Some of you may know that Muslims call God “Allah”. Nouman Ali Khan, a Muslim speaker who studied the Quran along with Modern Standard, Classical, and Quranic Arabic, explains the linguistic origins of the word Allah in this video here. There are two major scholarly opinions. Either Allah is a compound of al (the) and ilah (god) or it is a unique word not derived from any other word.
Allah has a lot of names such as “The Most Merciful”, “The Most Gracious”, “The All-Knowing” etc. Despite the many names we may call our Creator, we essentially believe that there is only One.
So what does Allahu Akbar mean?
There are certain phrases that Muslims use to praise God,
- Alhamdulillah (Pronounced: Al-hamd-doo-lee-lah)
“Praise be to Allah.”
- SubhanAllah (Pronounced: Su-ba-han Al-lah)
“Glory to God”
- Allahu Akbar (Pronounced: Al-lah hoo-ak-bar)
“God is [the] greatest”
These three praises are usually uttered whenever Muslims are in awe. Whenever we are reminded of Allah’s greatness (for example, when we see a beautiful or magnificent view and marvel at the fact that Allah created the beauty before us. Or when we come across a scientific fact and are reminded of how powerful and great Allah is for creating science and a wide range of knowledge that keeps on expanding), we recite at least one of the above praises.
The praises are innocent and are supposed to be used in a peaceful, innocent, and humbling context. However and unfortunately , Muslim extremists and the way some mainstream media demonises Muslims has led to praises such as “Allahu Akbar” to have negative connotations.
When really in actual fact, they are not only recited to praise Allah and to remember His greatness, but to humble ourselves as well. Too often do we think too highly of ourselves to a point that we become arrogant. Which is why it is important to remind ourselves that no matter how highly we may perceive ourselves or someone, Allah is without a doubt much greater; greatest even.
On another note:
There was once an issue in Malaysia in regards to using the word ‘Allah’ in the Malay translation of the Bible, and it sparked a lot of debate. Although I do understand the reason why it was seen as okay since Allah is the word for God and the Christians in Arab countries use the word ‘Allah’/’Ilah’ in their translation of the Bible, I also understand why using it may spark confusion.
Just like there’s Classical English and the modern English language that we use today, the same applies to every other language, Arabic included. There’s Quranic Arabic, Classical Arabic, and the modern Arabic language that is used today. And just like how you would be able to distinguish the level of English language used when you compare Shakespeare with a book like Harry Potter, those who really know and speak Arabic would be able to differentiate the Quran with an Arabic translation of the bible. The same can’t be applied in Malaysia.
The Malay translation of both the Bible and the Quran use modern-day Malay. Therefore if someone were to read either one, they wouldn’t be able to know which text is from which scripture unless they double checked beforehand (which would be such a hassle and is highly unlikely since it’s not like we fact check every single thing we read anyway).