Almost unbelievably, many traditional scholars, even in Western and other non-Arab lands, still hold that the Friday sermon must be given entirely in Arabic, and (for some) that the Friday prayers are invalid otherwise! Here is a very concise fatwa from the late Shaykh Ibn Baz of Saudi Arabia that confirms a more reasonable and common-sense position, i.e. that the Friday sermon must be understandable to the audience and therefore must be given in whichever language or language(s) that helps to achieve this aim.
In 1998 while I was living in Portsmouth, I had a discussion with some traditionally-trained imams and khatibs from the Indian sub-continent over this issue. They were adamant that it was not permitted to use a language other than Arabic in the Friday sermon.
I also have in my possession a published fatwa of the respected Mufti Taqi Usmani of Pakistan supporting the latter view based on the Hanafi and other schools of law. He even says in this fatwa that “the purpose of the Friday sermon is not to remind or admonish, but for the community to hear a recited Arabic sermon” (my paraphrase). To me, this is excessive traditionalism that is utterly unreasonable, and based on merely copying fathers and forefathers. However, that is an old fatwa and I do hope that the esteemed Shaykh Taqi Usmani has moved on from it or retracted it. Does anyone know if he has?Of course, those who stick to Arabic-only khutbahs in non-Arabic congregations usually have a discourse (bayan) beforehand in English, Urdu, Bengali or other local language. This serves the purpose of teaching and admonition, but the rules of the sermon (khutbah) do not apply: e.g. people can talk amongst themselves during the discourse and do not have to listen attentively. Sidi Ahmad Thomson once told me that another method they used to use at the Ihsan Mosque in Norwich was for the sermon to be Arabic-only but that it was translated into English after the prayer, because they thought Maliki law prohibited non-Arabic sermons. Those who wished to understand what was said would therefore need to stay for another session after the sermon and prayer. I firmly believe that the best method, and the one closest to the Sunnah (in its spirit, without dry legalism or madhhabism) is to combine Arabic (especially for quoting the Qur’an, Hadith, etc.) with the local language(s), and that is the method we have employed at Tawhid Mosque ever since it was founded in the 1980’s. Regent’s Park Mosque have always used this method also, ever since I can remember attending Friday prayers there as a child in the 1970’s. Remember, the issue of Latin-only Bibles and Sunday Masses vs. local languages was one of the issues during the Christian Reformation. Deja vu? Friday sermons in non-Arabic languages