Glossary of Islamic Terms


Allah - god, although it is bit more complicated than that.  Allah derives from Al-Ilah and means literally 'The One' or 'The god' or 'The One god' Allah has no gender, but actually Ilah is masculine, the feminine form being 'Ilat' - goddess.


Allahu Akbar -  Allah is the Greatest.


Adhan - The call for the daily prayers are called Adhan.


Al-Hajarul Aswad  - 'The Black Stone' notably that in the Ka'aba.  Some Muslims believe the black stone has the power to remove a person's sins by absorbing them when it is kissed, and that it is for this reason that the stone, thought originally to be white, is now black.


Bismillah - In the name of Allah.


Calliphate  - The word caliphate refers to the successor or representative of Prophet Muhammad on earth.  No one has been elected since the fall of the Ottoman Empire.


Dhimmi - A non-Muslim living freely under the protection of an Islamic state.


Dhuhr - obligatory prayers after midday.


Fajr - the dawn prayer in Islam


Hadith  - Reported sayings or actions or traditions of Mohammad or his companions, together with the tradition of its chain of transmission that are not part of the Qur'an. 


Halal - something that is lawful and permitted according to Islamic law, especially food that may be eaten by believers.


Haram Sharif – The grand mosque in Mecca.


Hajj -The Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca that is obligatory on every Muslim. It is the fifth pillar of Islam and takes place during the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar, the month of Zhul al-Hijjah. A Muslim must perform the Hajj at least once in his life. The only exception to this is for financial and health reasons. 


Hijab -  This is the generic term for modest Islamic dress for Muslim women as prescribed by the Qur'an.   The word 'hijab' has come to mean the traditional headscarf part of the complete 'hijab.' The headscarf is wrapped around the head and allows only the face to be seen. 


Hudna - "cease fire". In practice, hudna is not a truce but is used to gain respite.


Ihram - The sacred state of the pilgrim on hajj; involves certain restrictions on conduct and certain changes in dress.


Imam - Imam is a religious leader. Any person who leads a congregational prayer is called an Imam. A religious leader who also leads his community in the political affairs may be called an Imam.


Islam - ' submission'  - not peace as muslims would have us believe.


Jihad - A literal translation is "struggle". The struggle to establish justice and righteousness may or may not involve military action or a Holy War,


Ka’bah - the first house of worship built for mankind.  It is a cubed shaped structure based in the city of Mecca to which all Muslims turn to in their five daily prayers.


Maghrib  - obligatory prayers just after sunset.


Medina or Madina - The first city to come under Islamic rule.  Muhammad's place of worship and grave are located in Medina.


Mufti -A Muslim scholar who interprets the Sha'ria. One who gives legal opinions.


Muhammed or Mohammed - 'He who is to be praised.'  The inventor of Islam, its one and only prophet and example for living.


Mujahideen - one who follows the way of jihad, hence Muslim guerrilla warriors.


Mullah -  A Muslim scholar and teacher.


Qibla  - the correct direction from a certain point to pray towards the Ka'aba in Mecca.


Quraysh - the most powerful and prominent tribe in all of Arabia in the Prophet's era. The Quraysh were the keepers of the Ka'bah and therefore one of the wealthiest and most powerful tribes. The Prophet was from among the Quraysh.


Qur’an - The holy book of Qur'an is called the Qur'an. It was revealed unto Muhammad from Allah through angel Gabriel for a period of 23 years. There is only one Qur'an in the whole world and it is in Arabic language. The Qur'an has one text, one language, and one dialect. It has been memorized by millions of Muslims in different parts of the world.


Ramadan - the holy lunar month of prescribed fasting for Muslims. It is one of the five pillars of Islam.  The fast is from dawn to sunset and involves abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations (if married). It was during this month that the Quranic revelations are said to have begun.  Ramadan begins and ends at the time of the crescent moon in Mecca.


Salah (Salat) -2nd pillar of  Islam.  The five obligatory prayers that a Muslim must perform every day.  Fajr is just before sunrise, Dhuhr after midday, Asr between midday and sunset, Maghrib just after sunset and Isha'a one hour after sunset.  Ritual washing (wudu) is carried out before prayer.  Salah is always performed in Arabic, and the prayers are recited by heart, including passages from the Quran, the Shahadah, a plea for forgiveness and various blessings.  In conclusion, the man looks right and left and says, "Peace be unto you and on you be peace."


Surah - Refers to the "chapters" of the Quran; there are 114 surahs.


Shari'a - Islamic law; the two sources are the Quran and the Sunna.


Shahadah - "Witnessing." Islamic declaration of belief, the formal content of which is: "I testify there is no deity but Allah, and Mohammad is the messenger of Allah." A person must recite the shahadah to convert to Islam.


Shi'ite - (or Shi'a) - A sect or branch of the Muslim religion centred in Iran, with large followings in southern Iraq and sub-sects (Alawi, Ismaili) in Syria and Lebanon.


Shirk - Literally 'Association'.  Worshipping or associating with any divinity other than Allah.


Sunni - The mainstream Muslim religious sect.  90% of Muslims worldwide are Sunni and 10% Shi-ite.


Wahabbi - Muslim Sunni reform  movement and are the dominant religion of Saudi Arabia


Wudu - Ritual ablution performed before Salah.


Zakat – One of the five pillars, it involves giving 2.5% of surplus wealth to help the needy.