Question: A writer says, "Every nation should recite surahs and ayahs through its own mother tongue. That is, people can perform salat by reciting their translations." Is it true?
The following is written in the preface of the ma'al of the Qur'an al-karim prepared by Presidency of Religious Affairs of Turkey:
"The Quran al-karim cannot be properly translated into any other language, Turkish or else. The explanations made under the light of former tafsirs may be called maal (explanations), rather than translations. It is not permissible to consider the words used to contain the meaning of the Quran al-karim as equal to the Qur'an itself or to recite these words in salat. A translated version could never replace its original."
Hadrat Ibn Hajar al-Makki states:
"It is haram according to the unanimity (of scholars) to write the Quran al-karim in any letters other than Arabic or to translate it into any other language and then read it in the name of reading the Quran al-karim. It is haram to write it in letters other than Arabic or to read the Quran which is written so. It is haram according to the unanimity even to change the Quran by writing it in Arabic letters in the way as it is read" (Fatawa-i Fiqhiyya, p. 37).
Question: You say that it is not permissible to use the word god instead of Allah. I served as a muadhdhin from 1940 to 1950. I said "God is great" instead of "Allahu akbar." I always recited adhan and iqamah in Turkish. Now I perform salats through translations of verses. There is no hardship in our religion. God does not charge a person beyond his/her capacity. Do not interfere, and let every nation do ibadah in its own mother tongue. We cannot make anyone an Arab by force. The essence of Islam is purity and good moral qualities, not language. Whatever language you use in ibadah, there is nothing wrong with it, is it?
No, it is not true. If one recites surahs and ayahs in Arabic during salat but only says "God is great" or something else instead of "Allahu akbar," it is written in all fiqh books that one's salat will be invalid and unacceptable. For example, this fact is written explicitly in Radd-ul-Mukhtar. Similarly, it is essential to recite the prayers (du'a) said before salam in Arabic, too. Even saying prayers not mentioned in the Qur'an al-karim or hadith-i sharifs nullifies salat. All scholars said unanimously that a salat performed in a language except Arabic is invalid. (Fatawa-i Hindiyya)
If we sing other countries' national anthems through translation and if they sing ours through translation too, it is not considered appropriate. Just as it is necessary to obey the law, so we must perform salat as Allahu ta'ala ordered. There is easiness and facilitation in our religion, but one cannot change the religion as one wishes.
For example, your name is, say, Ismah, which means sinlessness and purity. If one called you Purity instead of Ismah, what would you say? It is very odd to call a person by the translation of his/her name. Then how can it be permissible to say surahs in Turkish in salat?
In Islamic matters, neither your opinion nor ours counts. What counts is what is written in credible fiqh books. The language used in ibadah is Arabic, which is ordered by Allahu ta'ala. We must do it in the way the Owner of the religion wants. To want to do it otherwise goes against Islam. To consider the translation of the Qur'an al-karim to be equal to the Qur'an itself or to recite it in salat is never permissible. Allahu ta'ala says in the Qur'an al-karim: "My book is in Arabic. I sent the Qur'an down in the Arabic language." Then, the totality of the words, letters, and meanings which Allahu taala sent down through the angel is the Quran. If it is translated into another language or even into Arabic, the translation is not the Quran, but an explanation of it. Also, if one of its letters is changed even without the meaning being defiled, it is not the Quran anymore.
It is written in Fatawa-i fiqhiyya:
"It is haram according to the unanimity (of scholars) to translate the Qur'an al-karim into any other language and then read it in the name of reading the Quran al-karim. It is haram according to the unanimity of scholars even to change the Quran by writing it in Arabic letters in the way as it is read. When the Qur'an is translated into other languages, the inimitability of Allahs word is defiled, and the divine poetry changes. For such reasons, one is not permitted to recite translations of the Qur'an al-karim in salat."
Outside of salat, it is permissible for people to make du'a in their own languages. They should preach and give advice in their own language, and it applies to all other religious services.
The decision of Presidency of Religious Affairs:
The 103rd decision dated December 4, 1997, of High Board of Religious Affairs of Presidency of Religious Affairs of Turkey is as follows in brief:
Based on the verse (that means) "Read from the Qur'an that which is easy for you," our Master the Prophet said, "Recite from the Qur'an what is easy for you to recite of what you know by heart." Therefore, reciting the Qur'an al-karim in salat is a fard act established by the Qur'an, sunnat, and ijma. The Qur'an was revealed to the heart of the Messenger of Allah not only as meaning but also with words. The meanings conveyed with words except these words are not the Qur'an because the meanings verbalized with the words other than the words in which it was revealed, be it in Arabic, are not the Qur'an. The term Qur'an consists of not only meanings but also their words. Therefore, Islamic scholars are unanimous in that a translation of the Qur'an cannot be called the Qur'an and that it cannot provide a substitute for it.
After Cemal Effendi, the then imam of the Göztepe Mosque, recited the translation of the Qur'an al-karim in Salat al-Jumu'ah in 1926, the consultation committee of Istanbul Müftülüğü (Istanbul mufti's office), with the signature of Rıfat Börekçi as well, the then president of Religious Affairs of Turkey, issued a decision:
"Reciting the Qur'an in salat is a fard established by ijma. It is never permissible to substitute a translation of the Qur'an for the Qur'an itself, which is established by the ijma of Islamic scholars. For this reason, there is an extreme necessity to remove Cemal Effendi from his post."
Question: A professor said, "Allah knows all languages, so it is not a condition that salat is performed in Arabic only. Nothing is hidden from Allah, and He sees everything. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with performing salat naked when one is alone." It seems logical to me, so I feel the need to ask you it.
If a religion were based on judgment, everyone would make up a religion as he/she wishes. There would be as many religions as the number of humans. What is essential in Islam is naql, and naql does not go against aql-i salim (correctly thinking mind). Yes, Allahu ta'ala knows all languages. He Himself created them. However, He designated Arabic as the language of ibadah, so we must obey His order.
Yes, Allah knows and sees that which is hidden, but He prohibited us from being and doing ibadah naked. He ordered us to wear our best clothes for salat. Our Master the Prophet, too, stated that we had to be covered even when we are having a bath. He said:
(Cover your awrah. Shy of Allah even when you are alone.) [Tirmidhi]
(Allahu ta'ala likes shyness and one's covering oneself. Then cover your awrah when you are having a bath.) [Abu Dawud]
Question: Are salats and other acts of worship still beneficial if we do them without understanding what we say? Isn't it better if every nation does acts of worship in its own language?
Our religion says that Arabic is the language of ibadah, so it is compulsory to use Arabic in order for an ibadah to be valid. It is not necessary to understand the meanings of what one says. To learn the meanings of what one says, one should read ilmihal books that are based on naql. Even those whose mother tongues are Arabic cannot understand the Qur'an al-karim. Moreover, even the Blessed Companions, who were superior to all awliya' and scholars, asked the Messenger of Allah the meanings of Qur'anic verses. A hadith-i sharif says:
(The Qur'an al-karim is Allahu ta'ala's strong rope. Not all meanings of it can be understood. It does not wear out with much reading and listening.) [Ibn Majah]
It is stated in the Qur'an al-karim that the Qur'an al-karim is very concise, that it has endless meanings, and that one cannot find paper and ink to write them even if these meanings were made known:
(Say: If the sea became ink and the like of that sea were added to it for the [stupendous] words [that reveal Allah's knowledge] of my Rabb, the sea would run out, but the words of my Rabb do not.) [Al-Kahf 109]
As is seen, not every person who knows Arabic can understand the Qur'an al-karim. Hadrat Imam-i Ghazali states:
It is reported by Imam-i Ahmad bin Hanbal that Allahu ta'ala stated, "He who reads the Qur'an al-karim, regardless of whether he understands it or not, earns My pleasure" (Ihya)
Question: It is said, "If a newly converted person cannot say surahs in Arabic, he/she can perform salat through the translations of surahs and prayers." Is it permissible to change the language of ibadah?
It is never permissible. (Fatawa-i fiqhiyya)
It is common knowledge that memorizing the Qur'an al-karim is easier than memorizing a book written in one's mother tongue. If one does not know how to recite surahs and prayers in Arabic, one should write them on a piece of paper, put it in front of one, and perform salat in this way until one memorizes them.
According to Imam-i Muhammad and Imam-i Abu Yusuf, if reading from Mus-haf or a piece of paper is done with the sole purpose of imitating Jews and Christians, it will be an act of makruh. If it is not done with the purpose of imitating them, it will not be makruh then. (Durr-ul-Mukhtar, Halabi, Multaka, Hindiyya, Majmua-i Zuhdiyya)
Based on the above, one who does not know any prayer or surah in Arabic is permitted to read from a piece of paper in salat. In the Shafi'i Madhhab, there is nothing wrong with reading from Mus-haf or paper. Last but not least, for a newly converted person or someone who does not know any surah or prayer in Arabic, it is equally important which madhhab he/she follows. If something is impermissible in one's madhhab but permissible in another madhhab, there is nothing wrong with making use of the ruling of the second madhhab.
Question: A man of religion who does not follow and madhhab says, "Allah knows all languages, not only Arabic, so everybody should recite in his/her own language in salat." Isn't it compulsory to recite in Arabic during salat?
Of course, it is compulsory. Allah knows all languages, but He ordered us to recite in the original. We must recite in salat in whatever language we have been ordered to recite.
A salat performed in a language except Arabic is invalid. (Radd-ul-Mukhtar)
In salat, it is haram to say du'a in a language except Arabic. (Durr-ul-Mukhtar)