Transform Your Prayer: Secret 14
Declaration of Dependence
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We just looked at the meaning and significance of raising and folding the hands at the beginning of the prayer.
Now, accompanying this motion is the saying of Allahu Akbar, known as Takbirat-ul-Ihram.
But what exactly does Allahu Akbar mean? What are we saying?
Interestingly, I've seen people give three slightly different answers to this question...
Which one is the correct meaning?
a) God is great
b) God is greater
c) God is greatest
What do you think?
(answer before you read the next line)
If you answered b, you are correct!
Allahu Akbar literally means: God is greater.
The question that naturally follows is:
Greater... than what?
The statement is intentionally left open-ended.
Because no matter who or what you fill in the blank with... God is still greater!
God is greater... than your concerns and your worries.
God is greater... than you and everything you can think of.
God is greater... than the problems that you have. He is the One who can help you get through them and overcome them.
God is greater... than anyone or anything else, due to which you may miss the Salah sometimes.
By saying Allahu Akbar, we remind ourselves about who Allah is, and who we are in relation to Him.
That's why I call this phrase: the Declaration of Dependence.
We are declaring God's Greatness / Independence, and admitting our own dependence and reliance on Him.
It's such a significant phrase - it symbolizes and captures our core belief.
Now, the Takbirat-ul-Ihram (saying Allahu Akbar specifically at the beginning of the prayer) is not just any Takbir...
It's the opening, sacred declaration of God's greatness.
The word Ihram, which you may recognize from the context of umrah / hajj, means:
- to make sacred, or enter into a sacred space
- to be in a state where certain things become haram, or impermissible.
That's why, once you start the prayer...
- you don't talk to anyone else
- you don't eat or drink
- you don't move around
- you don't even look around
All of the above are normally permissible, but they become impermissible (haram) in the prayer...
...because you are entering into a sacred meeting with God.
It's like the analogy we referred to in a previous email of the peasant / farmer who's coming off the land to meet with the king.
He's disheveled and dusty, so he cleans and washes himself up outside, and gets himself in order.
Then, he proceeds to open the doors to the palace and present himself to his majesty, the king.
The pushing open of the doors to enter the sacred palace is like the moment we raise and fold our hands while saying Allahu Akbar to begin the prayer.
So from now on, when you say Allahu Akbar...
Say it with presence and with power. Say it like you really mean it and believe it.
And of course, align your saying of the words with a symbolic, meaningful and purposeful gesture of raising and folding your hands...
...because what we want to avoid is (a) a movement of the hands which is devoid of meaning, and (b) a statement of Allahu Akbar which we're not actually registering.