This week another tragedy happened in the world. This time in Paris. The offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo were attacked by two men claiming to be avenging those who drew cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) in a negative way. Whenever something like this happens I hold my breathe and say, “please don’t let them say they’re Muslim,” sadly too often I’m wrong. We were gone all day Wednesday but when I flipped on CNN after seeing multiple references on Facebook the first thing I heard reported was along the lines of, “the men were heard speaking in perfect French and shouting Allah’u Akbar as they entered the building.” I heaved a heavy sigh.
Further coverage focused on those two words that have come to mean something sinister. It left me wondering just how far apart we (as people) are based on hearing these words. So I started to ask people what they thought.
What these words evoke is terrorists. I know it is not what they mean and it saddens me greatly for the Islamic religion and its sincere followers. But we are in a state of shock and mourning and to know the terrorists uttered these words during their bloody attack, makes it difficult for me to think of anything else…..
For me I have two main associations. I associate it with hearing it over and over in media and Hollywood movies of terrorists who say it before they commit some vile act (sad but true) and I associate it with prayer and spirituality, in going to mosque and hearing the imam go through prayers or hearing Azan in Muslim countries. Luckily unlike the average non-Muslim who sees a Hollywood movie, I know enough about Islam to know that association is not just unfair, it’s flat out wrong….
For me it is very positive. The Baha’i Faith originated in a Muslim country so growing up I was more familiar with Islamic culture than your average white American kid. We have a similar expression (“Allah-u-Abha” = God is most Glorious) that we use all the time – as a greeting, as a prayer – so for me Allah’u’Akbar is similar. I think it is tragic that such a beautiful expression has been associated with terror..
I must admit that it could sound scary to me as well at first, but it means God is Great, no? Christians have many more sayings like this (thank God, for example, so it shouldn’t be that different).
But, it’s very clear that to many people those words automatically mean something awful. I readily admit I was one of those people. Even after becoming Muslim I struggled when I would hear someone proclaim Allah’u Akbar. I cringed. I was so programmed to see it as something negative that I couldn’t see past the bias I had learned. One day, when we were visiting Fez, I was sitting by myself on top of the riad where we were staying. The adhan (call to prayer) began. This was nothing new, living in Morocco we hear it 5 times a day everyday but what was new was that I realized for the first time I relaxed when it began. The muzzein declaring God is Great, come to pray filled me with happiness and not fear. For Muslims the relationship with those words is something completely different.
I have grown up hearing it so lots of associations came to mind. One of the strongest is of my grandmother saying it when she used to move around because of her rheumatoid arthritis causing her pain, it’s something I often hear older people such as my mum-in-law saying for this reason. Another one is exasperated mums to their children, including me. Another example comes to mind from a few years ago is from a television report about a bombing in Iraq during the Iraq war and people trying to rescue loved ones from under rubble all yelling Allah’u Akbar. The reporter was struck enough by this to mention it and it made me realise the extent to which people resort to these words in times of difficulty. So sad that negative associations have come to be attached to it.
When I hear the words I feel relieved and humbled. I feel a sense of flawless protection.
When I hear the words Allah’u Akbar I remember Allah is greater than any problem or issue that is happening at that time and I feel relief.
When I hear Allah’u Akbar, I understand that for God nothing is impossible. He cures… He softens the hearts… He is the only One who has miracles. He is the only One who answers prayers.
Whenever I hear Allah’u Akbar or recite it myself, I feel as if I have submitted myself completely to Him and I am now in total protection of The Greatest and The Most Merciful… I feel contented and relaxed at heart and that feeling is beautiful!
When I hear Allahu Akbar, I know Allah is the greatest and feel humbled that I am a Muslim. I get goosebumps when the entire masjid says Allah’u Akbar at the same time, love the feeling, alhamdulillah!
It’s quite the contrast isn’t it? I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around how two words can have such completely different meanings. But this response is one of my favorites in trying to understand.
It reminds me of the crazies that call themselves “ISIS” In ancient Egypt, Isis was a benevolent and very respected Goddess (all the opposite of what these men are). When you use a symbol (such as a swastika) or a name to take away from the true origin or a word or symbol, to make it have an “evil connotation”, you lower the spirituality, you twist the mind of people to react to these things with fear and in doing so, make life difficult for the ones who see the Love and divine Guidance in them. You associate attributes, symbols and names of Love and Goodness, with Darkness, Fear and Murder. You cut the link between God and us.
My hope in sharing this is that you think twice about how you associate words, any two words but especially those that people hold sacred. Remember those that would use these words negatively not only create fear of them in you but take something from those of us who seek comfort and peace in them.
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