or الله أكبر [uh-lah-hoo ok-bahr]
What does Allahu Akbar (الله أكبر) mean?
Allahu Akbar is a common exclamation that literally means "God is (the) greatest" in Arabic.
In Islam, it's variously used in prayer, as a declaration of faith, and during times of great joy or distress. In the West, the phrase has become associated with Islamist terrorism.
Examples of Allahu Akbar
Where does Allahu Akbar come from?
In the Islam religion, Allahu Akbar is known as the Takbir, or “declaring greatness.” The phrase is written as الله أكبر in Arabic script, based on Allah (“God”) and akbar (“greatest”).
While not found in the Koran, Allahu Akbar is said to have been cried out by the prophet Muhammad at the Battle of Badr in 624 CE. Evidence for the phrase can be found in English in the early 1600s.
Allahu Akbar plays a prominent and frequent role in everyday Islamic life, and it notably appears on the flags of Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq (below).
Worshippers chant it during daily prayers and fans cheer it upon football victories. Parents exclaim it upon the birth of a child. Soldiers shout it in battle. It is that last area of use that has made Allahu Akbar most familiar to Westerners in the 2000s, hijacked—as many Muslims feel the normally peaceful phrase has been—by Islamist extremists and terrorists.
For the record, “Allahu Akbar” has no inherent political/violent connotation meriting instant terror diagnosis.I say it like 20 times a day.
— rabia O’chaudry (@rabiasquared) October 31, 2017
Hijacking, alas, is an operative word, as Allahu Akbar has been found in notes and cockpit recordings connected to the 9/11 attacks. Witnesses report assailants defiantly shouting Allahu Akbar before perpetrating subsequent terrorist attacks, including the 2009 Fort Hood shooting.
Misinformation about the expression has lead some Westerners to think Allahu Akbar is a phrase only used by terrorists and others to incorporate it into Islamophobic content on the internet. This misinformation has also had some real-life consequences.
Following the 2017 attacks in Barcelona, the mayor of Venice threatened to sniper anyone uttering Allahu Akbar in St. Mark’s Square—which would be like shooting down any English-speaker just for saying “God is good.”
On the lighter side, though betraying ignorance of Islamic culture, a St. Louis reporter was roundly mocked in 2017 for mispronouncing Allahu Akbar as Aloo Akbar. That means “potatoes are the greatest.”
I just saw a TV reporter pronouncing it as ‘aloo akbar’ which literally translates to ‘potatoes are the greatest’ https://t.co/6qLi52fU2y
— Aisha Sultan (@AishaS) October 31, 2017
Who uses Allahu Akbar?
Allahu Akbar is used by the many millions of Arabic-speaking Muslims throughout the world and throughout their daily lives, from formal prayers to informal praise.
During sehri , when you have the last sip of water, and you recite
La ilaha illallaah,
you will not get thirsty. 🥛✨
— Rum’aana ⚯͛ (@romanycreams_) May 15, 2018
Dear Non Muslims 🙂
Common terms u may hear/ see during Ramadan.
MashaAllah – Allah/ God has willed
SubhanAllah – Glory to be Allah/ God
Allahu Akbar – Allah/ God is the greatest
Alhamdulilah – All Praise to Allah/ God
Just in case the MEDIA had y’all thinking otherwise
— JJarvz (@JJarvz) May 13, 2018
In the West, many wrongly think the phrase is synonymous with terrorist attacks and suicide bombings—which isn’t helped by media outlets prominently featuring the phrase in headlines about Islamist extremism.
— Ensaf haidar (@miss9afi) May 13, 2018
This is not meant to be a formal definition of Allahu Akbar like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of Allahu Akbar that will help our users expand their word mastery.