Fruits for the Week

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Allahu Akbar. Allah is the Greatest. These are the first words of Muslim child hears after entering this world. The father makes the call to prayer on his or her ears as the welcome-to-this-world massage. The same call is heard wherever there are Muslims, five times a day. The prayers (salat) also begin with this pronouncement. Certainly this is the symbol, the cornerstone, as it were, of Islam. There is no power in the world equal to the power of the One God. Allah is the Greatest.

This has been the Islamic message right from the beginning. The very first surah (chapter) to be revealed to Prophet Muhammad (saw) was surah Muddathir. And it contains the command:” And thy Lord, do thou magnify.” (Al-Muddathir: 3). Declare Allahu Akbar. Announce that Allah is the Greatest.

The pagans of Arabia did not like it. The Jews and Christians were not happy with it either. The irony is that at the same time all of them professed belief in the statement. The pagans believed in many gods, but did believe in the Supreme God too. They claimed authority for their smaller gods, but did not claim them to be bigger that Allah (swt). Jews and Christians clearly believed in God, the Creator and Lord of the universe. With the exception of a small group of atheists, that remains valid until today, as the US dollar bill announces to the whole world:” In God we trust.” The question is, then, why should anyone have a problem with Allahu Akbar? Why feel uneasy with it or feel threatened by it? Is it not saying the same thing that they already agree with? The answer lies in the Islamic concept of God. 

In the western literature, God is presented as a wise man. To the mathematician-philosopher, He may be a super mathematician or even a differential equation. To the scientist, He is the First cause that jumpstarted this universe, which is now running on its own. To all of them, He is a good subject for a hobby but is irrelevant to our day-to-day affairs. As one scientist puts it,” I subscribe to Einstein’s religion. It’s an oceanic feeling; there’s that great big thing out there that’s pretty marvellous.” Thing?

Einstein, who reportedly considered himself spiritual but not religious, said” I want to know how God created this world.” The implication is that He did it once. I am studying and conquering His universe now. But for intellectual curiosity it will be good to learn a little more about Him. “ He may have created the laws of nature but since creation He has left them pretty much alone. He does not come in and tweak them anymore.”

A people’s concept of God is the first place to look for to get an idea of the corruption that their religion has gone through. Now let us compare the above confusions with Islam’s declaration of an All-Knowing, All-Powerful God who created the universe and who is running it every second. His attributes are best described in the well-known ayatul-kursi. Look at this marvellous profound declaration that is beyond any human’s capacity to compose but within everyone’s ability to feel:” Allah! There is no god but He, the Living, the Eternal, Supporter of all. Neither slumber nor sleep can seize Him. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is he that intercedes with Him except by His leave? He knows that which is in front of them and that which is behind them, while they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He wills. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth and He is never weary of preserving them. He is the Most High, the Supreme.” (Al-Baqarah: 255)

What a tremendously empowering creed! From the smallest to the largest, everything in the universe depends on Him. He depends on none. All other powers are illusory. His is the only real Power. When He is on our side, we need not fear anymore. If He is not pleased with us, the support of the whole world for us will be for naught. Worldly powers try to manipulate people by telling them what they can do for them and they can do to them. But a person informed by Allahu Akbar will not be tempted by the first or intimidated by the second. The power of “world powers” evaporates before the shouts of Allahu Akbar. In fact there is no empowerment outside this belief, and no enslavement to other humans with it! We can see why claimants to power in this world may be threatened by it.

What a tremendously liberating creed! It liberates us from slavery to our own desires also. His knowledge is unlimited. Ours is extremely limited. What can we do except follow His command? He is watching us all the time. We can not get away with disobedience because of His oversight. He will judge us and no one will be able to intercede on our behalf except with His permission. We can see why those who are afraid of accountability may be threatened by it.

Allahu Akbar is the weapon that gives us the courage to challenge all subjugation, political or intellectual. It makes us turn our attention to the Creator and ignore other creations like ourselves. In the battlefield of jihad, the power of this weapon has been felt by people on both sides of the conflicts. In every conflict the shouts of Allahu Akbar instilled fear in the hearts of the oppressors. It boosted the morale of the mujahidin with new levels of hope and courage. And that is the way it should be, because Allah is the Greatest.

By Khalid Baig