Congregation: Friday sermon in Arabic

Q115 :It is a common belief among Muslims in a non-Arabic speaking country that the sermon given before Friday prayers must be in Arabic, saying that it is not permissible for any language other than Arabic to be used on the pulpit. What imams do, therefore, is to give a sermon in the local language prior to Friday prayer. When the time for Zuhr is called, this is concluded and the imam gives a short khutbah in Arabic. I shall be grateful for your comments .

A115 : Friday prayer is the one obligatory prayer which we must offer in congregation. It is offered at midday on Friday, and preceded by a sermon given by the imam. This sermon is meant to discuss the situation of the Muslim community and its problems. Moreover, its purpose is to make worshippers aware of their obligations towards their Lord and to remind them of the hereafter so that they may be more conscious of their duties. It has, therefore, a dual purpose; social and religious. It stands to reason, therefore, that it should be given in the language which is commonly understood by the worshippers. When we say that something is forbidden or not permissible, we must have a basis for our statement. That evidence can only be a statement given in the Qur'an or by the Prophet. I can say without any fear of ever being contradicted that there is nothing in the Qur'an or in the Sunnah which states that to use any language other than Arabic on the pulpit or minbar, is forbidden. Whoever makes this assertion cannot substantiate his claim in any way. We have to remember here that there is no sanctity for any language as such. It is true that the Qur'an is in Arabic and the Hadith is also in Arabic. That does not make the Arabic language sacred. It has been honored by the fact that Allah has chosen it for His message, but to say that the words of the language have any sanctity is to make a wild claim. Moreover, Allah tells us in the Qur'an that He sent messengers to different people. Every messenger addressed his people in their language. No one used a language which was not understood by his people. How can we expect, then, an imam to speak to a congregation of worshippers in a language which they do not understand? If the congregation is composed largely of people who do not speak Arabic, then the imam must give the khutbah or sermon in the language which they speak. When he quotes from the Qur'an or the Hadith, he may give that quotation in Arabic and add its translation. Nothing more is required. The practice which you have mentioned has become widely common in certain parts in the Muslim world. There is no need or basis for it. I recognize, however, that it will be very difficult to change such a habit, unless knowledge of Islam in that part of the world spreads much more widely.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )