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.


Jihad means literally “struggle or exertion” in the way of God. The “greater jihad” involves struggling against evil within oneself, while the “lesser jihad” involves working against injustice or oppression in society, sometimes even using armed force, though within a prescribed ethical code.


Salat is the ritual prayer Muslims perform five times daily: at dawn, midday, afternoon, sunset, and nightfall. While it is preferable to pray in a mosqu. with fellow believers, one may pray alone in any clean place. All Muslims pray in the direction of the Ka`bah in Makkah. Salat is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.


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.


Ismaili Shi’ah refers to the group of Shi’i Muslims who, upon the death of the sixth Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq in 765, affirmed his son Isma’il to be the next Imam. The Ismailis further split in 1094 into Mustali and Nizari branches. Emphasizing the necessity of continual interpretation of Islam to meet contemporary challenges, the current Imam of the Nizari Ismaili branch is the Aga Khan. Nizari Ismailis live throughout the Middle East, South and Central Asia, East Africa and increasingly in Western Europe and North America.


The qiblah is the direction of prayer, always toward the Ka’bah in Makkah. In mosques, the qiblah is indicated by a small niche called the mihrab.


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.


A prophet of Islam, Isma’il (Ishmael in Hebrew) was the son of Abraham and his wife Hagar. He is the ancestor of Northern Arab tribes and of the Prophet Muhammad. Hagar and Isma’il miraculously survived in the desert near Makkah, and Isma’il helped Abraham build the Ka’bah. In Islamic tradition, Isma’il was the son nearly sacrificed by Abraham before God substituted a ram.


Hijab means “veil” or “curtain,” referring especially to standards of modest dress for Muslim women. While there are many interpretations of the legal requirement, many Muslims agree that women should wear loose fitting clothing and expose no more than their face and hands in public.


From 1528 to 1858, the Mughals ruled northern India and parts of Afghanistan. Turko-Persian Muslims from Central Asia, they blended Persian culture with the local Indian environment and produced a sophisticated Islamic civilization in India characterized by distinctive architecture, art, and literature.


The ‘ulama are literally “the learned ones” or”scholars.” They are recognized scholarly authorities in Islamic law and in interpreting the Qur’an and Sunnah. In Sunni Islam, the consensus of the ‘ulama is considered by many to be final and binding.

Surat al-Nur

Surat al-Nur is the Chapter of Light (Surah 24) in the Qur’an. Verse 35, which begins with “Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth,” is often found inscribed on the hanging lamps in a mosque. Interpretations of this image of God as illuminating the world are especially significant in Sufi and Shi’i literature.


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.

Malcolm X

Malcolm Little (1925-1965) is one of the most well-known African Americans who embraced Islam. He took the name Malcolm X upon joining the Nation of Islam while in prison. He spoke forcefully for black separatism in the face of white predjudice and violence. Malcolm X’s views on race and hi. understanding of Islam were radically transformed while he was on pilgrimage (hajj) to Makkah in 1964. Adopting a new name, Al Hajj Malik al-Shabazz, he soon broke ties with the Nation, founding the Organization of Afro-American Unity and the Muslim Mosque, Inc. He was assassinated in 1965.


Sirah means “biography.” Sirah literature, including the biography of the Prophet Muhammad and the biographies of his companions and of earlier prophets, is a source of inspiration and moral education for Muslims.