Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat
I have been looking at Imam Nawawi’s Kitab al-Adhkar and would like to ask if I can say the adhkar in English or is it necessary for me to learn the Arabic wording and recite it even though I don’t understand it.
I pray you are well.
There is no harm in saying the translations of the invocations or supplications in English, however, the maximal benefit comes from saying them in Arabic. There is something special about the words chosen by Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace).
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) taught Bara ibn al-‘Azib a supplication to say before sleeping. The last line of it is “I believe in Your book that You have revealed and Your Prophet who you have sent.“ Bara changed the word for Prophet (Nabi) into the work for Messenger (Rasul). A minor change, seemingly, but it was not the particular wording that would have brought a particular benefit.
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) corrected him, making him say the original wording. [Bukhari] This shows that the chosen words have a specific benefit that may not come across fully in English.
It’s best to memorize the wordings in Arabic and to say them regularly. Then learn their translations. This will bring more meaning into what you say and will be a big step towards learning key Arabic vocabulary. God willing, you’ll be able to learn Arabic one day, and this will have been a beneficial step in that journey.
May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 where, for 18 months, he studied with many erudite scholars. In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years in Sacred Law (fiqh), legal theory (Usul al-fiqh), theology, hadith methodology, hadith commentary, and Logic. He was also given licenses of mastery in the science of Quranic recital and he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Quranic sciences, tafsir, Arabic grammar, and Arabic eloquence.