Speaking English instead of native language
Fatwa No: 359920

  • Fatwa Date:3-1-2018 - Rabee' Al-Aakhir 16, 1439
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Question

Is it disliked to speak English instead of one's native language, be it Bengali, Urdu, or the like? People in Bangladesh speak half-English. They use many English words but use Bengali grammar. They also say a few sentences in English.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.

Learning languages is an important requirement that is legitimate in Islam given the people's need for it and in order to benefit non-Arabic speakers and teach them about Islam and call them to it. As for speaking in English without a need, it is disliked, especially if it is done in the presence of someone who does not understand it.

When a Muslim does not speak the native language of his country, he should speak in Arabic, because the Arabic language is the symbol of Islam and the Muslims. Al-ʻAyni  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote, "It is permissible to speak in languages other than Arabic because the Muslims need that to speak with the messengers of the non-Arabs. The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, ordered Zayd ibn Thaabit to learn the language of non-Arabs. Ibn At-Teen said, 'It is only disliked to speak in a language other than Arabic when some of the attendees do not understand it lest this be similar to the case when two people speak while excluding a third who is with them (which is forbidden in order not to offend him).'" [Sharh Saheeh Al-Bukhaari]

Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said:

"You should know that using Arabic strongly and evidently affects the mind, morals, and religion of the person and helps him resemble the Companions and Taabi‘is (generation following the Companions). Resembling them enhances the mind, religiosity, and morals. Also, Arabic itself is part of the religion, and knowledge of it is an obligation (upon Muslims), because understanding the Quran and Sunnah is an obligation, and they are not understood except by understanding the Arabic language. Anything without which an obligation cannot be fulfilled is itself an obligation (i.e. whatever is essential to enable one to carry out an obligation is also obligatory). It should be noted, though, that learning some aspects of the Arabic language is an individual obligation while learning other aspects is a collective obligation (meaning that if some Muslims learned it, then the rest of them are relieved of it).

‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said, 'Learn Arabic, for it is part of your religion, and learn the laws of inheritance, for they are part of your religion.'

This command of ‘Umar to acquire understanding of Arabic and the Shariah sums up what is needed, because the adherence to religion requires understanding both statements and actions. Learning Arabic is the means to understand the statements (religious texts), and learning the Shariah is the means to understanding the actions (religious obligations and duties)..."

Allah knows best.

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