I Want ‘Allahu Akbar’ Back

Source: The New York Times


Allahu akbar. It’s Arabic for “God is greatest.” Muslims, an eccentric tribe with over a billion members, say it several times in our five daily prayers. The phrase is also a convenient way to express just the right kind of gratitude in any situation.

I say “Allahu akbar” out loud more than 100 times a day. Yesterday, I uttered it several times during my late-evening Isha prayer. Earlier, during dinner, I said it with my mouth full after biting into my succulent halal chicken kebab. In the afternoon, I dropped it in a conference room at the State Department, where I’d been invited to address a packed room of government employees about the power of storytelling. Specifically, I expressed my continuing gratitude for the election of Barack Obama, whom, in a joking nod to the Islamophobic paranoia that surrounded him, I called “our first Muslim American president,” adding “Allahu akbar!”

People in the crowd laughed and applauded, the world continued to spin, no one had an aneurysm, and only a few people seemed to wonder with arched, Sarah Sanders-like eyebrows, “Wait, is he …?” I even confess to saying “Allahu akbar” two days ago in a restroom after losing the battle, but ultimately winning the war, against a nasty stomach virus.

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28 replies

  1. From my view.
    To say a religious thing should be wise.. some people is offended ( Atheist etc). We can say Allahu Akbar 1000 times a day in your room.
    But if you do in public and say Allahu Akbar loudly, will disturb people. Try make others feel peace and happy, it means you please Allah. If you make other people feel offended it means you do not please Allah.

    I do not agree if there is a cleric tell Muslim say Allahu Akbar when commiting the act of killing people. Allah forbid His people to use His name for killing innocent people, it does not make sense at all.

    • Somi, if you follow you advise than the Christian can’t say “praise the lord” and Hindus can’t say Ram Ram and so on. That’s not freedom of religion, it reminds me of how Jews lived in Germany right before and through Workd War II. C’mon you can’t be biased somi, open your mind.

      • Actually, Christians is Islam / Muslim.
        Christians follow Jesus teaching.
        Muslims follow Muhammad teaching and Jesus teaching.

        Christians say: I love God
        Muslims say : Allah is great.
        Witch one is better ?

  2. I would suggest that someone who needs to praise God/Allah constantly including when eating, has to be a bit eccentric. It’s hardly normal behaviour. Christians, Hindus and Jews don’t do that either. There is a time and place for everything.

    • when eating? Yes, we say ‘bismillah’ when we start eating and ‘alhamdolillah’ when we finish. In this connection: Once upon a time a poor boy and a rich boy were eating together. The poor boy finished earlier and the rich boy was still eating. In the end the rich boy said: Now I know why you are poor. You are saying Alhamdolillah too early ! (sorry, wrong place for a joke I suppose)…

  3. Alhamdulillah, I live in a country where I can say Allahu Akbar any number of times without having such a debate as the one above.

    It’s such a relief that I can do this. Allahu Akbar.

    I think that is the real freedom of religion when any religion’s follower can greet and say whatever s/he wants without raising eyebrows or adverse comments.

    In fact, I have many Christian and Hindu friends who greet me with Assalamu alaikum and nobody has a problem.

    Fortunately, they all know what it means and the reply to it, too.

    The West is becoming highly intolerant and they are a highly ignorant lot, too, I think.

    • Somi, Jesus was indeed a prophet of Allah but he was sent to the Jews since the Jews has lost all sense of the teachings of Moses and become astray. Jesus taught the tolerance where they had become intolerably cruel and hard hearted. Where on the other hand Prophet Muhammad brought Islam a complete religion for the entire mankind that included a detailed explanation of God and his omnipotent and monotheism. There is no comparison between the two Prophets.

  4. rmohamedali – Why would you expect a Christian or Hindu to greet you in Arabic in a non-Arabic country like the USA or UK, etc? Learn the English or other language equivalent, and they do exist. My friend in Germany informed me how charmed she was when she visited a rural town in Southern Germany where she was greeted with the typical ‘Grüß Gott’ (greetings of God be with you), which isn’t heard in Northern Germany. And the English ‘goodbye’ is short for ‘God be with you’. It doesn’t always have to be Arabic, and your efforts to assimilate would be much appreciated.

    • Thank God I do not live in any Western country. I live in Kenya which is in East Africa. I do NOT insist on others greeting me with the Islamic greeting. They do so as they know I am a Muslim and they also are aware of the meaning. Hence, their usage of it. I also know the greeting in many indigenous tribal languages and do the same and this really fascinates them as I am an Indian Kenyan.

      Btw, ‘assalamu alaikum’ might be Arabic, but it is also Islamic. There are other Arabic alternative greetings.

      Just the fact, that you and Somi seem to have a problem with anything Arabic shows your ignorance and intolerance of it!

      As I mentioned, where I live, we have many types of greetings also. One example being in Swahili we differentiate and greet older people with respect – ‘shika moh’ and the elder will reply ‘marhaba’. And I am sure if this difference was applied in the West, where so many people would like to be forever young they would be offended. Here, they feel respected.

      Now Swahili is a mixture of Arabic and the local Bantu dialect. So your paranoia with Arabic would really have a problem here. In fact, Swahili itself is a mixture of these two languages.

      • @ Rmohamadali— My suggestion is do not shout Allahu Akbar when you committed a crime. Second do not shout Allahu Akbar loudly at front of public. Utter wisely Allahs words!

      • First, I am NOT a criminal and therefore your daft suggestion is irrelevant!

        Second, where you are, it seems that one has to hide the fact that one is a Muslim and should one utter a phrase such as ‘Allahu Akbar’ aloud, one would be arrested or shot or something equally horrible.

        Fortunately, please read my post AGAIN and you’ll find that where I live, we DO NOT SUFFER from such nonsensical phobia. Alhamdulillah!!!!

        You seem to be extremely anti-Muslim and a COWARD at that, in case you’re one, who seems to be afraid of letting the world know who you really are. I am so glad I am NOT in your pathetic shoes. Alhamdulillah!!!!

  5. Proverb Daud pbuh:
    The wise man will be happy and appreciate if he is criticized by someone— but the stupid is angry when someone critisize him.==

    Let us discusse Islam with love, respect and accept the different thought. Islam will be peaceful religion.

  6. Rmohamedali. You sound like an over excited fanatic. No one is stopping you from following your belief. But the right way is to discuss matters is in a calm and respectful manner. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and opinions are most likely to differ. That should not lead to war. A pleasant attitude is always better.

  7. I find Ms. Mohamedali’s explanation absolutely logical. She explained the situation in her home country. Even in Europe of course we can say Alhamdolillah and Allah-o-Akbar, why not? And like in Kenya all languages are used so in Europe we can use local languages too. What is all the fuss about?

  8. Rafiq A Tschannen – As you are aware, different countries/cultures, different behaviours. In Kenya it might be normal to walk around the streets exhorting ‘Allahu Akbar’, here in Europe it would be a sign of a deranged person or terrorist. We generally keep our religious beliefs and other allegiances to ourselves.

    As a child I remember at my Christian grandparents’ home a prayer was always said before starting a meal, and it was quite usual to say a prayer before going to bed at night. People went to church on Sundays. Most of these traditions have largely disappeared with secularisation. Who is to say that it’s for better or worse? Everyone is entitled to their belief or none. The main thing is that they are decent people.

    But how we deal with different opinions is significant. It should be done in a dignified, none aggressive manner.

    • First, thank you, Rafiq sb, for correctly understanding what I meant.

      It seems that Renate Choudry, is of the impression that I and fellow Muslims in Kenya go around shouting Islamic expressions of our faith all over the place, which is not the case and even calls me a fanatic!

      She seems to be deliberately misquoting, like Somi Tempo. the tolerance in non-Western countries which on the one hand make claims to follow freedom, while on the other, they don’t when it comes to Islam and Muslims practicing their faith.

      In Kenya, most meetings and conferences start with a prayer and would she believe it when we accommodate the majority of the attendees’ faith, i.e. when there are a sizable number of Christians and Muslims, one faith say the prayer at the beginning and the other would do so at the end.

      Fortunately, people in my country do not suffer from the paranoia that most Western countries do, and though we are a secular country, most Kenyans still do believe in a God and accept the fact that the various citizens have different ways of expressing this and are very tolerant of each others beliefs.

      We even acknowledge this by having public holidays for Christmas, Easter, the two Eids and Diwali. The last two of these holidays are still a source of hot debates in most Western countries despite having sizable populations of Hindus and Muslims.

      Therefore, Alhamdulillah, I live where I do…

    • Renate: What makes you think / say that people in Kenya ‘exhort’ with ‘Allah o Akbar’ ? As Ms. mohamedali said, people ‘mention it’ at its proper time, it does not mean they shout it in public all the time…

  9. OK. At the beginning of the piece it wasn’t clear that Rmohamendali lived in Kenya, which is a secular country with multiple faiths. I appreciate that those circumstances/cultures are totally different to, say, an exclusive Muslim country, or the UK, Europe and other Western countries. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to refer to Rmohamedali as ‘passionate’ rather than fanatic, although that’s how it came across to me. Obviously in this case there was some misunderstanding.

  10. From dawn till dusk, several times a day, a muslim calls out
    “Allah O Akbar” in remembrance and gratitude to his master, his creator that, “O my Allah you are the greatest ,I am your humble servant.”
    It’s an expression of love, devotion and gratitude.

    • I do not agree to use a loud speaker calls out Allah O akbar in plural society. Probably non Islam feel offend to hear loud voice. If Muslim do that, that act is not wise at all, it is not nice, make non Muslim is unhappy, and disturbing !

      Spreading Islam should be wise, kind and with love.
      All love❤️

      • Somi, what is wrong with saying Allahu Akbar, it means God is the Greatest. That is what the article is about and most people commenting have just not realized one thing, that the phrase it self is a pious and worthy phrase that is pure and good. It represent a form of verbal worship and can be said in any language but originates in Arabic. If every time some one explodes a bomb they scream Hallelujah does that mean that Jews are to be blamed as the word is from Hebrew. No! So people please use you God given common sense for once and smell the coffee. Wake up and set aside the indifference and intolerance. The most important thing is that we all all humans and we all have the right to practice a religion of our own choice, not one that’s approved and edited by somi and renate. Think about it.

      • who is talking about a loud speaker? (except in a ‘jalsa’ or meeting …)

  11. Indeed, everyone should be able to practice their religion/faith – except in most Islamic countries. There are some irrational comments here. What people do in private is their own business, so long as it doesn’t impact on others. Be grateful for the privileges and freedoms you enjoy, but respect the society you live in. No one is going to be happy if you come along with an attitude to impose your way of life alien to the country which has opened its doors to you, don’t want to assimilate, create your own version of apartheid, and that is what is happening. I see it as an outsider. It wasn’t like that 50 years ago, but then there were only a small number of Muslims (and others). And I don’t find that with my Hindu, Chinese, African, Caribbean and other neighbours who have made their homes here in the UK – they have all more or less assimilated. Some Muslims do too, of course, but too many don’t. If I go to a Muslim country, I have to adjust to their way of life, why don’t Muslims understand that they have obligations too when they go to other countries? Please consider.

  12. Yes every one the right to practice his religion, I agree 200 percent… but I do not agree in a Mosque use a loud speaker to call out— ALLAHU AKBAR in non Islam country where your mosque serrounded by non residences . It is not wise but disturbing people. You can do in Saudi, Pakistan where 100 percent Muslim.

    Islamic teaching is wise teaching or wisdom.
    All love❤️

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