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:
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. For this purpose to be achieved it 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.
The Late Sheikh Jad Al-Haqq Ali Jad Al-Haqq, the former Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, states:
However, the majority of Muslim jurists hold the opinion that one of the conditions of Friday khutbah is that it should be given in Arabic.
The Hanbali school of fiqh, however, holds that if the preacher knows Arabic, then it is a must that the khutbah is in Arabic. If the preacher does not know Arabic, then he is allowed to give it in any other language which he masters whether the audiences are Arabs or not. The Qur’anic verses in both cases, however, have to be recited in Arabic.
The Shafi`i school of fiqh is of the opinion that one of the conditions of the Friday sermon is that it should be delivered in Arabic. This would be the case if the audiences are Arabs. If they are not, then it is not a condition to say it in Arabic. The imam can speak in his language, but the Qur’anic verses have to be recited in Arabic.
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.
We would also like to point out that in non-Muslim countries, most people have to leave work during their lunch break to attend the Friday prayer.
They usually have a limited time, some of which is spent traveling between work and the mosque.
They do not have time to listen to a long khutbah, much less another speech in their own language preceding the adhan.
Therefore, giving a speech in the local language before the khutbah does not really serve the purpose it is intended because few people are able to attend it. This is all the more reason why the khutbah should be in the local language and, further, should be well written and succinct.
Allah Almighty knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.