Robert Spencer explains the meaning of “Allahu akbar”

Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch, offered an enlightening analysis of the now familiar Arabic phrase “Allahu akbar.”


CHARLOTTE, N.C., Dec. 27, 2015 — In a Dec. 25 article for Breitbart, Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch offered an enlightening analysis of the now familiar Arabic phrase “Allahu akbar.”

Spencer’s explanation hit upon several levels, not the least of which was the woeful misunderstanding the West has of Islam and how to deal with extremist jihad.

The term “Allahu akbar” is well known to virtually everyone, but as Spencer points out,

The war-cry is mistranslated in the Western media as ‘God is great.’ But the actual meaning is ‘Allah is greater,’ meaning Allah Is Greater Than Your God or Government.

It is the aggressive declaration that Allah and Islam are dominant over every other form of government, religion, law or ethic, which is why Islamic jihadists in the midst of killing infidels so often shout it.

The distinction may seem insignificant to Western observers, but for an Islamist it is considerable. The cry seems no more symbolic than a Rebel yell or shouting “charge” during a military attack, but “Allahu akbar” is far more than that.

It is intended to frighten any non-Muslim who hears it, and in the decade and a half since 9/11, there is no “infidel” who does not cringe at the sound of those words.

As Spencer explains, “One primary purpose of shouting is to ‘strike terror in the hearts of the enemies of Allah.’”

(But) it is also frequently used when no infidels are within earshot. According to Islam, Allah is sovereign and dominant over all things, and controls everything. His control is so absolute he decides if unbelievers reject Islam, according to the Qur’an. “If we had willed, We could have given every soul its guidance,” but instead, “I will surely fill Hell with jinn and people all together.”

Other than the misunderstanding of the phrase, perhaps the most telling aspect of the words is their incongruity. Like so much of Islam, they are a muddle of contradictions. Much of that is by design in order to allow “justification” for every action.

“Allahu akbar” has multiple meanings and a variety of uses. Spencer notes that it “can be a declaration of joy and gratitude to Allah … (or) it can also be an expression of grief and anger. “In Islam, the outcome actually determined by human choice, math, probability, luck and machinery are all under Allah’s control, and so the most appropriate thing to no matter what happens is … Allahu akbar. In terms of its connotation, then, “Allahu akbar” can mean just about anything — except the one phrase it is most often rendered as in English, ‘God is great.’”

Islam uses another word, “Inshallah,” which means “If God wills it.” Both phrases include the word “Allah.”

In the case of “Inshallah,” it means that everything happens for a reason that God determines. A taxi driver in Saudi Arabia, for example, is not responsible when he is involved in an accident while driving a passenger because he would not have been at the site of the wreck had the rider not requested the fare.

If this begins to sound in any way similar to the manner in which President Obama approaches foreign policy, you begin to get the idea of why we are in such mass confusion in dealing with Islamic ideology.

Nothing an Islamist does should be taken lightly because in their world there is no room for joy. Happiness does not exist in Islam. Thus, as Spencer says, “Even though ‘Allah’ means ‘the God’ and is used by most Arabic-speaking Christians to refer to the God of Christianity, when jihadis use the phrase, they mean to emphasize the superiority of Islam and its god – hence it would be more precise to leave the word untranslated and render the phrase ‘Allah is greater’ in English.”

Monotheistic religions often like to say that we all worship the same God, just in different ways.

Says Spencer, “As jihadis the world over scream ‘Allahu akbar’ as they begin killing infidels, there is no doubt that this phrase does indeed, all to often, strike terror in the hearts of unbelievers: the superiority of the god of Islam is asserted in blood.”

In Christianity “God is great,” but in Islam “God is greater.”

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News. Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod

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