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Devotional Phrases in Arabic

updated 25-Aug-2010

al hamdulillāh   

al = the
ḥamd = praise, commendation, extolling the virtues of
u = suffix denoting that hamd is the subject of this phrase
li = to, for, unto, on account of
llāh = allāh

 All praise is for Allāh.

 All praise is to Allāh.



allāhu akbar   
allahu akbar

allāh = allāh
u = suffix denoting that allāh is the subject of this phrase
akbar = greater, greatest in estimation, rank or dignity; older, senior-ranking;

Allāh is great.

Allāh is most great.

Allāh is the greatest great.

(this phrase is called takbīr, meaning praise, glorification)    (hw949)



asta = derived verb prefix which denotes seeking, asking
ghfir = forgiveness for past sins, and/or protection from future sins
u = suffix denoting that ghfir is the subject of this phrase
-llāh = allāh

I am seeking forgiveness from Allāh.

I seek Allāh's protection from committing sins.

astaghfirullāh is sometimes said in response to a compliment, as if to say Allah please protect me from pride and vanity.

Please see ghaffr on the wazifa page for more meanings of the root gh-f-r.   (hw793)


bismillāh ir-rahmān ir-rahīm   

bi = with, to for, in, through  
smi = distinguishing mark, name, light, vibration, essence

-llāh = allāh
ir = the
raḥmān = most beneficent, merciful
ir = the
raḥīm = most compassionate

In the name of Allāh, most beneficent and most compassionate.

For the glory of Allāh, most merciful and most compassionate.

With the guidance of Allāh, most beneficent and most compassionate.

Please see the bismillah page for further details.  (hw504, 498, 384)


in = if
shā' = wish, want
llāh = allāh

If Allāh wills (something). As Allah intends.

(said in referring to the future)


hawla wa lā quwwata illā billāh 
la hawla

lā = no, not, none, neither
ḥawla = change, motion, transformation, power
wa = and
lā = no, not, none, neither
quwwata = strength, power, potency, intensity
illā = but, except
bi = with, to, for, in, through
llāh = allāh

There is no transformation or potency except through Allāh.

There is neither change nor power except through Allāh.

There is no power or strength except through Allāh.

Please see the tahwil page for more information


lā ilāha illā-llāh      
la ilaha illa-llah

lā = no, not, none, neither
ilāha = an object of worship, adoration or service, a god or deity
illā = but, except (illā is a contraction of in-lā, literally if not)
-llāh = allāh

 There is no deity other than Allāh.

 There is nothing to worship except Allāh.

 There is nothing to serve or adore other than Allāh.

This phrase is often called the tahlīl and was given to us in the Qur'an 47:19.

Please see the tahlil page for more information.



mā; = what, whatever, that
shā' = wish, want, willingness, intent
llāh = allāh

Common Usage: How wonderful are the works of Allāh.

Literally: Whatever Allāh has intended. That which Allāh has willed.

(often said when one witnesses something good)  


subhāna -llāh        

subḥān = praised, glory be to; all-perfect, all-pure, all-glorious
-llāh = allāh

Holy is Allāh.

All glory be to Allāh.

Allāh is far from any imperfection.

a declaration (or celebration) of the absolute perfection (or glory) of Allāh.

   (see example of usage in Qur'an 23:91)     (hw457, ewl1290)


subhāna wa ta'alā     
subhana wa ta'ala

subḥāna = praised, glory be to
wa = and
ta'alā = be exalted, raised above, enthroned

 (Allāh is) Praised and exalted.


'ishq allāh ma'būd allāh    
   ishq allah

'ishq = unconditional love, divine love;
ma'būd = beloved, worshiped, adored.

A mantra, literally saying that Allāh is Love, Allāh is Beloved. Poetically interpreted by Hazrat Inayat Khan as: God is love, lover and beloved.

(hw719, 686)


See also: Glossary of terms used by Hazrat Inayat Khan


1. The English transliteration given above includes some Arabic rules of grammar for pronunciation. For example, the phrase written in Arabic as bismi allāh al rahmān al rahīm, is pronounced as bismi-llāh ir-rahmān ir-rahīm.

2. In the text above, note that the initial A of "Allah" is often absorbed or modified by a preceding vowel. The hyphen is used only for clarity by separating component parts of phrases.

3. Pronunciation of the vowels varies in different countries, and is further complicated by the fact that the short vowels are seldom written except in religious or scholarly texts. Also, the pronunciation of some vowels varies depending upon the adjacent letters.

4. For compatibility with most web browsers, the long vowels are indicated as ā (pronounced like the a in father), ī (pronounced like the ee in deep) and ū (pronounced like the oo in moot).

5. The notations such as (hw238) refer to the page number in the Hans Wehr Arabic-English Dictionary.


Simplified Transliteration and Pronunciation:

transliteration guide

1) This is only a simple and somewhat incomplete transliteration guide, for a more complete set of transliteration rules, see, for example,  the ALA-LC Romanization Tables used by the Library of Congress, available at  http://www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/roman.html

2) The pronunciation of vowels, diphthongs and some consonants varies considerably from region to region

Reference Texts

Dictionary of the Holy Qur'ān, Abdul Mannān Omar... truly a precious gift to those who speak English, this magnificent dictionary translates every classical Arabic word used used in the Qur'ān into English, giving the Arabic root word followed by English translations of every form of that root which appears in the Qur'ān. This dictionary is easy to use, is relatively inexpensive and is based on classical Arabic.

An Arabic-English Lexicon, Edward W. Lane... an eight volume masterpiece of classical Arabic which includes plentiful examples of classical usage and meanings of words during the time period that the Qur'ān was revealed. Indexed by Arabic roots, with definitions in English.

A Dictionary and Glossary of the Koran, John Penrice... quite useful, but occasionally relies upon somewhat less accurate references than the previously cited works by Lane and Omar.

Vocabulary of the Holy Quran, compiled by Abdullah Abbas al-Nadwi... the definitions are very brief and rarely cover the true breadth of meaning of the words.

Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, edited by J.M. Cowan... specifically addressed to modern, not classical, Arabic, yet it generally does a very good job of including the classical meanings of the roots.

References On-Line:

http://open.xerox.com/Services/arabic-morphology ... amazing lexical analysis

http://www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/roman.html ... Library of Congress transliteration scheme

www.muslim.org/english-quran/a-translit.pdf ... guide to transliteration

A web page digging into the differences and similarities of the Arabic words Nabi and Rasul.

Glossary of terms used by Hazrat Inayat Khan

al hamdulillah, allahu akbar, astaghfirullah, bismillah ir rahman ir rahim, inshallah, mashallah, subhan allah, subhana wa ta ala, la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah, la ilaha illa allah, la ilaha ill allah, la ilaha illa llah