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Title: Takbir  
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Subject: Flag of Iraq, Allahu Akbar (anthem), Allah, Eid prayers, Adhan
Collection: Arabic Words and Phrases, Islamic Terminology, Superlatives in Religion
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The Takbīr in nastaliq Arabic, as well as English.
A Muslim raises both of his hands to recite the Takbīr in prayer.

The Takbīr (تَكْبِير), also written Tekbir or Takbeer, is the term for the Arabic phrase Allāhu Akbar (الله أكبر), usually translated as "Allah is great", "Allah is [the] greatest", "God is great" or "God is [the] greatest".[1][2] It is a common Islamic Arabic expression, used in various contexts by Muslims; in formal prayer, in the call for prayer (adhān),[3] as an informal expression of faith, in times of distress, or to express resolute determination, defiance or as a battle cry.

The form Allāhu is the nominative of Allah, meaning "God". In the context of Islam, it is the proper name of God.[4][5] The form akbar is the elative of the adjective kabīr, meaning "great", from the Semitic root k-b-r. As used in the Takbīr it is usually translated as "greatest", but some authors prefer "greater".[6][7][8]

The term Takbīr itself is the stem II verbal noun (tafʿīlun) of the triliteral root k-b-r, meaning "great", from which Akbar "greater" is derived.

The literal and correct translation of Allāhu Akbar (الله أكبر) in Arabic is “God is greater” rather than “God is great” Allāhu kabeer (الله كبير) or “God is [the] greatest” Allāhu alakbar (الله الأكبر). This is the true meaning in the usage of this phrase too as to downgrade any entity or concept that seems to be great by recalling that “God is greater [yet]”. It is used to emphasize that God is greater than any real entity or imaginary concept you may appreciate. In the call for prayer, it means God is greater than worldly affairs. In battle fields, God is greater than the enemy or distress. In religious conviction, God is still greater than any theology.


  • Usage 1
    • In prayer 1.1
    • In the Quran 1.2
    • In times of distress 1.3
    • In times of joy and gratitude 1.4
    • Following births and deaths 1.5
    • During the Eid Festival and the Hajj 1.6
    • Jihadist usage 1.7
    • In warfare and politics 1.8
      • In history 1.8.1
      • Iranian usage 1.8.2
      • In Syrian and Iraqi Insurgency 1.8.3
    • On flags 1.9
    • Informal usage 1.10
  • See also 2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


This phrase is recited by Muslims and Arabic speaking Orthodox Christians in many different situations. For example, when they are very happy, to express approval, to prevent a Muslim from becoming prideful by reminding them that Allah is their source of success, or as a battle cry, during times of extreme stress.

In prayer

The phrase is said during each stage of both obligatory prayers (performed five times a day), and supererogatory prayers (performed at will). The Muslim call to prayer (adhan) by the muezzin and to commence prayer (iqama) also contains the phrase.[3]

In the Quran

In times of distress

This phrase is also used in times of distress.

Just before a Garuda Airbus A300B-4 crashed into the jungle near Medan, Indonesia, the pilot screamed "Aaaaaah! Allahu Akbar!" into his radio. According to a radio communication transcript, the pilot's conversation with the air controller had been in English, but his last words were this Arabic phrase as the plane crashed on September 26, 1997, killing all 235 people aboard in Indonesia's deadliest crash. It was suspected that the crash may have been due to either disorientation or engine failure caused by local dense smog resulting from forest fires.[9][10]

After a failed attempt to climb the world's second highest peak, K2, according to Greg Mortenson's book, he was greeted by his porter with the phrase, "Allah Akbar! Blessings to Allah you're alive!"[11]

In times of joy and gratitude

When Reshma Begum was discovered alive 17 days after the 2013 Savar building collapse in Bangladesh which killed 1129 people, crowds jubilantly cried Allahu Akbar to express their joy and gratitude that she had survived.[12][13]

As a multi-purpose phrase, it is sometimes used by Arab football commentators as an expression of amazement.[14]

Following births and deaths

The phrase is used after the birth of a child as a means of praising God.[15]

In the hadith, Muhammad is reported to have spoken the Takbīr after a funeral.[16]

During the Eid Festival and the Hajj

During the festival of Eid al-Adha and the days preceding it, Muslims recite the Takbīr. This is particularly the case on the Day of Arafa.[17][17]

Jihadist usage

The phrase is well known in the west for its common use as a battle cry in Islamist protests, Islamic extremism, and Islamic terrorism.[18][19][20]

After 9/11, the FBI released a letter reportedly handwritten by the hijackers and found in three separate locations on September 11, 2001—at Dulles International Airport, at the Pennsylvania crash site, and in hijacker Mohamed Atta's suitcase. It included a checklist of final reminders for the 9/11 hijackers. An excerpt reads: "When the confrontation begins, strike like champions who do not want to go back to this world. Shout, 'Allahu Akbar,' because this strikes fear in the hearts of the non-believers." Also, in the cockpit voice recorders found at the crash site of Flight 93, the hijackers are heard reciting the Takbīr repeatedly as the plane plummets toward the ground and the passengers attempt to retake control of the plane.[21][22][23][24]

When in March 2002 Maryam Mohammad Yousif Farhat of Hamas, popularized as "Umm Nidal" (and subsequently elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council),[25] learned that her 17-year-old son had died during a suicide attack in which he killed five teenagers, she celebrated by proclaiming "Allahu Akbar!" and giving out boxes of halva and chocolates.[26][27][28] Imam Samudra, who was sentenced to death for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, chanted the phrase upon hearing his sentence.[29][30][31][32][33]

In the video of Nick Berg being beheaded in Iraq in 2004, the perpetrators can be heard shouting "Allahu Akbar!".[34] And in the 2007 Fort Dix attack plot, a group of radical Islamists who were convicted of plotting an attack on the Fort Dix military base in New Jersey had videotaped themselves shooting weapons and shouting Allahu Akbar.[35][36][37] In 2008, Aafia Siddiqui is alleged to have fired at U.S. interrogators while yelling "Allah Akbar".[38][39][40][41]

During the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, witnesses reported that gunman Nidal Malik Hasan shouted "Allahu Akbar" before opening fire, killing 13 people and wounding 30 others.[42] And Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad smiled and said "Allahu Akbar" after receiving a life sentence in 2010 for his attempted bombing.[43][44]

During the incident aboard American Airlines Flight 1561 in 2011, the person attempting to bash his way into the cockpit was heard shouting "Allahu Akbar".[45] Mohammed Merah recorded himself shouting Allahu Akbar as he killed three French paratroopers in the 2012 Midi-Pyrénées shootings.[46] In the 2014 Jerusalem synagogue attack witnesses reported that the perpetrators screamed "Allahu Akbar" as they axed and shot at the worshippers.[47][48] The killers in the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris shouted Allahu Akbar during their attack.[49]

In warfare and politics

In history

It has been used historically as a battle cry during war. It was first used in war by Muhammad in the Battle of Badr, the first battle in Islam.[50]

Iranian usage

During the Iranian revolution of 1979, it was shouted from rooftops in Iran during the evenings as a form of protest. This practice returned in the aftermath of the 2009 Iranian presidential election,[51][52] to protest the election results.[53] Many people shouted it from 22:00–22:30 every night, after the 2009 Iranian election to protest the result.

In Syrian and Iraqi Insurgency

In videos released during the course of the Syrian Civil War, Free Syrian Army, Al-Nusra Front, other rebel and Islamist groups and ISIL forces are heard shouting "Takbir" and "Allahu Akbar" in the background while fighting.

In the course of the Iraqi insurgency, Islamist fighters are seen and heard shouting "Takbir" and "Allahu Akbar".

Jihadists and the Islamist videos are also shown its fighters making Takbir with a pointing finger up.

On flags

The phrase "Allahu Akbar" is written on the center of the flag of Iraq, 22 times along the borders of the central white stripe on the flag of Iran, and beneath the Shahadah in the flag of Afghanistan in white script on the central red background as determined by the 2004 draft constitution.


During the Persian Gulf war in January 1991, Saddam Hussein held a meeting with top military commanders, where it was decided to add the words Allahu Akbar (described as the Islamic battle cry)[54] to Iraq's flag to boost his secular regime's religious credentials, casting himself as the leader of an Islamic army.[55][56] Hussein described the flag as "the banner of jihad and monotheism".[57]

In 2004, Iraq's U.S.-picked Governing Council approved a new flag for Iraq that abandoned symbols of Hussein's regime, such as the words Allahu Akbar.[55][58] In January 2008, however, Iraq's parliament passed a law to change the flag by leaving in the phrase, but changing the calligraphy of the words Allahu Akbar, which had been a copy of Saddam's handwriting, to a Kufic script.[59][60]


The phrase Allahu Akbar is written on the Iranian flag, as called for by Article 18 of Iran's constitution.[61] The phrase appears 22 times on the flag.[62]


The Afghan constitution that came into force on January 4, 2004, required that Allahu Akbar be inscribed on Afghanistan's national flag.[63]

1930s Waziristan (Pakistan) resistance movement

A resistance movement that fought British rule in Waziristan, Pakistan, in the 1930s used a red flag bearing Allahu Akbar in white letters.[64]

Informal usage

Like 'OMG' it is a phrase that can be used in multiple contexts as the first words that come to mind when something happens and how the phrase is said rather than what it says is what gives meaning to someones statement or exclamation, especially in informal settings. It can be said in surprise, in shock, in disbelief, in sadness, in happiness, in hope. To most people saying the phrase becomes such second nature, that they often don't think about its original meaning as they are saying the takbir.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Böwering, Gerhard, God and His Attributes, Encyclopaedia of the Qurʼān, Brill, 2007.
  5. ^ Macdonald, D. B. The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edition. Brill, 1971. Volume 3, H-Iram, p. 1093, Ilah.
  6. ^ E. W. Lane, Arabic English Lexicon, 1893, gives for kabir: "greater, and greatest, in body, or corporeal substance, and in estimation or rank or dignity, and more, or most, advanced in age, older, and oldest" (p. 2587).
  7. ^
  8. ^ "The formula, as the briefest expression of the absolute superiority of the One God, is used in Muslim life in different circumstances, in which the idea of God, His greatness and goodness is suggested." Wensinck, A. J. The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edition. Brill, 2000. Volume 10, T-U, p. 119, Takbir.
  9. ^
  10. ^ AP via Seattle Times: Indonesian Pilot Was Confused Before Crash, September 29, 1997
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ [2]
  20. ^ [3]
  21. ^ FBI Releases Copy of 4 Page Letter Linked to HijackersFBI, Press Conference national Press Release, September 28, 2001
  22. ^ Instructions for the Last Night, PBS Frontline, "Inside the Terror Network, tracking their personal stories."
  23. ^ , p. 116, Bruce Lincoln,Holy terrors: thinking about religion after September 11 University of Chicago Press, 2006, ISBN 0-226-48203-0, comparing it to Quranic passage 8.12–14, accessed February 5, 2010
  24. ^
  25. ^ Stalinsky, Steven, "Hamas's Philosophy on Raising Martyrs", New York Sun, March 15, 2006, accessed February 5, 2010
  26. ^ Palestinian Legislative Council Candidate and Mother of Three Hamas Terrorists Umm Nidal Farhat: Israelis are Not Civilians and There are No Prohibitions on Killing Them; I Am Willing to Sacrifice My Ten Sons Interview with Dream2 TV aired on December 21, 2005. MEMRI TV
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^,4057,7230415%255E401,00.html
  30. ^,5478,7225199%255E661,00.html Archived May 7, 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ , p. 187, Dewi Anggraeni, Indra Publishing, 2003, ISBN 1-920787-08-9, accessed February 5, 2010Who did this to our Bali?
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^ CBS News report
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^ Ludwig W. Adamec, Historical Dictionary of Islam, Scarecrow Press, 2nd ed. 2009, pg. 32
  51. ^ Yahoo News Archived June 17, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^ a b
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^
  59. ^ Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, "Iraqi Lawmakers Vote to Change Flag," USA Today, January 22, 2008, accessed February 9, 2010
  60. ^
  61. ^
  62. ^ Jacoby, Jeff, "Is Israel a Jewish State?", The Boston Globe, November 14, 2007, accessed February 11, 2010
  63. ^ [ McCarthy, Andrew C., "Cold Comfort on Islam and Apostasy; No one who’s actually read the Afghan constitution should be surprised by the Abdul Rahman case", National Review, March 27, 2006, accessed February 11, 2010]
  64. ^


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