Takbir

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"Allahu Akbar" redirects here. For the national anthem of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, see Allahu Akbar (anthem). For other uses, see Allahu Akbar (disambiguation).
The Takbīr in Arabic, as well as English.
A Muslim raises both of his hands to recite the Takbīr in prayer.
Takbīr in prayer.

The Takbīr (تَكْبِير), also written Tekbir or Takbeer, is the term for the Arabic phrase Allāhu Akbar (الله أكبر), usually translated as "God is [the] greatest," or "God is great".[1] It is a common Islamic Arabic expression, used in various contexts by Muslims; in formal prayer, in the call for prayer (adhān),[2] as an informal expression of faith, in times of distress, to express celebration or victory, or to express resolute determination or defiance.

The form Allāhu is the nominative of Allah, meaning "God". The form akbar is the elative of the adjective kabīr, meaning "great", from the Semitic root k-b-r. As used in the Takbīr it is usually translated as "greatest", but some authors prefer "greater".[3][4]

The term Takbīr itself is the stem II verbal noun (tafʿīlun) of the triliteral root k-b-r, meaning "great".

Usage[edit]

This phrase is recited by Muslims in many different situations. For example, when they are very happy, to express approval, to prevent a Muslim from becoming prideful by reminding them that Allah is their source of success, or as a battle cry, during times of extreme stress. In the Islamic world, instead of applause, often someone will shout "Takbīr" and the crowd will respond "Allahu Akbar".

In prayer[edit]

The phrase is said during each stage of both obligatory prayers (performed five times a day), and supererogatory prayers (performed at will). The Muslim call to prayer (adhan) by the muezzin and to commence prayer (iqama) also contains the phrase.[2]

In times of distress[edit]

This phrase is also used in times of distress.

Just before a Garuda Airbus A300B-4 crashed into the jungle near Medan, Indonesia, the pilot screamed "Aaaaaah! Allahu Akbar!" into his radio. According to a radio communication transcript, the pilot's conversation with the air controller had been in English, but his last words were this Arabic phrase as the plane crashed on September 26, 1997, killing all 235 people aboard in Indonesia's deadliest crash. It was suspected that the crash may have been due to either disorientation or engine failure caused by local dense smog resulting from forest fires.[5][6]

After a failed attempt to climb the world's second highest peak, K2, according to Greg Mortenson's book, he was greeted by his porter with the phrase, "Allah Akbar! Blessings to Allah you're alive!"[7]

In times of joy and gratitude[edit]

When Reshma Begum was discovered alive 17 days after the 2013 Savar building collapse in Bangladesh which killed 1129 people, crowds jubilantly cried Allahu Akbar to express their joy and gratitude that she had survived.[8][9]

As a multi-purpose phrase, it is sometimes used by Arab football commentators as an expression of amazement.[10]

Following births and deaths[edit]

The phrase is used after the birth of a child as a means of praising God.[11]

In the hadith, Muhammad is reported to have spoken the Takbīr after a funeral.[12]

During the Eid Festival and the Hajj[edit]

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 Arafa.[13][13]

Jihadist usage[edit]

The phrase is well known in the west for its common use in Islamist protests, Islamic extremism and Islamic terrorism.

After 9/11, the FBI released a letter reportedly handwritten by the hijackers and found in three separate locations on September 11, 2001—at Dulles International Airport, at the Pennsylvania crash site, and in hijacker Mohamed Atta's suitcase. It included a checklist of final reminders for the 9/11 hijackers. An excerpt reads: "When the confrontation begins, strike like champions who do not want to go back to this world. Shout, 'Allahu Akbar,' because this strikes fear in the hearts of the non-believers." Also, in the cockpit voice recorders found at the crash site of Flight 93, the hijackers are heard to be reciting the Takbīr repeatedly as the plane plummeted toward the ground and the passengers attempted to retake control of the plane.[14][15][16][17]

When in March 2002 Maryam Mohammad Yousif Farhat of Hamas, popularized as "Umm Nidal" (and subsequently elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council),[18] learned that her 17-year-old son had died during a suicide attack in which he killed five teenagers, she celebrated by proclaiming "Allahu Akbar!" and giving out boxes of halva and chocolates.[19][20][21] Imam Samudra, who was sentenced to death for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, chanted the phrase upon hearing his sentence.[22][23][24][25][26]

In the video of Nick Berg being beheaded in Iraq in 2004, the perpetrators can be heard shouting "Allahu Akbar!".[27] And in the 2007 Fort Dix attack plot, a group of radical Islamists who were convicted of plotting an attack on the Fort Dix military base in New Jersey had videotaped themselves shooting weapons and shouting Allahu Akbar.[28][29][30] In 2008, Aafia Siddiqui is alleged to have fired at U.S. interrogators while yelling "Allah Akbar".[31][32][33][34]

During the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, witnesses reported that gunman Nidal Malik Hasan shouted "Allahu Akbar" before opening fire, killing 13 people and wounding 30 others.[35] And Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad smiled and said "Allahu Akbar" after receiving a life sentence in 2010 for his attempted bombing.[36][37]

During the incident aboard American Airlines Flight 1561, the person attempting to bash his way into the cockpit was heard shouting "Allahu Akbar".[38] Mohammed Merah recorded himself shouting Allahu Akbar as he killed three French paratroopers in the 2012 Midi-Pyrénées shootings.[39]

In warfare and politics[edit]

In history[edit]

It has been used historically as a battle cry during war. It was first used in war by the prophet Muhammad in the Battle of Badr, the first battle in Islam.[40]

Iranian usage[edit]

During the Iranian revolution of 1979, it was shouted from rooftops in Iran during the evenings as a form of protest. This practice returned in the aftermath of the 2009 Iranian presidential election,[41][42] to protest the election results.[43] Many people shouted it from 22:00–22:30 every night, after the 2009 Iranian election to protest the result.

In Syrian Civil War[edit]

In videos released during the course of the Syrian Civil War, Free Syrian Army, Al-Nusra Front, other Rebel and Islamist groups and ISIS forces are heard shouting "Takbir" and "Allahu Akbar" in the background while fighting.

On flags[edit]

The phrase "Allahu Akbar" is written on the center of the flag of Iraq, 22 times along the borders of the central white stripe on the flag of Iran, and beneath the Shahadah in the flag of Afghanistan in white script on the central red background as determined by the 2004 draft constitution.

Iraq

During the Persian Gulf war in January 1991, Saddam Hussein held a meeting with top military commanders, where it was decided to add the words Allahu Akbar (described as the Islamic battle cry)[44] to Iraq's flag to boost his secular regime's religious credentials, casting himself as the leader of an Islamic army.[45][46] Hussein described the flag as "the banner of jihad and monotheism".[47]

In 2004, Iraq's U.S.-picked Governing Council approved a new flag for Iraq that abandoned symbols of Hussein's regime, such as the words Allahu Akbar.[45][48] 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 Allahu Akbar, which had been a copy of Saddam's handwriting, to a Kufic script.[49][50]

Iran

The phrase Allahu Akbar is written on the Iranian flag, as called for by Article 18 of Iran's constitution.[51] The phrase appears 22 times on the flag.[52]

Afghanistan

The Afghan constitution that came into force on January 4, 2004, required that Allahu Akbar be inscribed on Afghanistan's national flag.[53]

1930s Waziristan (Pakistan) resistance movement

A resistance movement that fought British rule in Waziristan, Pakistan, in the 1930s used a red flag bearing Allahu Akbar in white letters.[54]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Allahu Akbar". Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Nigosian, S. A. (2004). Islam: Its History, Teaching, and Practices. Indiana: Indiana University Press. p. 102. ISBN 0-253-21627-3. 
  3. ^ E. W. Lane, Arabic English Lexicon, 1893, gives for kabir: "greater, and greatest, in body, or corporeal substance, and in estimation or rank or dignity, and more, or most, advanced in age, older, and oldest" (p. 2587). The translator[who?] of Ibn Qayyim's The Way to Patience and Gratitude into English opts for "Allah is Greater". In the Second Edition on page 463, an explanation is given: "...I preferred using 'the Greater' to 'the Greatest', as it is commonly used. Allahu Akbar literally means, "Allah is Greater" with the comparative mode. Yet, this does not mean that He (Glory be to Him) is not the Greatest, nor does it mean that there is anything that is put in comparison with Him. This is because when the Muslim says it, he means He is "Greater" than anything else, which, consequently, means He is the Greatest. This use gives more influence. This may be why it is used in Arabic this way, otherwise it should have been used as "Allahu al-Akbar", in the superlative mode. Surely, Allah knows best."
  4. ^ A.O.Green (1887). A Practical Arabic Grammar. Clarendon Press. p. 66. 
  5. ^ "Left-right confusion led to smog air crash". London: The Independent. September 30, 1997. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  6. ^ AP via Seattle Times: Indonesian Pilot Was Confused Before Crash, September 29, 1997
  7. ^ Mortenson, Greg, and Relin, David Oliver, ''Three cups of tea: one man's mission to fight terrorism and build nations—one school at a time'', p. 20, ISBN 0-670-03482-7. Viking. 2006. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  8. ^ Andrea, Crossan. "Survivor Found in Collapsed Bangladesh Building After 17 Days". PRI's The World. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  9. ^ "Survivor pulled from Bangladesh ruins after 17 days". Global Post. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  10. ^ "Arab commentator screams "Allahu Akbar" after USA's goal on Spain". 
  11. ^ http://www.jerrahi.org/library/articles/birth_school
  12. ^ "The Permissibility of Reciting Azaan at Graveside". Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Rabbani, Faraz. "The Day of `Arafah: The 9th of Dhu'l Hijjah". Qibla.com. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  14. ^ FBI Releases Copy of 4 Page Letter Linked to HijackersFBI, Press Conference national Press Release, September 28, 2001
  15. ^ Instructions for the Last Night, PBS Frontline, "Inside the Terror Network, tracking their personal stories."
  16. ^ Holy terrors: thinking about religion after September 11, p. 116, Bruce Lincoln, University of Chicago Press, 2006, ISBN 0-226-48203-0, comparing it to Quranic passage 8.12–14, accessed February 5, 2010
  17. ^ Barnett, Tracey (May 3, 2006). "Tracey Barnett: Suicide bombers follow a morality of their own". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved November 16, 2011. 
  18. ^ Stalinsky, Steven, "Hamas's Philosophy on Raising Martyrs", New York Sun, March 15, 2006, accessed February 5, 2010
  19. ^ Palestinian Legislative Council Candidate and Mother of Three Hamas Terrorists Umm Nidal Farhat: Israelis are Not Civilians and There are No Prohibitions on Killing Them; I Am Willing to Sacrifice My Ten Sons Interview with Dream2 TV aired on December 21, 2005. MEMRI TV
  20. ^ Natan, Yoel (2006-01-01). Moon-o-theism, Volume I of II. Yoel Natan. pp. 261–262. ISBN 9781438299648. Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  21. ^ Bynum, Rebecca (February 8, 2006). "The Iconoclast: Spencer: Mother from Hell". New English Review. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  22. ^ http://www.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,7230415%255E401,00.html[dead link]
  23. ^ http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,7225199%255E661,00.html[dead link]
  24. ^ Who did this to our Bali?, p. 187, Dewi Anggraeni, Indra Publishing, 2003, ISBN 1-920787-08-9, accessed February 5, 2010
  25. ^ Forbes, Cameron (2007-01-01). Under the Volcano: The Story of Bali. Black Inc. p. 199. ISBN 9781863954099. Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  26. ^ "Court convicts Bali commander". BBC News. September 10, 2003. Retrieved November 16, 2011. 
  27. ^ Nichols, Bill (May 11, 2004). "Video shows beheading of American captive". USA Today. Retrieved November 23, 2009. 
  28. ^ Russakoff, Dale; Eggen, Dan (May 9, 2007). "Six Charged in Plot To Attack Fort Dix". Washington Post. Retrieved May 9, 2007. 
  29. ^ "Five Radical Islamists Charged with Planning Attack on Fort Dix Army Base in New Jersey" (Press release). United States Department of Justice. May 8, 2007. Archived from the original on November 30, 2009. Retrieved February 19, 2014. 
  30. ^ Hauser, Christine; Kocieniewski, David (May 8, 2007). "6 Arrested in Plot to Attack Fort Dix". The New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2014. 
  31. ^ Bartosiewicz, Petra (January 18, 2010). "Al-Qaeda Woman? Putting Aafia Siddiqui on Trial". Time. Retrieved April 10, 2010. 
  32. ^ "Detainee Biography: Ammar al-Baluchi". Announncements. U.S. Director of National Intelligence. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  33. ^ Hytha, Michael; Glenn Holdcraft (January 19, 2010). "Pakistani Woman Ejected From Trial Over Afghan Attack". BusinessWeek. Retrieved February 12, 2010. 
  34. ^ Schmitt, Eric (August 5, 2008). "American-trained neuroscientist charged with trying to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.". The New York Times. Retrieved April 10, 2010. 
  35. ^ "Fort Hood shootings: the meaning of 'Allahu Akbar'". Sunday Telegraph. November 6, 2009. Retrieved November 14, 2009. 
  36. ^ "Times Square Bomber Faisal Shahzad Sentenced To Life". ABC News. October 5, 2010. Retrieved October 17, 2010. 
  37. ^ Baum, Geraldine (October 5, 2010). "Times Square bomber gets life sentence; warns of more attacks". Seattle Times. Retrieved October 17, 2010. 
  38. ^ CBS News report
  39. ^ Cody, Edward (March 22, 2012). "Mohammed Merah, face of the new terrorism". The Washington Post. 
  40. ^ Ludwig W. Adamec, Historical Dictionary of Islam, Scarecrow Press, 2nd ed. 2009, pg. 32
  41. ^ Yahoo News[dead link]
  42. ^ "YouTube". YouTube. June 9, 2009. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  43. ^ "How Iran's opposition inverts old slogans". BBC News. December 7, 2009. Retrieved December 21, 2009. 
  44. ^ "''New Straits Times'". google.com. January 15, 1991. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  45. ^ a b "U.S.-picked Iraq leaders approve new flag". USA Today. April 26, 2004. Retrieved February 9, 2010. 
  46. ^ Deroy Murdock. "Murdock, Deroy, "The 9/11 Connection," The National Review, April 3, 2003". Article.nationalreview.com. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  47. ^ ''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. Retrieved February 19, 2014. 
  48. ^ May 26, 2004 (May 26, 2004). "Rosen, Nir, "Iraq's religious tide cannot be turned back," ''Asia Times''". Atimes.com. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  49. ^ Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, "Iraqi Lawmakers Vote to Change Flag," USA Today, January 22, 2008, accessed February 9, 2010
  50. ^ Abdul, Qassim (February 5, 2008). "Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, "Iraq unveils flag without Saddam's stars", ''USA Today''". Usatoday.com. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  51. ^ ''Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran'', Iran, Hamid Algar Mizan Press, 1980, ISBN 0-933782-02-0. October 17, 2008. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  52. ^ Jacoby, Jeff, "Is Israel a Jewish State?", The Boston Globe, November 14, 2007, accessed February 11, 2010
  53. ^ [ 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]
  54. ^ ""Analysis: A ride on the wild side," ''UPI''". Accessmylibrary.com. September 19, 2005. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 

References[edit]

  • Dr. Rohi Baalbaki (1995). Al-Mawrid (7th ed.). Dar El-Ilm Lilmalayin, Beirut. ISBN 9953-9023-1-3. 
  • F. Steingass PhD, University of Munich (1870). Persian-English Dictionary, Including the Arabic words and phrases to be met with in literature. Librairie Du Liban, Beirut. 

External links[edit]