Should we not say 'Allah Akbar' in our Salat

The issue of Allah Akbar is quite old. A number of years ago some believers made the following claims:

Claim 1
That the words Allah and Akbar do not appear in the Quran side by side.
Claim 2
That the word 'Akbar' is not one of the names of God and thus it is unrighteous to call God 'Akbar' or use these words in our Salat. For that, it was suggested that we use the words Allah Al-Kabeer (Al-Kabeer is a name for God used in the Quran).
Claim 3
That it is wrong in principle to call God as 'Akbar' (Greater/Greatest) because this promotes the false belief that there may be other gods who may also be great.
Claim 4
That it is wrong to use the word Akbar for God because this word is a comparative adjective and it is wrong to compare God with others because God is beyond comparison.
Let us then analyse each of these claims:


Claim 1
The words Allah and Akbar are found in the Quran side by side in two verses, they are 9:72 and 29:45.

God promised the believing men and the believing women gardens with rivers flowing beneath, wherein they forever remain, as well as fine dwellings in the gardens of Eden and 'Ridwan min
ALLAH AKBAR' (the approval of God is greatest). This is the great triumph. 9:72

You shall recite what is revealed to you of the book and observe the Salat, for the Salat prohibits vice and evil and L'zkikr
ALLAH AKBAR. God knows what you do. 29:45

Some will say that Akbar in those verses do not speak of God. This may be the case in 9:72, but the matter is different in 29:45.
The rejectors of uttering 'Allah Akbar' claim that the word Akbar in 29:45 speaks of the purpose of the Salat and not of God. This claim is based solely on the tashkeel on top of the letter L in the word "L'zhikr". The Tashkeel is the little signs on top of Arabic letters which decide how the letters are pronounced. The letter L in the word "L'zhikr" has a fatha on top.

It must be noted that the original Quran revealed to Muhammad did not have the tashkeel. This was introduced after the death of the Prophet by a man called
Abu al-Aswad al-Du'ali.
The tashkeel was introduced primarily to aid the reader of the Quran in how to pronounce the words and letters, but since it was a human effort and not part of the revelation given to the Prophet, it would be indeed misleading to base the interpretation of the Quran solely on tashkeel.
When we read 29:45, and without the input of the tashkeel, we would have 2 valid interpretations for the verse, they are:

a- The Salat prohibits evil and vice, and the commemoration of God is the greater (Akbar) benefit of the Salat.

b- The Salat prohibits evil and vice and is also for the proclamation of Allah Akbar.

Both above meanings are valid without changing any of the letters in 29:45.
God tells us that many verses in the Quran have multiple meanings (3:7).
With regards to the words in 29:45, the rejectors of the utterance of 'Allah Akbar' have nothing to stand on except the tashkeel on top of the letter L in the word "L'zhikr".
With a fatha sign on top of the L, the meaning would be (a) above.
But with a kasra below the L, the meaning would be (b) above.
The original Quran given to Muhammad did not have a fatha nor a kasra.

The Quran was revealed to Muhammad and not any other human. Thus, those who insist on upholding a certain meaning of a Quranic phrase and rejecting another meaning, and who have nothing to stand on except a human input from
Abu al-Aswad al-Du'ali are indirectly claiming that the revelation was given to both Muhammad and also to Abu al-Aswad al-Du'ali!
In addition, those who claim that Prophet Muhammad pronounced the letter L (in 29:45) with a fatha and not a kasra have no Quranic evidence for that.
An honest reader of the Quran will accept both meanings as correct and valid, after all, both meanings promote the glorification of God.

Claim 2
The claim that 'Akbar' is not one of the names given in the Quran for God is correct. But who said that every word we utter in the Salat must be a name of God! As long as the words we utter are Quranic words, and they glorify God, that is all that matters.
When we examine the reason as to why we must utter the phrase 'Allah Akbar', we find that this is in compliance to a specific command that we are given in 17:111. It is the command to magnify God:

And say, "Praise be to God who has never taken a son, nor did He ever have a partner in His sovereignty, nor did He ever have any ally out of weakness," and magnify Him constantly. 17:111

To clarify the difference between a command to magnify God and a command to specifically use one of God’s names, we look at the following Quranic commands:

You shall glorify your Lord with the
ISM (name) of Al-Azeem (The Great). 56:74.


You shall glorify your Lord with the
ISM (name) of Al-Aala (The Most High). 87:1.

In both of the above verses God commands us to glorify Him by using specific names, the word
ISM which is given in these verses means NAME, the word ISM is an integral part of the commands in 56:74 and 87:1. In these verses God is commanding us to use the specific names of Al-Aala (Most High) and Al-Azeem (The Great) to glorify Him.
In contrast, the command in 17:111 is of a completely different nature; here God is not instructing us to use one of His names, but the command is for us to specifically magnify God.

The word Al-Kabeer (The Great), which is indeed one of God’s names, does not fulfil the command to magnify God.
When we want to magnify anything, we make it greater (akbar) and not just say it is great.

Claim 3
As for the claim that it is wrong in principle to call Allah as Akbar because this promotes the false belief that there are other gods who may also be great, this is a totally irrational claim! A believer who says Allah Akbar is not in any way saying or implying that there are other gods, he is simply saying that God is greater than anything that existed or will ever exist.

Claim 4
Finally, to claim that it is unrighteous to compare God with others because none can be compared to God, this too is totally false and it demonstrates a poor understanding of the Quran!
God does compare Himself to others in many Quranic verses:

3:54 God says He is the Best Schemer (Khayr Al-Makereen).
In 3:150 God says He is the Best Supporter (Khayr Al-Nasereen).
In 7:87 God says He is the Best Judge (Khayr Al-Hakimeen).

All these verses include the word 'khayr' which means: the best among all others.
This is a comparative word and it indicates that God does indeed compare Himself to others.
The Quran is given to us so we can use the words which describe God whenever we speak about God and when we implore God, and so we too are able to use words which compare God to others.

The true meaning of 'Allah Akbar'
We have reviewed so far the arguments against the use of the phrase 'Allah Akbar' on the assumption that the word 'Akbar' has only one meaning, and that is 'Greater'.
The best definition of Quranic words is found in the Quran itself. God always gives us the most accurate meanings of words in the Quran itself.
When we review various Quranic verses where the word 'Akbar' is used, we find that this word has been used in 2 meanings:

1- The word 'Akbar' has been used to mean 'greater' such as in 2:219 and 10:61,

They ask you about intoxicants and gambling, say, "In them are gross sins and benefits for the people, and their sinfulness is 'akbar' (greater) than their benefits."

The word
'akbar' in 2:219 can only mean 'greater' because God is comparing 2 things (sinfulness and benefits) and stating that the former is 'greater' than the latter.
2- The same word 'Akbar' is also used in the Quran to mean the 'Greatest of all'. The following verse demonstrates this use:

Say, "What thing is the 'akbar shahada' (greatest testimony)?" Say, "God is Witness between me and you, and this Quran has been revealed to me to warn you with it and whomever it reaches. Do you bear witness that there are other gods besides God?" Say, "I do not bear witness." Say, "He is but One God and I am innocent of the shirk which you commit."

The words
'akbar shahada' in 6:19 cannot mean 'greater shahada' since there is no comparison in the verse with another shahada for one to be greater than the other.
The correct meaning of
'akbar' in 6:19 can only be the 'greatest' shahada, which would then mean the greatest of all shahadas, without having to name any other shahada. Besides 6:19, where the word 'akbar' is used to mean the 'greatest', we see the same use of the word in 21:103 and 88:24.
It follows that when the word 'Akbar' is used after the word Allah, as in 'Allah Akbar' it can only denote that God the Greatest of all.

To conclude, those who promote such restrictive claims are confused between two issues:
1- Using God's beautiful names, which is something we are invited to do and is a clear Quranic command.
2- The specific command in 17:111 to magnify God which is totally independent from the instruction to use specific names of God such as the commands in 56:74 and 87:1.
3- The claim that the word 'akbar' can only mean 'greater', and thus is inappropriate to use when we praise God, is shown to be short of the Quranic evidence we have reviewed.