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Friday Sermon in Sign Language: Allowed?

04 May, 2018
Q As-salamu `alaykum. What is the religious ruling on interpreting the Friday sermon (khutbah) into sign language to the deaf?


Wa `alaykum as-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

In this fatwa:

It is permissible, while the imam is delivering the khutbah, for someone who masters sign language to interpret it for the deaf in a special room or in a corner of the mosque.

Answering your question, The Official Center of the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments in UAE states the following:

Deaf adults who enjoy full mental capacity are held legally accountable for their actions, and in turn the Friday Prayer, with all its conditions and prerequisites, becomes obligatory for them.

So, if a hall in the mosque is dedicated to the deaf, there would be no harm that a sign interpreter stands in front of them interpreting for them the content of the sermon since this would fulfill the needs of the deaf. It would also help in addressing a certain category of the Muslims in a way comprehensible to them.

It would also help in achieving the objectives of the khutbah for the praying persons who are incapable of hearing it. It is known that sign language has developed much that religious rulings and the Glorious Qur’an are rendered through it.

Besides, sign language is legally valid, and it substitutes utterance. Imam al-Qurtubi (may Allah have mercy on him) referred to the significance of sign interpretation saying, “Sign interpreting is as wording, as it renders things comprehensible in the way speech does.

Almighty Allah says about Maryam (Mary), “So she pointed to him.” Hence, she made herself clear to them and illustrated her purpose through sign, and in turn they said, “How can we speak to one who is in the cradle a child?” (Maryam 19:29)

Moreover, jurists stated that it is permissible for persons other than the Imam to speak during the Friday khutbah for a legally valid interest, knowing that it is more proper for such a person to limit himself to sign language.

Jabir ibn `Abdullah said while the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was giving Friday sermon, a man entered the mosque. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asked him, ‘Did you offer prayer?’ The man replied, ‘No’ In turn, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to him, ‘Well, get up and pray two rak`ahs (units of Prayer).’” (Muslim)

Commenting on this hadith, Imam An-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said, “These hadiths also indicate the permissibility of speaking during the khutbah if deemed necessary, and this permissibility applies to both the preacher and others. Besides, it involves enjoining good and guiding to interests at all times and on all occasions.”

In addition, Imam An-Nawawi said in Al-Majmu`, “Regarding whether it is obligatory to attentively listen to the Imam and forbidden to speak during the khutbah, there are two famous opinions. The more correct and famous one is that it is recommended, not obligatory, to attentively listen and that it is not forbidden to speak. Our fellow jurists said that the difference of opinions, related to the ruling on speaking for Friday attendants and the Imam, does not apply to the case when speaking is due to an immediate and important purpose.

For, if one (attending the khutbah) sees a blind person about to fall into a well or to be stung by a scorpion, it becomes recommended for him to warn the (vulnerable) person. And if the attending person enjoins another to do good or warns him against committing an evil, jurists unanimously agree that this is not forbidden.” This view is supported by al-Shafi`i.

Yet, they noted that it (drawing a heedless person’s attention) should be limited to sign language, in case it suffices in fulfilling the purpose, knowing that this all applies to the case of speaking during the khutbah.”

Accordingly, it is permissible that during the delivery of the khutbah a person stands up and interprets it into sign language in a specific hall for the deaf, as well as in special praying places assigned for them in their care centers.

Allah Almighty knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.