Prayer & supplication: Must it be in Arabic?

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Question:
Many of us speak little Arabic. Is it permissible to use one’s mother tongue in saying our supplication during various stages of prayer? A friend of mine says that all supplications during prayer must be in Arabic. I feel that the Prophet and his companions used Arabic because it was their mother tongue. Please comment. If a person does not speak Arabic at all, but has learned the meaning of the Qur’an in his language, can he use such translation in his prayer?

Answer:
All scholars agree that anyone who offers prayers must read the Al-Fatihah and the Qur’an in Arabic. It is not possible to use translation.

If a person does not know the Fatihah, but knows another passage of the Qur’an, he is required to say in each rak’ah a passage of similar length to the Fatihah. If he does not know any part of the Qur’an in Arabic, he must learn.

If he fears that he would miss his prayers before he could learn, he should glorify Allah, using the well known formula: Subhan Allah, Alhamdulillah, La ilaha illa Allah, Allahu Akbar, la hawla wala qowwata illa billah.

If a person cannot learn all these five phrases, he learns what he can of them and repeats them. This is the case of a man who could not learn any verse of the Qur’an; the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) taught him a few simple phrases in Arabic to repeat them in his prayers. He did not tell him to glorify Allah in silence.

Therefore, when you offer your prayer, you should say the Qur’an in Arabic and also any glorification or supplication. When you have finished your prayers, you can say any supplication in your language.

Supplication in prayer can concentrate on what you have learned to say in Arabic. If you learn one sentence, to appeal to Allah to admit you into heaven and spare you any punishment in the hereafter, that is more than sufficient.

You can include everything else in your supplication after prayer in your language. It is not true that the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) and his companions used Arabic because it was their mother tongue. The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) used Arabic in prayer because he had to read the Qur’an in prayer and the Qur’an, Allah’s words, is in Arabic. Any translation of it is not the Qur’an, but an explanation of its meaning. That translator may have to change the order of the original text in order to fit his text with the grammar into which he is translating. No one can change the order of the Qur’anic words.

Had Allah wanted the Prophet to offer his prayers in any other language, He would have told him so and would have made it easy for him to learn that language. But Allah wants us to use His Book in our prayer. As it is well known to everyone, His Book has been revealed in Arabic.

 
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