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". In the context of Islam, it is the proper name of God.[3][4] 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".[5][6][7]

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

Usage[edit]

This phrase is recited by Muslims and Arabic speaking Orthodox Christians 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 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 the Quran[edit]

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.[8][9]

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!"[10]

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.[11][12]

As a multi-purpose phrase, it is sometimes used by Arab football commentators as an expression of amazement.[13]

Following births and deaths[edit]

The phrase is used after the birth of a child as a means of praising God.[14]

In the hadith, Muhammad is reported to have spoken the Takbīr after a funeral.[15]

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.[16][16]

Jihadist usage[edit]

The phrase is well known in the west for its common use as a battle cry in Islamist protests, Islamic extremism, and Islamic terrorism.[17][18][19] The actual phrase 'Allah Akbar' is a descendent and is, again, spoken or shouted before a suicide bombing.

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 reciting the Takbīr repeatedly as the plane plummets toward the ground and the passengers attempt to retake control of the plane.[20][21][22][23]

When in March 2002 Maryam Mohammad Yousif Farhat of Hamas, popularized as "Umm Nidal" (and subsequently elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council),[24] 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.[25][26][27] 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.[28][29][30][31][32]

In the video of Nick Berg being beheaded in Iraq in 2004, the perpetrators can be heard shouting "Allahu Akbar!".[33] 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.[34][35][36] In 2008, Aafia Siddiqui is alleged to have fired at U.S. interrogators while yelling "Allah Akbar".[37][38][39][40]

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.[41] And Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad smiled and said "Allahu Akbar" after receiving a life sentence in 2010 for his attempted bombing.[42][43]

During the incident aboard American Airlines Flight 1561 in 2011, the person attempting to bash his way into the cockpit was heard shouting "Allahu Akbar".[44] Mohammed Merah recorded himself shouting Allahu Akbar as he killed three French paratroopers in the 2012 Midi-Pyrénées shootings.[45] In the 2014 Jerusalem synagogue attack witnesses reported that the perpetrators screamed "Allahu Akbar" as they axed and shot at the worshippers.[46][47] The killers in the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris shouted Allahu Akbar during their attack.[48]

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 Muhammad in the Battle of Badr, the first battle in Islam.[49]

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,[50][51] to protest the election results.[52] Many people shouted it from 22:00–22:30 every night, after the 2009 Iranian election to protest the result.

In Syrian and Iraqi Insurgency[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.

In the course of the Iraqi insurgency, Islamist fighters are seen and heard shouting "Takbir" and "Allahu Akbar".

Jihadists and the Islamist videos are also shown its fighters making Takbir with a pointing finger up.

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)[53] to Iraq's flag to boost his secular regime's religious credentials, casting himself as the leader of an Islamic army.[54][55] Hussein described the flag as "the banner of jihad and monotheism".[56]

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.[54][57] 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.[58][59]

Iran

The phrase Allahu Akbar is written on the Iranian flag, as called for by Article 18 of Iran's constitution.[60] The phrase appears 22 times on the flag.[61]

Afghanistan

The Afghan constitution that came into force on January 4, 2004, required that Allahu Akbar be inscribed on Afghanistan's national flag.[62]

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.[63]

Informal Usage[edit]

Like 'OMG' it is a phrase that can be used in multiple contexts as the first words that come to mind when something happens and how the phrase is said rather than what it says is what gives meaning to someones statement or exclamation, especially in informal settings. It can be said in surprise, in shock, in disbelief, in sadness, in happiness, in hope. To most people saying the phrase becomes such second nature, that they often don't think about its original meaning as they are saying the Takbir.

As an overarching example I want to give you the the context of John about to start an English exam, John could say the Takbir multiple times and express different emotions and intentions each time he says it.

a) As John walks into the exam room, he is nervous and could be saying the takbir repeatedly trying to calm himself down, telling himself 'it will be alright'

b) After John sits down and right before he opens the exam paper, he closes his eyes, takes a deep breath and says the takbir, 'wishing for the best of luck'

c) John flips open the exam, opens his eyes and sees that the essay topic is exactly the one he prepared for

c1) John could say the takbir as 'a sigh of relief'

or c2) John could even say the takbir in an excitement 'yes-yes-yes'

or c3) John could say the takbir in thankfulness 'praise the Lord'

d) John further reads the question and its actually not the topic he studied for and says the takbir in resignation 'oh man'

e) John takes the cap off his pen and begins to write, saying the takbir in determination 'lets do this' as pen touches paper.

f) during the exam John has a brilliant idea, saying the takbir in exclamation 'boo yeah'

g) John finishes the exam, closes the exam paper, puts the cap on his pen and says the takbir as all the stress and weight drops off 'happy that its over'

h) After the exam he talks to Jane, she asks him how the exam went. John saying the takbir in joy 'thank God' before saying how well it went.

Just as a disclaimer: John could have used many different phrases throughout the exam, and its probably unlikely he keeps using the same one over and over again (it probably makes him sound crazy if he does use the same word, just like if someone kept saying OMG all exam long). Many times in the example even other Islamic phrases would have been more appropriate for John to say such as Alhamdulillah.

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. ^ Böwering, Gerhard, God and His Attributes, Encyclopaedia of the Qurʼān, Brill, 2007.
  4. ^ Macdonald, D. B. The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edition. Brill, 1971. Volume 3, H-Iram, p. 1093, Ilah.
  5. ^ 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).
  6. ^ A.O.Green (1887). A Practical Arabic Grammar. Clarendon Press. p. 66. 
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ "Left-right confusion led to smog air crash". London: The Independent. September 30, 1997. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  9. ^ AP via Seattle Times: Indonesian Pilot Was Confused Before Crash, September 29, 1997
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ Andrea, Crossan. "Survivor Found in Collapsed Bangladesh Building After 17 Days". PRI's The World. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  12. ^ "Survivor pulled from Bangladesh ruins after 17 days". Global Post. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  13. ^ "Arab commentator screams "Allahu Akbar" after USA's goal on Spain". 
  14. ^ http://www.jerrahi.org/library/articles/birth_school
  15. ^ "The Permissibility of Reciting Azaan at Graveside". Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  16. ^ a b Rabbani, Faraz. "The Day of `Arafah: The 9th of Dhu'l Hijjah". Qibla.com. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ [2]
  19. ^ [3]
  20. ^ FBI Releases Copy of 4 Page Letter Linked to HijackersFBI, Press Conference national Press Release, September 28, 2001
  21. ^ Instructions for the Last Night, PBS Frontline, "Inside the Terror Network, tracking their personal stories."
  22. ^ 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
  23. ^ Barnett, Tracey (May 3, 2006). "Tracey Barnett: Suicide bombers follow a morality of their own". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved November 16, 2011. 
  24. ^ Stalinsky, Steven, "Hamas's Philosophy on Raising Martyrs", New York Sun, March 15, 2006, accessed February 5, 2010
  25. ^ 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
  26. ^ Natan, Yoel (2006-01-01). Moon-o-theism, Volume I of II. Yoel Natan. pp. 261–262. ISBN 9781438299648. Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  27. ^ Bynum, Rebecca (February 8, 2006). "The Iconoclast: Spencer: Mother from Hell". New English Review. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  28. ^ http://www.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,7230415%255E401,00.html[dead link]
  29. ^ http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,7225199%255E661,00.html[dead link]
  30. ^ Who did this to our Bali?, p. 187, Dewi Anggraeni, Indra Publishing, 2003, ISBN 1-920787-08-9, accessed February 5, 2010
  31. ^ Forbes, Cameron (2007-01-01). Under the Volcano: The Story of Bali. Black Inc. p. 199. ISBN 9781863954099. Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  32. ^ "Court convicts Bali commander". BBC News. September 10, 2003. Retrieved November 16, 2011. 
  33. ^ Nichols, Bill (May 11, 2004). "Video shows beheading of American captive". USA Today. Retrieved November 23, 2009. 
  34. ^ Russakoff, Dale; Eggen, Dan (May 9, 2007). "Six Charged in Plot To Attack Fort Dix". Washington Post. Retrieved May 9, 2007. 
  35. ^ "Five Radical Islamists Charged with Planning Attack on Fort Dix Army Base in New Jersey" (PDF) (Press release). United States Department of Justice. May 8, 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 30, 2009. Retrieved February 19, 2014. 
  36. ^ Hauser, Christine; Kocieniewski, David (May 8, 2007). "6 Arrested in Plot to Attack Fort Dix". The New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2014. 
  37. ^ Bartosiewicz, Petra (January 18, 2010). "Al-Qaeda Woman? Putting Aafia Siddiqui on Trial". Time. Retrieved April 10, 2010. 
  38. ^ "Detainee Biography: Ammar al-Baluchi" (PDF). Announncements. U.S. Director of National Intelligence. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  39. ^ Hytha, Michael; Glenn Holdcraft (January 19, 2010). "Pakistani Woman Ejected From Trial Over Afghan Attack". BusinessWeek. Retrieved February 12, 2010. 
  40. ^ 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. 
  41. ^ "Fort Hood shootings: the meaning of 'Allahu Akbar'". Sunday Telegraph. November 6, 2009. Retrieved November 14, 2009. 
  42. ^ "Times Square Bomber Faisal Shahzad Sentenced to Life". ABC News. October 5, 2010. Retrieved October 17, 2010. 
  43. ^ Baum, Geraldine (October 5, 2010). "Times Square bomber gets life sentence; warns of more attacks". Seattle Times. Retrieved October 17, 2010. 
  44. ^ CBS News report
  45. ^ Cody, Edward (March 22, 2012). "Mohammed Merah, face of the new terrorism". The Washington Post. 
  46. ^ Thornhill, Ted (18 November 2014). "British rabbi and three Americans slaughtered in Jerusalem synagogue attack: Worshippers killed at dawn by fanatics screaming 'God is great' armed with knives, axes and guns". Daily Mail. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  47. ^ Li, David (18 November 2014). ".". New York Post. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  48. ^ "Charlie Hebdo attack – latest". BBC News. 7 January 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2015. 
  49. ^ Ludwig W. Adamec, Historical Dictionary of Islam, Scarecrow Press, 2nd ed. 2009, pg. 32
  50. ^ Yahoo News[dead link]
  51. ^ "YouTube". YouTube. June 9, 2009. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  52. ^ "How Iran's opposition inverts old slogans". BBC News. December 7, 2009. Retrieved December 21, 2009. 
  53. ^ "''New Straits Times'". google.com. January 15, 1991. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  54. ^ a b "U.S.-picked Iraq leaders approve new flag". USA Today. April 26, 2004. Retrieved February 9, 2010. 
  55. ^ Deroy Murdock. "Murdock, Deroy, "The 9/11 Connection," The National Review, April 3, 2003". Article.nationalreview.com. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  56. ^ ''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. 
  57. ^ "Rosen, Nir, "Iraq's religious tide cannot be turned back," ''Asia Times''". Atimes.com. May 26, 2004. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  58. ^ Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, "Iraqi Lawmakers Vote to Change Flag," USA Today, January 22, 2008, accessed February 9, 2010
  59. ^ Abdul, Qassim (February 5, 2008). "Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, "Iraq unveils flag without Saddam's stars", ''USA Today''". Usatoday.com. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  60. ^ ''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. 
  61. ^ Jacoby, Jeff, "Is Israel a Jewish State?", The Boston Globe, November 14, 2007, accessed February 11, 2010
  62. ^ [ 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]
  63. ^ ""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]