Question 1 - Is it permissible to say the Friday sermon in a language other than Arabic?
The scholars have differed with regards to this matter with a number of opinions, the two most important being the following:
- The first opinion being that it is a condition for the sermon to be given in the Arabic language and that is the opinion of the majority;
- The second opinion states that it is permissible for the sermon to be given in a language other than Arabic and that is the opinion of al-Imam Abu Hanifah, as well as an opinion of the shafi'iyyah.
The reality is that there is no clear evidence with regards to this issue, so whoever lays the Arabic language as being a condition of the sermon has done so on the basis of general evidences such as the saying of the Prophet, peace be upon him:
"Pray as you have seen my praying."
As well as this the Prophet, peace be upon him, was known to have given all his sermons in the Arabic language and perhaps these scholars have derived their rulings upon these general sayings and actions of the Prophet. However, this type of analogy is incorrect.
As for the scholars who say that the sermon can be given in a language other than Arabic, the strongest evidence they using in substantiating this is the fact that the sermon is an advice given to the people and therefore whatever language used to make the people understand the sermon is correct. This is especially so as there is no definite evidence to the contrary and the evidences used by the scholars who lay the Arabic language as a condition of the sermon, they are general evidences that do not discuss the language of the sermon directly.
Also the sermon is not a prayer such that it falls under the saying of the Prophet, peace be upon him:
"Pray as you have seen my praying."
In addition to this if we were to give the sermon in a language other than Arabic to a people who did not understand the language, the greatest intent of the sermon will have become lost, which is to give advice and a reminder to the people.
In contemporary times, the permissibility of the sermon being in a language other than Arabic is the opinion of the two noble scholars Ibn Baz and Ibn 'Uthaymin, may Allah have mercy on them both, where in fact Ibn 'Uthaymin used to encourage the people to give sermons in a language other than Arabic, if the people in the gathering were not able to understand the Arabic language.
Question 2 - Is it obligatory for the speaker giving the sermon to send salam upon the people before the first adhan is called?
As for the issue of the speaker giving salam to the gathering before the adhan, then it should be understood firstly that there are two salams. The first salam is when the speaker enters the masjid and comes into contact with some of the people of the gathering before he steps onto the pulpit. The second salam is given by the speaker when he sits down on the pulpit and turns to face the gathering.
As for the first salam, the four madhahib are all agreed on it being a sunnah as it enters under the category of being like any other salam. There is a weak hadith which is narrated by al-Bayhaqi on the authority of Ibn 'Umar that the Prophet, peace be upon him, used to, when he came close to his pulpit, give salam to the people around the pulpit, after which he would climb the pulpit and on facing the people he would give salam to the gathering and sit.
As for the second salam, some of the scholars have given it the ruling of being sunnah, whereas others have forbidden it such as the malikiyyah and the ahnaf. As for those who say that it is a sunnah, and from the most famous sayings of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, that they use to back up their opinions is a hadith mursal, on the authority of ash-Sha'bi at-Tabi'i who said that the Prophet, peace be upon him, if he climbed the pulpit on Friday and faced the people, he would give them salam, he would then praise Allah, read a chapter from the Qur'an, he would then stand to give the sermon, then he would descend from the pulpit and Abu Bakr and 'Umar would do the same. This was narrated by Ibn Abi Shaybah.
Jabir ibn Abi Abdillah reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, used to give salam when he climbed the pulpit. This has been reported by Ibn Majah, where some of the scholars have classified it as weak and others have authenticated it.
However, the strongest evidence in this regard is a common saying of the Prophet, peace be upon him, which obligates a person to give salam if he/she enters upon a group as is in the saying of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, that the one walking should give salam to the one who is sitting. Therefore the speaker is the one coming towards the people and will face them and therefore falls under this general saying of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Therefore it is a sunnah without a doubt for the speaker to give salam to the gathering when he turns to face them.
Question 3 - Is it obligatory for the speaker to sit down between the two sermons, or is this something recommended?
With regards to the issue of sitting between the two sermons, there are two issues that need to be discussed.
The first issue is whether giving two sermons is a condition for the Friday prayer and the second is regarding the rules of the actual sitting between the two sermons.
The point of contention here being that it is possible for the speaker to give both sermons standing, without sitting in between. As for the sitting itself, the majority of scholars have said that it is a sunnah. However, it is the opinion of the shafi'iyyah and an opinion of the hanabilah that sitting is a condition for the two sermons and they say this based upon the fact that the Prophet, peace be upon him, was constant upon it.
As for those who say that it is not a condition for the sermon to be broken in two separate sermons, they use some athar (narrations that come from some of the Companions and tabi'in) as their evidences. It was reported that 'Ali ibn Abi Talib gave one whole sermon (without breaking it), as well as ash-Sha'bi. However there is some difference over the strength of these narrations.
As for there being two sermons, this is well known amongst the hanabilah and the shafi'iyyah, but has not been laid down as a condition by the rest of the scholars. For those who have made the two sermons conditional for the Friday prayer, they use the understanding that giving two sermons was an act of the Prophet, peace be upon him, that he used to do continuously and also using the saying:
"Pray as you have seen my praying."
The others are content with using the narration that 'Ali gave one sermon. However those who made the two sermons conditional said that there is some difference of opinion on the strength of this narration, therefore it does not imply that 'Ali contented with one sermon, rather it implies that he did not sit between two sermons.
In conclusion, it is not apparent to me (the author) that two sermons are a condition of the Friday prayer, as there is no definite evidence that indicates this. As for continuity upon a particular action without a saying (especially in a case like this) does not imply a condition. However, there is no doubt that the act of giving two sermons is a sunnah and it is not befitting to refrain from it, whether it be done separating both sermons by sitting or by staying silent for a time without sitting. This is what is correct and Allah knows best and peace and blessings upon our Prophet Muhammad, upon his family and all the companions.