What ‘Allahu Akbar’ Really Means


An Islamic terrorist attacked a Christmas market in Strasbourg on Tuesday, murdering three people and injuring fourteen, nine gravely. The gunman was known to French authorities, having racked up 27 convictions for violence and theft by the age of 29. French security forces describe him as one of more than 12,000 “gangster-jihadists,” a group of too large to monitor. Before opening fire, the gunman shouted the takbīr, “Allahu akbar!” a Muslim battle cry meaning, “God is greater!”

Last year, one day after an Islamist rammed a pickup truck into bicyclists and runners in New York’s deadliest terrorist attack since September 11, 2001, CNN published a column on “what ‘Allahu Akbar’ really means,” contending, “The words ‘Allahu Akbar’ simply mean ‘God is greater.’ It is a powerful declaration used by Muslims on many occasions and in many prayers. It is a celebration of life, the first words fathers whisper in the ears of their newborns.” Though ignorant leftists and Islamist propagandists may insist the phrase bears no relation to battle, history says otherwise. The takbīr was first uttered by Muhammad himself, the founder of Islam, not as a whisper in the ear of his newborn but as a war cry at the Battle of Badr in AD 624. Fourteen centuries later, Islamist terrorists yelled the takbīr on three airplanes bound for New York and Washington, D.C. Two days ago, an Islamist shrieked it in Strasbourg.

The late Senator John McCain once claimed there was no difference between a Muslim’s shouting, “Allahu akbar,” and a Christian’s saying, “Thank God.” McCain’s mistake stems from a misunderstanding of the differences between the Muslim and Christian conceptions of God and specifically to a disagreement over the philosophical concept of voluntarism, which elevates the will over the intellect. According to Christian theology, God is the divine logic of the universe, and therefore will and intellect are united. According to Islam, as the eminent Islamic theologian Ibn Hazm describes, God is pure will, unconstrained by logic and unbound even by his own word.

A State Department spokesman condemned Tuesday’s terror attack in Strasbroug as “senseless.” In a certain sense, he’s right: the Islamic elevation of will over logic encourages extremists to commit senseless atrocities. Unfortunately, senseless people continue to deny such senseless’s highly sensible source.