Why Can’t I Supplicate in English During My Prayer? (Shafi’i)

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally

Question: Assalam alaykum,

I was told I cannot make personal dua in English during prostration in the last cycle of prayer.

I find this a great loss because beseeching Allah when prostrating seems better, and to do it in Arabic would limit what I can say. What do you think?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

Supplications in Prostration

Supplicating during prostration, as you’ve mentioned, in a highly beneficial act. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The closest a servant is to his Lord is when he is prostrating, so make plenty of supplications in it” [Muslim].

Reciting a Supplication in another Language

In the Shāfiʿī school, extemporizing or making up a supplication in prayer in one’s own words, in a language other than Arabic, renders the prayer invalid.

If one were unable to recite in Arabic the transmitted Prophetic supplications for prayer, they would recite them in their prayer in another language, without it invalidating the prayer. If they were able to recite it in Arabic, it would invalidate their prayer.

Is this Necessarily a Negative Result?

While this may seem like a great loss, scholarship defines the praiseworthy and blameworthy as hinging upon doing what is commanded and staying away from what is prohibited.

In this regard, the school considers the obligation to be to carry out the prayer in Arabic, and the prohibition to be staying away from reciting something that is not Arabic. Therefore, it sees refraining from reciting supplications in a language other than Arabic as the superior thing to do, even though it might seem to an individual that doing otherwise is beneficial.

Suggested Supplication to Learn for Prostration

One can and should supplicate following the prayer in any language one is comfortable with.

One can also learn some simple supplications in Arabic if one wishes to recite something extra during prostration. Many can be found in the Qur’an, authentic narrations of the Prophet (peace be upon him), and the works of later scholars.

The Qur’an speaks glowingly [2.212] about those who offer the following comprehensive supplication:

رَبَّنَا آتِنَا في الدُّنيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ

Rabbanā ʾĀtinā fid-Dunyā Ḥasanatan wa fi’l ʾĀkhirati Ḥasanatan wa Qinā ʿAdhāban Nār

‘Our Lord, give us good in this world and in the hereafter, and protect us from the torment of the fire.’

Source: al-Majmūʿ; Hāshiyat Qalyūbī; Hāshiyat al-Jamal
Shuaib Ally