Must a Khutbah Be Delivered from a Minbar?

Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: “The Minbar (pulpit) was instituted as a device for efficient communication. In the beginning the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to address people while standing on the floor, but later on it was brought to his attention that if he were to stand on a pulpit it would facilitate better communication as it would allow the greatest number of people to see and hear him while delivering the message. Here is a report of the origin of the minbar in Islam as recorded in the authentic sources:
According to a report in al-Bukhari, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered a woman of Ansar, who had a skilled carpenter to make a minbar for him so that he could address the community while standing on it. In another report, as mentioned by Imam Nawawi in his commentary on Sahih Muslim, the woman first suggested this idea to him, and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) simply welcomed the idea and thus ordered her to go ahead. Accordingly, she commissioned her carpenter to make it and once completed, it was installed inside the Prophet’s mosque. From that time onwards, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was in the habit of standing on it in order to deliver sermons and any other important speeches to the community. There is no report whatsoever to indicate that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was in the habit of delivering any sermon or address after stepping down from the minbar and standing on the floor. This is inconceivable also for, as stated earlier, the very purpose of setting up a minbar was simply to facilitate better communication.
It is therefore easy to conclude that the minbar was simply a device for effective communication. When looked at it from this point of view, it is virtually not at all different from any other effective means or method of communication that may be in use from time to time. In light of this, it is simply absurd to make a distinction between communication on the minbar and outside the minbar, although lately the minbar has become a symbol that is sanctified in the minds of many Muslims.
In any case, it is important for us to seek to understand the rationale of our religion and practice the rituals while being aware of the intent behind them and the purposes for doing so.”