The Friday khutbah, like all Islamic rituals, has a purpose. It aims to remind the Muslims of their responsibilities, enjoin good and warn against evil. For this purpose to be achieved, it should be in the language of the people to whom it is delivered, otherwise it will be a mere formality and fail to achieve its purpose.
The Late Sheikh Jad Al-Haqq `Ali Jad Al-Haqq, the former grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, states:
“The Hanifi school of fiqh (jurisprudence) state that it is permissible to deliver the khutbah in a language other than Arabic whether the audience are Arabs or not.
However, the majority of Muslim jurists hold the opinion that one of the conditions of Friday khutbah is that it should be given in Arabic.
The Maliki school of fiqh affirms that the khutbah is to be given in Arabic, and it is not permissible to be delivered in a language other than Arabic, even if the audience are non-Arabs.
The Hanbali school of fiqh, however, holds that if the preacher knows Arabic, then it is a must that the khutbah is in Arabic. If the preacher does not know Arabic, then he is allowed to give it in any other language which he masters whether the audience are Arabs or not. The Qur’anic verses in both cases, however, have to be recited in Arabic.
The Shafi`i school of fiqh bases is of the opinion that one of the conditions of the Friday sermon is that it should be delivered in Arabic. This would be the case if the audience are Arabs. If they are not, then it is not a condition to say it in Arabic. The imam can speak in his language, but the Qur’anic verses have to be recited in Arabic.
I see that since the aim of the Friday sermon is to admonish people, then the opinion of Abu Hanifah should take priority. It goes more with the nature and aim of the congregation.
If one likes to follow the opinion of the majority of the jurists, another alternative can be suggested. The imam can give the two parts of the Friday khutbah, followed by a translation for each in the language of the audience.”
For more information, we’d like to cite the following:
“The sermon doesn’t have to be given in Arabic only. The imam may give it entirely in the language of the local residents, or may give a portion of it in Arabic and another portion in the language of the local people. If we insist on giving the khutbah in Arabic alone, then a lot of non-Arabic speakers will not understand the speech and the purpose of the speech itself will be lost, because its purpose is to make people understand in any possible language, and not to sit and waste their time. Also, the imam can give it in Arabic and another person may stand and translate it for him if the imam doesn’t know the language of the local people. This doesn’t have to be done before and after the adhan; both can be done after the adhan.
Almighty Allah told us in Qur’an: ”We sent not a Messenger except (to teach) in the language of their nation in order to make (things) clear to them…” (Ibrahim: 4). From this verse, we conclude that the Holy Scriptures were revealed in the languages of the people of the Messengers and the Prophets so that they can understand Islam and apply it to their lives. The Prophets and Messengers of Allah also spoke the language(s) of their nation(s). Could you imagine, if Prophet Jesus (peace and blessings be upon him) spoke to the Children of Israel in Latin instead of Aramaic or Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) spoke to the Arabs of Makkah in Persian instead of Arabic?
The purpose of Friday khutbah is to remind the Muslims about their responsibilities and to motivate them to stop evil and promote good in their lives, families and in the community. It is also the purpose of the Friday khutbah to inform the Muslims about the condition of the Ummah and the world. That’s why it is important that the khutbah for Friday and `Eid-ul-Fitr and `Eid-ul-Adha be given, at least partially if not fully, in the language of the people of the city. The Friday khutbah begins with the praises of Allah and includes the blessing for Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and du`a’ (supplication) for the guidance and the Mercy of Allah on the community. It should also include at least one Qur’anic verse. The topic of the khutbah should be relevant to our time and our condition.
Having stated this, the imam and the mosque administration should encourage people to learn Arabic. Imam ash-Shafi`i said, ‘Every Muslim should learn the Arabic language up to his capacity to be able to perform his obligation,’ meaning the prayers. Therefore, the Arabic language should not be neglected at the expense of other languages.”
We would also like to point out that in non-Muslim countries, most people have to leave work during their lunch break to attend the Friday prayer. They usually have a limited time, some of which is spent traveling between work and the mosque. They do not have time to listen to a long khutbah, much less another speech in their own language preceding the adhan. Therefore, giving a speech in the local language before the khutbah does not really serve the purpose it is intended because few people are able to attend it. This is all the more reason why the khutbah should be in the local language and, further, should be well written and succinct.