Glossary of Islamic Terms

PLEASE NOTE :: This Islamic Glossary was compiled from both Shiite and Sunni Muslim branches. It is an interesting reference and gives ideas into culture and thinking, not just the learning of new words. Where two words are repeated, one is from the Shiite glossary, the other the Sunni glossary.

Glossary of Islamic Terms


* Aaron: see Harun
* Adam: The first man and the first prophet of Allah
* Adhan: The call for daily ritual prayers (Salat)
* Akhirah: Belief in life after death
* Ali: Son-in-law and cousin of the prophet Muhammad; the one whom the Shiites follow
* Allah: “Allah” is the Arabic word for “God”; it’s not God’s name – the God of Islam
* Allahu Akbar: “God is the greatest”
* Ayatollah: Means “Sign of God”. The highest rank of Shiite clerics
* Ayisha: Muhammad’s second wife; daughter of Abu Bakr (1st caliph)
* Azan: The Muslim call to prayer

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* Basiji: The mobilized – a group of people who are voluntarily mobilized to go to the frontline of battle
* Behesht: Paradise – a place holding pleasure and joy
* Bismillah: “In the name of God” – it’s used by Muslims to ask for God’s blessing on any action and is found at the start of almost every surah (chapter) of the Holy Qur’an

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* Caliph: The title of Islamic leaders (successors) after Muhammad’s death

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* David: see Dawood
* Dawood: a Prophet of Allah mentioned in the Qur’an and the Old Testament.
* Deen (or Din): Religion or the religion and way of life of Islam
* Du’a: Supplication / A personal prayer to Allah, in contrast to the 5 ritual daily prayer rituals. It’s not the same as a wholly spontaneous personal prayer, since particular texts are laid down for various du’as

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* Eid: Islamic holidays. The four Eids are listed below.
o Eid ul-Adha falls on the tenth day of Dhul Hijjah
o Eid ul-Fitr falls on the 1st day of Shawwal
o Eid-e Ghadeer
o Eid-e Mubahala

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* Fard: An obligation, something which must be done
* Fatiha: The opening chapter of the Holy Qur’an
* Fatwa: A verdict, especially of a Mujtahid
* Fatwas: “Religious Decrees” Fatwas are given by the highest rank of Muslim clerics and are an interpretation of Islamic law
* Fitrah: The charity due on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, on the night after Ramadhan.
* Five Pillars of Islam: The duties carried out by a Muslim as part of their faith
* Foroo-e-Din: Branches of Islam

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* Hadith: A saying, action or story of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
* Hajarul Aswad: The Black Stone (see Ka’bah)
* Hajj: The pilgrimage to Mecca that is one of the 5 pillars of Islam. Compulsory for a Muslim once in a lifetime. This happens in the month of Dhu-Ul-Hijja
* Haram: That which is unlawful in Islam. It is necessary to abstain from the acts which are haram.
* Harun: The brother of Musa (Moses) and Prophet of Allah mentioned in the Qur’an
* Hezbollah: Means “the party of Allah”. It is one of the leading political parties in Iran
* Hijab: Islamic clothing worn by women to protect their modesty. How much hijab covers is often a matter for local customs
* Hijra: or Hegira or Hijrah: The migration of Muhammad (pbuh) and his followers from Mecca to Yathrib (now Medina)
* Hira: The cave wherein Prophet Muhammad (S) sat for worshipping Allah

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* Iftar: The breaking of the fast / Breakfast
* Ihram: The state of ritual purity required for undertaking the Hajj or Umra. The special garments worn in this state are also called Ihram
* Imam: A teacher, or leader of the Muslim worship. Leader in Arabic (the term has another meaning in the Shi’a community – Pontiff)
* Imam: A charismatic leader among Shiite Muslims, who believe that in every generation there is an iman who is an infallible source of spiritual and secular guidance. The line of imans ended in the 9th century, and since then the ayatollahs serve as the collective caretakers of the office until the retun of the expected iman
* Injil: The New Testament
* Iqamah: The announcement of the beginning of prayer
* Isa: The son of Mariam (Mary). He is a prophet of Allah. (Isa means Jesus)
* Ishmael: see Ismaeel
* Islam: The faith of Muslims – it actually means “surrender or submission to Allah”
* Ismaeel: The son of Abraham, Prophet of Allah and the father of the Arabs.

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* Jesus: see Isa
* Jihad: Muslims use the word Jihad to describe three different kinds of struggle: a believer’s internal struggle to live out the Muslim faith as well as possible; the struggle to build a good Muslim society and the struggle to defend Islam, with force if necessary (Holy War)
* Jihad: A holy war (striving or fighting in the way of Allah) by the order of the Imam
* Jinn: A type of creature having, like humans, free will / The belief of angels and evil spirits
* Jum’ah: Friday

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* Ka’bah: The cubic house built more than 3000 years ago in Mecca, towards which all Muslims face for their Salat (prayer). It contains the Hajarul Aswad or the Black Stone
* Kaffarah: Alms to be given as penance on different occasions
* Khums: “a fifth”, obligatory tax-like charity
* Kifie: An obligatory Islamic rule. If one person performs the act, then it is not required for others to perform. For example, the burial of a deceased Muslim is obligatory on any one person to perform
* Koran: The Islamic holy book (Qur’n or Qur’an)

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* Madina (Medina): means city, and Medinatu’l Nabi (the city of the Prophet) was the name taken by the citizens of Yathrib, the town to which Muhammed migrated during Hijrah
* Mahdi (Arabic, ‘divinely guided one’) The name given by Sunni Muslims to those who periodically revitalize the Muslim community. Sunnis look forward to a time before the Last Day when a Mahdi will appear and establish a reign of justice on earth. Shiites identify the Mahdi with the expected reappearance of the hidden Iman.
* Mecca (Makkah): Islamic holy city in Mecca province, Saudi Arabia, 64km / 40 miles east of its Red Sea port Jedda. Birthplace of Muhammad and site of the Kaba. Between 1.5 and 2 million pilgrims visit Mecca annually. The city is closed to non-Muslims.
* Minaret: The tower of a Mosque from which the call to prayer is made
* Minbar: The pulpit in a Mosque
* Mihrab: A niche in a Mosque showing the direction of Mecca
* Moses: see Musa
* Mosque (Masjid) : A building (or place) where Muslims worship together
* Muhammad (S.A.W.) is the Last of the Messengers of Allah to mankind
* Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar
* Mullah (Arabic, ‘master’) In Islam, a scholar, teacher or man of religious piety and learning. It is also a title of respect given to those performing duties related to Islamic Lay.
* Muezzin: The official who calls people to prayer
* Musa: a Prophet of Allah mentioned in the Qur’an and the Old Testament
* Muslim: A follower of the Islamic faith

See also  Eid al Fitr | Keep Praying

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* Nafilah: Recommended prayers after or before the daily obligatory Salat
* Naar: The fire of Hell
* Niyya: The declaration of one’s sincere intention to worship (this is usually made silently in one’s mind)
* Noah: see Nuh
* Nuh was a prophet of Allah mentioned in the Qur’and and the Old Testament

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* pbuh: “Peace be upon him” – used after the name of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to indicate one’s respect (also used after the names of other prophets)
* pbut: “Peace be upon them” – plural of pbuh

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* Qiyam: The standing during the Salat for recitation of Suratul Hamd and the second Surah, and the standing after the Ruku’
* Qiyamat: The day of Resurrection
* Quiblah: The direction of Mecca
* Qur’an: The Holy Book of Islam

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* Rajab: The seventh month of the Islamic calendar
* Ramadan: The month of fasting / the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar
* Ruku: The bow made in salat

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* S.A.W. stands for Sallal-lahu ‘alayhi wa-alihi wa-sallam in Arabic, and means Blessings and peace of God be with him and his household. It is a prayer which is said after the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.)
* Sadaquah: Voluntary giving to charity, as opposed to the Zakat charity required in Islam
* Salam: A salutation. It is also the last recitation at the end of Salat
* Salat (Salah): The obligatory ritual prayer carried out five times a day
* Salat-ul-Jum’a: Friday prayer at a mosque
* Sawm: Fasting during daylight
* Shaabaan: The eighth month of the Islamic calendar
* Shahadah: The Muslim declaration of faith – “There is no God but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God.”
* Shaitan: Satan, the enemy of mankind
* Sharia (Shari’a): the sacred law of Islam, applies to all aspects of life, not just religious practices
* Shawwal: The 10th month of the Islamic calendar
* Shi’a (Shiites or Shi’at Ali): Prominent in Iran and Iraq. After the murder of Ali, the son-in-law and nephew of the Prophet Mohammed, his followers continued to support his claim to the Muslim caliphate and became known as Shi’at or Shi’a Ali (‘partisans of Ali’). They believe that Ali and his followers were both temporal rulers and Imans. The most important group is the
‘Twelver’ Shiites, who believe that there were twelve imans – Ali and his descendents – after Muhammed, and that the twelfth did not die, but disappeared, and one day will return to bring justice to the world. The dispute over leadership of the new Islamic world after the prophet’s death in the seventh century led to the biggest schism ever within Islam. Compare to Sunni

* Shi’a: A follower of the twelve Imams (A.S.) (20{1ef34f8f1cacfdc6c19f5319e487deec2393c82eacea09a13da7feed1a24e305})
* Sujud (Sajdah): The prostration position in prayer, with forehead, nose, hands, knees, and toes all touching the ground
* Sufism: The mystical movement in Islam ( follower of it is called a Sufi)
* Sunni (Sunnis): Islamic movement representing ‘orthodoxy’ in Islam. They comprise about 80 per cent of all Muslims. They recognize the first four caliphs as following the right course (rashidun) and base their sunnah (‘path’ of the Prophet Mohammed) upon the Koran and the Hadith or ‘traditions’ of the prophet. They are organized into four legal schools. The other major Islamic group is made up of Shiites
* Sura(h): Any chapter of the 114 in the Holy Qur’an (Koran). It literally means a sign or revelation

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* Tafseer: A term used for a commentary of any book, specifically the Holy Qur’an
* Tahur: The cave wherein Prophet Muhammad (S) stayed before finally migrating to Madinah
* Takbir: The process of concentrating on prayer to the exclusion of everything else
* Takbirah: Saying “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the Greatest)
* Tawaf: Going round the Ka’ba seven times on Hajj or Umra

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* Wahhabis (Muwahhidun or unitarians): An Islamic movement which derives from Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, a religoius reformer from Uyaina near Riyadh, and Muhammad ibn Saud, the ancestor of the present rulers of Saudi Arabia. The alliance led to the unification in the 18th-c of most of the peninsula under the Saudi banner. The modern reunification of the Kingdom was carried out in 1902-32 by King Abd al-Aziz, known as Ibn Saud. The movement maintains that legal decisions must be based exclusively on the Qur’an and the Sunna
* Wudhu (Wudu): Ritual / spiritual wash of the face and hands before Salat

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* Zakat (Zakah): Compulsory donation of a set proportion of one’s savings


With contributions from Br. Hasnain Kassamali . Many definitions adapted from

* Articles of Islamic Acts by Ayatullah al-Khui, Islamic Seminary Publications, 1989
* al-Ahkam al-Shar’iyyah (The Islamic Religious Rules) according to Ayatullah Sayyid Abu al-Qasim al-Musawi al-Khu’i (R.A.), by Sayyid Muhammad Taqi Jalali. Trans. Miyaniji Musabji. The Islamic Community, 1986.
* Resalah (Epistle) Concise Commandments of Islam, According to the verdicts of Hadhrat Ayatullah Uzma Sayyid Muhammad Redha Musavi Gulpaygani (R.A.). A Translation of Mokhtasarol Ahkam. Dar al-Quran al-Karim, 1992.
* Kitab al-Irshad. The Book of Guidance. Shaykh al-Mufid. Trans. I.K.A. Howard. Muhammadi Trust.
* Know Your Islam. Muhammadi Trust. Compiled by Yousuf N. Lalljee, 1976.
* Manaseke Haj, according to the verdicts of Ayatullah Gulpaygani. 1993, published by Islamic Universal Association, 20 Penzance Place, Holland Park, London, W11 4PG
* Western Civilization through Muslim Eyes. Sayyid Mujtaba Rukni Musawi Lari, trans. F.J. Goulding.
* The Tendency of Rationalizing the Laws of the Shari’ah. Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi, 3360 Sexsmith Road, Richmond, B.C. Canada V6X 2H8.

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