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Allahu Akbar Does Not Mean God is Great


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Allahu Akbar Does Not Mean God is Great

November 2, 2017 By Steve Amundson 




Media needs to refrain from translating Allahu Akbar as “God is great” .   “Allahu akbar” does not mean “God is great,” but rather “Allah is greater.”  There is a big difference, as you can see in the analysis below:


Origin of the expression: 


When Muhammad led a surprise raid on the Jewish settlement at Khaybar in 629 AD, his battle cry was “Allahu akbar! Khaybar is destroyed.” (Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, paragraph 757)  The same shout of “Allahu akbar” was used by the Islamic airplane hijackers on 9/11/01 and by Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood on 11/5/09.  This battle cry is intended to give courage to the Muslims and strike fear in the non-Muslims.


Grammatical Analysis: 


In Arabic there is a clear distinction between “great” — كبير (kebir) —  and “greater” — أكبر (akbar).  The words are not interchangeable. (See:  https://wikiislam.net/wiki/Allahu_Akbar )


An example from the Quran is Surah 2:219:


Original Arabic script:

يسالونك عن الخمر والميسر قل فيها اثمتتفكرون كبير ومنافع للناس واثمهما اكبر من نفعهما ويسالونك ماذا ينفقون قل العفو كذلك يبين الله لكم الايات لعلكم


Yas-aloonaka AAani alkhamri waalmaysiriqul feehima ithmun kabeerun wamanafiAAu lilnnasiwa-ithmuhuma akbaru min nafAAihima wayas-aloonaka mathayunfiqoona quli alAAafwa kathalika yubayyinu Allahulakumu al-ayati laAAallakum tatafakkaroona

Yusuf Ali:

They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: “In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit.” They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: “What is beyond your needs.” Thus doth Allah Make clear to you His Signs: In order that ye may consider . . .




‘Allah’ is not simply the Arabic word for ‘god,’ but the name of Islam’s chosen deity, and ‘Akbar’ does not mean ‘great’, but ‘greater’. Greater than what? The answer is, Allah is greater than whatever god you happen to believe in.  This is meant as an expression of contempt and insult to Christians and Jews, and so it should be properly translated in articles about Islamic terrorism.

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