Common Errors in Public Speaking 
and How to Overcome them from 
the Islamic Perspective
 

Public speaking in Islam is a gift from Allah the Almighty that needs to be learned.  To be an effective public speaker, we need to know not only its principles and guidelines from the Islamic perspective but the errors in public speaking that we need to avoid.  Here are some common errors  and suggested solutions with proofs from the Qur'an and authentic ahadith that we need to remember in public speaking:

Error No. 1: The intention for public speaking is to gain people’s praise. Those -- especially non-Muslims  --  whose aim for learning and/or mastering the art of public speaking is not to please Allâh (S.W.T.), no matter how people like their speeches, are doomed to suffer in the Hell-Fire:

“There is the type of man whose speech about this world’s life may dazzle you and he calls Allâh to witness about what is in his heart; yet is he the most contentious of enemies. When he turns his back his aim everywhere is to spread mischief through the earth and destroy crops and cattle.  But Allâh loves not mischief.  When it is said to him ‘Fear Allâh’ he is led by arrogance to (more) crime.  Enough for him is Hell; an evil bed indeed (to lie on)!”   (Qur‘an 2: 204-206)

Abu Hurairah (r.a.) narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said: “On the Day of resurrection Allâh will not accept repentance or ransom from him who learns excellence of speech to captivate thereby the hearts of men or of people.”   (Abu Dawud 4988)

Solution:

    For public speaking to be effective, we must purify our intention by sincerely dedicating it to Allâh  so that we gain Allâh’s reward. We must remember that one of the conditions by which good deeds are rewarded in Islâm is ihlas (sincerity).  As Muslims, we must dedicate everything to Allâh:

“Say: Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death are (all) for Allâh, the Rabb (Only God, Cherisher and Sustainer) of the Worlds.”  (6:162)

“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. 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....’” (Bukhâri 1/1 and Muslim 3/ 4692)

When we intend to speak for the sole pleasure of Allâh (S.W.T.), we become effective speakers.  We can expect Allâh, to accept our righteous deeds, worthy of everlasting rewards in the Life Hereafter.  The Almighty says:

“Truly, Allâh will admit those who believe and work righteous deeds, to Gardens beneath which rivers flow. They shall be adorned therein with bracelets of gold and pearls; and their garments there will be of silk. For they have been guided (in this life) to the purest of speeches; they have been guided to the Path of Him Who is Worthy of (all) Praise.” (Qur‘an 22:23-24)

Error No. 2: The speech has no Islâmic contents and significance.

Solution: 

  As Muslims, we are supposed to follow the Sunnah of  Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) who invited people to Islâm:

“Invite (all) to the Way of your Rabb with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for your Rabb knows best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.”  (Qur‘an 16:125)

When we talk about Islâm, when we invite people to Allâh’s Way, we gain the pleasure of Allâh  and thus become better or effective speakers.  Therefore, it is imperative that we talk about Islâm and take inspiration from the following divine words from our Rabb:

“Who is better in speech than one who calls (men) to Allâh, works righteousness, and says, `I am of those who bow in Islâm?’”  (Qur‘an 41:33)

Error No. 3: The speakers are inviting people to Islâm, yet they practice Bid’ah (innovation in religion), and they depend more on reference materials that contradict the Qur’ân and the Sunnah.

Solutions:                          

  To be effective speakers, we must invite people with certain knowledge. We have to acquire knowledge of Islâm. That knowledge must be based on the Qur’ân and the Sunnah:

“Say (O Muhammad): ‘This is my Way; I do invite unto Allâh with a certain knowledge.  And whoever follows me (must also invite others to Allâh, Oneness of Allâh with sure knowledge). Glory to Allâh!  And I am not of the polytheists.’”  (Qur‘an 12: 108)

‘Abdullâh ibn ‘Amr (r.a.) narrated that Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) said, “Knowledge consists of three things: the decisive Verses (Qurân), authentic Ahâdîth and prescriptions rightly deduced from the two. What is beside them is superfluous.” (Ibn Mâjah 1/54 and Abu Daud 2879)

   As much as possible we must spend time, money, efforts and patience in acquiring knowledge of Islâm as Allâh  promises us great reward:

“...Allâh will raise up, to (suitable) ranks (and degrees), those of you who believe and have been granted Knowledge.  And Allâh is Well-Acquainted with all you do.”  (Qur‘an 58:11)

The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) also stresses the importance of the acquisition of knowledge.  He further encourages us to seek knowledge of Islâm:

‘Abdur Rahmân ibn Abi Bakra’s father (r.a.) narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said, “If Allâh wants to do good to a person, he makes him comprehend the Religion and of course knowledge is attained by learning.” (Bukhâri  1/67)

Muâwiya ibn Abű Sufyân (r.a.) narrated on the authority of Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) that he said, “Goodness is a (natural) habit while evil is a stubbornness.  To whomsoever Allâh wills to show goodness, He favors him with the understanding in the Religion.  (Ibn Mâjah 1/221)

Anas ibn Mâlik (r.a.) narrated that Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) said, “Seeking of knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim...”  (Ibn Mâjah 1/224 and Tirmidhî 218)

Ibn ‘Abbâst narrated that Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) said, “One single scholar of Religion is more formidable against the Devil than one thousand devout persons.”  (Ibn Mâjah 1/222)

  We have to know that the best speech is that of Allâh (i.e., Qur’ân) and the best guidance is that of Muhammad r (i.e., his Sunnah) and that any bid’ah is wrong:

Jabir ibn Abdullah (r.a.) narrated that Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) said,  “The best speech is that embodied in the Book of Allâh, and the best guidance is the guidance given by Muhammad. The most evil affairs are their innovations; and every innovation is an error.”    (Muslim, 1885)

‘Aishah  narrated that Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) said, “Whoso introduces any thing new to this affairs of ours (i.e., religion) which does not form a part of it, it is invalid.”    (Bukhâri 3/861 and Ibn Mâjah 1/14)

Ali ibn Abű Talib (r.a.) said that  (according to Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.)),  “…If anyone introduces an innovation, he will be responsible for it. If anyone introduces an innovation or gives shelter to a man who introduces an innovation (in religion), he is cursed by Allâh, by His angels, and by all the people.”    (Abű Dâwűd, 4515)

  We spend more time, effort and patience knowing more of the Qur’ân and the Sunnah in order to improve our Iman (Faith)  and earn more rewards from Allâh:

Abu Hurairah (r.a.) narrated that Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) said, “If anyone of you improves his religion then his good deeds will be rewarded ten times to seven hundred times for each good deed and a bad deed will be recorded as it is.” (Bukhâri 1/ 40)

Error No. 4: The speakers have knowledge of Islâm, which they share to people, but they do not practice what they say. Allâh hates those who say things which they themselves do not do:

“Do you enjoin right conduct on the people, and forget (to practice it) yourselves, and yet you study the scripture? Will you not understand?”  (Qur‘an 2: 44)

“O you who believe! Why say you that which you do not? Grievously hateful is it in the sight of Allâh that  you say that which you do not.”  (Qur‘an 61: 2-3)

Solutions:    

  To have taqwa (fear of Allâh) always by studying the Qur’ân and the Sunnah so that we know how to follow and obey Allâh  and His Messenger (s.a.w.s.) in all our ways and thus receive Allâh’s pleasure.  Allâh commands us:

“O you who believe! Obey Allâh, and obey the Messenger (Muhammad) and render not vain your deeds.” (Qur‘an 47:33)

 “Say: ‘If you do love Allâh follow me: Allâh will love you and forgive you your sins for Allâh is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful.’”  (Qur‘an 3:31)

  To practice Islâm wholeheartedly and avoid any bid'ah (innovation) in Islâm. We should remember that our behavior as Muslims could make us effective speakers.  It can invite others to the beauty and excellence of Islâm.  Let our actions speak for what we really believe. We have to remember that Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.), according to `Aishah (radhiAllahu anha) acted what was revealed to him in the Qur’ân (Bukhâri 1/78). For our guidance and ultimate success, we Muslims have to enter into Islâm wholeheartedly and not to die except in the state of Islâm:

“O you who believe! Enter into Islâm wholeheartedly; and follow not the footsteps of the Evil One; for he is to you an avowed enemy.”  (Qur‘an 2:208)

“O you who believe! Fear Allâh as He should be feared, and die not except in a state of Islâm...that you may be guided.” (Qur‘an 3:102-103)

Error No. 5: The speakers forget or ignore to start and end their speeches with the remembrance of Allâh.

The following Hadith serves as an admonition to those who do not remember Allâh before starting their public speech:

Abu Hurairah (r.a.)  narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said: “People who get up from an assembly in which they did not remember Allâh will be just as if they had got up from an ass’s corpse, and it will be a cause of grief to them.” (Abu Dawud 4837)

 Solution:

  To follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) in order to gain Allâh’s pleasure by remembering Him before, during and after our Da’wah/public speech.   This will make us more closer to Him and thus, be successful in our public speech.  It is Sunnah to start our lecture/speech with praises to Allâh. One of the Prophet’s Sunnah of starting a speech is narrated in the  following Hadith:

Abdullah Bin Mas`ud (r.a.)  narrated that Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) taught us the address in case of some need: “Praise be to Allâh from Whom we ask help and pardon, and in Whom we take refuge from the evils within ourselves. He whom Allâh 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 Allâh, and I testify that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger.”   “You who believe, fear Allâh by Whom you ask your mutual rights, and reverence the wombs. Allâh has been watching you....”   “You who believe, fear Allâh as He should be feared, and die only as Muslims…"  “You who believe, fear Allâh and say what is true. He will make your deeds sound, and forgive your sins.  He who obeys Allâh and His Messenger has achieved a mighty success.”   (Abu Dawud 2113)

When we finish our speeches (gathering or lectures), it is a Sunnah to conclude it with the following supplication:

Subhannaka Allâhumma wa bihamdik. Ashado a la_ ilaha illa_ ant.  Astaghfiruka wa atowbo 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)

Error No. 6: Fear, nervousness or stage fright due to: a) lack of self-confidence and b) insufficient knowledge of the subject or lack of enough preparation. 

Solutions:                           

    As Muslims, we must overcome nervousness or stage fright.  We must have the confidence that we can be effective speakers for as long as what we are going to speak/talk about is Islâm and that we do it for the pleasure of Allâh the Almighty. We must be happy and proud that in the eyes of Allâh, we are the best of peoples:

“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 Islâm (i.e. Muslims)?” (41:33)

‘Uthmân ibn ‘Affân (r.a.) narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said, “The most superior among you (Muslims) are those who learn the Qurân and teach it.” (Bukhâri 6/546)

  We must pray to Allâh for our success and make the necessary preparations by planning what to say and how to say it.  Exert more time, efforts and patience to read and study about Islâm in order to be able to organize our speeches in a scholarly manner (i.e., with proofs from the Qur’ân and the authentic Ahâdîth) and present them with well with knowledge or mastery.  Allâh the Almighty says:

“Is one who worships devoutly during the hours of the night prostrating himself or standing (in adoration), who takes heed of the Hereafter, and who places his hope in the Mercy of his God—like one who does not?   Say: ‘Are those equal, those who know and those who do not know?’  It is those who are endowed with understanding that receive admonition.”  (Qur‘an 39:9)

In our invocations especially in the Tahajjud  (midnight) prayers we have to pray for knowledge and wisdom:

Rabbiy zidni ilma.”   (“O My Rabb (Cherisher and Sustainer)! Increase me in Knowledge.” ) (Qur‘an 20:114)

“Rabbi habli hukmaw 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); and make me one of the inheritors of the Garden of Bliss.”   (Qur’an, Ash-Shu‘araa  26:83-85)

Umm Salamah (r.a.) narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) used to say after the dawn prayer, “Allahuma iniy as-aluka ilman nafi‘an, amalan mutaqabalan wa risqan tayiban" (O Allâh, I ask You for beneficial knowledge, acceptable action, and good provision.”(Tirmidhî 2487; Ahmad and  Ibn Mâjah)

Error No. 7: Inability to speak clearly due to: 1) stammering;  2) careless articulation, enunciation and pronunciation; 3) frequent utterance of “ahs”, “um” and other distracting noises; 4) speaking too fast, 5) speaking with high pitch; 6) coarse voice;  and/or 7) very low voice not loud enough to be heard by the whole public. 

Solutions:

  We must pray to Allâh to help us speak eloquently. In our prayers and before the public speech we must include the following supplication:

“...Rabbi 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)

  Exert more time and opportunity to know how to speak nicely and clearly by listening to good speakers in public, televisions and radios. Practice reading aloud and speaking with the aid of the tape recorder. Also seek every opportunity to speak at the right place and occasion. It is imperative that we always make the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) as our model, therefore it is for our success that we try our very best to speak clearly ,  as to do so is a Sunnah:

“Obey Allâh and obey the Messenger and beware (of evil): if you do turn back, know you that it is Our Messenger’s duty to convey (the Message) in the clearest manner.”  (Qur‘an 5:92)

“(We sent the Messengers) with Clear Signs and Scriptures and We have also sent down unto you (O, Muhammad) the Message; that you may explain clearly to men what is sent for them, and that they may give thought.” (Qur‘an 16:44)

 “How should they have the reminder. Seeing that a Messenger explaining things clearly has (already) come to them.” (Qur‘an 44:13)

‘Âishah (r.a.)  narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) used to talk so clearly that if somebody wanted to count the number of his words, he could do so. Narrated Urwa bin Az-Zubair: ‘Aisha (r.a.) said (to me), “Don‘t you wonder at Abu so-and-so who came and sat by my dwelling and started relating the traditions of Allâh’s Messenger intending to let me hear that, while I was performing an optional prayer. He left before I finished my optional prayer. Had I found him still there. I would have said to him, “Allâh’s Messenger never talked so quickly and vaguely as you do.’”  (Bukhâri 4/768)

 ‘Âishah  narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) used to talk so clearly that if somebody wanted to count the number of his words, he could do so.” (Bukhâri, 4/768; Muslim)

Error No. 8: Too many annoying mannerisms (like unnecessary showing of the tongue, biting the lips, frequent uttering of some words, frequent scratching, playing with pen, rocking the chair, and other disrupting actions).

Solution:

   We have to be conscious of our mannerisms that can annoy or disrupt the audience attention and concentration and try as much as possible to avoid them. If we do this for the pleasure of Allâh, the Almighty will help us to improve ourselves.  If possible, we must aim high to be among the best Muslims with the best manners and character:

Abdullah Ibn Amr (r.a.) narrated that Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.)  said,  “…The best amongst you are those who have the best manners and character.”  (Bukhâri, 4/759)

Error No. 9: Poor platform appearance such as: appearing lifeless or not lively, indifferent or uninterested to give speech, frowning, wearing very casual attire not proper for the occasion, and grooming or fixing the hair or clothes on the way to the platform or even while talking.

Solutions:

  For us to speak effectively, we have to have the best platform appearance.  As we approach the platform, we must show to our audience that we are very enthusiastic and happy by the way we walk and stand with poise and energy and also by our sincere smiles. We have to follow the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) who made people lively and happy with his smiles.

‘Âishah (May Allah be pleased with her)  narrated: “I never saw the Prophet laughing to an extent that one could see his palate, but he always used to smile only.”  (Bukhâri 8/114)

Abdullah ibn al-Harith ibn Jaz  narrated that he had seen no one more given to smiling than Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.).  (Tirmidhî 5829 and  4748)

Indeed, we Muslim speakers must be dynamic and happy to talk in public.  It is an opportunity for us to share our knowledge of Islâm to others for the pleasure of Allâh (S.W.T.). As such, we must show respect to people by the way we carry ourselves and by the way we appear.  But never to show people that we are too conscious of our appearance by grooming or fixing our hair or clothes in front of them.  We have to be neat or tidy and must wear nice, decent, and comfortable clothes.  We must try to be as well dressed as the occasion demands but not to be extreme:  

“O children of Adam!  Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allâh loves not the wasters.”  (Qur‘an 7:31)

  We dress properly not for reasons of vanity or to impress the audience but it is because to do so is a Sunnah that pleases Allâh, the Most High:

Abdullah ibn Abbas (r.a.) narrated that when Haruriyyah (r.a.) made a revolt, I came to Ali (r.a.). He said: “Go to these people. I then put on the best suit of the Yemen.” Abu Zumayl (a transmitter) said: “Ibn Abbas was handsome and of imposing countenance.”  Ibn Abbas (r.a.) said: “I then came to them and they said: ‘Welcome to you, Ibn Abbas! What is this suit of clothes?’” I said: “Why are you objecting to me? I saw over Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) the best suit of clothes.”   (Abu Dawud 4026)

Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-‘As (r.a.) narrated that Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) said, “Eat, drink, give sadaqah (charity) and wear clothes so long as neither prodigality nor pride is mixed up with it.”  (Tirmidhî 4381, Ahmad, Nasa‘i and Ibn Mâjah)

Ali ibn Abu Talib (r.a.) narrated that Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) forbade wearing of silk and yellow clothes, and the gold ring, and the reciting of the Qur’ân in the ruku‘ (state of kneeling in prayer).  (Muslim 5176)

Jabir ibn Abdullah (r.a.) narrated that Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) paid visit to us, and saw a disheveled man whose hair was disordered. He said: “Could this man not find something to make his hair lie down?” He saw another man wearing dirty clothes and said: “Could this man not find something to wash his garments with?”  (Abu Dawud 4051, Tirmidhî 4351, Ahmad and Nasa‘I)

Sahl Ibn al-Hanzaliyyah (r.a.) narrated that Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) said: “You are coming to your brethren; so tidy your mounts and tidy your dress, until you are like a mole among the people. Allâh does not like obscene words or deeds, or do intentional committing of obscenity.”  (Abu Dawud 4078)

Error No. 10:  Being proud or boastful, unfriendly and prone to insulting people.

Solutions:

  As Muslims, we must have the best character and manners at all times and occasions. We must not insult nor speak evil intentionally in any of our speaking engagements:

‘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)

  We must be humble, not proud and boastful:

Haritha bin Wahb (r.a.) narrated that according to Al-Khuzai the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said, “Shall I inform you about the people of Paradise? They comprise every obscure unimportant humble person, and if he takes Allâh’s Oath that he will do that thing, Allâh will fulfill his oath (by doing that). Shall I inform you about the people of the Fire? They comprise every cruel, violent, proud and conceited person.” (Bukhâri 8/97 and 8/651)

Iyad ibn Himar (al-Mujashi‘i) (r.a.) narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said: “Allâh has revealed to me that you must be humble, so that no one oppresses another and boasts over another.”  (Abu Dawud 4877)

Jabir ibn Abdullah (r.a.) narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said: “On the Day of Judgment the dearest and closest to me, as regards my company, will be those persons who will bear the best moral character. Those among you, who talk with affectation and are given to boasting, will be the most repugnant to me and farthest from me on the Day of Judgment. The Companions submitted: “O Messenger of Allâh! What is meant by the word ‘Mutafayhiqun’”? The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said: “Those given to boasting.”  (Tirmidhî 631)

  We must show them friendly attitude and kindness by motivating them to learn Islâm and never insult or fight them, no matter how they insult us: 

“Let not their speech grieve you: for all power and honor belong to Allâh.  He is the One Who hears and knows (all things).”  (Qur‘an 10:65)

“And argue not with the People of the Book (the Jews and the Christians), except in the best way, unless it be with those of them who do wrong. But say (to them), ‘We believe in the Revelation which has been sent down to us and in that which has been sent down to you; our God and your God is One; and to Him we submit (in Islâm).’”  (Qur‘an 29:46)

 “Allâh 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 Allâh loves those who are just.  Allâh 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 60:8-9)

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.”  (Tirmidhî 4995 and Ahmad)

Abű Hurairah (r.a.)  narrated that Allâh’s Messenger (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)

Abű Hurairah (r.a.) narrated that a man said to the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) “Advise me.” The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said, “Do not be angry and furious.” The man asked (the same) again and again, and the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said in each case, “Do not be angry and furious.” (Bukhâri 8/137)

‘Âishah (r.a.) narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said, “The most hated person in the sight of Allâhs the most quarrelsome person.” (Bukhâri  3/637)

We must show patience and perseverance for any obstacle, resistance, annoyance and and insults  that we may encounter in our public speaking for Allâh is with the patient and those who persevere for His sake.  What matters is the eternal effect of our efforts in conveying Islâm:

“O you who believe!  Persevere in patience and constancy.  Vie in such perseverance, strengthen each other and fear Allâh that you may prosper.”   (Qur‘an 3:200)

 “Say: ‘O you my servants who believe! Fear your Rabb.  Good is (the reward) for those who do good in this world. Spacious is Allâh’s earth!  Those who patiently persevere will truly receive a reward without measure.’”  (Qur‘an 39:10)

Sahl Bin Sad (r.a.) narrated that Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) said, “…Be patient till you face them (i.e., the infidels) and invite them to Islâm and inform them of what Allâh has enjoined upon them.  By Allâh!  If a single person embraces Islâm at your hands (i.e., through you) that will be better for you than the red camels.”  (Bukhâri  4/192 and 5/51)

  As good character can make us effective public speakers, we must seriously change our bad habits or character by praying to Allâh the Exalted for beautiful character:

Aishah  (r.a.) narrated that Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) used to say, “O Allâh, as You have made my form beautiful so make my character beautiful.”  (Tirmidhî 5099 and Ahmad)

Error No. 11: Making the audience bored by: 1) speaking during the time when it is not conducive to learning (e.g., sleeping time, time for break when people are too tired that they need rest or too hungry that they need to eat), 2) giving frequent speeches/lectures, 3) making the speech too difficult to understand, and 4)  having lengthy and lifeless speech.

Solutions:

   We must see to it that the time we are supposed to give speech is timely for audience to be ready if not very eager to listen to us: 

‘Abdullâh bin Mas‘űd (r.a.) narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) used to take care of us in preaching by selecting a suitable time, so that we might not get bored.” (Bukhâri 1/68)

Abű Wa‘il Shaqîq bin Salamah (r.a.) narrated that ‘Abdullâh bin Mas‘űd (r.a.) used to give a religious talk to the people on every Thursday. Once a man said, “O Abu ‘Abdur-Rahman! (By Allâh) I wish if you could preach us daily.” He replied, “The only thing which prevents me from doing so, is that I have to bore you, and I take care of you in preaching by selecting a suitable time just as the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) used to do with us, for fear of making us bored.” (Bukhâri 1/70 and Muslim)

   We should not give daily or frequent speeches in a week so as not to bore our audience.  The most that we can do is to make it twice or thrice a week: 

‘Ikrimah bin Abî Jahl (r.a.) narrated that ‘Abdullâh bin ‘Abbâs (r.a.) said, “Preach to the people once a week, and if you won’t, then preach them twice;  but if you want to preach more, then let it be three times (a week only) and do not make the people fed-up with this Qur’ân. If you come to some people who are engaged in a talk, don‘t start interrupting their talk by preaching, lest you should cause them to be bored. You should rather keep quiet, and if they ask you, then preach to them at the time when they are eager to hear what you say. And avoid the use of rhymed prose in invocation for I noticed that Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) and his Companions always avoided it.” (Bukhâri 8/349)

   In order to catch the attention of our audience and make our speech more interesting and easy to understand, it is advisable that we make use of visual aids and illustrations: 

Abdullah 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)

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)

‘Abdullâh bin Mas‘űd (r.a.) narrated that (once) Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) drew a line for us and then said, “That is the path shown by Allâh.” Then he drew several other lines on his right and left sides and said, “These are the paths on every side of which there is a devil calling towards it.” He then recited this verse, And verily, this is My Straight Path, so follow it.’” (Tirmidhî 166, Ahmad, Nasâ’i and Darimî)

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)

We must aim to be effective and dynamic in our speeches by speaking with sincere feelings and emotions.  We have to steer the hearts and minds of our audience, so we capture their attentions. Let us help them ponder upon the guidance and wisdom we derive from the Qur’ân and the Sunnah.  When we, for instance, talk about Paradise we should try showing expressions of happiness and hope to our audience with the way we smile, talk with some feeling of excitement/eagerness and feel relax in our gestures.   On the other hand, when we mention Hell-Fire, let our actions, feelings or emotions and gestures express fear and warning.  Similarly, if we talk about patience and perseverance let us express our emotions, and make the audience feel sorry for our tribulations but at the same time hope that with our trust in Allâh (S.W.T.), our sufferings are nothing but temporary.   We should be hopeful of Allâh’s Mercy, and pray that He will give us eternal rewards for our eeman (faith), acts of righteousness, patience and perseverance.   The following are some of the authentic Ahâdîth that show how the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) spoke with feelings and emotions:

Anas bin Mâlik (r.a.) narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said, “What is wrong with those people who look towards the sky during the prayer?” His talk grew stern while delivering this speech and he said, “They should stop (looking towards the sky during the prayer); otherwise their eye-sight would be taken away.” (Bukhâri 1/717)

‘Abdullâh bin Mas‘űd (r.a.) narrated that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said, “I know the person who will be the last to come out of the (Hell) Fire, and the last to enter Paradise. He will be a man who will come out of the (Hell) Fire crawling, and Allâh will say to him, ‘Go and enter Paradise.’ He will go to it, but he will imagine that it had been filled, and then he will return and say, ‘O my Rabb, I have found it full.’ Allâh will say, ‘Go and enter Paradise, and you will have what equals the world and ten times as much (or you will have as much as ten times the like of the world).’ On that, the man will say, ‘Do you mock at me (or laugh at me) though You are the King?’” I saw Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) (while saying that) smiling that his premolar teeth became visible. It is said that he (the said man) will be the lowest in degree amongst the people of Paradise. (Bukhâri 8/575)

Jâbir bin ‘Abdullâh (r.a.) narrated that whenever Allâh’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) delivered a sermon, his eyes would turn red. His voice would become loud. And his wrath would enhance as if he was warning (the people) against an enemy troop, saying, “It will surely attack you in the morning! It will surely attack you in the evening!...” (Ibn Mâjah 1/45)

Finally, some words of caution need to be borne in mind by all of us. Overcoming the errors or shortfalls in public speaking is both challenging and rewarding. Our shortfalls may not just disappear overnight. But, if we continue supplicating to Allâh (S.W.T.) for knowledge, wisdom and eloquence of speech and strive to improve our speaking skills for the pleasure of Allâh (S.W.T.), He will make things easy for us. Thus, in order to succeed in our noble endeavors, we should keep in mind to carry out our Islâmic and Da’wah activities for Allâh’s pleasure, and work patiently to translate our intentions into action. We should always try to overcome our shortfalls in public speaking, even if it will take too long. What matters is we are trying our best to improve our personality and speech abilities for the pleasure of Allâh the Almighty. By this way, we will ultimately succeed and get great rewards in this world and in the Hereafter.

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