Alhamdulillah, we had a great time at Sh. Abdul Nasir Jangda’s ‘Meaningful Prayer’ class at Masjid Ibraheem. He went through every step of the prayer with us so that we would understand them. Something he mentioned in his class was that when we pray, we start with saying ‘Allahu Akbar’. This doesn’t mean ‘Allah is great’ or ‘Allah is the greatest’. What it really means is ‘Allah is greater than’. But usually, when someone starts with a sentence like that, you’d expect an object afterwards. For example, one day your best friend comes and tells you “I love ice cream greater than…” If he/she doesn’t continue the sentence, you’d probably ask “Greater than what?” Or if your teacher was talking about the Empire State Building, he/she might’ve said, “The Empire State Building is greater than…”. Then, you’d want to know what comes next. Similarly, what completes the sentence that millions of Muslims around the world are saying (Allahu Akbar)?Sh. Abdul Nasir explained that when we say Allahu Akbar, we are saying that Allah is greater than everything else we are leaving behind when we are praying. We are saying that Allah is greater than everything that is distracting us when we are praying.
It could be the unbeaten last level of a computer game, the most intriguing chapter of a mystery novel, the most fun part of your favorite board game, an exciting scene in the coolest movie, your warm cozy bed lying beside you or the delicious smelling food awaiting you in the dining room that is distracting you in your salah or that is making you want to hurry and finish your salah quickly. But when you say Allahu Akbar and understand what is means, you are remembering that Allah is greater than all that and you can take a few minutes to pray to Him. Then, after you say your Istiaadha (A’udhu billahi minashaytaan arrajeem), Surah Fatiha, and another Surah, you go down to Ruk’u and say ‘Allahu Akbar’ again. Why do we need to say ‘Allahu Akbar’ again? Sh. Abdul Nasir explained that we need to say ‘Allah Akbar’ again to refocus ourselves and again remind us that Allah is greater than everything else that is distracting us from our salah. That is why it is important to repeat saying ‘Allahu Akbar’ throughout the prayer.
I understood how important it is to say ‘Allahu Akbar’ to refocus myself when I am praying because sometimes side things distract me during my Salah. Sometimes, my youngest sister makes a lot of noise or sits on top of me when I do sujood. Sometimes, when my brothers are watching a movie in the other room, the volume suddenly goes up 100% and I hear everything happening in the movie. Other times, when I’m praying Fajr, during my prayer I remember my warm, cozy bed. If I’m reading one of my favorite books and then I leave it on my bed to pray Dhuhr or Asr, I need to continuously say ‘Allahu Akbar’ throughout my prayer to refocus myself and temporarily forget about the book.