We read the following in the Holy Qur’an:
“They shall say: What is it that your Lord said? They shall say: The truth. And He is the Most High, the Great” (Qur’an, 34:23).
Linguistically, one who is kabeer is a great person, a dignitary, a distinguished personality. Allah (SwT), Glorified and Exalted is His Name, is greater than everything and everyone, and He is the Absolutely Great One, the One Who is Great on His own merits, in His qualities and Essence, above being in any way like any of His creatures;
“There is nothing like Him, the One Who is superior to the praise of any of those who praise, glorify, or attempt to describe Him. He is the most perfect of anything in existence, the One Who has all the Glory, the Greatness, the Honor and the Sublimity. He is above what the beings He has created conceive Him to be. He is too Great to be described or His actions to be comprehended.”
The Almighty has said,
He is the High, the Great. (Qur’an, 40:12)
Proclaim His greatness magnifying (Him). (Qur’an, 17:111)
And your Lord do magnify. (Qur’an, 74:3).
To Him belongs greatness in the heavens and the earth. (Qur’an, 45:37)
The Almighty has been lauded with characteristics of this sort:
One is al-Kabeer. The other is al-Mutakabbir, the explanation of which has already been dealt with. The third is al-Akbar as in 9:72:
“... and best of all is Allah’s goodly pleasure” (Qur’an, 9:72),
“... certainly the remembrance of Allah is the greatest.” (Qur’an, 29:45)
But it has not been used in the Holy Qur’an as a reference to the Almighty, yet it occurs as an Attribute of His in the Sunnah such as our saying: Allahu Akbar! The fourth is al-Kibriya’; Allah (SwT) has said,
“And to Him belongs greatness...” (Qur’an, 45:37).
So, let us discuss these Attributes:
As regarding al-Akbar, there are two ways to look at it: First, He is greater than anything else in existence. It is possible to view the”Allahu Akbar!” phrase which Muslims pronounce audibly when performing their prayers in the same light, meaning that Allah (SwT) is greater than anyone or anything else; hence, one’s mind will not be occupied by anyone or anything else besides Him, nor is his heart attached to anyone or anything else besides Him.
Allahu Akbar! is a statement derived from al-Kabeer and is pronounced to initiate the obligatory prayers, during the time of rukoo’, sujood or qiyam, that is, when bowing, prostrating or standing during the performance of obligatory prayers. It is called takbeer, Glorification of al-Kabeer, the Great One, the Most Great.
Takbeer is required on several occasions such as the adhan, iqama, prayers, both feasts, funeral prayers, on seeing the Ka’ba, throwing the stones [during the pilgrimage], and announcing the time for jihad, holy war. The Messenger of Allah (S) is said to initiate anything of significance with Allahu Akbar!
Ibn ‘Abbas is quoted as saying that the Messenger of Allah (S) used to teach his companions a supplication whereby they could shun all ailments and types of fever which said,”In the Name of Allah (SwT) al-Kabeer; we seek refuge with Allah (SwT) al-Azeem from the evil of any feverish vein, and from the inferno of hellfire.”
The Attribute al-Kabeer is repeated five times throughout the text of the Holy Qur’an.