Customs and Rituals

Do Muslims pray in any particular language?

Arabic is the liturgical language of Islam. All formal prayers and Qur’an recitation are in Arabic. Most non-Arabic speaking Muslims learn at least some texts of the scripture by heart in Arabic, along with a dozen or so other short texts that are recited regularly during ritual prayer as well as in personal devotions. Scriptural texts include, for example, Sura 1, called The Opening, a lovely prayer reminiscent of the Christian Lord’s Prayer, and Sura 112, an affirmation of God’s absolute oneness. In addition to the shahada, shorter phrases used during ritual prayer include Allahu akbar (God is Supreme), Al-hamdu li-’llahi (Praise be to God), and Sami’a ‘llahu li-man yusabbihhu (God listens to one who praises him). Other Arabic phrases in common use all over the world include In sha’a ‘Llah (God willing), Wa ‘Llahu a’lam (God knows best), and La hawla wa la quwwata illa bi ‘Llah (In God alone is power and strength). During the midday congregational prayer on Friday, the prayer leader gives an address, sometimes called a sermon. The preacher often prefaces the sermon with a series of divine praises in Arabic, and then delivers the address in the local vernacular. Preachers occasionally deliver the entire address in Arabic and then provide a translation. Arabic is so important because it is the language of the Qur’an and of the Prophet, whose very sound carries great symbolic associations even for Muslims who do not speak it.


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