Allahu Akbar and Other Things Muslims Say
The words Allahu akbar have come to strike hatred and fear in the hearts and minds of many non-Muslims around the world. Media stories and movies about Islamic extremism play a clip of someone saying the words on camera, or it is reported that it was said before a mass shooting or suicide bombing.
Allahu akbar means "God is the greatest", and Muslims say it countless times a day. The first words during the adhan (call to prayer) are Allahu akbar, and it’s repeated several times during prayer. Muslims may utter the words when they feel something bad is about to happen, as well as when something good happens.
The words are simply meant to glorify the greatness of Allah. Hearing a Muslim say these words does not make them an extremist or mean they are about to commit any crime. These words should not make anyone fearful of Muslims.
In the religion of Islam, there are several other words and phrases that are ingrained in a Muslim’s vocabulary from birth or upon conversion. The phrases are learned and repeated in Arabic, even when it is not a person’s first language. This Factoid will provide common Arabic phrases in a Muslim's vocabulary, provide English translation, and context for each.
Key Terms and Phrases in Islam
Anna ash-hadu an la ilaha ill’Allah, wa anna ashu an Mohammed rasull’Allah: I witness there is no god but Allah, and I witness Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
This is the affirming statement of belief in Allah and Muhammad as his final messenger that all Muslims say several times a day, during prayer and in making wudu (ritual cleansing before prayer). This is the testimony of faith that one must say in order to become a Muslim.
B’smillah: In the name of God
Muslims say this before they do almost anything from putting food in their mouth to entering a house or starting a new project or activity.
Alhamdulillah: Praise be to Allah
Whenever a Muslim feels thankful towards Allah this praise is mentioned. It might be said when waking up in the morning, after eating a meal and on major occasions such as the birth of a child.
Asalamu alaikum: Peace be upon you
This is the traditional greeting among Muslims, and in response one would say Wa’laikum asalam meaning “upon you be peace”. Sometimes, the greeting is extended with wa rahmattullah wa barakatuhu, adding a wish for Allah’s peace and blessings upon the person. It is also said when leaving a place or saying goodbye to someone.
Insha’Allah: Allah willing or if it is Allah’s will
Muslims believe that nothing happens unless it is by the will of Allah. A Muslim will always say this whenever they are referencing the future since only Allah knows if it will happen or not, and it will only happen by His will. They even use this phrase if it is something to be done in the next moment.
Masha’Allah: It is Allah’s will
This phrase is used when appreciating something or someone about something good they did or happened to them. For example, Muslims might say masha’Allah to the cook of a very delicious meal or to a child bringing home good grades.
Subhan’Allah: Glory be to Allah
Simply, this is another term used to glorify Allah when praising someone or something or when hearing something unexpected. It is also repeated several times in prayer.
Jazak’Allah khair: May Allah reward you
This term is used to thank someone for a favor they have done. Similarly, Barak'Allah fikum, meaning “may Allah bless you” could also be said to someone who has done a good deed.
Astaghfirullah: May Allah forgive me
Muslims say this when they are aware of committing a sin or when they remember a sin they’ve committed before.