we declare Your Perfection above and beyond all: we have no knowledge whatsoever except what You have taught us. No doubt it is You, and You alone that is all Knowledgeable and all Wise. (al-Baqarah, 32)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The meanings behind Allahu Akbar

Allahu Akbar. A muslim doesn't have to even know know Arabic to be familiar with these two words. Most if not all muslims know it what means, but knowing and understanding are two separate matters.

I recently listened to a lecture about this word and thought it would be beneficial to share with everyone.

Commonly, it is translated as ‘Allah is the greatest’, or ‘Allah maha besar’ in BM. While I would not go so far as to say those translations are wrong, the more literal translation would yield ‘Allah is greater than’ as ‘Akbar’ is a form of comparative adjective in Arabic.

Now, when someone is to compare something, it begs the question: what is that something compared to. In this case, the sentence ‘Allahu Akbar’ leaves out the object of comparison entirely. This is part of the wonder of these two words.

For one, this omission of an object in a comparative is used in Arabic speech to imply the subject is better than any object you can think of. In the case of ‘Allahu Akbar’; Allah is greater than everything. Thus we get the common translation ‘Allah is the greatest’. But even this is understanding the sentence at face value.

You see, by omitting the object, it leaves the room for the object to be interpreted contextually. For instance, when you are doing your work and you hear the Adhan (the first line being Allahu Akbar), you have to realize it means Allah is greater than whatever your work is, no matter how important or noble you think it is. The fact is your obligation in work is minuscule compared to your obligation towards Him - the solah.

There is a narration about this form *Al-Aswad bin Yaziz. He said : I asked Aisha ''What did the Prophet (s.a.w) use to do at home?'' She said, ''He (s.a.w) used to work for his family, and when he heard the adhan, he would go out (to perform the solah).'' Clearly indicating that there is no responsibility greater than that towards Allah.

The wonders of Allahu Akbar also works in solah. Most of us are easily distracted in solah. Whether it be thinking about the the work we forgot to do, the long day ahead of us, the football game on tv to, what movies we want to watch next, to just about any little thing we can think of. So everytime we say Allahu Akbar in our prayer, we are not just proclaiming the greatness of our Lord, but we are also reminding ourselves that Allah is greater, is more important, than the things going about in our head and that He is the one we should fill our mind with instead.

So the next time you hear Allahu Akbar, I hope you will be able to understand it the way it is meant to be understood. InshaAllah, this will bring us closer to Him. Wallahu A’lam.

*Sahih Bukhari, vol 7, no 276. Taken from http://www.haqvoice.com/hadith/index.php?page=1&s=Adhan on 2/12/2010

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