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New Muslims Who May Not Be Able to Pronounce Arabic in Prayer 

Imām Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn

The methodology of saying the takbīr for the non-arabic speaker

[Q]: If a person is not able to speak Arabic or pronounce its words, what should he do when praying ṣalāh?1

[A]: We have a judicial principle concerning which Allāh says:

لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا

“Allāh burdens not a person beyond his scope.”
(Al-Baqarah, 2: 286)

The Most High also said:

فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ

“So keep your duty to Allāh and fear Him as much as you can.”
(Al-Taghābun, 64:16)

And the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “If I command you with an act, then perform it to the best of your abilities”.2 In consideration of these evidences, this person should say the takbīr in his own language. There is nothing wrong with this because he is unable to say anything other than it.

[Q]: Why do you not order him saying: “Remain completely silent and intend the takbīr with your heart”?

[A]: The takbīr consists of a wording, a meaning, and an admittance of the heart. It, therefore, consists of three aspects:

  1. Admittance within one’s heart.
  2. A wording which is in the Arabic language.
  3. A meaning.

As for this non-Arabic speaking person, he is able to say the takbīr through admittance within his heart, and by saying the meaning of the takbīr [in his own language]. However, he is unable to pronounce its wording. In consideration of the aforementioned verse: “So keep your duty to Allāh and fear Him as much as you can”, we should say: “You are currently able to fulfil two aspects of saying the takbīr, but lack the ability to perform its third. So perform the two aspects which are: admittance of the takbīr within your heart, and acknowledgement of its meaning [in your own language], and the third aspect—pronouncing its wording—shall not apply to you because you are unable to say it.”

[1] Translator’s note: It is not to be understood from the question that the non-Arabic speaking new Muslim may be able to pray in his native language indefinitely. Rather, what is understood is that at the present time, he cannot pronounce or recite properly due to his newness to Islām and Arabic.
[2] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 7288 and Muslim: 1337

Source: Al-Sharḥ al-Mumtiʿ 3: 21-22
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: February 29, 2024
Edited: March 1, 2024


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