Chapter u68 Glossary

Preliminary Questions



To Think About

Preliminary Questions



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For a good glossary of Islamic terms see the following web site:

See also the glossary proved by Charles Kurzman, in Liberal Islam: A Sourcebook, pp 329-330.

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Glossary of Arabic Words
Frequently Encountered in the Study of Islam

Anyone who embarks on a study of Islam will encounter a number of Arabic words which are often used as "technical terms" in Islam. This glossary has been prepared to help a student of Islam read and study the literature and to help the student to gradually acquire this vocabulary. As with learning any language, vocabulary is absorbed by hearing, use, and reading; this hearing and using must often be supplemented by direct study and memorization.  By the end of the semester I would hope that the words printed in red below would be an "automatic" part of your vocabulary. 

ahl at-kitab people of the Book (that is, Jews, Christians, and Muslims)

akbar   greater

Al hamdu lillah  Praise God!  (The Praise be to Allah)

Allah-u-akbar  God is Great  --  This phrase (called:  Takbir)  is recited by Muslims in many different situations. For example, when they are very happy, to express approval, to praise a speaker, or as a battle cry, during times of extreme stress. In the Islamic world, instead of applause, often someone will shout takbir and the crowd will respond "Allahu Akbar" in chorus. The phrase is said during each stage of both obligatory prayers. The Muslim call to prayer (adhan) by the muezzin and to commence prayer (iqama) also contains the phrase.  See:

Allah God. From a contraction of Al-ilah the-God.

Al-Fatiha The first Surah (book/chapter) in the Qur'an.

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
Praise be to God, who loves and sustains the world.
God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,
Master of the Day of Judgment.
We worship you, O God, and seek your aid.
Show us the straight path,
The way of those on whom
You have bestowed your grace;
The way of those whose portion
is not wrath, and who go not astray.  Amen. 

Assalaam Alaikum   Peace be up on you / Wa Alaikum assalaam And peace be upon you

Ayat  (plural = ayat) Arabic for sign.  Used for a unit (verse) of a Surah (book/chapter) in the Qur'an   Proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc. 

bedouin Arabic for nomad; someone who lives in the desert

Bismillah   In the name of God... Short for: b-ismi-llahi r-ramani r-rahim. In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.  We begin everything "in the name of the Lord" and acknowledged that God is to be praised in all that we do. 

dar al-harb   Land of war, non -Islamic lands

dar al-Islam  Land of Islam, Islamic lands,  the Islamic world

Da'wah    Making an invitation to Islam, especially by being the best Muslim that you can be for others. (Muslims do not see any compulsion in religion, and most Muslims do not see or enact da'wah as proselytizing.)

faqih (plural: fuqaha') religious scholar

fiqh Islamic jurisprudence

Hadith tradition of the Prophet

Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during the lifetime of each Muslim for those who can afford it. The fifth of the Five Pillars [or five essential duties] of Islam.

halal divinely sanctioned

haqiqa truth

haram prohibited, protected

hijai veil

hijra migration of the Muslims from Mecca to Medina in year 622

ijtihad  exercise of independent judgment as opposed to the imitative of medieval authorities.  [contrast with: taqlid = imitation.]

imam leader

'iman faith

Insha'allah   If Allah wishes  (Used whenever speaking of a future event...  I will see you tomorrow, Inshallah.)

Islam A participle meaning grateful surrender, submission. [Muslim = one who practices Islam; one who submits to the will of God. [Christians: "Behold I come to do your will ..." "Our Father, ... Thy will be done..."]

jihad  "striving" or "exertion in the way of God" either personally, by struggle against lack of faith and devotion, or publicly, by preaching, teaching, and, if necessary, armed struggle. The inner striving is the Great Jihad.  Sometimes jihad is included as the sixth of the Five Pillars [or five essential duties] of Islam.

jumuah   Friday. [There is a contemporary Muslim magazine entitled Al Jumuah. "The Friday."]

juz' A pious division of the Qur'an into 30 sections for reading during a month.

Kaba  cube  The "holiest place" for the Muslim.  The building built by Abraham and cleansed by Mohammad in Mecca. 

kitab book


Madina   When Muhammad fled from Mecca he and his followers went to this city in Saudi Arabia. 

maslaha  public interest

Mecca   The city of the prophet    Muhammad was born in Mecca.  The Kaba is in Mecca.

Muslimin   Muslims; literally, those who submit.


Qur'an   recitation    Note: In societies in which "reading" books as we know "reading" is not common, "reading" is always done "out loud" and consequently there is no difference between "reading" and "reciting"  -- Hence, the angel Gabriel can tell Mohammad  "Read!" or "Recite!" for this is essentially the same thing in that culture. 

salat the ritual prayers, or worship services, performed daily during five specified intervals, facing Mecca, at dawn, at noon, in mid-afternoon, at dusk, and after dark. The second of the Five Pillars [or five essential duties] of Islam.

saria    [literally:  path to the sea, (which becomes) path to God]  Islamic law

shahada  witness. The shahada (The Witness) is "I bear witness that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God." The first of the Five Pillars [or five essential duties] of Islam.

sheikh  old man

shi'at   a partisan

sh'iat  Ali a partisan of Ali, that is, a Shi'ite

Shi'ite   one the major branches of Islam  [Sunni 80% / Shi'ite 20%]

Shokran -- thank you

sunna  the exemplary conduct of Muhammad

sunni   [those who follow the sunna, the exemplary conduct of Muhammad ] the (majority) branch of Islam

sawm   fasting during the daylight hours during the month of Ramadan (the 9th month of the Muslim [lunar] calendar).  The fourth of the Five Pillars [or five essential duties] of Islam.

Surah   A "surah" (chapter) of the the Quran.  A surah is divided into ayat (verses [arabic = signs]) [singular = ayat, verse]

takbir   Takbir is the Arabic name for the phrase "Allahu Akbar"  (God is Great).

taqlid   imitation. [contrast with: ijtihad -- the exercise of independent judgment as opposed to the imitation of medieval authorities.]

taqwa   fear of God, piety

tariga  Path. A formally constituted religious order.

tihamah  plain

umm  mother

umma  community

yemen  south, the south

zakat   ritual almsgiving based upon the value of stipulated property. The third of the Five Pillars [or five essential duties] of Islam.  Perhaps "Purification of Money" is a better translation than "almsgiving".

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To Think About


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