I was in high school reviewing for exams when I received a text message from my aunt. The text message read, “When you have a problem, don’t ever say ‘O God, I have a big problem.’ Rather say, ‘HEY problem! I have a big God!’ and everything will be ok.”
Allah’s Name al-Kabeer (the Most Great) is a Name that we all need to get acquainted with. Not only do we refer to this attribute every day, but, when truly understood, it is a Name that brings tranquility and confidence to every person who is overwhelmed. It is a Name that reminds us of our priorities, of where true greatness lies and who is ultimately in control.
Another Name from the same root is al-Akbar (the One who is Greater). Al-Akbar simply calls us to understand that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is greater than whatever we can imagine. It is no coincidence that the words used to call us to prayer are “Allahu akbar”—telling us to drop whatever it is we are doing because Allah is greater. We are told to come to what really gives us success (hayya ala al-falaah). The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam tells us that one of the most beloved deeds to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is to prayer on time. Because we are prioritizing: Allah is greater.
We also start the prayer with those very words: leaving the dunya behind. Pour your heart out to Him. Let Him know your worries. Allah is indeed greater. Every time you get distracted, then know that Allah is Greater than what you are thinking about. The reason we say Allahu akbar between every change in prayer is because we need to contemplate on the greatness of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. We need to remember: He is greater than what we imagine.
Al-Kabeer, al-Akbar and al-Mutakabbir (all from the same root) teach us where to look. We sometimes see things as huge, and impossible to surmount. We feel broken by our worries. We might be oppressed, and viewing our oppressor as great and strong. But we remind ourselves: Anything that seems big or great, Allah is greater. This should fill us with strength and calm. It should remove any fear we have.
The companion ‘Abdullah bin Hathafa truly internalized this. He was captured by the Romans and enticed by the emperor with wealth and power to leave Islam. But he knew that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala was greater than the emperor, and what Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has is greater than anything anyone could offer him. So he refused. Then the emperor threatened to kill him. With the utmost calm, he responded that the king could do what he wanted. This is the confidence in the face of pressure that comes with an understanding of al-Kabeer.
Living by Allah’s Name: al-Kabeer
Humble yourself. Allah is al-Mutakabbir. He is the only One who possesses rights and attributes that are above anyone else’s. That’s why this Name is exclusive to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, and if used for a human, it has the negative connotation of arrogance. An arrogant person is one who sees that they have rights or attributes above other people, and so they disdain others because of that. If ever you find yourself looking down on others because of your achievements, luck or even things you were born with, remember the ultimate source of those things. And remember that the only One who is above us all is Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
‘Umar ibn al-Khattab radhiAllahu ‘anhu was carrying a heavy water container on his back when he was the caliph. One of the companions saw him and exclaimed that he shouldn’t be carrying that because he was the Caliph. But ‘Umar replied that a delegation had visited Madina and of course, dealt with him with the respect and subservience that is given to leaders. Because of that, he felt some pride enter his heart, and he wanted to destroy it.
Be strong. I always feel a sense of calm when I hear or say “Allahu akbar”. That’s because nothing is too great for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Nothing is too difficult. He is greater than our circumstances. Work hard, because Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is greater than the obstacles. Be strong, because with al-Kabeer with you, you can do many, many things.
Prioritize. Knowing that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is al-Kabeer and that He is Greater should teach us to prioritize. If I have two things to choose from, I remember that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is greater. So I choose that with which He would pleased. If I am messing around on the laptop and I hear the athan, reminding me that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is greater, then I get up and pray.
Be devoted in your prayers. Praying five times a day, every day, makes us treat it as a chore. The moment you get on your prayer rug and say “Allahu akbar”, remember that what you are doing now is greater. Be more focused.
– Sister Jinan Bastaki for SuhaibWebb.com