Speaking other than Arabic and translating the Qur’ān into other languages

بســـم اللــه الرحــمــن الـرحـــيــم

▪️Speaking other than Arabic▪️

Our Shaykh, Muhammad ibn Hizaam -may Allaah preserve him- was asked the following question:

📩 Question:

The Questioner says: Does speaking and writing in non-Muslim languages come under imitating the Kuffar; which we have been prohibited from?

📝 Answer:

If this is done because these languages are held in high esteem, or are beloved, or considered superior to the Arabic language; it enters into the prohibition.

But if it is done due to a necessity; such as addressing the non-Muslims, etc, or because he has recently embraced Islam and is an English speaker and cannot speak Arabic, then there is no problem for him to converse in the language of his upbringing. Nonetheless, he must accustom himself to speaking Arabic and avoid speaking English, except if there’s a needs to.

Here is a benefit from Shaykhul Islaam – may Allah have on him -. In Majmoo’ul Fataawa vol 33, page 255, he says – may Allah have on him –

‘The Salaf were unrelenting in their disapproval of changes to the Arabic tradition, including the way they interacted with one another; this included conversating in other than the Arabic language – unless it was done out of necessity – as mentioned by Imam Malik, Shaafi’ee and Ahmad – may Allah have mercy on them all. In fact, Imam Malik – may Allah have mercy on him – said: ‘Whoever speaks a language other than the Arabic language inside our Masjid should be removed him from it’. He said this despite their (The Salaf) allowance for non-Arabs to speak their language(s) generally. However, they only allowed this if it was necessary, otherwise they disliked it if it was done unnecessarily.

This is all due to the importance of preserving the hallmarks of Islam; Allah ﷻ revealed his book in the Arabic language, sent with it his Arabian Prophet ﷺ and made the Arab nation the best of nations. Therefore, preserving the Arab tradition is part of the preservation of Islam.’

Hence, it’s not befitting for the Muslim authorities to make English studies compulsory at schools. It should only be given as an (optional) specialist subject for whoever wishes to study it; perhaps one may wish to take it up in order to benefit in wordly matters, such as medicine, engineering, pharmacy etc. As far as making it mandatory for all students, then this is not appropriate, and there is no benefit in this. How many students are compelled to study this language without any success, while being prevented from studying subjects which they are gifted in.

Moreover, if this takes the place of learning the Qur’ān and Sunnah, this enters into the prohibition. Although, generally speaking; studying English is permissible and it has its benefits; however, the Muslim must not leave off his religion, or studying the essentials of his religion; such as how to pray and fast.

If he knows all that is obligatory for him to know concerning his religion, it’s permissible for him to undertake/ specialise in academic studies, such as medicine and engineering; because Muslims are in need of this knowledge, just as they are in need of those who have knowledge of these languages to benefit them.

The Salaf used to dislike for Muslims to make it a habit of speaking other than the Arabic language without a need. However, if there’s a need, or a benefit in that, it’s allowed – as it has been authentically reported in The Sunnah that the Prophet ﷺ instructed Zaid Ibn Thaabit to learn Hebrew, so that he could read their books, write to them, translate their speech and to be weary of their plots.

The Rightly Guided Successors would also do this, in addition to writing in other than the Arabic language to newly conquered lands; until they were able to impose the Arabic language upon them. In this case they were compelled to address the people in their native tongues out of necessity.

As for speaking in other than the Arabic language without a need; this was extremely disliked by The Salaf. They warned against this and their statements in this matter are well known. They regarded the Arabic language as part of the religion and (speaking) other languages (unnecessarily) to be a sign of hypocrisy. Which is why, after conquering a city, they would immediately to teach its inhabitants the Arablic language – until (these places) became like clusters of light in darkness.

Thus, Arabic is the language of Islam and the language of the Qur’ān.

📩 Question:

The Questioner says: Is it permissible to translate the Qur’ān into other languages?

📝 Answer:

The Qur’ān must not be translated into other languages; it’s verses may be interpretated (i.e. the meaning of the verses may be translated) into different languages, but it’s not permissible to translate the Qur’an directly.

Allah ﷻ says:

{إِنَّا جَعَلْنَٰهُ قُرْءَٰنًا عَرَبِيًّا لَّعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ}

‘Indeed, We have made it an Arabic Qur’an that you might understand.’
[Az-Zukhruf 43:3]

And He ﷻ said:

{وَإِنَّهُۥ لَتَنزِيلُ رَبِّ ٱلْعَٰلَمِينَ}

‘And indeed, the Qur’an is the revelation of the Lord of the worlds.’

{نَزَلَ بِهِ ٱلرُّوحُ ٱلْأَمِينُ}

‘The Trustworthy Spirit has brought it down.’

{عَلَىٰ قَلْبِكَ لِتَكُونَ مِنَ ٱلْمُنذِرِينَ}

‘Upon your heart, [O Muhammad] – that you may be of the warners -‘

{بِلِسَانٍ عَرَبِىٍّ مُّبِينٍ}

‘In a clear Arabic language.’
(Ash-Shu’ara’ 26:192-195)

So the Qur’an must remain unchanged. However, it’s verses may be explained in different language with the Qur’anic text intact.

It is also not allowed for the Qur’an to be recited in other than Arabic. As for the translations that have been published; they are merely a translation of the meanings of the verses – not a translation of the actual verses themselves.

Translated by:
Abu Sufyaan Saami Al-Ghaani

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Original Fatwa: