In U.S. Mosques, A Debate Over English

The growing number of American-born Muslims who know little or no Arabic is bringing with it a growing debate over how much the English language can be used in practicing the religion.

It's a situation reminiscent of Jewish immigrants who fought over English-language prayer and Roman Catholics who resisted the new Mass in English.

The language of obligatory Friday prayers, called juma, is not part of the debate; those prayers must be in Arabic, the language of the Quran.

The disagreement focuses on whether that requirement should extend to the sermon on Fridays, the Muslim day of congregational prayer, and other assemblies in the mosque.

Imams and scholars who insist on using Arabic say it's mandatory because the Prophet Muhammad gave his sermons in the language.

Others say Muhammad used Arabic only because it was what he and his community spoke, and that Islam is a universal faith.


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