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:
In his response to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:
Let us attempt to answer this question in light of the Quran, the Sunnah, the practice of the pious predecessors, and the authentic rulings of schools.
I would like to state the answer up front before going into details:
It is perfectly valid for the khateeb to deliver his message in the language people understand according to the Hanafi School. It is equally fine, according to other schools as well, as long he states the essential pillars of the Friday sermon in Arabic.
To elaborate further, let us define the meaning of the word khutbah in Arabic.
Imam Raghib al-Isfahani states:
“Khatb, mukhatabah and takhatub is communication or exchange of message involving two sides; the words khutbah and khitbah are both from this root. While khutbah is advice or counsel, khitbah is a proposal (of marriage from the side of a man to a woman). The khateeb is the person who gives advice, and the khaatib is the person proposing.”
It is clear from the above that khutbah is essentially delivering a message or communication. Communication is only communication when the audience understands it. For this, both the speaker and audience must understand the language used.
That this is the understanding of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and the pious Caliphs and the pious generations by the word khutbah is clear for anyone.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used khutbah as a medium of education, inspiration and exhortations.
He taught men, women and even children through his khutbahs. This is abundantly clear from the many reports of companions. Women reported that they learned entire surahs as well as the manner of performing prayer, etc., from his sermons on the minbar.
Here are some reports about the method of his khutbah and some topics he addressed on the minbar:
1- The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) delivered moving advice which moved companions such that their hearts began to tremble and their eyes began to shed tears.
2- When members of a tribe arrived in Madinah appearing emaciated due to starvation, the Prophet’s eyes filled with tears. He climbed the minbar and exhorted people to give charity, and they immediately responded to this appeal.
3- The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) on numerous occasions corrected the mistakes of the people, posed questions to them and answered their own inquiries in order to teach them the essentials of religion.
4- Prior to his passing, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) delivered a sermon in which he asked those he might have inadvertently hurt to seek justice from him.
The pious Caliphs followed the same pattern: Caliph Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) on being chosen as caliph delivered his mission statement from the pulpit, saying: “Oh people, I have been elected to lead you although I am not the best among you; obey me only as long as I obey Allah and His messenger.”
When proposing in a sermon to reform the policy of mahr, Umar was challenged by a woman, saying the proposal contradicted the words of Allah. She cited the following verse: “Even if you were to give them a mountain of gold, you have no right to take it back from them.” Umar thus immediately recanted saying: “She is right, and I am wrong.”
The issue of the khutbah in another language first appeared when Muslims arrived in non-Arabic speaking countries. Naturally, the Muslims were eager to teach them Arabic, and gradually Arabic became the primary language of communication much like English is today.
However, this gave rise to questions about how the khutbah was to be delivered in situations where the majority did not understand Arabic, and it is in this context that the jurists discussed the language of the khutbah. There are three views on this:
1- Hanafi School, which is more liberal and rational of the three schools on this issue, has never considered Arabic as a condition for the validity of the khutbah.
This is clearly stated in the authentic works of the Hanafi School such as in the works of Ibn Abidin and others. Further, Imam Abu Hanifah had ruled prior to the discussion on this specific issue that a person who does not know any Arabic can perform prayer in his language until such time that he can do so in Arabic.
2- In opposition to the above, the Malikites hold that saying the khutbah in Arabic is a condition for the validity of Friday prayer. If the people cannot do so, Friday prayer is not obligatory on them.
3- The middle view is that of the Shafi and Hanbali Schools. Delivering the Friday sermon in Arabic is a condition for those who can do so (i.e. if they know the Arabic language).
However, it is not an essential condition – if they are unable to do so. This conforms to the rule of jurisprudence stating that if anytime a person is prevented from fulfilling a certain condition he is exempt from it.
For instance, if someone has no clothes, he can pray without clothes, even though wearing clothes to cover the awrah is an essential pre-requisite for the validity of prayer.
This however leads us to ask how we are to deal with these differences. Is it possible for us to follow the most reasonable view that takes into account our circumstances and do justice to the teachings of Islam?
The answer is positively yes: Even those who insist on doing the khutbah in Arabic would be satisfied if one were to only say the arkaan al–khutbah (also known as khutbat al-hajah) in Arabic.
We can list the essential integrals to be said in Arabic as follows:
1- Hamd (praising Allah) and testifying the Oneness of Allah.
2- Salah upon the Prophet (peace be upon him).
3- Citing verses from the Quran.
4- Advising people to remain conscious of Allah.
If the khateeb completes the above integrals in Arabic, he may address the people in any language and the Khutbah is perfectly valid, according to all of the four schools. By adhering to this view, we can fulfill the purpose of the khutbah as envisioned and practiced by the prophet and the pious predecessors.
As stated earlier, the very word khutbah in Arabic means communication or delivering a message. That is why the khutbahs of the Prophet (peace be upon him) were means of communicating the essential knowledge of religion and reminding them of the basic beliefs and concepts of religion to educate, inspire, and motivate the Muslims.
By chanting the words in Arabic in a country where the majority of the people do not speak or understand Arabic, we fail to do justice to the main purpose of the khutbah.
Imam Abu Hanifah and his great companions, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad, as well as the prominent mujtahids of the school such as Ibn Abideen and others, agree on this point.
Furthermore, as we stated earlier, by saying the pillars of the khutbah in Arabic, it is also perfectly valid as per the teachings of all of the schools – including Maliki, Shafi and Hanbali.
Finally, the World Council of Muslim Jurists consisting of scholars of diverse schools (after due deliberations) have endorsed this view.
According to them, this is the most relevant and practical ruling to follow in countries where the majority of people do not speak or understand Arabic.
Allah Almighty knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.