Make Dua In My Own Language

The Vowelling of the Word “Akbar” in the Call to Prayer (adhan)

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Sidi Faraz Khan

Question: A teacher in my community said that saying “Allahu Akbara Allahu Akbar” is wrong according to the rules of grammar and that it’s supposed to be “akbaru”. I’ve always learned that it’s “akbaru” according to the Hanafi scholars. Can you please clarify.

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray you are well.

The upshot according to Ibn `Abidin is that there are three opinions for vowelling the word “akbar” in the first Allahu akbar of each set [i.e. Allahu akbar Allahu akbar]:

(a) with a fatha [Allahu akbara ‘Llahu akbar] based on intending to stop there. This is because stopping would entail the meeting of two sukuns, which although normally turns the first vowel into a kasra, in this case turns it into a fatha to keep the pronunciation of the name of Allah afterwards heavy (tafkhim) instead of light (tarqiq). Imam Tahtawi mentions, however, that the vowelling of dhamma [Allahu akbaru ‘Llahu akbar] would also be a valid option in dealing with the meeting of two sukuns, as the dhamma would still preserve the heaviness (tafkhim) of the name of Allah afterwards.

(b) with a dhamma [Allahu akbaru ‘Llahu akbar] based on the correct grammar (i`rab), as it is the predicate (khabr) of the nominal sentence.

(c) with a sukun [Allahu akbar Allahu akbar], as supported by Imam Shurunbulali in his Imdad, Imam Zayla’i in Tabyin, Imam Kasani in Bada’i, and a group of Shafi`is. According to some jurists, this view is supported by the statement of the follower (tabi`i) Ibrahim al-Nakha`i, “The adhan is jazm.” In Arabic grammar, jazm is the state of a word that is vowelled with a sukun. However, Ibn `Abidin clarifies that grammar terminology was not established at the time of the Followers (the students of the Companions). Hence, its meaning is not related to vowelling. Rather, it refers to its linguistic meaning, as jazm means “certainty,” alluding to the fact that in the adhan, one may not elongate the initial hamza letter of “Allahu akbar” which turns the sentence into a question “Is Allah the greatest?” One must keep the initial hamza short, so that it is a statement of jazm or “certainty,” i.e., “Allah is the greatest.”

Ibn `Abidin then states that what appears correct to him is the second opinion, that of the dhamma [Allahu akbaru ‘Llahu akbar] based on the correct grammar (i`rab).

However, he ends the discussion saying that he later came across a treatise on this subject by Sayyidi Abdul Ghani al-Nablusi, who states that the sunna is to either (a) stop with a sukun [Allahu akbar Allahu akbar], or (b) to connect the two sentences, in which case one intends stopping yet pronounces the fatha [Allahu akbara ‘Llahu akbar] based on the aforementioned reasoning of the meeting of two sukuns. He also states that if one pronounces the dhamma [Allahu akbaru ‘Llahu akbar], one would have gone against the sunna.

So to summarize, although Ibn `Abidin himself initially states the dhamma seems correct [Allahu akbaru ‘Llahu akbar], he ends the discussion with the exact opposite ruling, namely, that the other two options are correct and that the dhamma is incorrect. Perhaps because he ended the discussion as such, it is the stronger ruling. Not to mention, the sukun option is supported by three other major Imams in the school, namely Shurunbulali, Zayla`i, and Kasani. Ibn `Abidin’s son, `Ala al-Din, also states the two options of sukun or fatha in his Hadiyya, and that the dhamma is contrary to the sunna.

Nevertheless, one can appreciate from the above discussion that each of the three options is valid linguistically, and is espoused by at least one major Imam. Hence, the issue should not be a matter of dispute. Rather, the way of Sunni orthodoxy (Ahl al-Sunna) is to respect valid difference of opinion and to not allow such issues to cause discord (fitna) within the community. And Allah knows best.

[Radd al-Muhtar 1:258-9; Maraqi ‘l-Falah, Hashiyat al-Tahtawi 1:274; al-Hadiyya al-`Ala’iyya 57]

Faraz Khan

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani