It is a common Arabic expression, used in various contexts by Muslims
and Arabs across the world: in formal Salah
in the Adhan
(Islamic call to prayer),
as an informal expression of faith
, in times of distress or joy, or to express resolute determination or defiance. The phrase is also used by Christian Arabs
Usage in Islamic rituals
raises both of his hands to recite the Takbīr in prayer.
This phrase is recited by Muslims
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, as a battle cry
, or during times of extreme stress. The phrase is not found in the Quran, which does not refer to God as akbar
, but uses the name al-Kabīr
"The Great" or Kabīr
"Great", commonly translated as "Most Great" (13:9, 31:30, 22:62, 34:23, 40:12, 4:34).
The phrase is said during each stage of both salah
(obligatory prayers, performed five times a day), and nafl
(supererogatory prayers, performed at will). The Muslim call to prayer (adhan
) by the muezzin
and to commence prayer (iqama
) also contains the phrase.
While there are many short prayers like it, the usage of takbir is more frequent than any other short prayer.
Following births and deaths
The phrase is used after the birth of a child as a means of praising God.
It is also part Islamic funeral and burial customs.
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 Arafah
During the halal slaughter of animals
The process of pronouncing the name of Allah while performing Dhabihah
one must say "Bismillah Allahu Akbar".
Other social usage
"Allāhu akbar" in Arabic calligraphy seen on Imam Ali Mosque
architecture (center of the Iwan), 1994
The expression "Allah Akbar" can be used in a variety of situations, from celebrations to times of grief.
In a historical account by someone who was present both at the birth of Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr
and at his funeral, the author observes that "Allahu Akbar" was said on both occasions.
In times of distress
The phrase is sometimes used during distress.
Just before Garuda Indonesia Flight 152
crashed into the jungle near Medan
, Indonesia, the pilot screamed "Aaaaaaah! Allāhu 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 the takbir as the plane crashed on September 26, 1997, killing all 234 people aboard in Indonesia's deadliest crash. It was suspected that the crash may have been due to either disorientation
or turbine engine failure
caused by local dense smog
resulting from forest fires.
In times of joy and gratitude
Takbir can be used to express joy or surprise. It is also used as applause in religious contexts, such as after a Quran recital, as other forms of applause are considered less appropriate.
When Reshma Begum was discovered alive 17 days after the 2013 Savar building collapse
in Bangladesh which killed 1129 people, crowds jubilantly cried "Allāhu akbar
" to express their joy and gratitude that she had survived.
It has been used historically as a battle cry
Ibn Ishaq's Life of Mohammed narrates at least two incidents in which the phrase was used.
"When the apostle raided a people he waited until the morning. If he heard a call to prayer' he held back; if he did not hear it he attacked. We came to Khaybar by night, and the apostle passed the night there; and when morning came he did not hear the call to prayer,' so he rode and we rode with him, and I rode behind Abii Talba with my foot touching the apostle's foot. We met the workers of Khaybar coming out in the morning with their spades and baskets. When they saw the apostle and the army they cried, `Muhammad with his force,' and turned tail and fled. The apostle said, 'Allah akbar! Khaybar is destroyed. When we arrive in a people's square it is a bad morning for those who have been warned.'" (page 511) "So he got off his horse and came at him and 'Ali advanced with his shield. `Amr aimed a blow which cut deeply into the shield so that the sword stuck in it and struck his head. But 'Ali gave him a blow on the vein at the base of the neck and he fell to the ground. The dust rose and the apostle heard the cry, 'Allah Akbar' and knew that 'Ali had killed him." (page 456) 
Usage by extremists
The phrase has sometimes been used as a battle cry by Muslim extremists
. This usage has been denounced by other (majority of) Muslims.
Professor Khaled A. Beydoun
writes that the association of the phrase "Allah Akbar" with terrorism has been exacerbated by mass media and television pundits. He points out that fictional films and shows also utilize it as a cinematic trope
further cementing the association.
Usage by Christians
The phrase is also used by Arabic-speaking Christians; "God" being translated "Allah" in Arabic. The phrase is also used in liturgical contexts among Palestinian Orthodox Christians
, and has been defended by Palestinian Orthodox Archbishop, Sebastia Theodosios.
The phrase Allāhu 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 Shahada
in the flag of Afghanistan
in white script on the central red background as determined by the 2004 draft constitution.
During the Gulf War
in January 1991, Saddam Hussein
held a meeting with top military commanders, where it was decided to add the words Allāhu akbar
(described as the Islamic battle cry
to Iraq's flag to boost his secular regime's religious credentials, casting himself as the leader of an Islamic army.
Hussein described the flag as "the banner of jihad and monotheism".
In 2004, the US-picked Iraqi Governing Council
approved a new flag for Iraq that abandoned symbols of Hussein's regime, such as the words Allāhu akbar
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 Allāhu akbar
, which had been a copy of Hussein's handwriting, to a Kufic
The Iraqi flag under Hussein had each of the two words of the phrase written in one of the spaces between the stars on the central band; the 2008 flag, while leaving the phrase in, removes the stars.
The Afghan constitution that came into force on January 4, 2004, required that Allāhu akbar
be inscribed on Afghanistan's national flag.
A resistance movement that fought British rule in Waziristan
, led by Riv in the 1930s, used a red flag bearing Allāhu akbar
in white letters.
Also transliterated as Takbīr
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