The issue of offering the khutbah in English has become a very contentious one. In order to fully understand the matter, we suggest you read Mufti Taqi Usmani’s book -The Language of The Friday Khutbah. We have extracted excerpts from his fatwa which you may read below. We edited and reworded certain areas of the fatwa for the sake of brevity.
You will notice that Mufti Taqi Sahib has classed a non-Arabic Khutbah as Gumraahi, i.e. Deviance, straying away from the Deen.
I would first like to write a few words from myself.
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
English Khutbah is quickly becoming a trend in U.K. as well. Those who deliver the Jumu’ah Khutbah in English are thought to be moderate scholars, whilst those who deliver it in Arabic are taken as backwards.
By Allah, such masaail have become a tragedy for the Muslim Ummah. Never has the Ummah been through so many tribulations. May Allah have mercy upon us and guide us towards the truth.
The irony is that the English khateebs are extremely short-sighted and fail to understand that this is a deliberate attempt by those who oppose Islam to undermine and wipe out the Arabic language; and thereby annihilate the Islamic culture and heritage from its roots.
It also seems an attempt to disconnect the general public from the real scholars. Any layman can stand on the pulpit and start with “Ladies and gentlemen……” As for Salah they can recite Surah Kawthar and surah Ikhlas, enough to fulfil the requirement. No need for a Mufti or a Shaykh, let alone a hafiz or a pious god fearing imam.
Having travelled to certain parts of the world where Khutbah is delivered in English, I have noticed how far those communities have drifted away from the Deen. Alhmadulillah, wherever I have had to lead a Jumu’ah, I make a condition that I will first speak in English, and after the second Adhān there won’t be a single word of English, just pure Arabic khutbah according to the Sunnah.
It is amazing that some people tend to criticize Imam Abu Hanifa Rahmatullāhi ‘Alayh and his Fiqh. However, when they have a personal interest, they claim to take his point of view. Why don’t they provide a Sahīh Hadith from Sahīh Bukhari or Sahīh Muslim to prove the legality of non-Arabic Khutbah?
Furthermore, Imam Abu Hanifa Rahmatullāhi ‘Alayh never permitted Khutbah in a foreign language on a regular basis, rather his view was that if no one in the community knew Arabic, and the khutbah was delivered in a foreign language, the Jumu’ah prayer would be valid, though Makrooh Tahreemi. The other three imams (Malik, Shafiee, and Ahmed Rahmatullahi Alayhim) say that the Jumuah would not be valid. A community in which there is no Arabic speaker, should perform 4 rak’ats Zohr Salah and get someone to learn Arabic before the next Friday so he can give khutbah in Arabic in the following Jumuah.
Nowadays, even the Arab Imams have begun to deliver the Khutbah in English. A friend of mine told me that in some Masaajid of the Middle East, the Imam delivers the khutbah in English, even though majority of the congregation are Arabs.
In fact, we have heard that in the Haram of Makkah Mukarramah, they have installed translators on the first floor by the King Fahd gate. People have to wear some headphones while the Jumu’ah Khutbah is taking place so they can understand what the Imam is saying. This is totally against the spirit of the Jumu’ah Khutbah. We have been instructed to maintain our composure, remain silent and avoid excessive movements during the khutbah. It is better that we pay attention to the Khateeb, rather than put headphones on and take them off and talk during this procedure. One Hadith says that “If one was to say to the other “keep quiet” while the khutbah is taking place, his reward is wiped out.” If we want people to understand the khutbah, we should encourage them to learn Arabic. After all many, (even non-Muslims), learn Arabic for worldly purposes like working in an Arab country.
I hope and pray that the speakers who love to offer Khutbah in English come to their senses. The whole week is at their disposal for English speeches. They can give English lectures over the weekends.
Why corrupt a form of worship which is set by Allah most high and His beloved Rasul Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam? Is there an element of name and fame in delivering the Khutbah in English? If that is the case, then this is Riyaa (ostentation), a minor Shirk which should be avoided.
If some khateebs do want to give English lectures on Friday, they can do so before the Adhān, as is the custom in many Masaajid, and it has been practised throughout the history of Islam. One should not be hasty in labelling that as Bid’at, because speech before Adhān is not bid’at.
Bid ‘at is something which is innovated after the best of generations, which has no basis in Qur’an, Sunnah & Salafe Saliheen, and the aim of which would be to corrupt the Deen. So It can never be claimed that delivering an English speech before the Adhān is a bid’ah, because lectures before Jumuah prevailed in the best of generations. Tameem Daari Radiallahu Anhu, used to deliver such speeches in Masjide Nabawi, during the time of Sayyiduna Umar Radiallahu Anhu, and that was with the permission of Sayyiduna Umar Radiallahu Anhu. Same is reported from Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah Radiallahu Anhu.
May Allah give us insight in to our Deen. May Allah bless with correct understanding of matters. May Allah protect the Ummah from all Fitnas. Ameen.
Now we put forward mufti Taqi saheb’s research in to the matter. He writes:
“It is one of the basic requirements of the Friday prayer that it should be preceded by a Khutbah (sermon) delivered by the Imam. It is Wajib (mandatory) for Muslims to attend the Khutbah from the very beginning. Being a part of the Jumu’ah prayer; it has some special rules and traits which distinguish it from the normal lectures given on other occasions. One of these special traits is, that like the prayer (Salah), it is delivered in Arabic. All the Muslims have been delivering the Khutbah of Friday in no language other than Arabic, even where the audience does not understand it’s meaning.
It was in the present century for the first time that the idea of delivering the Khutbah in other languages emerged in some Muslim societies where majority of the audience could not understand Arabic properly. The intention behind this change was that without letting the people understand its contents, the Khutbah can hardly be of a meaningful use for the general people who are addressed by it. Conversely, if Khutbah is delivered in a local language, a very useful message can be conveyed through it every Friday and it can serve as an effective medium for educating people in a wide area of Islamic teaching…
Apparently, the argument seems to be very logical. That is why it has found currency in the countries far from the centres of deeper Islamic knowledge. But before we accept it on its face value, we should first examine it in light of the Holy Qur’an, the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam, the practice of his companions, and the juristic views adopted by different schools of Islamic jurisprudence…
But at the same time, we notice that while leaving a wide spectrum of education and preaching open to any language convenient for the purpose, Islam has specified some limited functions to be performed in Arabic only. For example, it is mandatory for every Muslim to perform his five times prayers (Salah) in Arabic. Likewise, Adhan is the call for attending the congregation of Salah. It is addressed to the local people. But it is made obligatory that it is pronounced in Arabic. Its translation into any other language is not acceptable. Similarly, while performing Hajj we are directed to read Talbiyah in Arabic. While greeting each other, we are obligated to say “Assalamu Alaykum” in the exact Arabic words. “Peace Upon You” an exact translation of Assalamu Alaykum” cannot fulfil the requirement of the recognised (masnoon) greeting. While commencing an important work it is desirable to say, “Bismillah al-Rahman, al-Rahim”. These specific Arabic words may be translated into English or any other language easily understood by the speaker and the addressee but it will always be preferable to recite the original Arabic words…
The emphasis on exact Arabic words in some such matters is not based on any bias in favour of the Arabic language, because Islam has always been proponent of inter-nationalism rather than nationalism. The Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam has himself eradicated the prides based on race, colour and language. He announced in his landmark sermon of his last Hajj that:
“An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab”.
However, for being an internationally united Ummah, the Muslim should have some common features, especially in the ways of their worship. The modes of worship which require some oral recitations have, therefore, been prescribed in a manner that all recitations are carried out in one common language, regardless of the linguistic affiliation of the reciters. Arabic has been selected for this purpose, because it is the language in which the Qur’an was revealed and in which the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam addressed the humankind…
Therefore, to resolve the issue of the language of Khutbah we will have to examine whether the Khutbah of Friday is a form of worship or it is an ordinary lecture meant only to educate people.
The following points may help in knowing the correct position in this respect:
1. It is established by authentic resources that the Khutbah of Friday is a part of the prayer and stands for two Rak`at of prayer. Sayyiduna Umar Radiyallahu Anhu the second caliph of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam says:
‘The Khutbah has been prescribed in lieu of two rakats. Whosoever fails to deliver Khutbah must pray four rakat.’
2. The Holy Qur’an has named the Khutbah as Dhikr in the following verse:
“O! Believers, when there is a call for Salah on Friday, rush for the Dhikr of Allah and leave trade”. (al-Jumu’ah: 9)
Here the word ‘Dhikr’ stands for the Khutbah, because after hearing the Adhan, the Salah (prayer) does not start immediately. What starts after Adhan is Khutbah. That is why the Holy Qur’an did not say, ‘When there is a call for prayer, rush for the prayer”, rather it has said, “When there is a call for prayer, rush for the Dhikr of Allah. This is sufficient to prove that the Holy Qur’an has used the word ‘Dhikr’ for the Khutbah. Dhikr means ‘recitation of the name of Allah’ as against ‘Tadhkir’ which means ‘giving advice’, ‘to educate’ or ‘to admonish’. This is a clear indication from the Holy Qur’an that the basic purpose of Khutbah is Dhikr and not the Tadhkir and that it is a part of the worship rather than being a normal lecture.
3. At another place, the Holy Qur’an has referred to the Khutbah of Friday as “the recitation of the Holy Qur’an”. The Holy verse says:
“And when the Qur’an is recited before you, listen to it carefully and be silent, so that you receive mercy”. (al-A’araf: 204)
According to a large number of commentators the recitation of the Qur’an in this verse refers to the Khutbah delivered before the prayer of Jumu`ah. Here again the word of recitation is used for the Khutbah which indicates that it is very similar to the recitation of Qur’anic verses during performing prayers.
In a number of authentic Ahadith also, the Khutbah of Friday has been referred to as Dhikr. For example in a Hadith reported by Imam al-Bukhari the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam has said:
“Because when the Imam comes out (to deliver Khutbah) the angels gather to listen to the Dhikr”. (Saheeh al-Bukhari v. 1, p. 121)
In another narration, the same principle has been established in the following words:
“Because when imam comes out (for Khutbah) the angels close their books (recording the noble deeds) and listen to the Dhikr (i.e. Khutbah)”. (Sahih al-Bukhari V.1, p. 127)
Based on this particular characteristic of the Khutbah of Friday it is admittedly subject to certain rules, such as being required to remain quiet for the duration of the khutbah.
The Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam has emphasized on this principle in the following words:
“If you speak during Khutbah on Friday, you commit absurdity.”
“Whoever says to his friend while Imam is delivering Khutbah on Friday ‘keep quiet’ commits absurdity.”
4. The Khutbah has been held as a prerequisite for the Friday prayer. No Friday prayer is valid without a Khutbah. All the Muslim jurists are unanimous on this point. Had it been a normal lecture for the purpose of preaching, it would have nothing to do with the validity of the Jumu`ah prayer.
5. It is admitted by all that the Khutbah must be delivered after the commencement of the prescribed time of Jumu’ah prayer. If the Khutbah is delivered before the prescribed time it is not valid, even if the prayer is offered within the prescribed time. In this case, both the Khutbah and the prayer will have to be I repeated. (al-Bahr al-Ra’iq v. 2 p. 158)
This strictness about the time of the Khutbah further confirms that it is a part of the Salah and is subject to the similar rules as rules provided for Salah.
6. If the Imam confines himself to the Hamd (praising Allah) and Salah (Durood) for the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam and to reciting some verses from the Holy Qur’an, and making some Du’a (supplication) and does not utter a single word to preach or to educate people, the Khutbah is held to be valid and the Salah of Jumu`ah can be offered after that. Had the purpose been to educate people, it would have been the main ingredient of the Khutbah to say at least a few words for this purpose without which it should not have been a valid Khutbah. Sayyiduna Uthman (May Allah be well pleased with him) delivered his first Khutbah (after he assumed the charge of Khilafat) exactly in this fashion and did not say a single word for the purpose of preaching. Still his Khutbah was held as valid. It was in the presence of the Sahabah, but not one from them challenged the validity of such a Khutbah.
This is again a clear proof of the fact that the basic purpose of the Khutbah is Dhikr and not Tadhkir. Being a part of the Jumu’ah prayer, it is a form of worship and not basically a method of preaching and education.
All these points go a long way to prove that, unlike normal lectures or sermons, certain rules peculiar to Salah have been prescribed for the Khutbah of Jumu’ah. It is in this context that it has been held necessary that it should be delivered in Arabic only. Just as Salah cannot be performed in any language other than Arabic the Khutbah of Jumu’ah too, cannot be delivered in any other language. That is why the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam never tried to direct his companions to deliver the Khutbah in the local language where the audience could not understand Arabic. Even the audience of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam sometimes included non-Arabs, but he never tried to get his Khutbah translated by an interpreter like he did while he spoke to foreign delegations…
After the demise of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam the noble companions conquered a vast area of the globe. Even in the days of Sayyiduna Umar Radiyallahu Anhu, the whole Persia and a major part of the Roman Empire was brought under the Muslim rule, and thousands of non-Arab people embraced Islam, so much so that the majority of the Muslims living in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Egypt were non-Arabs. These new converts were in desperate need of being educated in their own language, so that they may acquire proper knowledge of the basic Islamic rules and principles. It was not the age of printing, publishing and modern audio-visual instruments, therefore, the only source of acquiring knowledge was the personal contact. Still, the companions of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam never thought about delivering the Friday Khutbah in the local languages, nor did they ever arrange for an interpreter to get it translated simultaneously. One cannot argue that the Sahabah could not speak the local languages, because a large number of them, were either non-Arab by origin, like Salman al-Farisi, Suhayb al-Rumi, Bilal al-Habashi Radiyallahu Anhu or has, learnt the local languages, like Zayd bin Harithah Radiyallahu Anhu.
It was universally accepted that, like the Salah and Adhan, the Khutbah of Friday must be delivered in Arabic, and it is not permissible to deliver it in any other language, even when the audience are not able to understand Arabic, because it is basically a form of Dhikr or worship, and not a source of education. If the audience understand Arabic, it can also serve a secondary purpose of educating them, but it is not the basic ingredient or the exclusive objective of Khutbah.
The Rulings of the recognised jurists:
This position is unanimously held by all the four schools of the Islamic jurisprudence. Their specific rulings are reproduced below:
The Maliki scholars are very specific in declaring this rule. Al-Dasuqi, the well-known Maliki jurist, writes:
“And it is a condition for the validity of Jumu’ah that the Khutbah is delivered in Arabic, even though the people are non-Arabs and do not know the Arabic language. Therefore, if there is nobody who can deliver Khutbah in Arabic properly, the prayer of Jumu’ah is not obligatory on them (in which case they will offer the zuhr prayer)”…
Similar principle has been accepted by the Shafii jurists also. Al-Ramli is one of the famous Shafii jurists of the later days who has been relied upon by the Muftis of Shafii School. He writes:
“And it is a condition (for the validity of Khutbah) that it is delivered in Arabic. This is to follow the way of the Sahabah and their descendants. And to learn Arabic (for the purpose of delivering Khutbah) is Fard al-Kifayah, therefore, it is sufficient that at least one man learns it… But if no one learns it, all of them will be sinful and their Jumu’ah prayer will not be acceptable. Instead, they will have to perform Zuhr prayer………
The Hanbali School is no different from the main stream of the Muslim scholars. They too are of the belief that the Khutbah must be delivered in Arabic. However, they say that if nobody is found who can deliver it in Arabic, then in that case only the Khutbah may be delivered in some other language. But so far as there is a single person who can speak Arabic, it is necessary that he delivers it in Arabic, even though the audience do not understand its meanings. Al-Buhooti, the renowned jurist of the Hanbali School, writes:
“And the Khutbah is not valid if it is delivered in any language other than Arabic when somebody is able to deliver it in Arabic. It is like the recitation of the Holy Qur’an (in prayer) which cannot be done in a non-Arab language. However, the Khutbah in any other language is valid only if nobody can deliver it in Arabic. Nevertheless, the recitation of the Holy Qur’an (as a part of the Khutbah) is not valid except in Arabic. If somebody cannot recite in Arabic, it is obligatory on him to recite a Dhikr instead of a verse of the Holy Qur’an, like in Salah (the person who cannot recite the Qur’anic verses is required to make Dhikr).”
The Hanafi School of Islamic jurisprudence also agrees with the former three schools in the principle that the Friday Khutbah should be delivered in Arabic and it is not permissible to deliver it in any other language. However, there is a slight difference of opinion about some details of this principle. Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad, the two pupils of Imam Abu Hanifah are of the view that a non-Arabic Khutbah is not acceptable in the sense that it cannot fulfil the requirement of Jumu’ah prayer, therefore, no Jumu`ah prayer can be offered after it. Rather, the Khutbah must be delivered again in Arabic without which the following Jumu’ah prayer will not be valid. However, if no one from the community is able to deliver an Arabic Khutbah, then only in that case a non-Arabic Khutbah may fulfil the requirement based on the doctrine of necessity. The view of Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad, in this respect, is close to the views of Imam Shafii and Imam Ahmad bin Hambal.
Imam Abu Hanifah, on the other hand, says that although it is Makrooh Tahreemi (impermissible) to deliver Khutbah in a non-Arab language yet if someone violates this principle and delivers it in any other language, then the requirement of Khutbah will be held as fulfilled and the Jumu`ah prayer offered after it, will be valid…
Some people misunderstood the position of Imam Abu Hanifah in this matter from two different angels:
Firstly, some writers claim that this view represents the earlier position of Imam Abu Hanifah and he had, later on, withdrawn from it and had concurred to the view of his two pupils.
This statement is not correct…
The second misconception with regard to the position of Imam Abu Hanifah in the issue of Khutbah is that some people have misinterpreted his view to say that a non-Arabic Khutbah is quite permissible according to Imam Abu Hanifah.
This is again a wrong statement. Imam Abu Hanifah does not hold it quite permissible to deliver Khutbah in a non-Arabic language. He holds it “Makrooh Tahreeman”, a term almost analogous to ‘impermissible’, which means that it is not allowed to deliver Khutbah in a language other than Arabic. However, if somebody commits this Makrooh (impermissible) act, his Khutbah will not be deemed as void, and the Jumu’ah prayer performed after it, will be valid.
It must be noted here that all those who have allowed some exceptions to the general rule have done so only when a capable person to deliver Arabic Khutbah is not available. But no jurist has ever allowed such a concession to a situation where such a capable person is available but the audience do not understand Arabic. Conversely, each one of them has clearly mentioned that the rule will remain effective even when the audience do not understand the meaning of Khutbah…
It should be remembered that all these juristic rulings were given at a time when Islam had spread all over the world, and the Muslim community was not confined to the Arabian Peninsula; rather Millions of the Muslims belonged to non-Arab countries who did not know Arabic. In the beginning of the Islamic history even Syria, Iraq, Egypt and other Northern countries of Africa were non-Arabs. Their residents did not know Arabic. Moreover, Iran, India, Turkey, China and all the Eastern Muslim countries are still non-Arabs and very few of their residents know Arabic. The need for their Islamic education was too obvious to be doubted…
Still, their consistent practice throughout centuries was that the Khutbah of Jumu’ah was always delivered in Arabic. No one from the non-Arab audience has ever raised objection against it, nor did the leaders of the Muslims ever try to change its language. They knew that there are many other occasions to deliver lectures in the local language to educate people, but the Khutbah of Friday, like Salah, has some peculiar characteristics, which should not be disturbed…
It is not correct to assume that the additional lecture (before adhaan) has no precedent in the earlier days of the Islamic history. In fact, it is reported by several authentic sources that Sayyiduna Umar Radiyallahu Anhu had permitted Sayyiduna Tamim al-Dari Radiyallahu Anhu to give a lecture sermon in the masjid before Sayyiduna Umar Radiyallahu Anhu comes out to deliver the Khutbah of Friday.
This practice of Sayyiduna Umar Radiyallahu Anhu reveals two points; firstly, that such an additional lecture is permissible, and secondly that this additional lecture is meant exclusively to educate people, while the formal Friday Khutbah has other elements, otherwise it was needless to have an additional lecture for education while both were in Arabic…
It is sometimes argued that even if the Khutbah is delivered in a local language, it is always started by some Arabic words containing Hamd (praise to Allah swt) and Salah (prayer for Allah’s blessing) for the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam and at least one verse from the Holy Qur’an. This much is enough for fulfilling the necessary requirements of a valid Arabic Khutbah. After this necessary requirement, the rest of the Khutbah may be delivered in any language.
But this argument overlooks the point that it is a Sunnah that the Arabic Khutbah is followed by the Jumu’ah prayer immediately without considerable gap between the two. Therefore, this practice, too, is not in harmony with the masnoon way of delivering a Khutbah.
Our brothers who insist that the Friday Khutbah must be delivered in a local language are requested to consider the following points in the light of the foregoing discussion:
1. The consistent practice of the Ummah throughout centuries has been to deliver the Friday Khutbah in Arabic even in the non-Arab countries. Why should the contemporary Muslims deviate from the consistent practice?
2. Khutbah is a part of the Jumu`ah prayer, hence a mode of worship. The modes of worship are not open to our rational opinion. They have certain prescribed forms which must remain a permanent act and should never be changed through our rational arguments. Once this door is opened in one form of worship, there is no reason why other forms are not subjected to similar changes. The argument in favour of an Urdu or English Khutbah may open the door for an Urdu or English Adhan and Salah also on the same analogy. The ways of worship are meant for creating a sense of obedience and submission. A Muslim is supposed to perform these acts as an obedient slave of Allah, without questioning the rationality of these acts, otherwise throwing stones on the Jamarat of Mina or rushing across Safa and Marwah are all apparently irrational acts; but, being the slaves of Allah, we have to perform these acts as modes of worship. This is exactly what the word ‘Ibadah’ means. Any alteration in these ways on the basis of one’s opinion is contrary to the very sense and philosophy of ‘Ibadah’ or worship.
3. All the recognised schools of Islamic jurisprudence are unanimous on the point that delivering Friday Khutbah in Arabic is obligatory. Most of the jurists have gone to the extent that in case the Khutbah is delivered in any other language, no Jumu`ah prayer offered after it is valid. Some others (like Imam Abu Hanifah) hold the non-Arabic Khutbah as valid in the sense that the Jumu’ah, prayers offered after it, is not void, yet at the same time they hold this practice to be impermissible, which means that the impermissibility of a non-Arabic Khutbah is a point of consensus between all the recognized schools of Islamic Fiqh…
A deviation from such a consensus can hardly render a service to the Muslim community except to create differences and disputes between them. It may be seen that practically, this deviation has divided Muslims and their mosques into two groups. Even if it is accepted for the sake of argument that the non-Arabic Khutbah is permissible, it is at most permissible and not obligatory, and if a permissible act may cause disunity among the Muslims, the greater interest of the Muslim Ummah requires that it should be abandoned.
[Extracts from Mufti Taqi’s Fatwa]
It can be seen from the above fatwa that it is extremely important that we hold firmly to the way of our pious predecessors. May Allah Ta’ala reward Mufti Taqi Sahib for his fatwa and give us all the ability to be a unified ummah. Ameen.
 Note: This narration may be found in al-Isābah Fi Tazkirat as-Sahabah. A similar narration can be found regarding the practice of Abu Hurayra (Radhiyallu ‘Anhu) in Mustadrak Hakim: 3/585. Allāmah Dhahabi has classed this Hadīth as authentic.
Shaykh Abdul Raheem hafizahullah