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Purpose of the Islamic Phrase “Alhamdulillah”

Purpose of the Islamic Phrase “Alhamdulillah”

Alhamdulillah” is usually translated as “Praise be to God.” It can also mean, “Thank Allah“, or “All praise is due to Allah alone.” However the phrase itself doesn’t have an exact English meaning. There are many reasons why Muslims say this phrase after they complete a good work, especially after they complete their prayer. Sometimes you will see even non-Muslims utter these words.

The word itself has three meanings: ‘praise‘, ‘praising‘ and ‘all praise belongs to‘. [1]   The scholars of Islam agree on all of these meanings; however, each scholar had his own way of explaining it. [2]  The following points may help clarify some of the meanings of this very common yet very important Islamic phrase.

Alhamdulillah First Meaning: Praise

When a person says “Alhamdulillah” after he finishes a work, then this means that he is praising Allah for His help and favors upon him during his task. [3]  In other words, it is an expression of gratitude. By saying this phrase after finishing something good, a person is letting his Lord know that He deserves all the praise for what he has achieved or acquired. One must also realize one’s own shortcomings before uttering these words so as not to become too proud of himself and think of himself as more deserving than he actually is. In fact, there can be no better way to start a new task than with the remembrance of Allah and by saying this phrase. If a person is able to achieve something good, then he should know that it was only through the help of his Creator and Sustainer, as Allah (swt) says:

{…And if you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.} (14:7)

Alhamdulillah brings about humility and piety in one’s heart. It reminds us of our humble status before our Lord and remains a constant source of motivation for us to stay away from sins. A true believer knows that nothing belongs to him except what he has earned through the mercy and blessings of his Lord. This attitude also helps a person to remain content with whatever is being bestowed upon him, no matter how little that might be.

Alhamdulillah reminds us of our duties and responsibilities towards Allah (swt). It tells the servant that he is accountable for every single thing in his life and at all times, so he should work hard to please his Master. In this way, Alhamdulillah keeps one away from negligence or laziness when it comes to doing good work. We have been commanded by Allah (swt) to utilize everything in this world for His sake only:

{And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam—from their loins—their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we have testified.” [This]—lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, “Indeed, we were of this unaware.”} (7:172)

Alhamdulillah also teaches us another important lesson about life. When a person says Alhamdulillah after completing something good or refraining from doing something evil then he is actually giving credit for his success to Allah (swt). This reminds him that all his blessings are due to Him alone and none else whatsoever. At times it may be the case that people who do not believe in God or those who worship false deities might achieve something good or refrain from doing something bad despite their beliefs. When they do so, they say “Alhamdulillah”, but in reality, the true source of ALL goodness are Allah’s blessings upon His creation. This realization should make one realize that Alhamdulillah belongs to none other than Allah (swt).

Alhamdulillah Second Meaning: Praising

When a person utters Alhamdulillah after completing some work, then this means that he is praising his Lord with all sincerity for His favors upon him. For example, when you do Wudu and pray your prayer properly—all praise belongs to Allah alone—you thank Him for enabling you to perform the purificatory act of washing yourself as well as offering the prayer. When you finish reading this article and go to sleep, then all praise belongs to Allah alone: you were able to sit and read without feeling very tired. You can also read and finish this article and then offer two Rak’a (units) of voluntary prayer as a way of showing your gratitude for enabling you to stay up late at night after Fajr (morning) prayer so that you could use the time in worshiping your Lord instead of wasting it away by sleeping or entertaining yourself with useless things such as television or computer games.

Regarding this second meaning, Alhamdulillah brings about humility and piety by reminding us that every good thing is due to our Lord’s favor upon us. It reminds us that whatever we have achieved is actually through His help and should be dedicated to Him alone, since He deserves all praise. The Prophet Muhammad (saws) said:

“Whosoever says Alhamdulillah will have a tree planted for him in Paradise”, so Umar Ibn Al-Khattab asked the Prophet’s permission to go back home and say, “Alhamdulillah.” But the Prophet replied to him by saying, “Stay here because you are not entitled to that unless you work for it.”

Alhamdulillah Third Meaning: Appreciation

When one does something constructive or virtuous then he thanks Allah (swt). For example, if someone studies well during his exams at school then he thanks Allah (swt) for enabling him to understand the subject and pass the test. When someone does good work and completes it successfully, he thanks Allah (swt), because he feels that he could not have achieved such a thing without the help of Allah (swt). He is merely a slave who was created by his Lord and since everything belongs to Him, there is no reason why one should take all the praise for what he has achieved. The Prophet Muhammad (saws) said:

“Whenever you do something good then you should thank your Lord for this great favor upon you.”

The Fourth Meaning: Gratitude

Alhamdulillah reminds its speaker of three things: firstly, all goodness has come from Allah’s hand alone, secondly, all things have to return to Allah’s hand alone and thirdly, our Lord is the source of all goodness for His creation.

The fifth meaning comes from Allah (swt)’s statement in Surah Al-Hashr:

  “And no moving creature is there on earth but its provision is due from Allah.”

This means that nothing happens except by the Will of Allah, so one should direct his thanks not only to those who are instrumental in helping him to achieve what he has done but also to Allah (swt) Who enabled them to help him out. If this were not the case then it would be said that you obtained this without any intervention of someone else other than yourself Thus inspired by this realization, one should feel grateful to Allah (swt) for giving him the ability and inclination towards doing good deeds.

The Prophet Muhammad (saws) said:

  “Supplication is worship.”

Thus, when one utters Alhamdulillah, he is actually praising his Lord by thanking Him for His favors upon him. Furthermore, he becomes aware that everything comes from Allah alone so there is no room for arrogance or pride. Then he becomes thankful to his Lord with all sincerity because of what He has given him out of His grace and generosity. Finally, this awareness makes him appreciate all the gifts which Allah (swt) has granted him by asking Him to continue giving even more than this. Therefore, these four benefits—asking for more from Allah (swt), returning to Him, being grateful to Him and being humble before Him—are the benefits of saying Alhamdulillah.

The Prophet Muhammad (saws) also said:

“When a slave says Alhamdulillah, light is written for him on the day of judgment equal to if he freed a hundred slaves while another one says Ashhadu an la ilaha illallah [I testify that there is no other deity except Allah] and his sins would be forgiven even if they were as abundant as the foam of the sea.”

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