Terminology Related to Islam

Most Frequently Used Terms

Iraj Bashiri

Copyright © Bashiri, 2005

The following is a list of the most frequently used terms related to Islam.
Click here for a more comprehensive list of terminology related to Islam.
Adat (sg. Adah customary law
Adhan call to prayer usually heard from a minaret (turret)
Ahl al-Kitab people of the book (Jews and Christians; Shi'ites accept Zoroastrians as well)
Allah God of the Muslims, supreme creator and sustainer of all
Allahu Akbar God is Great
Amin [aamin] may Allah accept it (said after prayers and invocations)
Amir provincial governor, army commander, ruler of a small, independent state
Ansar (lit., helpers) people of Yathrib who assisted the Prophet and his companions when he moved from Makkah (Mecca) to Yathrib
Arkan (sg., rukn) principles, pillars
Asabiyyah the spirit of Arabism (pre-Islamic Arabia)
Ayah (pl. ayat) a verse from the Qur'an (there are 6616 ayahs in the Qur'an)
Ayatullah a relatively new title of high-ranking religious leaders (Shi'ite)
Azan call to prayer
Bismillah (al-Rahman al-Rahim) in the Name of Allah (the Compassionate, the Merciful)
Buraq legendary horse (with the head of a human and the wings of a bird) that, within the twinkling of an eye, carried the Prophet from the Dome of the Rock to the Heavens and brought him back.
Caliph ruler of the Islamic Empire
Da'if (weak) a hadith with doubtful isnad
Dar al-harb "the abode of war" or the portion of the world not under Islamic rule, land of the infidels
Dar al-Islam "the abode of peace" or the portion of the world under Islamic rule
Dhimmi protected; infidel who pays a special tax (jiziyah) in exchange for protection
Din religion in general
Dinar standard gold piece used as currency, gold coin
Dirham standard silver piece used as currency, silver coin
Eid day of celebration, feast day
Faqih (pl. fuqaha) religious jurist, legal expert
Fatwa opinion of a jurist, a religious ruling, a verdict
Fiqh corpus of Islamic jurisprudence; discipline of explaining the Shari'a or Islamic law
Futur (same as iftar)meal eaten to break the fast
Hadith (pl. ahadith) reported words of the Prophet (collected at the end of the 9th and beginning of the 10th centuries. The need for standardizing arose because of the expansion of Islam into the domains of other religions and cultures Matn the written text of a hadith
Rawi the transmitter of a hadith
Isnad chain of transmission of a hadith
Sahih a judgment rendered upon sound and integral hadith, a hadith with sound isnad
Hasan (beautiful) a hadith with incomplete isnad
Da'if (weak) a hadith with doubtful isnad
The Sunnites recognize six books of hadith
The two sahihs of al-Bukhari and al-Muslim; the four collections called sunans
The Shi'ites recognize four books of hadith. These include the traditions of the Prophet as well as those of the Shi'ite imams
Hajar al-aswad the black stone fixed to the wall of the Ka'ba
Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca
Halal that which is allowed by the Shari'a law; permitted
Haram [haraam] that that is not permitted and the performance of which is punishable
Hasan (good) a hadith with incomplete isnad
Hijab general term for referring to cover (usually head to toe) for women
Hijrah Prophet's migration from Mecca to Medina (AD 622; AH 1)
Hizbullah party of God
'id al-adha feast of sacrifice at the conclusion of the hajj rituals
'id al-fitr major festival at the conclusion of Ramadhan
Ihram special clothing worn by pilgrims during the hajj and umrah
Ijtihad individual interpretation, exercise of personal intellect
Ikhwan brotherhood; a shock force called "brothers" created by Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud to spread Islam. Comprised of committed warriors to fight to the death for Islam, between 1912 and 1929, they enabled ibn Saud to consolidate his rule.
Ikhwan al-Muslimun Muslim brotherhood that advocates strict Islamic rule. The brotherhood founded in Egypt, spread to the rest of the Islamic world. Its attempt in 1954 to assassinate Nasser failed. In 1981, however, it was instrumental in the assassination of President Anwar Sadat of Egypt.
Ikhwan al-Safa Brethren of Purity; a medieval Isma'ili group of scholars who intended to usher in a new age for Islam
Imam (Shi'ite) saint (A descendant of Imam Ali, the first of 12 Shi'ite saints)
Imam (Sunnite) leader, especially a leader of the Friday prayer
Imam title of the jurists who headed the four major schools of Sunni Islam (e.g., Imam al-Shafi'i)
Iman faith
In sha' allah God willing
Islam peace, submission (to Allah)
Isnad chain of transmission of a hadith
Isra' the prophet's night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem
Jahl ignorance
Jami' cathedral mosque
Jibra'il Gabriel, angel who brought Allah's message to Muhammad
Jihad a struggling
Jihad al-Akbar (greater jihad) combating the self
Jihad al-Asghar (lesser jihad) combating the enemies of Islam
Jizyah security tax (paid by non-Muslims in an Islamic state to obtain security)
Ka'ba cube-shaped structure in Mecca towards which all Muslims turn to pray
Kafir infidel
Kharaj land tax
Kharajites purists; those who believed the caliph should be pious
Khums tax equivalent to 1/5 of annual income (Shi'i)
Khutbah sermon given by the Imam after Friday prayer
Kitab (lit., book) same as al-kitab or the Qur'an
La ilaha illa Allah There is no god but God
Ma sha'allah May God be praised!
Madrasah theological school
Mahdi the awaited one
Mahr dowry
Marja-i taqlid supreme authority in Shi'ite law; point of emulation
Masjid mosque, place of worship
Matn the written text of a hadith
Mi'raj ascension of the Prophet to the Heavens
Mihrab niche in the mosque pointing to the direction of prayer
Minar minaret
Minbar pulpit
Mu'azzin one who calls the faithful to prayer (see adhan)
Mufti one who delivers a religious ruling
Muhallil the man who marries a divorced wife before her original husband can remarry her
Muhr piece of clay from Mecca used by the Shi'ites to place their forehead on while praying
Mujahid warrior for the faith
Mujtahid (pl. mujtahidun) an interpreter of Islamic law; one who practices ijtihad through interpretive reasoning
Mullah an Islamic priest (Iran); local religious leader
Muta'a (same as sigha) temporary marriage (Shi'ite)
Najis impure
Nisab amount of one's property on which zakat must be paid
Niyyah intention
Purdah seclusion of women
Qadi a Muslim judge
Qiblah direction of prayer, i.e., towards Mecca
Qiyas analogy (legal conclusion arrived at through analogy to past ruling)
Qur'an the holy Book of the Muslims
The Qur'an was collected during the reign of the Caliph Umar (634-644)
The Qur'an was standardized during the reign of the Caliph Uthman (644-656)
The Shi'ites recognize four books of hadith. These include the traditions of the Prophet as well as those of the Shi'ite imams
The Sunnites recognize six books of hadith: the two sahihs of al-Bukhari and al-Muslim; the four collections called sunans
Ra'y independent opinion (in legislation)
Ramadhan the month during which Muslims fast; 9th month of Islamic calendar
Rawi transmitter of a hadith
Sadaqah giving of alms to the poor voluntarily (cf., zakat) for acquiring merit
Sahih a judgment rendered upon sound and integral hadith, a hadith> with sound isnad
Sahih sound, valid, approved, correct (a hadith with proper isnad>)
Salaf Islamic community of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs
Salafiyyah those who advocate a return to the practice of the days of the Prophet and his companions (see salaf)
Salat (in Arab lands), namaz (elsewhere) prayer
Sawm fasting
Shahadah profession of faith, testimony
Shahid (pl. Shuhada) martyr
Shari'a Islamic law, divine guidance derived from the Qur'an and the Sunnah
Shaykh al-Islam religious jurist
Shaykh or Sheikh head of a Sufi order; head of a tribe (Arabia)
Shi'ism belief in the necessity for a caliph to be a descendant of the prophet
Sigha (same as muta'a) temporary marriage
Sufism belief in the possibility of direct cognition of the godhead
Suhur meal eaten before the fast begins
Sunnism belief in the sunnah of the Prophet
Suq the covered market district of an Islamic town
Surah a chapter of the Qur'an, comprising of Ayahs> (there are 114 surahs in the Qur'an
Tafsir Qur'anic exegesis
Talaq divorce
Taqiyah dissimulation (allowed by Shi'ite law)
Taqlid blind imitation
Tariqah (pl., turuq) the path of the Sufi to God, the Way (Sufi terminology)
Tawaf the circumambulation of the ka'ba at the start and conclusion of the hajj rituals
Tawbah repentance
Tawhid the oneness of Allah
Ulama (sg., alim) learned men, scholars
Umma the Muslim community as a whole
Wajib that which is obligatory (e.g., prayer), compulsory duty
Waqf (pl., awqaf) religious endowment
Wudhu obligatory washing before prayer, ablution
Ya Allah said by the faithful as they enter the home of another faithful
Zakat alms given as prescribed by law
Ziyarah visitation of tombs (Sufi terminology)

Click here for a more comprehensive list of terminology related to Islam.

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