A is for Allahu Akbar
الله أكبر = “allahu-akbar” = God is greater
This phrase, unfortunately like so many other words associated with my religion, has been hijacked. More than once, I have seen people online calling it a “war cry” and I just shake my head while debating whether I should laugh or gag.
Yes, some people shout it before killing. But did you know that we also say it at weddings?
Or when someone achieves some kind award?
Or at the end of a speech?
Did you know that every single Muslim who follows the five core acts of worship also says this phrase at least 94 OTHER times each day during their prayer?
Calling “Allahu Akbar” a war cry is just unfair and inaccurate. That’s like saying the president’s “God Bless America” is a war cry. Sure, he may say it after announcing some plan of his that could terrorize the lives of millions, but it is what he says after every speech he gives.
Same with “Allahu akbar.” It is the phrase we say in association with anything big that is happening. Just like “subhanAllah” is associated with being impressed or astonished and “alhamdulillah” is associated with moments of gratitude.
A few years ago, I listened to a talk by an Islamic scholar and he said something that gave me a new appreciation for this phrase: During prayer, each time we say “Allahu akbar” we should be signaled to pull away from whatever distracting thoughts we may be having. Every Muslim will tell you that it is so easy to get distracted during prayer. However, at each transition point in the prayer, it is customary to repeat the phrase “Allahu akbar.” At each of these points, we should remind ourselves that despite whatever may be on our minds at the moment, God is greater.