Terminology Related to Islam

Iraj Bashiri

Copyright © Bashiri, 2005

The following is a list of fairly regularly used terms related to Islam. 'abd worshiper, servant, slave
Adab proper upbringing; belles lettres
Adat (sg. Adah customary law
Adhan call to prayer usually heard from a minaret (turret)
Adl justice, one of the pillars of Shi'ite Islam
Ahkam (sg., Hukm) ordinances
Ahl al-bayt members of the family of the Prophet Muhammad
Ahl al-Kitab people of the book (Jews and Christians; Shi'ites accept Zoroastrians as well)
Akhirah or
Akhirat the other world; the hereafter
Alaihis-salam May peace be upon him
Alim a scholar, learned person, especially in religious matters
Al-Kitab (lit., the book) the Qur'an
Allah God of the Muslims, supreme creator and sustainer of all
Allahu Akbar God is Great
Al-Mushif the Qur'an
Amanah divine trust
Amin [aamin] may Allah accept it (said after prayers and invocations)
Amin [amin] trustworthy
Amir provincial governor, army commander, ruler of a small, independent state
Amir al-Mu'minin (Commander of the Faithful), the Saint Ali (Shi'ite)
Amr command
Ansar (lit., helpers) people of Yathrib who assisted the Prophet and his companions when he moved from Makkah (Mecca) to Yathrib
Aqaid (sg. aqidah) beliefs
Arafat the plain (near Mecca) where the pilgrims gather on the 9th day of dhul hajja
Arkan (sg., rukn) principles, pillars
Asabiyyah the spirit of Arabism (pre-Islamic Arabia)
Ashura the day that the Shi'ites commemorate the martyrdom of al-Hussein
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
Bai'a oath of allegiance (Sufi terminology)
Baqa everlasting life in God (Sufi terminology)
Baraka blessing (Sufi terminology)
Batil invalid, null and void, used
Batin hidden dimension (Sufi terminology)
Batini esoteric; follower of Isma'ilism
Baytullah the House of God, the Ka'ba, Mecca
Baytulmal the community treasury
Bid'a innovation, deviation from the norm
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.
Burqa cover (usually head to toe) for women (Afghanistan)
Caliph ruler of the Islamic Empire
Chador cover (usually head to toe) for women (Iran)
Da'i an Isma'ili missionary
Da'if (weak) a hadith with doubtful isnad
Da'wa propagation of the faith through missionary activities
Dain debt, anything owed
Dar al-harb "the abode of war" or the portion of the world not under Islamic rule, land of the infidels
Dar al-Ilm center for instruction in Islamic sciences
Dar al-Islam "the abode of peace" or the portion of the world under Islamic rule
Darwish or Dervish a poor person, a member of a Sufi order
Dhikr remembrance of God (Sufi terminology)
Dhimmi protected; infidel who pays a special tax (jiziyah) in exchange for protection
Dhulm (zame as zulm) tyranny (cf., adl)
Din religion in general
Dinar standard gold piece used as currency, gold coin
Dirham standard silver piece used as currency, silver coin
Diyah blood money paid to the family of a victim
Du'a supplication, informal prayer
Dunya the world, this world
Eid day of celebration, feast day
Falsafa Islamic philosophy, especially that influenced by Hellenistic moral and natural philosophy
Fana annihilation in the Beloved (Sufi terminology)
Faqih (pl. fuqaha) religious jurist, legal expert
Faqir (pl. fuqara) poor, needy (Sufi terminology)
Fardh canonically imposed duty
Fatwa opinion of a jurist, a religious ruling, a verdict
Fi sabilullah in the way of Allah, free
Fiqh corpus of Islamic jurisprudence; discipline of explaining the Shari'a or Islamic law
Fitnah dissension, rift
Futur (same as iftar) meal eaten to break the fast
Ghalabah ecstasy (Sufi terminology)
Ghazi holy warrior
Ghuflah forgetfulness
Ghulam palace servant; slave
Ghullah extremist Shi'a who believed Ali, rather than Muhammad, is God's intented messenger
Ghusl thorough cleansing of the body (cf., wudhu)
Hadd (pl. Hudud) limit, restriction; prescribed penalty for transgression
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
Hafiz preserver Hajar al-aswad the black stone fixed to the wall of the Ka'ba
Haji one who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca
Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca
Hakim [haakim] magistrate
Hakim [hakim] learned, doctor
Halal that which is allowed by the Shari'a law; permitted
Haram [haraam] that which is not permitted and the performance of which is punishable; prohibited, unlawful
Haram [haram] a harem, women's quarters; hallowed area, esp. around Mecca
Hasan (beautiful) a hadith with incomplete isnad
Hasan (good) a hadith with incomplete isnad
Hijab general term for referring to cover (usually head to toe) for women
Hijrah Prophet's emigration from Mecca to Medina (AD 622; AH 1)
Hikmah wisdom, blessing
Hizb political party
Hizbullah party of God
Hukm (pl., ahkam) decree, rule
Hulul stage that follows annihilation (fana) (Sufi terminology)
Husayniya center for religious education
Ibadah (pl., ibadat) worship
Ibadis Islamic sect derived from among the Kharajites
'id a festive occasion
'id al-Adha feast of sacrifice at the conclusion of the hajj rituals
'id al-Fitr major festival at the conclusion of Ramadhan
'id al-Qurban same as 'id al-Adha
Iftar (same as futur) breaking the fast at sunset
Ihram special clothing worn by pilgrims during the hajj and umrah
Ihsan kindness
Ijazah permission, license, diploma
Ijma' consensus of opinion among the elders and the learned
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
Ilm knowledge
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
Imsak abstinence from food or drink between dawn and dusk
In sha' allah God willing
Injil Gospels
Iqamah call to prayer (inside the mosque)
Ird honor
Islah reform
Islam peace, submission (to Allah)
Isnad chain of transmission of a hadith
Isra' the prophet's night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem
Israf waste
Istihsan use of prudence as a norm in legislation
Istisdah use of public interest as a norm in legislation
Ithna Ashaniyyah the principal Shi'ite sect; twelvers
Izar seamless garment worn by pilgrims while performing the hajj rituals
Ja'iz canonically permitted act
Jahannam Hell
jahiliyyah Time of Ignorance, pre-Islamic times in Arabia
Jahl ignorance
Jami' cathedral mosque
Jannah paradise
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
Jinn spirits, invisible creatures with powers to interfere in mortals' lives
Jizyah security tax (paid by non-Muslims in an Islamic state to obtain security)
Ka'ba cube-shaped shrine in the Grand Mosque in Mecca towards which all Muslims turn to pray
Kabirah unpardonable sin
Kafir infidel
Kalam discussion of questions of theology and cosmology; Muslim dialectic
Karamat miracle (Sufi terminology)
Karbala'i one who has made the pilgrimage to Karbala (Shi'ite)
Khalifa caliph, successor of Muhammad
Khalwah retreat (Sufi terminology)
Khaniqah cloister; rest-house (Sufi terminology)
Kharaj land tax
Kharajites purists; those who believed the caliph should be pious
Khatam al-Anbia seal of the Prophets
Khirqah robe of investiture to the order (Sufi terminology)
Khums tax equivalent to 1/5 of annual income (Shi'i)
Khutbah sermon delivered by the Imam after Friday prayer
Kiswa the special black and gold vesture for the Ka'ba
Kitab (lit., book) same as al-kitab or the Qur'an
La ilaha illa Allah There is no god but God
Lat a major idol in pre-Islamic Arabia
Lawh Mahfuz the original Book with Allah of which the Qur'an is a copy
Laylat al-Qadr Night of Power, night in Ramadhan when the Qur'an was revealed
Ma'rifah gnosis (Sufi terminology)
Ma sha'allah May God be praised!
Madhhab (pl., madhahib) a school in a religion; there are 4 madhhabs in Sunni Islam
Madinat al-Nabi city of the Prophet (Medina)
Madiral al-Rasul city of the Prophet (Medina)
Madrasah theological school, seminary
Maghrib sunset
Mahdi the awaited one who comes at the end of time to establish God's rule
Mahr dowry
Mahrum one unjustly deprived of his/her rights
Maidan town square
Majlis session, gathering
Majlis-i Shura consultative body that selected the Caliph
Majus a member of the Zoroastrian faith
Makkah Mecca
Makruh that which is doubtful; an act that is frowned upon but is not forbidden
Maktab traditional elementary school
Mala'ika (sg. malak) angels
Manta a major pre-Islamic idol
Maqsurah a private area in a mosque for prayer out of sight
Mardud rejected (cf., batil)
Marja-i taqlid supreme authority in Shi'ite law; point of emulation
Mashdi one who has made the pilgrimage to Meshed (Shi'ite)
Masjid mosque, place of worship
Maslahah that which is in the best interest of the community
Matn the written text of a hadith
Matn the written text of a hadith
Maudu' (fabricated) a hadith with forged isnad
Maulud al-Nabi celebration of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad
Mawali a non-Arab Muslim; a client
Mawla lord, master
Mi'raj ascension of the Prophet to the Heavens
Mihna inquisition setup in medieval times to enforce Mu'tazili doctrines
Mihrab niche in the wall of the mosque which points to the direction of prayer
Millet nation; an independent community under Ottoman rule.
Minar minaret
Minbar pulpit
Mu'amilat division of Islamic law dealing with social relations
Mu'min a believer
Mu'azzin one who calls the faithful to prayer (see adhan)
Mu'azzin man who calls out the hour of daily prayer from the minaret of a mosque
Mubah allowed, permissible, an act that is permitted but is legally neutral
Mufti one who delivers a fatwa or religious ruling
Muhajir (pl., muhajirin) one who migrates
Muhajirun those who migrated from Makkah to Yadhrib with the Prophet of Islam ansar
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
Mujaddid reformist
Mujahid (pl. mujahidun) warrior for the faith
Mujtahid (pl. mujtahidun) an interpreter of Islamic law; one who practices ijtihad through interpretive reasoning
Mukalaf one who is of age
Mukhtar independent, one who can make his/her own choices
Mulk domain, property, kingdom
Mullah an Islamic priest (Iran); local religious leader
Munafiqun hypocrites; those in Yathrib who pretended to have accepted the faith to facilitate their anti-Islamic activities
Muntazir the 12th imam of the Shi'ites; the awaited One
Murid disciple; a novice; a person who pursues the path to God (Sufi terminology)
Murshid teacher; a person who guides the seekers on the path to God (Sufi terminology)
Murtad an apostate, a Muslim who has turned away from the faith
Muru'ah manliness, a cherished pre-Islamic Arab tradition
Mushrik one who associates other deities with Allah, a polytheist
Mustahabb an act that if performed is reward-worthy, if not, it does not constitute a sin
Muta'a (same as sigha) temporary marriage (Shi'ite)
Mu'tazilism a school of Islamic thought and kalam stressing human responsibility and divine justice. The school was supported by the Caliph al-Ma'mun (813-833)
Nabi prophet
Nabuwwat prophethood
Nafaqah support of family after a divorce, pension
Nafs self (Sufi terminology), ego
Najis impure
Nisab amount of one's wealth on which zakat must be paid
Niyyah intention
Nizam system
Paranja cover (usually head to toe) for women (Central Asia)
Pir Sufi master (Sufi terminology)
Purdah seclusion of women
Qadi a Muslim judge
Qalb heart, mind, soul (Sufi terminology)
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
Qurban sacrifice offered at Eid al-Adhha
Qutb most revered member of an order (Sufi terminology)
Ra'y independent opinion (in legislation)
Rak'ah a unit of prayer (e.g., the morning prayer is two rak'ahs)
Ramadhan the month during which Muslims fast; 9th month of Islamic calendar
Raqs dance (Sufi terminology)
Rasul messenger
Rasulallah Allah's Messenger, the Prophet of Islam
Rawi transmitter of a hadith
Razziya raid, especially in pre-Islamic Arabia
Riba interest, usury
Ribat hostel (Sufi terminology)
Rida seamless white cloth worn by pilgrims while performing the hajj
Ruh spirit, soul
Ruku' ritual bowing in prayer (cf., sujud)
S. A. W. blessing upon him and his family (used after any mention of the Prophet)
Sabr patience (sufi terminology)
Sadaqah giving of alms to the poor voluntarily (cf., zakat) for acquiring merit
Sahabah companions of the Prophet
Sahih a judgment rendered upon sound and integral hadith, a hadith with sound isnad; title of Imam Bukhari's compilation of traditions
Sahih sound, valid, approved, correct (a hadith with proper isnad)
Sahn Courtyard of the mosque
Sahw sobriety (Sufi terminology)
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
Salat al-jum'a Friday noon prayer performed in congregation
Salik a seeker of Truth (Sufi terminology)
Sama' listening to music (Sufi terminology)
Sawm fasting
Sa'y running between Safa and Marwa
Sayyid male person related to the house of the Prophet (wears black turban)
Sayyidah female person directly related to the house of the Prophet
Shahadah profession of faith, testimony
Shahid (pl. Shuhada) martyr
Shakk doubt
Shari'a Islamic law, divine guidance derived from the Qur'an and the Sunnah
Shart (pl. shurut) condition
Shaykh or Sheikh head of a Sufi order; head of a tribe (Arabia)
Shaykh al-Islam religious jurist
Shaytan the devil
Shi'a party
Shi'ism belief in the necessity for a caliph to be a descendant of the prophet
Shirk idolatry; association of other deities with Allah, a grave sin
Shu'ubiyyah those who rejected the overlordship of the Arabs and who thought ll Muslims can be worthy rulers
Shura consultation
Sigha (same as muta'a) temporary marriage
Silsilah chain of transmission (Sufi terminology)
Sirah life of the Prophet
Sufism belief in the possibility of direct cognition of the godhead
Suhba companionship (Sufi terminology)
Suhur meal eaten before the fast begins
Sujud ritual prostration in prayer (cf., ruku')
Sultan ruler of a part of the Islamic Empire
Sunnah reported deeds of the Prophet in the ahadith (pl. of hadith,> tradition)
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
Taharah state of being ritually clean
Tahir clean, pure
Tajdid revival
Talaq divorce
Talaq raj'i a divorce that is revocable
Taqiyah dissimulation in the face of danger (allowed by Shi'ite law)
Taqlid blind imitation
Taqwa piety
Tariqah (pl., turuq) the path of the Sufi to God, the Way (Sufi terminology)
Taurat Torah
Tawaf the circumambulation of the ka'ba at the start and conclusion of the hajj rituals
Tawbah repentance
Tawhid the oneness of Allah; achieving unity with God (Sufi terminology)
Tayammum ablutions with sand instead of water (cf., wudhu)
Ta'ziyah mourning ritual commemorating the death of Imam Hussein (3rd Shi'ite Imam)
Tekke place where Sufi orders hold their dhikr sessions
Ukhuwwah brotherhood
Ulama (sg., alim) learned men, scholars; ulema
Umma the Muslim community as a whole
Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca at any time in the year other than the days of the hajj; lesser pilgrimage
Urf custom
Ushr one tenth; religious tax on agricultural land
Uzzah a major idol in Pre-Islamic Arabia
Vilayat-i Faqih guardianship of the Expert
Wahhabi a follower of Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab who, in the mid-eighteenth century, led a spiritual renewal campaign in Arabia. The Wahhabi movement was instrumental in founding the Saudi Kingdom.
Wajib that which is obligatory (e.g., prayer), compulsory duty
Waly representative, governor
Waqf (pl., awqaf) religious endowment
Wird spiritual exercise (Sufi terminology)
Wudhu obligatory washing before prayer, ablution
Wuquf stay at Arafah on the 9th day of the pilgrimage
Ya Allah said by the faithful as they enter the home of another faithful
Yawm day
Yawm al-Din the Day of Judgment
Yawm al-Qiyamah the Resurrection Day
Zabur Psalms
Zahir outward form (cf., batin) (Sufi terminology)
Zakat alms given as prescribed by law
Zawiyah corner (Sufi terminology)
Zina adultery
Ziyarah visitation of tombs (Sufi terminology)
Zuhr noon, afternoon prayer
Zulm injustice (cf., adl)

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