Islam Glossary Terms


Abraham is the patriarch, acknowledged as the father of the lineage of faith by the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. He is presumed to have lived sometime in the period 2000-1700 BCE. He is the father of Isaac by Sarah (Genesis 12.25), and the “Friend of God” and Father of Ishmael by Hagar (Qur’an 37.83-113), and the exemplar of faith. (Galatians 3-4).


Adam is Hebrew for “human, man.” It is the name given to the first person created by God and as such has an important symbolic role in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions.


The adhan, also called azan or the call to prayer, is called out by the muezzin five times each day to all Muslims within hearing distance. Contained in this call is the shahadah, the “witness” to the two fundamental convictions of Muslim religious belief: “There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.”


The Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam was established in 1889 in India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. He claimed to be the Messiah of this age, awaited by Muslims, Christians, and others. The missionary movement of his followers is now established in more than 144 countries of the world, including the United States, where there are more than 40 branches.

Al-Amin, Jamil Abdullah

Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin was born Hubert G. Brown in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1943. In the mid-1960s, under the name H. Rap Brown, he became a civil rights activist. While in prison, he studied the tenets of Islam, changed his name and embraced the new religion in 1971. Today, Imam Al-Amin leads an estimated thirty affiliated communities in the United States and the Caribbean. An officer in several organizations and popular speaker in local and national gatherings, he has published Revolution By the Book: The Rap is Live and Women in Islam.


Al-Quds means “the Holy” and is the Arabic name of the city of Jerusalem, the third holiest place on earth for Muslims, because of its association with Muhammad’s Night Journey. Jerusalem was the original direction of prayer for Muslims, before a later revelation changed the qiblah to Makkah.

al-Razi, Abu Bakr

Abu Bakr al-Razi (865-926 CE) was a Persian doctor, philosopher, chemist, and humanitarian who, despite his agnosticism and belief that all religions were created by man, was well known and beloved in the early Muslim world.


Allah is the word for God in Arabic, used by Arabic-speaking Christians, Jews, and Muslims. According to Islam, Allah is the creator and ruler of the entire universe, the ultimate judge of all human beings, characterized by mercy and compassion. By means of revelations to various prophets, Allah guides the faithful along the path of righteousness.


Amir means “Commander” or “Prince.” Originally a military term, the Muslim caliph was known as Amir al-Mu’minin, the “commander of the faithful.. The term amir is used today as a title for princes, and it sometimes designates the executive officer or representative of an Islamic organization.


Angels are a class of supernatural or spiritual beings, imaginatively understood to perform various functions on God’s behalf. Angels are especially described as divine messengers. Angels are common to Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.


Classical Arabic is the language of revelation in Islam as recorded in the Qur’an. Muslims consider every word of the Qur’an to be a direct utterance of God. The Arabic language itself is regarded as perfectly suited as the instrument for God’s communication to humanity because of its purity of sound and clarity of meaning. Thus translations of the Qur’an in other languages are regarded as “interpretations,” not the actual Qur’an.


The words “Bismillahir rahmanir rahim,” “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compasssionate,” begins all but one of the surahs (chapters) of the Qur’an. The entire phrase or simply “Bismillah” is frequently used to invoke divine blessing before the acts of daily life. It is also a common motif in Islamic calligraphy, especially on amulets. “Basmalah” is shorthand for the whole phrase.


The word “caliph,” from the Arabic Khalifah, means “successor” to the Prophet Muhammad. It was used as the title for the highest politico-religious leader of the Sunni Muslim community from 632 to 1258 CE.


The crescent or new moon (hilal), marking the beginning of a new lunar month in the Islamic calendar, became a prevalent symbol of Islam after the Mamluk rulers first used it to decorate mosques in 14th century Cairo.


Da’wah, meaning literally “invitation,” refers to the mission or outreach programs of Muslim organizations and masajid. Da’wah initiatives seek to provide accurate information on Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, encouraging people to consider adopting Islam as a way of life adequate to face the problems and pressures of contemporary society.


Dhikr means “remembering” and refers to the Sufi form of devotional worship which usually involves rhythmic chanting of the names of God or litanies, sometimes accompanied by poetry, dance, drums or a reed flute.

Dome of the Rock

The Dome of the Rock is the mosque built in Jerusalem in 691 C.E. and the finest example of early Islamic architecture. Adorned with Qur’anic inscriptions about Jesus, it stands on the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem over the place where Muhammad ascended to the heavens on his Night Journey, called the mi’raj.

Eid al-Fitr

The Islamic calendar includes two annual feasts (Eids): Eid al-Fitr, the Festival of Fast-breaking; and Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice. Muslims gather to perform the prayers and eat sweets on Eid al-Fitr at the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan. Eid al-Adha is a four-day observance, beginning on the tenth day of Dhu-l-Hijja (“Pilgrimage Month”). Muslims throughout the world, with pilgrims in Makkah, pray and sacrifice an animal in memory of God’s sparing of Ismail (Ishmael), Abraham’s son. Both festivals include sermons, the giving of presents, and special dinners with friends and relatives.

fajr prayer

Fajr is dawn prayer, the first of the required five daily ritual prayers in Islam.

Fard, Wallace

Wallace Fard, also known as Master Wali Farrad Muhammad, founded the Lost and Found Nation of Islam and served as its leader until his mysterious disappearance in the early 1930s. According to his successor, Elijah Muhammad, Fard was an incarnation of God.

Farrakhan, Louis

Minister Louis Farrakhan (b. Louis Eugene Wolcott, 1933) revived the old Nation of Islam in 1977, restoring its original ideology and organization and establishing the University of Islam in Chicago. He states that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, after his death, commanded him to continue leading the chosen Black race to liberation from slavery.


A fez is a brimless hat, usually made of red felt and often decorated with a tassel, that is worn by men in eastern Mediterranean countries.


Fiqh means “understanding” the Shariah, the law of God, as it is laid out in the Qur’an and Hadith and interpreted by community consensus and human reason. Four schools of legal interpretation (fiqh) are accepted in Sunni Islam: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali schools. The Shi’i tradition has developed its own schools of fiqh, the most prominent of which is the Ja’fari school.

Five Percenters

The Five Percenters, also called the Nation of Gods and Earths, was established by Clarence 13X in 1964 after he broke away from the Nation of Islam. Their strongest presence is in New York City, although their influence can be felt elsewhere, as in the lyrics of the rap group, Public Enemy. According to Five Percenter theology, Blackman is God, the Black woman Earth, and each Black man becomes a god when he learns his lessons. These gods then join the 5% of humankind who will deliver 85% of the rest of humanity from the 10% who oppress them.

Five Pillars of Islam

The five pillars of Islam are regular acts of worship Muslims are called upon to perform: the Shahadah (“witness” that there is no god but God and Muhammad is “the Messenger of God), Salat (“ritual prayer,” five times daily), Zakat (“purification” or almsgiving), Sawm (“fasting” during Ramadan), and Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah).


In Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions, Gabriel is an archangel. In Christianity, Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear Jesus. For Muslims, Gabriel is the angel who conveyed God’s message to the Prophets. He recited the Qur’an to Muhammad, instructed him in matters of conduct, and guided him on his journey through the heavens.


Hadith is a narrative account or report of Muhammad’s deeds and actions. These reports were preserved and later collected to form the Sunnah of the prophet, second only to the authority of the Qur’an for knowing how to live in proper submission to God.


A hafiz is a person who has memorized the entire Qur’an in Arabic. Learning the proper recitation of the Qur’an from memory is one of the primary goals of Islamic education for children, and the attainment of the status of a hafiz is a high honor.


Hajj, or pilgrimage to the Ka’bah in Makkah, is one of the five pillars of Islam, performed by millions annually during Dhu’l-Hijjah, the last lunar month. The Hajj is required at least once in a lifetime of every Muslim in good health and with financial means.


Halal means “permissible” or “pure.. For Muslims, halal is a legal term referring to good actions and to foods that are ritually slaughtered. Halal is the opposite of Haram.
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