Monday 15 January 2024

What should be the language of Khutbah in Jumu'ah Congregational prayer (Scholars of Islam answer)

Today, through this post, I touch upon a subject that has been boggling my mind since my childhood. Since I live in a country where Arabic is neither the mother tongue, nor generally spoken either. However, despite this, the Khutbah (The Friday Sermon) in the Jumu'ah congregational prayer, is given in Arabic by the imam leading the prayer. And since he himself is not Arabic speaking, the Khutbah is mostly read out from a collection of many khutbahs given in a small booklet. And the entire audience sits in awe with heads down, understanding nothing what is being said. And I have always wondered the logic of the Khutbah being in Arabic. Therefore, I am venturing into this most important subject and will try to give out what I have known so far from many a ruling given by scholars from around the world.

Before get into details of the language, let us first know what is the purpose of Khutbah, for it will decide its language.

The Friday sermon (khutbah), like all Islamic rituals, has a purpose. It aims to remind the Muslims of their responsibilities, enjoin good and warn against evil. That is it has an educational vale for what is being said in the Khutbah actually aims at educating the Muslims to know their religion better and thus they could implement it easily during their practical life.

 For this purpose the Khutbah should be in the language of the people to whom it is delivered, otherwise it will be a mere formality and fail to achieve its purpose.

Going back to its origin, the Khutbah of Jumu'ah prayer was started by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in Medinah after the establishment of the Islamic State. 

The Khutbah was delivered by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ to apprise, and remind, the Muslims of their responsibilities, to enjoin good and warn against evil. This was the reason that  the Friday was chosen to offer the otherwise Dhur (noon) prayer in the form a congregation so that all able bodied and healthy Muslims could get to gather at one place. Since Prophet Muhammad ﷺ used to be otherwise busy in receiving people all through the week, the Friday congregation was the best time for him to deliver a sermon mainly intended to explain the commandments of Allah contained in the verses of Qur'an. The Prophet ﷺ used to deliver words of exhortation, instruction, or command at gatherings for worship in the mosque, which consisted of the courtyard of his house in Medina.

Since at that time, the language of Arabs was Arabic, obviously the Khutbah by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ too was delivered in Arabic. 

Now the question arises, should Jumu'ah khutbah only be Arabic, or it can be given in the local language of Muslims on non Arabic speaking countries?

The view of the Maalikis and it is the well-known view of the Hanbalis, is that it is essential that the Khutbah to be in Arabic for the one who is able to do that, even if the listeners do not know Arabic. (See: al-Fawaakih al-Diwaani (1/306) and Kashshaaf al-Qinaa’ (2/34).)  

The second view point is that it is essential for it to be in Arabic for the one who is able to do that, unless none of the listeners know Arabic, in which case he should give the khutbah in their language. This is the correct view according to the Shaafa’is, and it is the view of some of the Hanbalis. (See: al-Majmoo’ by al-Nawawi (4/522).)  

However, the simple answer is that it is mustahabb for the khutbah to be in Arabic but it is not essential, and the imam may deliver the khutbah in his own language instead of Arabic. This is the view of Abu Haneefah and some of the Shaafa’is. (See: Radd al-Muhtaar (1/543) and al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah (19/180).)  

Comparing the the three view points stated above, the third view seems logical, and for this reason this interpretation is favoured by a number of contemporary scholars, because there is no clear evidence to say that the khutbah must be in Arabic, and because the purpose of the khutbah is to exhort, benefit and teach, which can only be done by using the language of the people present.  

The Late Sheikh Jad Al-Haqq Ali Jad Al-Haqq, the former Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, states:

The Hanifi school of fiqh (jurisprudence) state that it is permissible to deliver the khutbah in a language other than Arabic whether the audience are Arabs or not.

I see that since the aim of the Friday sermon is to admonish people, then the opinion of Abu Hanifah should take priority. It goes more with the nature and aim of the congregation.

If one likes to follow the opinion of the majority of the jurists, another alternative can be suggested. The imam can give the two parts of the Friday khutbah, followed by a translation for each in the language of the audience.

To sum up, let us read the statement of the Fiqh Council of the Muslim World League:  

The fairest opinion is that using Arabic when giving the khutbah on Friday and at Eid in countries where it is not spoken is not a condition of it being valid, but it is better to say the preliminaries of the khutbah and any Qur’aanic verses quoted in Arabic, so as to get non-Arabs used to hearing Arabic and the Qur’aan, which will make it easier to learn it and read the Qur’aan in the language in which it was revealed. Then the khateeb can follow that with exhortation in their language which they understand. (Qiraaraat al-Majma’ al-Fiqhi (p. 99) (fifth session, fifth statement). )

Now you may watch a video in which eminent Muslim scholar Sheikh Assim Al Hakeem on the subject of language of the khutbah:

The post is written from education point of view to know how scholars think / recommend and what is being practiced. We must know what is correct or close to logic, for sitting in the masjid and listening to the Khutbah without understanding a word of it is useless and uneducated. The substance of the post doe not in any manner meant to undermine the views of followers of different schools of thought. It is also not intended to to set into motion a debate about who is right or otherwise.

The views expressed in the video above are those of the scholar concerned. We have shared this view as added information in better understanding of Islam. The reader may or may not agree with the view owing to their own perception. If anyone differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.

May Allāh (سبحانه و تعالى‎) help us understand Qur'ān and follow the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, which is embodiment of commandments of Allah contained in the Qur'ān. May Allah help us to be like the ones He loves and let our lives be lived helping others and not making others' lives miserable or unlivable. May all our wrong doings, whether intentional or unintentional, be forgiven before the angel of death knocks on our door. 

وَمَا عَلَيۡنَاۤ اِلَّا الۡبَلٰغُ الۡمُبِيۡنُ‏ 
(36:17) and our duty is no more than to clearly convey the Message.”
That is our duty to convey only to you the message that Allah has entrusted us with. Then it is for you to accept it or reject it. We have not been made responsible for making you accept it forcibly, and if you do not accept it, we shall not be seized in consequence of your disbelief, you will yourselves be answerable for your actions on Day of Resurrection.

May Allāh (سبحانه و تعالى‎) help us understand Qur'ān and help us to act upon the commandments of Allah contained therein. May Allah help us to be like the ones He loves and let our lives be lived helping others and not making others' lives miserable or unlivable. May all our wrong doings, whether intentional or unintentional, be forgiven before the angel of death knocks on our door. 

May Allah forgive me if my posts ever imply a piety far greater than I possess. I am most in need of guidance.

Reference References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

For more Scholarly views and videos, please read our reference page: Scholars' Viewpoint on Important Issues Related to Islam.

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