Allamah Lakhnawis view on the language of Jumuah sermon

Allamah Lakhnawis view on the language of Jumuah sermon

ʿAllāmah Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Ḥayy Laknawi’s view on Jumuʿah Khuṭbah language

Language of Jumuʿah Sermon

By ʿAllāmah Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Ḥayy Laknawī (d. 1304/1886)

Translator’s Introduction

The language of the Jumuʿah sermon and whether it can be, and indeed should be, delivered in non-Arabic is a contentious issue. There are a range of opinions on this and the practice across the world is varied. The purpose of the extract below is to outline the position of the famous expert on ḥadīth and jurisprudence, ʿAllāmah Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Ḥayy Laknawī (d. 1304/1886). The extract below is taken from a detailed treatise of his, Ākām al-Nafāʾis Fī Adāʾ al-Adhkār Bi Lisān al-Fāris (p. 43), which explores the use of non-Arabic for different acts of worship.

The Position of ʿAllāmah Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Ḥayy Laknawī

ʿAllāmah Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Ḥayy Laknawī writes after outlining the Ḥanafī stance:

“I am asked repeatedly about this issue and I have answered that according to Imam Abū Ḥanīfah, it is permissible[1] irrespective [of whether he is capable of delivering the sermon in Arabic or not] but it is makrūh (detestable). So a few colleagues critiqued me because the purpose of the sermon is to explain to the attendees and educate the listeners, and delivering a sermon in Arabic does not achieve this in non-Arab countries for most of the attendees. Therefore, it should be permissible altogether without any karāhah (detestability). So I replied that the karāhah is because of contravening the Sunnah, as the Prophet ﷺ and his companions always delivered the sermon in Arabic. And it has not been narrated from any one of them that they delivered any sermon, including the non-Jumuʿah sermons, in any language besides Arabic. So the objector responded that in that era and region, there was no need to change the language because the attendees were Arabs and their language was Arabic. As for these regions, the situation is otherwise and therefore a change is required. So I responded by saying that the Prophetic sermons were attended by people from Persia, Rome, Abyssinia and non-Arab regions, and the Prophet ﷺ did not change his sermon ever, and was never advised to do so. It is a fact that some of them did not understand the Arabic language at all. There were others who only understood a little. And it has been reported that the Prophet ﷺ after completing the sermon on certain Eids would attend the gathering of women and advise them and deliver a sermon, when he thought that the sermon had not reached them due to the distance. However, it has not been transmitted, not even via singular narrations, that he organised a separate gathering for those who did not understand Arabic and advised them and delivered a sermon in a non-Arabic language. It should not be thought that the [reason why] the Prophet ﷺ [did not deliver a sermon in non-Arabic languages is because he] was not proficient in non-Arabic languages, otherwise he would have delivered a sermon in those languages. This is because, whilst acknowledging the basis of this, we would say that some companions like Zayd ibn Thābit [may Allah be pleased with him] had learnt the Persian, Roman, Ethiopian and other languages as explicitly mentioned in al-Iʿlām Bi Sīrah al-Nabī ʿAlayh al-Ṣalāh Wa al-Salām and other books of biographies. So then why did the Prophet ﷺ not instruct him to deliver the sermon to them and advise them in their language? Thus, the need to deliver the sermon in a non-Arabic language to explain to the non-Arabs existed in the first three eras. Despite this, no one from that era has reported from anyone that this occurred. This is the strongest proof for its detestability.

From another perspective, the sermon in Persian and other languages besides Arabic is a Bidʿah (innovation), and every innovation is ḍalālah (misguidance).[2] And the least status of any wrong is karāhah (detestability). Thus, the sermon in a non-Arabic language is detestable. And the reason for it being a Bidʿah is that it did not exist in the [first] three eras. This could have been due to lack of need, or the presence of an obstacle, or not being conscious of the need, or laziness, or due to its detestability and lack of legitimacy. The first two reasons can be discounted because we have already mentioned that the need in that era was present, although in relation to our countries the need was less. There was no obstacle to it at all because they were capable of [delivering sermons in] non-Arabic languages. Similarly, the third and fourth reasons can be discounted because both reasons are far from the Prophet ﷺ, his companions and their followers especially in religious matters. In fact, such is not thinkable in respect of scholars of Sharīʿah let alone them [i.e. the Prophet ﷺ, his companions and their followers]. So as these four reasons have been discounted, the detestability [reason] is determined.

If a person objects that every Bidʿah (innovation) is not misguidance, as some of it is good and necessary, some of it is desirable and some of it is permissible. And therefore the Persian sermon being a Bidʿah does not necessitate that it is detestable and wrong.

We respond that the generality of the saying of the Prophet ﷺ “Every Bidʿah is misguidance” is in relation to Bidʿah Sharʿiyyah (innovation in relation to the religious perspective, a phrase used to contrast it with the linguistic innovation that may have a basis in the Sharīʿah), as I have researched in my article Tuḥfah al-Akhyār Fī Iḥyāʾ Sunnah Sayyid al-Abrār, and in my article Iqāmah al-Ḥujjah ʿAlā Anna al-Ikthār Fī al-Taʿbbud Laysa Bi Bidʿah.”

Shaykh ʿAbd al-Ḥayy Laknawī proceeds to refute the categorisation of Bidʿah Ḥasanah (good) and Sayyiʾah (bad)[3] and then writes:

“The sermon in Persian which they have innovated and believe it is good; its sole reason is that non-Arabs do not understand Arabic. And this reason existed in the time of the best of creation ﷺ. If someone is uncertain about this, then there is no ambiguity regarding this in the era of the companions and their followers and those who followed them from the jurist Imams, when distant cities and vast regions were conquered and most of Abyssinia, Rome and Persia and others became Muslims. And they attended the gatherings of Jumuʿahs and Eids and other gatherings from the emblems of Islam. The majority of them did not understand the Arabic language. Despite this, no one delivered a sermon to them in a non-Arabic language. Thus, when the existence of the reason [i.e. the non-Arabs not understanding Arabic] has been affirmed in that era, and the reasons of an obstacle or laziness and similar reasons have been discounted through established principles, the only reason that remains is karāhah (detestability). This is the least from the stages of ḍalālah (misguidance).

The solution at this juncture which must be adopted is that just as the sermon has been prescribed to educate and the speakers and scholars have been instructed to teach, the unaware must be instructed to acquire knowledge. As the Prophet ﷺ said, “Seeking knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim”, as transmitted by Ibn ʿAdī and Bayhaqī from the narration of Anas, and Khaṭīb from the narration of Ḥusayn ibn ʿAlī, and Ṭabarānī from the narration of Ibn ʿAbbās. It has also been transmitted from the narrations of Ibn ʿUmar, Ibn Masʿūd, Jābir, Abū Saʿīd and others [may Allah be pleased with them all]. Some of the chains are good and most are weak, but they strengthen one another. This is why some have classified it as ḥasan (agreeable), such as Mizzī as explicitly stated by Suyūṭī.

When the majority of our Sharīʿah is in Arabic, it is compulsory on the people to learn a sufficient amount of the language through which the need can be fulfilled. This is because the accessory to fulfilling an obligation is also obligatory. It is based on this [principle] that scholars have explicitly mentioned that it is obligatory to acquire sufficient knowledge of Arabic morphology and syntax to understand the Sharīʿah. Thus, if the attendees do not understand the Arabic sermon, the lack of understanding shall be attributed to them and not to those delivering the sermon. It is therefore not necessary for the speakers to change the [mode of the] Arabic language and speak in a language understood by those who do not understand it.

I wish I knew what the person would say regarding the Qurʾān which is in Arabic. There is no doubt that its revelation is for reflection and remembrance, and understanding its meaning to act on its message, which for the non-Arabs is extremely difficult. So would it be permissible to recite the Qurʾān in Persian or write it for them in Persian to eliminate the difficulty? Never! Rather, by Allah, they are obliged to acquire that which will make it easy for them to understand the Qurʾān and acquire its knowledge. You can apply this principle to the Prophetic narrations and all aspects of Sharīʿah that have been transmitted in Arabic.

Perhaps you have realised from what we have stated that the ruling for reading the Adhkār of Ṣalāḥ in Persian is the same, in that it is permissible, however it is makrūh (detestable) and a Bidʿah (innovation).

If you say, so then what is the meaning of their statement that such and such is permissible?

I say that the jawāz (admissibility/validity) is another matter and jawāz without karāhah (permissibility without detestability) is another matter, and one does not necessitate the other. The scholars suffice with the mention of jawāz without negating karāhah. This does not negate the karāhah. The explanation of this is that there are two dimensions to the sermon: firstly, the sermon as a condition for the Jumuʿah Ṣalāh, and secondly the sermon as an act of worship in its own right. For each dimension, there is a separate description. So, the meaning of their statement that the sermon is permissible is that it is sufficient to fulfil the condition and the validity of Jumuʿah Ṣalāh. This does not necessitate that it is free from Bidʿah and karāhah based on the second dimension.”[4]

Translation and footnotes by Yusuf Shabbir. Source: Ākām al-Nafāʾis Fī Adāʾ al-Adhkār Bi Lisān al-Fāris (p. 43), Majmūʿah Rasāʾil al-Laknawī, volume 4. Article can be reproduced with footnotes.


[1] The term jawāz has been translated as permissible based on the most frequent use of the term. However, according to the author, it refers to validity in the context of this issue as outlined in the article.

[2] The phrase “every innovation is misguidance” is part of a saying of the Prophet ﷺ, as transmitted in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim (867).

[3] The categorisation of Bidʿah (innovation) into two types Ḥasanah (good) and Sayyiʾah (bad) and the five categories outlined by ʿIzz al-Dīn ibn ʿAbd al-Salām (d. 660/1262) has been refuted by many scholars including Imam Shāṭibī (d. 790/1388), ʿAllāmah Ibn al-Ḥāj (d. 737/1336), Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyah (d. 728/1328), Mujaddid Alf Thānī Shaykh Aḥmad Sarhindī (d. 1079/1668), Shaykh Rashīd Aḥmad Gangohī (d. 1323/1905), Shaykh al-Hind Mawlānā Maḥmūd Ḥasan Deobandī (d. 1339/1920), ʿAllāmah Anwar Shāh Kashmīrī (d. 1352/1933), ʿAllāmah Shabbīr Aḥmad ʿUthmānī (d. 1369/1949), Mufti Rashīd Aḥmad Ludyānwī (d. 1422/2002) along with ʿAllāmah ʿAbd al-Ḥayy Laknawī (d. 1304/1886) and many others. For further details, refer to Tanshīṭ al-Ādhān Min Kitāb al-Arbaʿīn Fī al-Adhān (p. 145).

[4] An example to illustrate the difference between validity and permissibility is the issue of pronouncing three divorces together or divorce in the state of menstruation. Both are impermissible by consensus. However, in both scenarios, the divorce will occur according to the majority of scholars.