Glossary of Islamic Terms

Allah “The God before Whom there are no others.”
Abbasid The name of the second great Muslim dynasty.
Adam The first man according to Islam.
Ahl al Kitab “People of the Book.” Jews and Christians who received revelations (books) from God in the past.
Akhirah The next life.
Alim A scholar in Islam. Plural: ‘ulema.
Ansar “Helpers.” Converts to Islam who lived in Medina.
Aqiqah The ritual for welcoming a baby into the world.
Arabic The name of the language spoken by the Arab people. Non-Arabs learn it for religious reasons because the Qur’an was revealed in that tongue and also because Islamic prayers are recited in it.
Arkan al Islami The pillars of Islam consisting of the declaration of faith, prayer, fasting, charity, and pilgrimage.
Asma’ ul Husna “The Most Beautiful Names.” A list of the 99 names of God through which Muslims understand what God is like.
Asr The late-afternoon prayer.
Assalamu alaykum “Peace be upon you.” The Muslim greeting of peace.
Ataqullah “Be conscious of God’s presence in your life.”
Ayatullah “Sign of God.” The title of a major Shi’a cleric.
Azan The Muslim call to prayer consisting of several religious statements.
Azra’il The proper name of the angel of death, also known as Malikul Mawt.

Bani Isra’il The Children of Israel.
Barzakh “The partition.” The time between death and the resurrection. The souls of the dead are in a stored state and are either dreaming pleasantly or being tormented based upon their faith and deeds while in the world.
Baytul Hikmah “House of Wisdom.” A scholarly think tank established by Caliph Ma’mun in 830 in the city of Baghdad. Most of the major translations of Greek texts into Arabic took place here.
Baytullah “The House of God.” One of the alternate names for the Ka’bah.

Colonialism The period from the seventeenth to the twentieth century when the major European powers conquered and occupied nearly every nation on Earth, most of them being Muslim territories.

Dajjal The anti-Christ.
Deen Way of life.
Dhikr (ziker) Remembering God through repeating religious phrases. This is the Muslim version of the rosary.
Dhulm Transgression, going out of all bounds in moral behaviour.
Du’a Supplication, personal requests to God.
Dunya The world.

Eid ul adha The Islamic holiday at the end of the Hajj.
Eid ul Fitr The Islamic holiday at the end of the fast of Ramadan.
Esa The Islamic name for Jesus.

Fajr The dawn prayer.
Fatwa A legal ruling by a competent Islamic legal scholar. Fatwas can be challenged or overruled and are not automatically binding on the community.
Fiqh Understanding the application of the Islamic Law and how to formulate new rulings.
Fitrah The inner moral compass that all humans are born with. People can become influenced by it to seek God, or they can consciously bury it under a load of sin and denial.
Futuwwat The Muslim code of battlefield honor that Europeans copied and labeled chivalry.

Gabriel The chief angel charged with the responsibility of bringing revelations to prophets and others. Also spelled Jibra’il.

Hadith “An account.” Any saying by, or action attributed to, the Prophet Muhammad.
Hafiz “Guardian.” A person who has memorized the entire Qur’an by heart.
Hajj “Pilgrimage.” The annual pilgrimage to Mecca, which takes place in the twelfth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. All Muslims must make this journey once in a lifetime if they are physically able and can afford to do so.
Hajji “Pilgrim.” The title given to the person who has completed the Islamic pilgrimage ritual.
Halal Allowed to eat or engage in.
Haram Forbidden to eat or engage in.
Hawwa The name for Eve in Islam.
Haya Life in general.
Hayat ad-Dunya The life of this world.
Hidayah Guidance from God.
Hijab The head scarf worn over the hair.
Hijrah The migration of Muhammad and his followers from hostile Mecca to friendly Medina in 622. The Muslim calendar was later given this year as its start.
Hudood The legal limits allowed by Islamic Law.

Iblis “Frustrated.” The proper name of Satan before he turned to evil.
Ibrahim The Islamic name for Abraham.
Idda Before the finalization of a divorce, the waiting period for a woman to see whether she is pregnant.
Ihtisab Self-reflection and assessment.
Ijtihad Using independent thought to create a new Islamic legal opinion for an issue that has no clear answer in the two main sources of Islam.
Illiyun The register in which the people of paradise have their names written.
Imam “Leader.” In Sunni Islam, it denotes primarily the person who leads congregational prayers.
Iman (Ee maan) The term for faith or belief. Also spelled Eman.
Injeel The Arabic name for the Gospel or Evangel of Jesus.
Insan The Islamic term for humankind; adaptable creatures.
Isha The late-night prayer.
Islam (Iss laam) “Surrendering to God and attaining peace.” The Arabic name for the religion taught by Muhammad.
Israfil The angel who will blow the trumpet, signaling the last day.
Ithim A bad deed.
I’tikaf The practice of spiritual retreat by living in the mosque during the last 10 days of Ramadan.

Jahaliya “Ignorance.” Refers to the time before the advent of Islam when superstitious and barbaric customs were a part of Arabian life.
Jahannum The name for Hell.
Janazah Funeral rites in Islam.
Jannah “Garden.” Heaven or Paradise.
Jihad “To struggle, strive or exert.” Often mistranslated as holy war, this term can apply to any exertion in God’s cause. Examples range from going to school and a woman making the Hajj to fighting a war or giving up a bad habit.
Jinn “Hidden ones.” The term used for a class of invisible spirits that inhabit another dimension. They can communicate with us only through our minds. There are good and evil jinn. The caricature of the genie is based on this creature.
Jum’ah “Gathering.” Friday, the day for the Congregational prayer.

Ka’bah The cube-shaped shrine in Mecca built originally by the Prophet Abraham.
Kafir “One who hides or covers the truth.” Often mistranslated as unbeliever. Plural: Kuffar.
Kalimah “Creed or word.” A defining statement of faith.
Khalifa “Caretaker.” The term for the supreme leader of the Muslim community after the passing of the Prophet. Spelled as caliph in English.
Kharajites “The seceders.” The faction that rebelled against Caliph Ali. Plural: Khawarij.
Khatmi Qur’an The name of the ceremony celebrating a child’s first completion of reading the entire Qur’an. Also called an Ameen ceremony.
Khul’ A wife-initiated divorce.
Kiraman Katibeen The two angels assigned to each person that record good and bad deeds in our book of records.
Kiswah The embroidered black cloth that covers the Ka’bah in Mecca.
Kitabullah “Book of God.” One of the titles of the Qur’an.

Laylat ul Qadr “The Night of Measurement or Power.” The exact date on which Muhammad started receiving the Qur’an. It falls in 1 of the last 10 days of Ramadan.

Maghrib The sunset prayer.
Mahdi The awaited hero who will rally the oppressed Muslims of the Earth to victory in the end-times.
Mala’ikah (Mala eeka) Angels, beings with power, message-bearers.
Malikul Mawt The angel of death.
Masih The Messiah. A term attributed to Jesus in the Qur’an. He was meant to be the Messiah for the Jewish people.
Masjid “Place of prostration.” The proper name for a Muslim house of worship.
Masjid al Haram “The Restricted Mosque.” Another name for the Ka’bah and the mosque that surrounds it. Many restrictions apply upon a person who enters this mosque, such as the person must not kill any living thing, even a bug; and the person must be in a purified state.
Masjid an Nabawi The Prophet’s mosque in Medina.
Mathnawi The name of the collected poems of Jalaluddin Rumi.
Maulid un Nabi The birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. This widely celebrated holiday is controversial in Islam because it has no sanction from the main Islamic sources.
Mecca (Makkah) A city in southwestern Arabia founded by Abraham’s wife Hagar and their son Ishmael. An important religious shrine is located there, and it is the birthplace of Muhammad.
Medina (Madeena) “City.” Formerly known as Yathrib, this city became the first capital of Islam in 622, when Muhammad and his persecuted followers fled Mecca. Also spelled Madinah.
Mika’il The angel who can alter the weather by God’s command.
Minbar The pulpit on which the Imam stands to deliver his Friday sermon. Out of respect for the Prophet’s position, the top step of this three- or four-stepped pulpit is not stood upon.
Mohammadanism The name Europeans gave to the religion of Islam in the seventeenth century, thinking that Muslims worshipped Muhammad as god.
Muazzin The person who gives the Muslim call to prayer five times daily from the minaret of a mosque.
Muhajirun The Meccan Muslims who fled to Medina during the Hijrah.
Munafiq A hypocrite.
Musallah The actual place where a ritual prayer is held in a mosque.
Mushrik An idolater.
Muslim (Mus lim) “A person who is surrendering to God and finding peace.” A follower of the religion of Islam.

Nabi A prophet from God.
Nafs The Islamic term for the id, or self. The real you; your personality and character.
Nasara The Islamic term for Christian. It comes from the name Nazareth. It is also related to the term for helper, which is how Jesus’ disciples are viewed in the Qur’an.
Nikah The Islamic marriage ceremony.



Qada “Determination.” Often mistranslated as fatalism.
Qadr “Measurement.” Often mistranslated as destiny or fate.
Qiblah The direction of Mecca toward which all Muslims face when they pray.
Qur’an (Kuur an) “The Reading or Recital.” It is the name of the Islamic Holy Book. Muslims believe it is the direct word of God, delivered to Muhammad by an angel in small portions from the years 610 to 623 C.E. Also spelled Koran.

Ramadan (Rama Dan) The ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Muslims observe a dawn-to-dusk fast for the 29 or 30 days of this month.
Rasul A messenger from God who receives a scripture.
Riddah Apostacy
Ruh The Islamic name for the soul.

Sabr Patient resolve and perseverance in the face of adversity. This quality is a sign of true faith in God.
Sadaqa Charity
Sahaba Companions of the Prophet. The people who accepted Islam and saw or heard him directly.
Salat “Prayers” The ritual Islamic prayers performed five times daily.
Saum Fasting. Also spelled Siyam.
Seerah Biography of the Prophet Muhammad.
Shahadah “To witness or testify.” The Muslim statement of belief: I declare there is no god but Allah, and I declare that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.
Shaheed A martyr.
Shari’ah (Shareeya) “The path.” The term for Islamic Law.
Shaykh “Respected elder or chief.” Among Sunnis, it is commonly used as the title for a religious scholar. Also spelled sheikh or sheik.
Shaytan “To pull away from.” Satan in Arabic.
Shirk “Associating.” Making others equal to God. The only unforgivable sin if a person dies while doing it.
Shura “Mutual consultation.”
Sijjin The register in which the people of Hell have their names written.
Sirat The path or bridge over the pit of Hell that all souls must pass over after they have received their verdict from God. For those who make it over, Heaven awaits. Sinners will fall into Hell.
Siratal Mustaqeem The straight path (of Islam).
Sufi The mystics of Islam.
Suhuf (Soo hoof) The Islamic name for the revealed scrolls of the Prophet Abraham.
Sunnah The example of the Prophet Muhammad as contained in his hadiths, or sayings, including his actions and silent approval of actions done in his presence.
Surah (Soo ra) “A step-up or gate.” The name for a chapter of the Qur’an.

Talaq A husband-initiated divorce.
Taqwa The conscious awareness that God is watching you.
Tauhid (Tauw heed) “Oneness or monotheism.” A term used to emphasis the unitary nature of God.
Taurah (Taw rah) The Arabic name for the Torah of Moses.
Tawba “Repentance.” Asking forgiveness from God for a sin.
Thanbi Sin or evil deeds.

Umayyad The name of the first Muslim dynasty.
Ummah The Muslim community or motherland.


Wahy Revelation or inspiration from God given to chosen men and women.
Wudu The Islamic practice of washing the face, hands, and feet with water to achieve a ritually pure state.


Yahudi The Arabic term for a Jew.
Yathrib The former name of the city of Medina.
Youm A unit of time usually used for a day but with no set length.
Youmud Deen The Day of Judgment for all ways of life.
Youmul Qiyamah The Day of (standing for) Judgment.

Zabur (Za boor) The Arabic name for the Psalms of David.
Zakah “Purification.” The annual required charity from all Muslim adults in the amount of 21/2 percent.
Zuhr The afternoon prayer.

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