There are many practices authentically attributed to the finest of speakers, the most eloquent of orators, the Messenger of Allah salallahu alaihi wasallam. Here are a few:
a) Speaking of issues which are of an immediate concern.(Shamaa’il kubra 5/272)
b) To begin with praising Allah then to say amma ba’d. (Shamaa’il kubra 5/272)
c) To speak slowly and clearly, in such a way, that people can memorise the speech.
d) Repeat that which is of great importance thrice.
e) In matters which weren’t appropriate to mention directly, he would refer to it indirectly.
f) He used to smile when speaking and would speak in an extremely cheerful manner.
g) To point towards anything, he would do so with his whole hand.
h) When he spoke, to express surprise, he would turn the palm of his hand up as a gesture of surprise.
i) To make gestures with the hands.
There are many points regarding general etiquettes, a few are mentioned here:
- Intention: in reality, when giving a speech, you are giving da’wah. Therefore, give a speech only for the sole pleasure of Allah. Also, have the consciousness and awareness that you are doing it for your rectification first and then others.
- Khutbah: Speakers should try and change their khutbah for every topic. Ihyaa ul uloom by Imam Ghazali has a different khutbah in the beginning of every section.
- Appearance: you have to make sure that your clothes are clean, neat and tidy. As an appearance makes the first statement upon standing up.
- Notes: it is really helpful to have a little paper with brief points indicating to your speech. One method, really helpful in note writing, is writing the notes in order of the speech and for each point, instead of re writing the whole story, just write the name of the main character, this is will automatically remind you of the story. Similarly, for a hadith, write the first two or three words, which are a cue to the rest of the hadith.
- Gestures: just as lips move, so do the hands! There are two ways to the heart. Through the ears, in other words by listening. Secondly, through the eyes, or seeing. So speech penetrates the ears just as gestures make a way into the heart through the eyes.
- Time: the decisive factor which distinguishes the best from the rest is finishing on time. Always prepare for a longer period than that which is allocated, as you will tend to forget or miss a few points out, thus decreasing time. So, if s speech is planned to be only 20 minutes, prepare a speech 25-30 minutes long.
- Language: grammatical errors, incorrect pronunciations, slang and informal vocabulary are sickening! It diverts the attention of the audience and turns the speaker into a clown! Eloquence in a speech is essential, practice to speak eloquently, as this is the sunnah of the Prophet salallahu alaihi wasallam.
- Keeping the audience tuned: if the crowd seems to be inattentive, bored and uninterested, throw a joke in, it will help to recapture attention. A more traditional way is asking everybody to recite salutations and benedictions on the Prophet salallahu alaihi wasallam, or to kindly request people to move closer to yourself and fill any spaces in front of them.
- Different types of speeches:
There are many types of speeches and methods of delivery:
a) A calm speech with a display of great intensity and depth in understanding and knowledge.
b) A fast pace and passionate speech, with less depth in knowledge and more encouragement and warning.
c) An emotionless, quiet and slow speech, which lacks knowledge and encouragement. This is usually the lecture in which many fall asleep and walk away from.
d) A speech with varying pace, varying emotion, varying tone, countless references and inclusive of many issues and topics linked to the main theme of speech. This is by far the hardest style to embrace.
After giving a few lectures, you will recognise and identify in which of the above category you fall in. This will be your natural method and style. However, it would be wonderful if a speaker could deliver a speech in any style, but this will need a lot of practice in anjuman. Therefore, try out different styles, as this is your training ground.
General rules of delivery:
a) Refrain from adopting a style of delivery where the audience is ‘blasted’. Don’t shout and scream at your audience, as this creates negativity. Be gentle and compassionate towards the audience.
b) Avoid the ‘name and shame’ approach, in other words, don’t dishonour and humiliate anybody present or absent, as this creates enmity in the hearts.
c) Whilst addressing the crowd, abstain from saying. “You, you, you.” Instead, adopt the pronoun, ‘We.’
d) Avoid expressing personal spiritual feats and acts in public such as kashf, dreams and miracles.
How to make a speech effective and powerful:
a) To be passionate of the topic:
For example, if somebody is speaking of having profound love for the messenger of Allah, but he himself doesn’t possess it nor aspires to possess this, then his speech will leave little effect on the audience.
b) Taqwa and piety:
An individual who refrains from sin, his speech will have an enormous impact on the audience, due to the light contained in the heart.
An individual, who constantly remembers Allah and recites the Quraan frequently, will develop immense influence in his speeches, easily piercing the hardest of hearts and causing the driest of eyes to overflow.
Those active in giving da’wah, namely the ulama and pious elders state that standing in the darkness of the nights in salaah creates colossal light in your speech during the day.