New Age Islam
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Islamic Society ( 22 May 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Importance of Friday Sermon: Why does it have to be in Arabic



By Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef (Shahbaz Nadwi), New Age Islam

23 May 2013

Islam being a natural Deen (religion) has established a very vibrant, sound and perfectly natural system of a direct mass communication methodology as it at the same time stipulated a viable and humane economic mutual cooperative system.

The first in Islamic terminology is called Juma sermon and the second is Zakat system. The most significant aspect of the both is that they are both an essential part of Islamic Ibadah (worship system). So the first is a part and parcel of Islamic prayer while the second is the financial form of worship. Here we would like to shed some lights on Juma sermon.

Islam is a collective Deen and this collective aspect is not reflected more than in its Ibadah system. Look at congregative prayer five times a day, at Haj pilgrimage, at Eidan and at Ramazan in every case this spirit is well reflected and more so in Juma prayer. Wherein it is compulsory for every normal Muslim to come to Jama Masjid and to listen to the Khutbah; sermon the imam is suppose to deliver in relation to everyday issues or any important community problem. To serve this purpose the sermon is supposed to be logically in the language the audience would understand, if so then if the audience is Urdu specking people the sermon likely must be in Urdu (at least the first part of it) and the audience is English so let it be in English, logically it will be applied to other languages too. But lo and behold! The case in practice is totally different. Now you go to any mosque in India and Pakistan and even England and America, you will find our Imams, Ulema and Mufties are vehemently adherent to and insist upon delivering the sermon in Arabic language. No matter to which school of thought; Deobandi or Barelvi they belong. Yes there are some exceptions but they are very few. The case is different when the imam is a Salafi or has relations to any Islamic movement as Ikhwan or Jamaat-e-Islami etc. In some cases they make the effort to give an additional sermon in audience’s tongue but the original sermon must still be in Arabic. The Arabic of these traditional sermons is also questionable. Because what sort of Arabic they are accustomed to? Not the live Arabic language which is spoken in the Arabic world but a mixture of old rhymed prose, the pun having some verses of holy Quran and some Ahadith; they play on the words which are written in a book form or the other. I wonder if holy prophet (PBUH) or any companion should come and see this state of affairs will not he be regretted that what Muslim Ulema, who are supposed to be the vice-regent of holy prophet on the earth, have done with this rational religion! Indeed it is reduced nowadays by them to be a laughing stock, isn’t it?

What is the reason? The reason is that Ulema have been for centuries used to imitate their masters, Sufi seers and luminaries of old times whose opinions are no longer relevant to our age. On account of their parochial, often biased views they resist every movement of reform and failed Islam and not the other way round.

In contrast, when we see in the addresses and sermons given by the holy prophet narrated in the Hadith collections and Sirah literature we find them full of life, relevance and vitality. In terms of contents they are very rich, talking on issues, problems and challenges of contemporary life of prophet along with enlightening the audience with religious realities regarding life after death and other Qur’anic injunctions etc. So if Ulema have insisted on relying and repeating the sermons of Prophets reported in Hadith books, it will be all right and we should be in consonance with. But here the case is totally different as I mentioned. Anyone can check the veracity of this point.

Ulema only took the matter verbatim and insist that the language of Juma sermon should be Arabic, it means that they knowingly or unknowingly disregard the spirit of Khutba as well as the objectives of Sharia.

Most of these Ulema belong ideologically to Hanafi School of Fiqh. The great Imam Abu Hanifa was a luminary, great intellectual and a rare combination of knowledge, thought and vision. He was a practical man, regarded as a sign of Allah in reasoning among his contemporaries. In case of a person whose mother tongue was not Arabic and whose tongue in reciting Surah Al-Fatiha was stalling, he asked him to recite in his mother tongue, say, Persian.

Now compare this stand of the great Imam with the rigid stance of our Ulema nowadays who are not allowing the Juma sermon to be given in Urdu and other languages.

Ulema argue for the imperativeness of Juma Khutba in Arabic. The contend that the holy prophet and his companions never had given this sermon in any language other than Arabic. Another argument is that giving the sermon in Arabic will promote Arabic language and Muslims should try to learn it as it is the language of the Quran. The premise of the first argument is totally baseless. The prophet was in Madina, and Madina was an Arabic city. So he did not need to deliver this sermon in any other language. It would be absurd. Secondly it would be very naïve to seek to promote Arabic language through Khutba. Languages are preserved, promoted and developed only by political power and market forces.  

Moreover, we live in an information age. Information technology and fastest growing communication means are ruling the roost. The world media is being run most probably by some Jewish hands who rule the world by proxy. Muslims around the world, have no say in this sad state of affairs, except a few new initiatives as Al Jazeera and the likes. This situation is worse in India as a whole Muslim community has no role in national media. Due to many factors Ummah will not be able for times to come to cope with the situation. It could only utilize and develop the alternative means of direct mass communication. In my humble view Juma sermon could be used for the same .This is about the modern mass communication. But more repugnant thing in terms of inter and intra community means of communication namely Juma sermon, is that it is neither utilised by our imams and Mufties nor allowed.

Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef is the director of Foundation for Islamic Studies, New Delhi, he can be reached on: