This is about Allahu akbar (the phrase exalting God).
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
We say God is the greatest for the following reasons:
- He is incomparably greater than all things, for He is the All-Powerful, Who is powerful over all things through His infinite Power. He creates everything, without exception, with the same ease: Your creation and raising from the dead are the same as creating and raising a single soul (31:28). He can create a giant star, a whole, and a species as easily as He can create a minute particle, a part, and an individual.
- He is the All-Knowing, Who knows all things through the limitless knowledge essential to Him as the Divine Being. Nothing escapes Him, as He is present everywhere. The comprehensive wisdom, all-embracing favor, and all-encompassing consciousness; the decrees putting all things in exact order; and the fruitful ordinances and measurements, appointed hours, regular provision, mercy of universal diversity, firm and magnificent organization, and exact care, all of which are witnessed throughout the whole universe, testify to the Almighty’s all-encompassing Knowledge: Should He Who creates not know? (67:14).
- His Will includes all things. While there was infinite number of probabilities for the universe and its contents to assume a certain form, it was arranged in the present order according to exact measures. Like a tree with leaves, blossoms, and fruits, all well-ordered creatures were created of simple, inanimate elements. All this bears witness to the Almighty’s all-encompassing Will and demonstrates that whatever He wills is, and whatever He does not will is not.
- He is the Eternal “Sun,” and this universe shows only a shadow of His lights, manifestations of His Names, and imprints of His acts.
- He is incomparably greater than all things. He is the Eternal Sovereign. All worlds are at His disposal in absolute dependence on the order and measure He has established.
- He is the Eternal Ruler. He ordered the universe through the laws of His usual way of acting, the prescripts of His Destiny and Decree, the precepts of His Will and Wisdom, the requirements of His Favor and Mercy, and the manifestations of His Names and Attributes. What we call laws (of nature) are but manifestations of His Knowledge, Command, and Will on all species.
- He is the Eternal Maker, Who has created and founded this macrocosm (the universe) and this microcosm (humanity). His stamp is on the foreheads of both, nay, on each part of both.
- He is the Eternal Designer. This universe consists of the lines of the “pen” of His Destiny and Decree, the designs of the “compasses” of His Wisdom, the fruits of the diffusion of His Mercy, the decorations of the “bright hand” of His Favoring, the flowers of the dispensations of His Munificence, and the rays of the manifestations of His Grace.
- He is the Eternally Powerful. This universe consists of the miracles of His Power, which testify that He is powerful over all things. Nothing has been (or is) able to escape His Power’s dominion, in relation to which a minute particle and the sun are the same.
- He is the Creator, Originator, and Fashioner for Whom are the Beautiful Names. All heavenly objects are shining proofs of His Divinity and Grandeur, and radiating witnesses of His Lordship and Splendor.
- He is the Creator of all things, the Provider of all living beings, the Giver of bounties to all in need of bounty, the Merciful in both worlds. Our master Muhammad and Paradise are works of His comprehensive Mercy. He is the Lord and Sustainer of all things, Who rears, trains, and maintains all things.
- He is the Fashioner of all things, the One Who has ordered this world and controls all things.
- He is exalted high above human comprehension, and absolutely free of incompetence and defect.
- He is incomparably greater than all things, for He is the greatest, Most High, Most Beautiful, the Best because of Himself, and the Most Grand and Most Majestic by Himself.
These blessed phrases—Subhan Allah, al-hamdu lillah, and Allahu akbar—are recited repeatedly after the daily prayers to establish and confirm their meanings, which support each other, in our minds and hearts. For example, throw a stone into the center of a large pool and watch as larger circles are formed one after the other. Say, “Greater... greater... greater...” Using the same analogy, we recite Subhan Allah, al-hamdu lillah, and Allahu akbar repeatedly after the five daily prayers to establish and confirm their meanings and to obtain the fruits expected of their recitation.
* * *
QUESTION: Why do we compare God with creatures by saying that He is the greatest? What is the role of contingencies, and why do we say that the One of Necessary Existence is greater than them? Are there creators or all-compassionate beings other than the Almighty that force us to describe Him as the Best of Creators and the All-Compassionate of the Compassionate?
ANSWER: There is nothing greater and more exalted, more beautiful or grander or majestic than He. God is greater than whatever we can conceive of, is greater than all that is in our minds and hearts, and more important than our desires and aims. He cannot be concealed by the veil of creation. “The Best of Creators” means that He is better than all potential “creators” that arise in one’s mind due to reflections of the attribute of creativity. This is like saying the sun is more radiant than suns, implying that the sun itself is more radiant than its images in mirrors or mirror-like things. Also, He is better than whatever minds may conceive of as a creator. Sometimes, whether consciously or unconsciously, we may mistakenly attribute creativity to material causes or creatures. “God is the Best of Creators” means that He is the best as Creator without being veiled by causes, and so we must always turn to Him, without considering apparent material causes.
Such comparisons relate to us and the things we are related to; in essence they do not relate to the Almighty. For example, when we say to a private concerning his particular duty that “the king is better and grander,” we mean the king’s part of his duty is greater than those of his immediate superiors.
God is too great for minds to comprehend, and for incompetence and defect to touch. He is absolutely perfect in His Essence, Attributes, and acts.