Allahu Akbar: We Love Life

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

Genuine faith sleeps under all that rubble. It helps us to focus and recognize that God is greater than what we see and hear and understand.

fedwa wazwaz
Before anything else, I want to condemn the tragic loss of life in Manhattan. To the victims’ families, I would add:

It is with great sorrow and sympathy that we send our condolences to the families and loved ones connected to the tragic event in Manhattan. The shock of unexpected violence and death can bring about bewilderment and trauma, and it is difficult to make sense of let alone bear. We pray that God comforts their souls in this difficult time.

I also want to take time to discuss the phrase Allahu Akbar, which has been misused by those plotting murder, but also used by billions of Muslims throughout their daily lives. We begin each prayer with the phrase “Allahu Akbar.” But what does it mean, and how do we interpret these words in our lives?

I shared something about the phrase “Allahu Akbar” earlier this year. In light of recent events, I would like to share an updated version along with a video. You can see, in the video, the happiness that comes with the nonstop usage of “Allahu Akbar” at the discovery of a child found alive after a building collapse.

That’s because, Allahu Akbar, or “God is greater,” shows a great love of life.

Watch the video at the end of this blog. It’s in Arabic, and you might not understand what the people in it are saying. But you can listen to the tone and watch the facial expressions.

As you watch, what thoughts come to mind?

The first thing you’ll probably notice is the number of times people in the video shout “Allahu Akbar,” which means God is Greater. In this case, it means: God is greater than our imagination, our thoughts, our expectations, our feelings, or our understanding. In the video, it expresses joy, amazement, bewilderment, and other feelings that are hard to put into words. These are all feelings that came after a period of hopelessness, when people find a child alive under the rubble, underneath a collapsed building.

We join them and say loudly “Allahu Akbar!”

Second, you’ll hear the phrase “Sali ala an-Nabi” which means, roughly, Send prayers to Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings. It’s used, in this case, for people to calm each other, as they are extremely overwhelmed by joy and excitement at finding the child.

Third, you’ll find that, beyond words, the men’s faces filled with astonishing joy. They have exerted tremendous effort and worked together, using their bare hands, to dig in the ground and rescue this child.

Fourth, you’ll see the love and celebration as they welcome the child and bring the child out from underneath the rubble. They are hugging the child, cleaning the child’s face, comforting the child, and showing genuine love and compassion for this small life.

Try watching it again after the video of an interview, found at, by Sami Yusuf and Peter Sanders. Do your thoughts change?

When we enter the world, unintentionally, we may not be conscious that we become like sponges. Just as this child was buried under the rubble, our true being can become disconnected, buried underneath everything we absorb, without consciously and deliberately knowing what to filter out.

Genuine faith sleeps under all that rubble. It helps us to focus and recognize that God is greater than what we see and hear and understand. Layer by layer, we can dig out our souls. By reconnecting to God, to ourselves, and to each other, we welcome and celebrate the child within each of us.

The mission of Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, was to help us achieve that excavation. In this video, the men calm each other down by showering prayers upon him, thus reminding each other to be gentle as they dig and pull the child from underneath the rubble.

These words of prayers on the prophet are a soothing reminder, and they help the men stay steady, so the child is not pulled out roughly, causing injuries to the tiny body.

The final scene is truly amazing, with childlike expressions of joy present on all the men’s faces. As they dug and rescued the child, it was almost as though they rescued themselves and reconnected to their childlike souls.

You can watch the video below and share your thoughts.

Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US.  She is a public speaker and writer and lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

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