The takbīr (Arabic: تَكْبِير, pronounced [tak.biːr], lit.'magnification [of God]') is the name for the Arabic phrase Allāhu ʾakbar (Arabic: ٱللَّٰهُ أَكْبَرُ, pronounced [ʔaɫ.ɫaː.hu ʔak.bar] , lit.'God is greater').[1][2][3][4]

It is a common Arabic expression, used in various contexts by Muslims and Arabs around the world: in formal Salah (prayer),[4] in the Adhan (Islamic call to prayer),[5] in Hajj, as an informal expression of faith, in times of distress or joy, or to express resolute determination or defiance. The phrase is the official motto of Iran. It is also used by Arab Christians.[6]

Etymology

The takbīr in nastaʿlīq

The Arabic word كَبِير (kabīr) means big from the Semitic root k-b-r. A cognate word for this root exists in Hebrew as כביר (kabir). The Arabic word أَكْبَر (ʾakbar) is the elative form (bigger) of the adjective kabīr. When used in the takbīr it is usually translated as biggest, but some authors translate it as bigger.[7][8][9] The term takbīr itself is the stem II verbal noun of the root kbr, meaning "big", from which akbar "bigger" is derived. The form Allāhu is a nominative of Allah, meaning 'God'.[10][11]

The takbīr is sometimes translated into English as "God is greater", which is short for "God is greater than all" (الله أَكْبَرُ من كلِّ شيء). It is an example of an Arabic idiom where an incomplete sentence, abbreviated because of its familiarity, is considered grammatically correct.[12]

Usage in Islamic rituals

A Muslim raises both of his hands to recite the takbīr in prayer.
Calligraphic Takbir in minaret of Sancaklar Mosque.

This phrase is recited by Muslims in many different situations.

In prayer

The phrase is said during each stage of both salah (obligatory prayers, performed five times a day), and nafl (supererogatory prayers, performed at will). The call to prayer by the muezzin to those outside the mosque (adhan) and the call to those inside to line up for the commencement of prayer (iqama) also contain the phrase.[5]

While there are many short prayers like it, the takbīr is used more frequently than any other.[13]

Following births and deaths

The phrase is used after the birth of a child as a means of praising God.[14] It is also part Islamic funeral and burial customs.[15]

During the Eid Festival and the Hajj

During the festival of Eid al-Adha and the days preceding it, Muslims recite the takbīr. This is particularly the case on the Day of Arafah.[16]

During the halal slaughter of animals

In the process of pronouncing the name of God while performing Dhabihah one must say "Bismillah Allahu Akbar".[17]

Other social usage

Allāhu akbar in a memorial, Desouk, Egypt
Allāhu akbar in Arabic calligraphy seen on Imam Ali Mosque architecture (center of the Iwan), 1994
A sign with Allāhu akbar written on the side of a road in Iran

The expression "Allāhu Akbar" can be used in a variety of situations, from celebrations to times of grief.

In a historical account by someone who was present both at the birth of the ruler Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr (7th century) and at his funeral, the author observes that "Allahu Akbar" was said on both occasions.[18]

In times of joy and gratitude

The takbīr can be used to express joy or surprise. It is also used as applause in religious contexts, such as after a Quran recital, as other forms of applause are considered less appropriate.[19]

As a multi-purpose phrase, it is sometimes used by Arab football commentators as an expression of amazement, or even as a football chant.[20]

In battle

Historically, the takbīr has been used as a cry of victory during battle.[21] Ibn Ishaq's 8th century Life of Muhammed narrates two occasions when Muhammad proclaimed the takbīr during battle.[22]

Iran

During the Iranian Revolution of 1979, it was shouted from rooftops in Iran during the evenings as a form of protest. The takbīr was later adopted as the official motto of Iran.[23] This practice returned in the 2009 Iranian presidential election protests,[24][25] which protested the election results.[26]

Usage by extremists and terrorists

The phrase has been used as a battle cry by Muslim extremists and terrorists.[27] This usage has been denounced by other Muslims.[18][20]

Professor Khaled A. Beydoun, author of The New Crusades: Islamophobia and the Global War on Muslims,[28] writes that the association of the phrase "Allah Akbar" with terrorism has been exacerbated by mass media and television pundits. He adds that films and shows also utilize it as a cinematic trope further cementing the association.[29]

In politics

In India, Asaduddin Owaisi, president of the AIMIM and Abu Taher Khan, representing TMC, after being elected as Members of the Indian Parliament, ended their oath with the slogan of "Allahu Akbar".[30]

Usage by Christians

The phrase is also used by Arab Christians, "Allah" simply being Arabic for "God". The phrase is used in liturgical contexts among Palestinian Christians, and its use has been defended by Theodosios, the Palestinian Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia.[31]

Use on flags

Afghanistan

The Afghan constitution that came into force on January 4, 2004, required that Allāhu akbar be inscribed on the Flag of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.[32] After the Taliban takeover, the flag of the first emirate was readopted, and thus the takbīr removed from the flag.[33]

Iran

Allāhu akbar is written in stylized form across the bottom of the green stripe and the top of the red stripe of the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran, adopted in 1980.[34]

Iraq

The phrase Allāhu akbar is written on the center of the flag of Iraq.

During the Gulf War in January 1991, Saddam Hussein held a meeting with top military commanders, where it was decided to add the words Allāhu akbar (described as the Islamic battle cry)[35] to Iraq's flag to boost his secular regime's religious credentials, casting himself as the leader of an Islamic army.[36][37] Hussein described the flag as "the banner of jihad and monotheism".[38]

In 2004, the US-picked Iraqi Governing Council approved a new flag for Iraq that abandoned symbols of Hussein's regime, such as the words Allāhu akbar.[36][39] In January 2008, however, Iraq's parliament passed a law to change the flag by leaving in the phrase, but changing the calligraphy of the words Allāhu akbar, which had been a copy of Hussein's handwriting, to a Kufic script.[40][41] The Iraqi flag under Hussein had each of the two words of the phrase written in one of the spaces between the stars on the central band; the 2008 flag, while leaving the phrase in, removes the stars.

Other uses

A resistance movement that fought British rule in Waziristan, Pakistan, used a red flag bearing Allāhu akbar in white letters.[42]

The flag used by the Houthis in Yemen also includes bearing Allāhu akbar in green letters.[43]

See also

Notes

References

  1. ^ Wensinck, A.J., "Takbīr", in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. Consulted online on 09 September 2023 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_7330> First published online: 2012
  2. ^ al-Jamil, T. (2009). Takbīr. In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 9 Sep. 2023.
  3. ^ "Takbīr". Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug 2023. Retrieved 9 Sep 2023.
  4. ^ a b "The Times of the Five Daily Prayers". Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  5. ^ a b Nigosian, S. A. (2004). Islam: Its History, Teaching, and Practices. Indiana: Indiana University Press. p. 102. ISBN 0-253-21627-3.
  6. ^ Team, Bridge Initiative (12 Sep 2017). "Allahu Akbar - Factsheet: Islam, Muslims, Islamophobia". Bridge Initiative. Retrieved 2 Nov 2021.
  7. ^ E. W. Lane, Arabic English Lexicon, 1893, gives for kabir: "bigger, and biggest, in body, or corporeal substance, and in estimation or rank or dignity, and more, or most, advanced in age, older, and oldest" (p. 2587) Archived October 7, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ A.O.Green (1887). A Practical Arabic Grammar. Clarendon Press. p. 66.
  9. ^ "The formula, as the briefest expression of the absolute superiority of the One God, is used in Muslim life in different circumstances, in which the idea of God, His greatness and goodness is suggested." Wensinck, A. J. The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edition. Brill, 2000. Volume 10, T-U, p. 119, Takbir.
  10. ^ Böwering, Gerhard, God and His Attributes, Encyclopaedia of the Qurʼān, Brill, 2007.
  11. ^ Macdonald, D. B. The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edition. Brill, 1971. Volume 3, H-Iram, p. 1093, Ilah.
  12. ^ إسماعيل عتوك, محمد (December 2019). "لماذا لا نقول في الأذان : ( الله الأكبر ) مع أل التعريف، بدلاً من ( الله أكبر ) ؟". Archived from the original on 2023-06-11.
  13. ^ Patrick J. Ryan, S.J. (29 October 2015). "What I learned from Muslims about God". America.
  14. ^ "On Birth & School". Archived from the original on 27 August 2013. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  15. ^ el-Hibri, Tayeb (19 October 2010). Parable and Politics in Early Islamic History: The Rashidun Caliphs. Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231521659.
  16. ^ Rabbani, Faraz. "The Day of 'Arafah: The 9th of Dhu'l Hijjah". Qibla.com. Archived from the original on 15 October 2013. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  17. ^ "Arabic Definitions". USA Halal Chamber of Commerce, Inc. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  18. ^ a b Omar Suleiman. "What 'Allahu Akbar' really means". CNN.
  19. ^ "Allahu akbar: What is the Takbir?". The Week.
  20. ^ a b Nagourney, Eric (2017-11-02). "'Allahu Akbar': An Everyday Phrase, Tarnished by Attacks". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-01-10.
  21. ^ Ludwig W. Adamec, Historical Dictionary of Islam, Scarecrow Press, 2nd ed. 2009, pg. 32
  22. ^ Life of Mohammed [سيرة رسول الله] by Ibn Ishaq, translated by Alfred Guillaume, Oxford University Press, 1955, 17th printing, Karachi, 2004 https://archive.org/details/TheLifeOfMohammedGuillaume
  23. ^ Constitution of Iran, Article 18
  24. ^ "Yahoo News". Archived from the original on June 17, 2009.
  25. ^ "YouTube". YouTube. June 9, 2009. Archived from the original on 2021-11-10. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
  26. ^ "How Iran's opposition inverts old slogans". BBC News. December 7, 2009. Retrieved December 21, 2009.
  27. ^ "'We Have Some Planes'". 9/11 Commission Report. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. 2004. Retrieved May 30, 2008.
  28. ^ Beydoun, Khaled A. (21 March 2023). The New Crusades: Islamophobia and the Global War on Muslims. Univ of California Press. ISBN 978-0520356306.
  29. ^ Khaled Beydoun. "The perils of saying 'Allahu Akbar' in public". Washington Post.
  30. ^ "'Jai Shri Ram', 'Allahu Akbar': Religious slogans mark swearing in ceremony of 17th LS". Tribune India. 18 June 2019.
  31. ^ Tiessen, Terrance. "We Palestinian Christians say Allahu Akbar". Thoughts Theological. Retrieved 2021-02-20.
  32. ^ [ McCarthy, Andrew C., "Cold Comfort on Islam and Apostasy; No one who's actually read the Afghan constitution should be surprised by the Abdul Rahman case", National Review, March 27, 2006, accessed February 11, 2010]
  33. ^ "Taliban hoist giant flag in Afghan capital, eight months after return". France 24. 2022-03-31. Retrieved 2023-03-21.
  34. ^ McKeever, Amy (November 29, 2022). "Why Iran's flag is at the center of controversy at the World Cup". National Geographic. Archived from the original on November 29, 2022. Retrieved 10 October 2023.
  35. ^ "New Straits Times". January 15, 1991. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
  36. ^ a b "U.S.-picked Iraq leaders approve new flag". USA Today. April 26, 2004. Retrieved February 9, 2010.
  37. ^ Deroy Murdock. "Murdock, Deroy, "The 9/11 Connection," April 3, 2003". The National Review. Archived from the original on June 17, 2010. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
  38. ^ Long, Jerry M. (April 2004). Saddam's war of words: politics, religion, and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Jerry Mark Long, University of Texas Press, 2004, ISBN 0-292-70264-7. University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292702646. Retrieved February 19, 2014.
  39. ^ "Rosen, Nir, "Iraq's religious tide cannot be turned back,"". Asia Times. May 26, 2004. Archived from the original on May 28, 2004. Retrieved May 8, 2011.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  40. ^ Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, "Iraqi Lawmakers Vote to Change Flag," USA Today, January 22, 2008, accessed February 9, 2010 Archived March 5, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  41. ^ Abdul, Qassim (February 5, 2008). "Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, "Iraq unveils flag without Saddam's stars"". USA Today. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
  42. ^ "Analysis: A ride on the wild side". UPI. September 19, 2005. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
  43. ^ Riedel, Bruce (2017-12-18). "Who are the Houthis, and why are we at war with them?". Brookings. Retrieved 2023-03-29.

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