Pejoration of Allahu Akbar In Islam
Around the world, the Islamic world ‘Allahu Akbar’ has somehow ended up becoming synonymous with terrorism. It has turned into a term to be not spoken in public unless one needs attention. The pejoration of the Arabic word has ignited hatred and to an extent fear. But how far is the reality? In actuality, the word means so much more than what the world thinks it meant.
In all sense ‘Allahu Akbar’ means that God is the greatest and not “you are going to die.”
Though Islam is the second largest growing religion in the world, the prejudice against it is also pacing up. In India alone, communalism to problematize the word as an anti-anything sentiment is speeding up and more and more people including the believers of Islam tend to discard the phrase. Communalism in India has forced people to assume that Allahu Akbar is an anti-Hindu case, but the ground reality is different. The CSDS-NES survey 2019 and the recent Pew study on religion in India confirm that an overwhelming majority of Hindus respect Islam as an Indian religion. To put it clearly, the majority of Hindus believe that in order to be a good Hindu, one needs to accept and respect all religions including Islam.
The Significance of Allahu Akbar in Islam
“O humankind! We have made you into nations and tribes, so that you may get to know one another. The noblest of you in God’s sight is the one who is most righteous.” Chapter 49, verse 13, Quran.
It’s a beautiful phrase in the Quran that reflects the beauty of diversity and how people should open-heartedly welcome differences. The word Allahu Akbar means the god is greatest, a quote that is no different to Christians ‘praise God’. It holds a deep meaning for the Muslim community all around the world with its reiteration in prayers including Namaz. In fact, some people also use the phrase to say ‘Thank god’, which in itself is a socially accepted term in any language around the globe. It is a celebration of life that mothers speak in the ears of their babies or by people praising the beauty of nature.
Though there is no doubt that Allahu Akbar is widely used by terrorists and, from time to time, it has been portrayed in a derogatory sense. Often through the hands of violent lunatics, the word is disparaged and used before starting unacceptable acts of violence and bloodshed. Some of the worst crimes against humanity being started by the name of faith- the faith of one billion people. Thus, it is disheartening and infuriating that terrorists have tainted the holy word in a way that leaves especially those who aren’t Muslim terrified of the phrase.
So when did it start? Since when did the Muslims become ‘They’? Through the lens of the world, the first encounter of this anti-muslim opinion begins with the unfortunate events of 9/11. On September 11, 2001, 19 militants from the Islamic extremist group al Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and struck terror against the US by crashing planes into the Twin towers. While two Planes were crashed on The World Trade Center, the rest of the two attacked Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Around 2,977 innocent people were killed in the ill events of 9/11. It’s hard to comprehend how the group of just 19 militants took out one of the deadliest and infelicitous attacks in the history of mankind.
The hijackers were the Islamic terrorists of al Qaeda, an organization headed by Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden. They showed the world how brutal and crude a person can be but most of all how they used faith for their own personal benefits. These terrorists together have robbed Muslims off their ideologies and beliefs. The single recitation of Allahu Akbar in public can get a Muslim escorted off the plane, can clear streets, and make people scared and threatened, even worse, jailed.
There are so many people around the globe who have been questioned about their identity just because of the faith they believe in. The best example is of the Muslim community living in America that still bears the repercussions of 9/11. One can easily understand that any ban on immigration correlates to the ban on Muslim immigration and thousand of other stories narrates the tale of unacceptance and refusal.
The word is the skewed perception of whose going to commit a crime. Allahu Akbar, a word that was meant for kindness, reassurance, empathy, love, and warmth- had become synonymous with meanness, anguish, fright, and most importantly terror. Allahu Akbar, as I repeat it, is a prayerful sentiment that reminds us that, no matter what our concerns maybe, God is there to help us.
The beautiful and resonant meaning of Allahu Akbar is exactly how it should be recognized because derogation of it isn’t just about the language, but about the belief of millions of Muslims worldwide. It’s an expression of the Muslim faith that shouldn’t be made into something that Muslims are scared to be judged on. And it’s time to get it back.
What Can Be Done?
The remedy to this moral crisis can be easy but challenging as well. Because the change in ideologies is often tougher to occur than the anarchic change. It should be recognized as an expression meant to relate God’s mercy and compassion. And this can only be achieved if we actively volunteer to listen to each other’s stories, stories of identity, faith, and solicitude. It is important to proactively get to know one another. We need to allow voices to be heard without the lens of patriarchy and hatred, to bounce the wall of prejudice.
“I personally believe that people shouldn’t be divided on the basis of caste, color, and creed. Allahu Akbar, in the beginning, did impact me because of the series of public opinions and media coverage. But as I grew up and started conversing with people of a different faith, I realized that there is so much beauty in differences and that few terrorists cannot define the whole community”. Parul Yadav, editor, The Indianness.
Our stories have the power to change ideologies, they can help us understand the values of others and what’s important to them. Because we believe that a handful of terrorists cannot define the faith of one billion people on earth and 200 million people in India. Because extremists manipulate the ideology according to what suits them including these terrorists.