The principles of public speaking deduced from the Qur'an and the Sunnah are sufficient enough for us to be successful in conveying the message of Islam in public. With Allah's help, learning and applying said principles will guide us to become effective public speakers. As a supplement, here are some useful guidelines on public speaking:
Improving Self Confidence
1. Purify your intention of public speaking by dedicating it to Allâh will accept it as a good deed, worthy of supreme rewards especially in the Life Hereafter:so that the Almighty
“And they have been commanded no more than this: to worship Allâh, offering Him sincere devotion, being True (in Faith); establish regular prayer; and to give Zakat (charity). And that is the Religion Right and Straight.” (Qur‘an 98:5)
‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab (r.a.) said: “I heard Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) saying, ‘The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended. Thus he whose migration was for Allâh and His Messenger r, his migration had been for and His Messenger (s.a.w.s.), and he whose migration was to achieve some worldly benefit or take some woman in marriage, his migration had been for that for which he migrated.’” (Bukhâri, 1/1 and Muslim, 3/ 4692)
2. Pray to Allâhfor self-confidence and eloquent speech, say (supplicate in Arabic):
“...Rabbiy ishrahliy ssadriy wa yasirliy amriy, wahlol ‘uqdattammin llisaaniy, yafqahu qawliy.” (“...O my Rabb! Expand me my breast. Ease My task for me; and remove the impediment from my speech, so they may understand what I say.”) (Qur‘an 20:25-28)
3. Learn the arts of public speaking by being a good listener whenever you have the opportunity to attend lectures and conferences. Remember “The best speakers are always the best listeners.” Listen to how speakers deliver speeches. Learn from their good points and take lessons from their errors. Avoid those errors when it is your turn to give speech.
4. Seek out every opportunity to give a speech. When you are invited to give a speech, do not refuse. Accept it for Allâh’s pleasure. Never make excuses or suggest you are incapable of making a talk.
5. Continue seeking useful knowledge through attendance in Islamic schools or institutions, reading or self-study of the Qur’an and Ahadith or participating in various Islamic lectures and conferences in order to increase your knowledge of Islam. Remember, stock knowledge naturally comes when you speak and thus adds to your confidence. Keep on supplicating to Allâh (S.W.T.) for knowledge and wisdom:
“Rabbiy zidni ilma.” (“O My Rabb (Cherisher and Sustainer)! Increase me in Knowledge.” ) (Qur‘an 20:114)
“Rabbi habliy hukman, walhiqniy bissaalihiyn, waj-‘aliy lisana ssidqin fiyl akhirin, waj-‘alniy miw warathati jannatin na‘im.” “O my Rabb (Cherisher and Sustainer)! Bestow wisdom on me, and join me with the righteous; grant me honorable mention on the tongue of truth among the latest (generations); and make me one of the inheritors of the Garden of Bliss.” (Qur’an, Ash-Shu‘araa 26:83-85)
6. Do not think of any negative impressions from your audience. Do not be pessimistic that you will not make it. Always imagine yourself that when you are in front of the platform, you have the self-confidence to make the best speech. Remember, if audience/listeners do not want you to speak or feel no confidence in you, you would not have been invited. Remember also that the listeners (audience) are there to see you and listen to your successful speech. They want you to succeed, not fail. So give them the best out of what you can with self-confidence and trust in Allâh .
Always think that with Allâh’s help, you can speak well. Always turn to Him
for knowledge, wisdom and eloquent speech. Keep in mind that you can do the best because what you are
doing is for the pleasure of Allâh
hoping for His best reward.
Always remember in the eyes of Allâh
you are the best:
“You are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind. You enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong, and believe in Allâh...” (Qur‘an 3:110)
“Who is better in speech than one who calls (men) to Allâh, works righteousness, and says, `I am of those who bow in Islam?’” (Qur‘an 41:33)
Organizing and Preparing the Speech
1. Accept/select a speech, which you know very well or at least have confidence to discuss. Otherwise, spend more time to do some research/reading. If you are new or inexperienced speaker, do not accept a speech that you do not know very well unless you are given enough time to research and prepare for the speech.
2. Prepare your speech in a scholarly manner by quoting verses from the Qur’an and authentic Ahadith or other vital sources; relate them to your audience needs and interest. If possible, include teachings that can inspire your audience to follow Islam wholeheartedly as well as those that give admonitions to those who do not follow the Right Path. This is in accordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet :
“... And We sent you (O Muhammad) but to give Glad Tidings (to the Believers) and to warn (sinners).” (Qur‘an 17:105)
3. Your speech must be well organized. Make an outline of your speech. It should contain three parts: introduction, main body and the conclusions (and recommendations). To capture the audience’s attention, the introduction must be interesting. It should end with meaningful, climatic and striking conclusions that summarize the ideas, suggest applications or recommendations to them, and move the audience to action toward improving their Islamic personality, especially on increasing their eeman (faith) for the pleasure of Allah the Almighty.
4. Organize your speech clearly in a logical sequence and simple language. It must not be general, vague or abstract. See to it that it is timely, appropriate, applicable and useful to your audience.
5. Always keep in mind what can the audience get from your speech. Is it worth for them to spend time listening to your speech? What lessons, guidance and wisdom can they get? What appropriate plans and actions they can and must do after listening to your speech? Will your speech arouse your audience interest and improve their character and manners or lives from the Islamic perspective?
6. Sometimes talk very briefly about matters from your own factual experience and observations of day-to-day life that may be useful, meaningful and/or of interest to the audience.
7. Cite interesting or inspiring events from the life stories of the Prophets, especially from the seerah (life story) of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.), his companions, as well as renowned Muslim scholars. Choose their stories that are related to your speech or lecture, which can inspire your audience to increase their eeman and improve their personality as Muslims.
8. Read, study, remember and practice your speech. Understand your speech; be able to say it in your own words and not to memorize it, unless you have a very good memory. If you attempt to memorize it do not forget what you have memorized. Remember that, in general, written speeches, which are read are poor speeches. They do not arouse the interest and attention of the audience. Most of the people tend to be sleepy especially if the time or the place is conducive to sleeping. Therefore, try not to read your speech. If possible, avoid notes. The exception is when quoting Qur’anic Verses and authentic Ahadith, which must be absolutely correct. In this case, you can bring a copy of the Qur‘an and put bookmark to every Surah (Chapter) or Ayaat (verses) which you are going to quote. If you have good memory try to memorize the Qur‘anic Ayaat including its verse numbers. This will make your presentation more scholarly and thus be more effective as a speaker.
9. If you cannot refrain from reading your speech for some reasons, at least memorize or master the introductory and concluding parts of your speech. Say them in your own words. But when you are reading the main body of your speech, see to it that you read it very well, with feeling and emotions and look at your audience once in a while.
10. If you are that person who could hardly memorize, just repeat reading your speech for at least three times before your scheduled speech. Read and understand them very well. Then, get your outline and say your speech in your own words based on the outline. Since the outline is brief, try to memorize it and be ready to speak without notes.
11. Imagine rehearsing your speech before sleeping and after waking up any time at night or before and after Fajr time when you can concentrate very well.
12. Never apologize for having unprepared speech. Always have something to say, which is important or beneficial to your audience and then speak with confidence.
Platform Appearance, Conduct and Performance
1. Be ready to appear before the audience on your best appearance (well-groomed hair, tidy shoes, nice, modest and comfortable dress appropriate to the occasion) and best conduct, free from any disrupting mannerisms.
2. Before the start of the program, show friendly attitude to the audience. Smile and try to talk to them if possible. Establish cordiality and harmony with them, not putting a gap by considering yourself to be higher than them. Never be misunderstood that you have high pride or that you are arrogant. Be humble enough to treat them as your brothers/sisters in Islam. This will increase your confidence and eliminate your fear of facing the crowd or the public. Be friendly to all your Muslim audience as well as those non-Muslims who do not show enmity to Islam and the Muslims as Allah the Most Gracious says:
Your (real) friends are (no less than) Allah His Messenger and the (fellowship of) believers those who establish regular prayers and regular charity and they bow down humbly (in worship). As to those who turn (for friendship) to Allah His Messenger and the (fellowship of) believers it is the fellowship of Allah that must certainly triumph. O you who believe! Take not for friends and protectors those who take your religion for a mockery or sport whether among those who received the Scripture before you or among those who reject faith; but fear Allah if you have Faith (indeed). (Qur‘an 5:55-57)
“Allah forbids you not,
with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of
your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who
are just. Allah only forbids you,
with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your
homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for
friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances),
that do wrong.” (Qur‘an
From the above Ayaat Allah commands us Muslims to make friends with our fellow Muslims and those non-Muslims who do not show hatred to Islam and the Muslims. As a speaker, it is always best to be friendly with the audience as this is expected from every believer:
Abu Hurairah (r.a.) narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said, “A believer is friendly, and there is no good in one who is neither friendly nor is treated in a friendly way.” (Tirmidhi 4995 and Ahmad)
3. When about to be called by the moderator, do some deep breathing (without being noticed by the audience) to help you relax and concentrate. Relax, don‘t be nervous. Instead of thinking fearful or shy, ask Allah’s help to give you wisdom, to beautify your speech and to make your speech effective for His pleasure. Say the following du‘as (supplications):
“Rabbi zidni ilma.” (“O my Rabb! Increase me in knowledge.”) (Qur‘an 20:114)
“Rabbi habli hukman, walhiqniy bissaalihiyn, waj-‘aliy lisana ssidqin fiyl akhirin, waj-‘alniy miw warathati jannatin na‘im.” (“O my Rabb! Bestow wisdom on me, and join me with the righteous; grant me honorable mention on the tongue of truth among the latest (generations); make me one of the inheritors of the Garden of Bliss.”) (Qur‘an 26:83-85)
ishrahliy ssadriy wa yasirliy amriy, wahlol ‘uqdattamin llisaaniy, yafqahu
qawliy.” (“...O my Rabb! Expand me
my breast. Ease My task for me; and
remove the impediment from my speech, so they may understand what I
4. On the way to the platform, walk energetically with life and vigor.
5. When you reach the platform act confidently. Don’t be shy. Remember, you are there to convey Islam for the pleasure of Allâh S.W.T.). Think of Allâh’s reward and not of any negative impression from the audience.
6. Don’t be over-conscious of yourself. Avoid rearranging your clothes or fixing your hair, etc. in front of the public.
7. Look at the audience with friendly smile. Look at them as a whole -- occasionally and naturally from right to left and vice-versa as well as those in the middle of the auditorium/hall. Give the impression that you have eye contact to all of them. Do not focus your eyes/attention to only one person, not at the floor and not on the ceiling, door or walls.
8. Never start your talk apologizing for something. Start your talk with the dhikr (remembrance) of Allâh the Almighty then say your salam greeting. One of the Prophet’s Sunnah of starting a speech is as follows:
“Innal hamdalillahi ta’alaa nahmaduho, wa nasta’yno bihi, wa nastaghfiruh, wa na’udo billahi ta’ala min shoroori anfosinaa, wa sayhaati a’malinaa may yahdihillahi ta’ala falaa modhillah, wa may yudhlil falaa hadii yalah, wa ashadu al laillaha ila Allah wahdahu laa shariikalah. Wa ashadu ana Muhammad ‘abduhu wa rasuluh.” (“Praise be to Allah from Whom we ask help and pardon, and in Whom we take refuge from the evils within ourselves. He whom Allah guides has no one who can lead him astray, and he whom He leads astray has no one to guide him. I testify that there is no god but Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger.”) (Abu Dawud, 2113)
Or you may start your talk briefly by saying:
“Al-Hamdulillahi Rabbul ‘Aalameen, wa Salaatu was Salaamu ‘ala Nabeeyyina Muhammad, wa ‘alaa aalihi wa Sahbihi, wa man taba‘a Sunnatihi ilaa Yawmiddeen.” (All Praise be to Allah, the Rabb (Cherisher and Sustainer) of the Worlds, and Blessings and Peace upon our Prophet, Muhammad, and upon his family and his Companions, and whoever follows his Sunnah, till the Day of Judgement.”
9. In the course of your talk, at least occasionally, praise S.W.T.) every time you mention His Name by saying “Subhana wa ta’ala” meaning: the Most High). Say salam invocation to Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) by saying: “(s.a.w.s.) Salallâhu ‘alayhi wassalam”, meaning: May the peace and blessings of Allâh be upon him) whenever you mention his name/title.
10. Create the impression that you are really interested in your speech and that it is nice talking to them, sharing them your knowledge of Islâm, for the pleasure of Allâh.
11. Give the impression of a healthy body and mind as well as religious disposition.
12. Control yourself physically. Never have unnecessary actions and unnecessary head movements. Keep your feet together. Have a good position, one, which allows you to be at ease, and which avoids all distracting mannerisms. Avoid rocking back and forth on your heels. Avoid unnecessary showing of the tongue, biting the lips, frequent uttering of some words, frequent scratching, and other disrupting mannerisms. Do not play with pencils or papers while you are speaking. Do not play with your hands while speaking.
13. Maintain your personal dignity at all times while speaking.
14. Show respect and kindness to your audience. Never insult them. Take the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) as your model:
‘Abdullâh bin ‘Amr (r.a.) narrated that Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) neither talked in an insulting manner nor did he ever speak evil intentionally. He used to say, “The most beloved to me amongst you is the one who has the best character and manners.” (Bukhâri 5/104)
15. Every now and then give your sincere and natural smile. Do not frown. Remember that in Islam to give a smile is an act of charity as the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said:
“To smile in
the company of your brother is charity. To
command to do good deeds and to prevent others from doing evil is charity. To guide a person in a place where he can not get
astray is charity. To remove troublesome things like thorns and bones from the
road is charity. To pour water from
your jug into the jug of your brother is charity.
To guide a person with defective vision is charity for you.”
16. Never lose your temper when hecklers express ironical, insulting or hurting remarks. Be patient, don’t let such negative remarks grieve you. After all, your goal is to please Allâh not them. Just calm down, relax and smile. Take divine guidance from Allâh the Almighty:
“Let not their speech grieve you: for all power and honor belong to Allâh: it is He Who hears and knows (all things).” (Qur‘an 10:65)
Control your anger as the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said:
“The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger.” (Bukhâri 8/ 135 and Muslim 4/6311-6314)
17. Avoid artificial gestures. To be effective, a gesture must be natural and spontaneous.
18. The best way to convey your speech/message is to be conversational in your speaking. Talk naturally but with clear and well-modulated voice, in a medium rate (fast enough to avoid audience from getting bored and yet slow enough to be clearly understood). Speak loud enough so that you can be heard easily by all people in the audience, including those at the back.
19. Talk clearly and nicely with a sense of feeling and emotions. Use humor as a means of relaxing the audience. A funny, good taste but true story will help arouse audience interest. Refrain from quoting funny anecdotes or stories that are not true just to make your audience laugh. Learn from the Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) who always told the truth even when he joked with his Companions. In fact, he even cursed those who make lies just to make people laugh:
Abu Hurairah (r.a.) narrated that when they said, “Messenger of Allah, do you make jokes with us?” He replied, “I say nothing but the truth.” (Tirmidhi 4885)
Mu‘awiyah Ibn Jaydah al-Qushayri (r.a.)narrated that Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) said, “Woe to him who tells things, speaking falsely, to make people laugh thereby. Woe to him! Woe to him!” (Abu Dawud 4972)
20. Refrain from: 1) stammering; 2) careless articulation, enunciation and pronunciation; 3) frequent utterance of “ahs”, “um” and other distracting noises/expressions; 4) speaking too fast or too slow; 5) speaking with high pitch; 6) coarse voice; and/or 7) lifeless voice that can make people bored.
21. Use proper and appropriate illustrations and visual aids (e.g., power point presentations using in focus projectors), if necessary. Make sure they are simple visible and relevant to your speech.
Jâbir bin ‘Abdullâh (r.a.) narrated, “We were sitting in the company of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.). He drew a (straight) line and drew two (other) lines on its right side and two lines on its left side. He then placed his hand on the middle line and remarked, “This is Allâh’s Path.” Then, he recited this verse: ‘And verily, it is My Straight Path; so follow not the (other) paths. They will separate you away from His Path.’ (6:153).’” (Ibn Mâjah 1/11)
Anas bin Malik (r.a.) narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) drew a few lines and said, “This is (man’s) hope, and this is the instant of his death, and while he is in this state (of hope), the nearer line (death) comes to Him.” (Bukhâri 8/427)
‘Abdullah (r.a.) narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) drew a square and then drew a line in the middle of it and let it extend outside the square. Then he drew several small lines attached to that central line, and said, “This is the human being, and this, (the square) in his lease of life, encircles him from all sides (or has encircled him), and this (line), which is outside (the square), is his hope. And these small lines are the calamities and troubles (which may befall him), and if one misses him, another will snap (i.e. overtake) him. And if the other misses him, a third will snap (i.e. overtake) him.” (Bukhâri 8/426)
22. Recognize occurrences that take place in the audience or outside which might distract your audience or interrupt your speech. Do not try to talk if someone is walking down the aisle. Wait until he or she has been seated before continuing. Do not attempt to compete with people talking in the audience. Pause before you start to speak. This is to get their attention as a reminder for them to stop talking for the on-going program/lecture.
23. If at the course of your speech you forget what to say, relax and see your audience (from right to left) with the smile while trying to remember what to say. Within your mind, call upon Allâh and ask His help. Very quickly just say any idea/story or ask question that comes into your mind related to your theme without making it obvious that you forgot something. With Allâh’s help, you will eventually remember your ideas.
24. Never talk too much of yourself or over express your personal feelings. Be objective instead of self-centered. You are there to share knowledge, wisdom and Truth and not to talk too much of yourself or your family. Be humble. Don’t be conceited.
25. Aim to seek the “yes” response from your audience by the truthfulness of your speech.
26. Do not bore your listeners. If they read, look at watches, yawn or fall asleep while you are speaking, it is time for you to arouse their interest, otherwise, stop. One way to get their attention is to raise striking questions relevant to your speech. Or ask the audience if they have any question or remarks about what you have discussed.
27. Encourage and entertain relevant questions and answer them briefly, clearly and correctly. If you do not know the answer, ask anybody from the audience. Appreciate correct response. If you do not know the answer better accept the fact. Never give wrong and uncertain answers. No bluffing, always say the truth, be truthful as the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said:
“If anyone is pleased to love Allah and His Messenger, or rather to have Allah and His Messenger love him, he should speak the truth when he tells anything; fulfill his trust when he is put in a position of trust; and be a good neighbor.” (Tirmidhi, Hadith 4990 and Bayhaqi)
“If you guarantee me six things on your part I shall guarantee you
Paradise. Speak the truth when you talk, keep a promise when you make it, when
you are trusted with something fulfill your trust, avoid sexual immorality,
lower your eyes, and restrain your hands from injustice.”
(Tirmidhi, Hadith 4870; Ahmad and Bayhaqi)
28. Talk within the time allotted to you, unless you sense your audience to be bored in which case you must stop. But with the tips on how to gain confidence and prepare your speech and above all with the help of Allâh (S.W.T.), insha Allâh, you won’t stop before the time for the reason that your listeners are bored.
29. Never thank the audience with a mechanical “thank you” at the end of your speech. Express thanks graciously to your audience and the organizers of the program. But never forget to thank Allâh, the Almighty, Who has given you the power to improve and beautify your speech. It is Sunnah to recite the following du’a at the end of the gathering/program:
“Subhanaka Allâhuma wa bihamdika. Ash-hadua lâ ilaha illa Anta. Astaghfiruka wa atuubo ilaik.” (“How perfect you are O Allâh and I praise You. None has the right to be worshipped except You. I seek Your forgiveness and turn in repentance to You.” (Tirmidhî 3/153)
30. When you are through with your speech, sit down. When any of your audience expresses appreciation by saying “Masha Allâh” for your nice speech or presentation, be natural to respond kindly with a smile and say, “Alhamdullillah (Praise be to Allah), thank you or Jazakumullahu khair.”