is to understand the audience, empathize with them, and find ways to help (and serve) them.
There has certainly come to you a Messenger from among yourselves. Grievous to him is what you suffer; [he is] concerned over you and to the believers is kind and merciful. (9:128)
We all get “vibes” from different speakers. Someone can be a sophisticated speaker, but still leave you with a bad vibe (like a politician). On the other hand, someone may not be a well-refined speaker, but their message still resonates when we feel it “comes from the heart.”
The core of this is the attitude of the communicator toward the audience. The only way to establish a connection with the audience such that they are receptive to the message is by sincerely being concerned for their well being.
This cannot be faked.
If the audience feels you are speaking down to them, or do not have their best interests at heart they will not listen - regardless of how amazing your talking points are.
Connecting requires sincere caring.