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Meaning and application of the prayer: Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest)

The phrase 'Allahu Akbar' is the opening declaration of every Islamic prayer and is a slogan which was prescribed by the Holy Prophet Muhamad (upon whom be peace) to the mujahids of Islam. The meaning of this prayer has been explained by Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, also known as Aga Khan III,1 as follows:

"Consider for example the opening declaration of every Islamic prayer: "Allah-o-Akbar". What does that mean? There can be no doubt that the second word of the declaration likens the character of Allah to a matrix which contains all and gives existence to the infinite, to space, to time, to the Universe, to all active and passive forces imaginable, to life and to the soul."

The Universe is the physical manifestation of Allah's Will. All that we see, feel, hear, touch and smell shows the greatness of Allah. We marvel at the inventions of humans. For example, computers have changed our way of thinking and conducting our daily activities. However, this machine has very limited power to process information compared to the capacity of human mind. Human beings process a vast amount of information through their five senses continually. When we compare our abilities with forces of nature, we realize that Allah is Great and his creation is endless.

Each human being has a physical, spiritual and intellectual existence. Islam teaches that the Universal Soul is eternal and present everywhere as per the following quotation of Imam Sultan Muhammed Shah2:

"Islamic doctrine goes farther than the other great religions for it proclaims the presence of the soul, perhaps minute but nevertheless existing in an embryonic state in all existence in matter, in animals, trees, and space itself. Every individual, every molecule, every atom has its own spiritual relationship with the All-Powerful Soul of God. But men and women, being more highly developed, are immensely more advanced than the infinite number of other beings known to us. Islam acknowledges the existence of angels, of great souls who have developed themselves to the highest possible planes of human soul and higher, and who are centres of forces which are scattered throughout the universe. Without going as far as Christianity, Islam recognizes the existence of evil spirits which seek by means of their secret suggestions to turn us from good, from that stait way traced by God's finger for the eternal happiness of the humblest as of the greatest -- Abraham, Jesus, Mohammed."

Soul is present in atoms, molecules, plants, animals, humans and in space. Human beings are composed of billions of atoms and Islam teaches us that the soul is present in each and every atom. In order to develop one's inner self, it is necessary to awaken the soul by invoking Allah on a continual basis. These spiritual exercises create an inner awakening and lead to the development of the total human potential.

Allahu Akbar is recited on many occasions:

  1. In the beginning of prayer of Hazrat Bibi Fatimah (upon whom be peace);
  2. When animals are slaughtered; and
  3. By the mujahids of Islam.

In addition to this, the Holy Prophet has encouraged Muslims to recite this prayer according to the following hadith3:

"Abu Huraira reported God's messenger as saying, "To say: Glory be to Allah; Praise be to Allah; there is no god but Allah; and Allah is most great, is dearer to me than everything on which the sun rises."

However, esoterically this prayer plays a great role in the spiritual elevation of human beings because it invokes the great help of Hazrat 'Izra'il (upon whom be peace), the angel of death and resurrection. Through this activity, Hazrat 'Izra'il (may peace be upon him) awakens their inner dimension. It is then possible to see the greatness of Allah in a spiritual and intellectual form within one's own soul and intellect, and experience monoreality. This is the reason wise believers engage in the remembrance of God day and night.

Let us now recite this prayer thirty-three times with humility, courage and conviction:

[Sound Clip]

A'uzu billahi minashaitanir rajim
I seek refuge in Allah from the outcast Satan.

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar (3)
Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar (6)
Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar (9)
Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar (12)
Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar (15)
Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar (18)
Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar (21)
Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar (24)
Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar (27)
Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar (30)
Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar (33)
Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest

Al-hamdu lillahi rabbil 'alamin
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds!

End Notes

  1. Aga Khan III, Memoirs of Aga Khan, 175.
  2. Aga Khan III, Memoirs of Aga Khan, 177.
  3. Robson, J., Book X. God's Names. Chapter II. The reward for glorifying, praising, declaring God's unity and His greatness. In: Mishkat al Masabih Vol. I (English translation with explanatory notes), 486.

References

  1. Aga Khan III. Memoirs of Aga Khan. Cassell, London, 1954.
  2. Robson, J. Mishkat al Masabih Vol. I (English translation with explanatory notes), Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, r1990.

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Article by Dr. Noorallah Juma
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