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  The Language of Khutbat-al- Jumu’ah

By Dr. Omar Afzal (PhD, Alim) Dr. Omar Afzal can be reached by E-Mail:

Allah (ST) says: O You who have attained to faith! When the call to Prayer is sounded on the day of congregation (Jumu’ah), hasten to the remembrance of God…  (62:9)

The Messenger (S) did not pray any Jumu’ah without preceding it with a Khutbah.

The Khutbah of the Messenger (S) consisted of two parts; in between them he sat down (for a short while); He used to recite from the Qur’an, and added reminders for the people (of their obligations, etc.)   (Muslim)

On the issue of whether Khutbah (of Jumu’ah, Eidain, etc.) must be only in Arabic or any other language may be used to fulfill the requirement, the opinions differ among the Ulema from the very early days and the question was seriously debated for centuries.

Khutbah in Arabic was preferred by the Fuqaha. However, Imam Abu Hanifa allowed Khutbah in Farsi (and as an extension, in other languages) even for Khateebs who were well versed in Arabic. Imam Abu Yusuf, and Imam Muhammad, like most Ulema, permit giving Khutbah in a language other than Arabic only for those who are unable to pronounce Arabic well, while making an effort to master it. (Durr al-Mukhtaar: Kitab as-Salaat, Radd al-Muhtaar, v.2:p.48).

A Khutbah may be delivered in any of the following ways:

  1. Both parts only in Arabic;
  2. The first Khutbah partly in Arabic, and partly in another language, but the second Khutbah only in Arabic;
  3. Both the first and the second Khutaba partly in Arabic and partly in other language;
  4. Both Khutab in another language after the essential Tashahhud in Arabic;
  5. Both parts in another language, with no Arabic.

For detailed arguments in support of the “strictly in Arabic” position see Maulana Mufti Shafi’s Jawhir al-Fiqh v.1 pp.349-369 (1350 a.h), and Fatawa Rahimia (v.1), 1etc.

Mufti Kifayatullah (Kifayat al-Mufti v. 3 #401,403, 411,420, 430-431) supports “Arabic only” position though he agrees that Khutbah wholly or mostly in another language also fulfills the requirement (“Ada” but Makrooh”).

In #432 he modified his position further: “Khutbah in Urdu is against the ‘preferred’ position, but is “admissible.” (Khilaaf-e aula but Ada)

Arab Ulema without any reservation support Khutbah in any language. Fataawa from Al-Azhar, and other centers of learning see nothing wrong in (b, c, d, and e) positions of mixing the languages in one or both, or in a language other than Arabic, if the congregation does not understand Arabic well. (Khutab al-Jumu’ah wal-Eidain By Azhar Ulema: pp.6-9)

Opinions differ about the second, fourth and fifth positions among the Ulema in the Indian sub-continent. All of these positions except the last one are acceptable in varying degrees to most. They were a common practice especially after the seventeenth century in parts of the world where Arabic was not the language of the masses, and the need was felt to convey the information contained in the Khutbah to the maximum number of the audience in the language spoken locally.

Khutbah for Mass Instruction

Fataawa supporting part Arabic and part another language Khutbas argue that the Messenger (S) used his Khutbah as a means of instruction and mass education for day-to-day Islamic affairs.

The advent of Surah Jumu’a’s, ordering Muslim to hurry for Jumu’ah and not to abandon the Khateeb while he is standing on the pulpit for worldly gains also confirms it.

Maximum effectiveness of any message is possible only if the listeners understand it clearly. Ulema who allow Khutba in other languages have emphasized the point that if the sermon is limited to a language not understood by the audience, then it’s impact is lost.

A large number of Ulema, including Ahal-al-Hadith Ulema, Shah Abdul Haq Muhaddith Dehlavi, Maulana Abdul-Hai Firangi Mahli, Maulana Muhammad Ali Mungeri, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (earlier opinion, with some restrictions), Maulana Maududi, etc. wrote in support of Khutba’s validity in local languages and dialects. Nawawi, Shah Wali-Ullah and others insist on Arabic to keep the Muslims attached to the language of the Qur’an.

Ulema.from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, especially of the Deoband school strongly oppose interjecting any non-Arabic segments, even a translation, an explanatory note, or a poetic couplet in Arabic, Persian, or Urdu in Khutbah, though traditionally it was very common for centuries.

Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanavi (Fatawa Ashrafiya) also allowed occasional use of short Urdu and Persian translations, couplets and explanatory notes in the local dialect, if it helped the listeners understand the Aayat, or Hadith. However, later he appears to have modified his position after Mufti Mohammad Shafi wrote his treatise on the subject.

Those who insist on Arabic only Khutbah argue that:

  1. Khutbah replaces two Raka’at of Zuhr. The prayers are valid only in Arabic. Hence, Khutbah should also be in Arabic only.
  2. Khutbah is “Dhikr, and an integral part of the Jumu’ah prayer. It can be only in Arabic as no part of the prayer is in any language other than Arabic is permissible.
  3. Khutbah in Arabic is a Sunnah Muakkadah. Disregarding a Sunnah Muakkadah is a sin.
  4. Khutbah in Arabic was the consensus of the Ummah for the last 1400 years. The Khulafa, the Companions, and the generations following them did not use any other language in Khutbah when they reached far off lands and Arabic was not spoken there. They might have felt the need for reaching out to non-Arabic speakers, but kept Khutbah in Arabic.
  5. Many Companions knew or later learned Roman, Persian, Armenian, Coptic, and other languages. But the Khutbah was always given in Arabic. They did not ask a native dialect speaker to translate their Khutbah for others, etc.

For details see Jawahir al-Fiqh (v.1, pp 349-369), Imdad al Fataawa (v.1 pp 646-665), Al-Mughni (v.1: p. 350), etc.

Those who see nothing wrong in the use of a local language along with the Arabic in Khutbah (following the recitation of “masnoon” parts in Arabic) counter the above arguments by saying:

  1. Khutbah in lieu of the two Raka’at of Zuhr does not mean that the same conditions apply for the Khutbah to be valid as for the validity of the prayers.

(For example, the prayer is valid only if facing towards the Qiblah, but Khutbah is just the opposite. Khutbah is valid without ablution, even in the condition of uncleanness (Janabat), if inadvertent, and has not to be repeated. A prayer is invalid in both situations, and must be repeated. One cannot engage in conversation while in prayer, but the Messenger (S) himself, the Khulafa and the Companions entered into conversation or instructed individuals for doing something while standing on the pulpit in the middle of a Khutbah.)

  1. Prayer is valid only during its prescribed time, but a Khutbah may begin before Zawaal.
  2. If Jumu’ah prayer becomes invalid (Fasid) then only the prayer is repeated, and not the Khutbah.
  3. The Messenger (S) used to repeat his phrases, especially his instruction to make them clear and well understood. Khutbah, if explained in the local language of the congregation fulfils this tradition. It is just the repetition of what was said in Arabic for the purpose of clarity.
  4. The Messenger (S) in Hajjatul-Wida asked the Muslims present there to listen to him “to take his message to those who are not present at the moment.” Baidawi, the famous commentator on the Qur’an, includes the “translation” of Arabic text into other languages under this category. Hence parts of Khutba may be delivered in non-Arabic languages.
  5. Khutbah is also “Mawizah” (counsel and exhortation) besides “Tadhkeer” (Reminding), and “Dhikr” (Remembrance of Allah). If it is in a language not understood by the congregation, then its usefulness is drastically diminished and its impact negligible, as we see happening during the last few centuries.
  6. The Sunnah and other obligatory parts (Hamd, Tashahhud, etc.) of Khutbah have already been completed in Arabic before the non-Arabic sermon. There is no harm in adding something in the native language if it is effective in fulfilling the purpose of the Khutbah.
  7. Khutbah in Arabic was a “Sunnah” by “Aadat” (habitual), and not an obligation. Languages may differ from place to place and from time to time, and yet the requirement of Khutbah satisfied.
  8. “Ta’amul of the Companions” does not make something “obligatory.”
  9. Khutbah is the most appropriate means of mass communication and instruction, especially now that the Muslim masses need guidance on Islamic issues, etc.

For more details see Dehlavi’s “Safar as-Sa’aadah”, Fataawa Firangi Mahal, Thanawi’s Majmu’atul-Fataawa, Kifayatul Mufti, Fatawa Qadriya (v.1: p 172-173, Fatawa Naziria (v.1:p.612-615), Fataawa Azimabadi (p.179, Tafhimat (v.2: p.411), Jadid Fiqhi Masa’il , etc.

Taking into consideration the competing arguments from both sides and a common practice in most of the Mosques and Islamic centers in the USA, Canada (MSA:5/17/1994) and around the world, a model Khutbah may be in two parts:


  1. The first Khutbah of 10-15 minutes long with the “Masnoon” parts recited in Arabic, followed by explanatory talk of an Aayh, and a Hadith, relevant to the contemporary Muslim life in the local language. The Second Khutbah of 4-5 minutes wholly in Arabic.

(Allah (ST) praised His messengers for wisdom and oratory (28:34,38:20, etc.), and used the local language to convey Allah’s message effectively (14:4)

  1. The recitation of the Qur’an in Jumu’ah prayer should be 8-10 minutes to conform to the instruction in Hadith: Offer a longer prayer and deliver a shorter Khutbah (Muslim, etc.)

Jumu’ah is the most appropriate forum for mass communication. In the West, including the USA and Canada where the younger generation of the Muslims is raised in a non-Islamic or Islam-resistant culture Friday Khutbah is the most effective means of raising their Islamicity and sense of belonging to the universal “Khair-I Ummah”.

Khutbah should never be limited to only explaining the virtues of Salaat, Saum and other Islamic rituals. Some Khateebs shout constantly at the audience as if threatening them how they will be thrown into the hell-fire will change their behavior. Others promise lavish rewards for doing small good deeds like fasting a particular day, or praying a few extra nawafil. Islam balances between the rights of Allah, and the duties towards human beings. Amr Bil-Ma’ruf wa Nahi an al-Munkar does not mean restricting the Khutbah to a few traditional topics. Khateeb should also address the most pressing contemporary issues facing the Ummah in the light of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. He is responsible to create awareness, and keep the attention of the Muslim masses focused on real life issues. The best Khateeb is one who delivers precise and to the point logical Khutbah, without being vacuous in a lengthy prattle.


  1. Khutbah must have the following “Essential elements” (Arkan):

Ibn Hanbal: 1)Hamd (Glorifications of Allah), 2) Tashahhud ( ), including Daruud ( ); 3) Verse from the Qur’an; a Hadith as Mauizah (exhortation/Advice); 4) Tandhir and Tabsheer (Admoniation and …..); 5) Du’a for Muslims.

   Malik: TaHdhir ( ); Tabsheer ( ); Other parts are Sunnah;

Abu Hanifa: Dhikr (Allah), Hamd, Tashahhud fulfill the requirement though other components should also be added.

Shurut: 1) Khutbah in two parts, both preceding the prayer;

      2) Sitting in between the two;

3) Niyyah (Intent) (If not intended as Khutbah for Jumu’ah, then counted as a talk. Khutbah again a must before the prayer.

      4) In Arabic (Yusuf Islahi (English): pp. 233-234)

Khutbah was a Talk

  1. The Messenger’s (S) Khutbah was a talk= Make a pulpit a for me so that I may sit on it when I am talking to people (Kallamtun-Naas)    (Bukhari: 868)
  2. His Khutbah was not limited to Jumu’ah and Eidain only. He used them 1) to convey his Allah’s decisions (as, for the battle of Badr, absolving Aisha (R), and the companions who did not join the Muslims for Tabuk, etc), solutions for long tern issue (Hajjatul Wida’a), contemporary situations (First Khutbah in Medina, Khutbah following the victorious entry in Makkah, After the distribution of booty at Hunain., (Tabari, al-Bayaan wal-Tabyin, Usud al-Ghabah)), etc.

Khutbah was precise and short

  1. Samurah b. Jundub: The Messenger did not prolong “Mau’izah” in Jumu’ah. It used to be precise and easy.       (Muslim: 1102)
  2. Ammar: Extending the prayer and shortening the Khutbah are signs of one’s wisdom; therefore, prolong the prayer and compress the Khutbah.  (Muslim: )

His Manner of delivery

  1. Jabir: During the Khutbah the Messenger (S)’s eyes would become red, voice raised, and anger level elevated, as if he is inspiring awe in an army.  (Muslim: )
  2. Aisha (R): The Messenger (S)’s manner of speech was neither rapid fire like your, nor low-pitched that people could not understand him. He was vividly precise and very clear  (Ibn Sa’d:v.1 p.375)

Interrupting the Khutbah

  1. The Messenger (S) came down from the pulpit (after Khutbah) and talked to people (before starting the prayer.     (Tirmidhi, Nasai)
  2. Abu Buraidah: Hasan and Husain (when very young) came in red shirts while the Messnger (S) was delivering Khutbah. He came down from the mimbar, carried them in his lap and went back to continue his Khutbah.    (Abu Daud)
  3. The Messenger (S) used to instruct individuals during the Khutbah (Bukhari: 881, Tirmidhi: ); 

   (Whoever comes to Jumu’ah prayer must take shower (Bukhari:780);

Jabir: The Messenger (S) was giving Khutbah when he instructed people to sit down. Ibn Masud arrived and hearing this sat down at the door of the Masjid. The Messenger (S) saw him and asked him to come closer to him (Abu Daud);

He prayed for relief from Allah for…by raising hands (Bukhari :883-884);

Explained the Solar eclipse phenomenon

  1. The Messenger’s (S) Khutbah after solar eclipse (Bukhari:873);

Political instruction

  1. After the battle of Hunain  (Bukhari :874);

About Ansar on death-bed.  (Bukhari; 878)

Explained his decisions

11. Tahajjud/Taraweeh (Bukhari:875)

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