The hijrah was the “emigration” of the Prophet Muhammad from Makkah to Madinah in 622 CE. When the Prophet and his followers were persecuted in Makkah, the tribes of Madinah promised to protect them and asked the Prophet to resolve disputes between them. The hijrah marks the founding of the first Islamic community under the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad, and thus the year 622 CE is the first year in the Islamic calendar.


The Prophet Muhammad, known as “the Seal of the Prophets,” was born in the city of Makkah on the Arabian peninsula in 570 C.E. At 40, he began to receive a series of revelations from God through the angel Gabriel. His small group of followers met with harsh persecution. In 622 C.E., the Prophet and his followers emigrated north from Makkah to Madinah to establish the first Islamic community. In 630, after a series of military battles and negotiations with enemies in Makkah, Muhammad returned to his city victorious. By his death in 632 CE, much of the Arabian peninsula had embraced Islam.... Read more about Muhammad


The Umayyad dynasty ruled the early Arab empire from 661-750 CE, and Spain from 756-1031 CE. From their capital in Damascus, the Umayyad caliphs sent Arab Muslim armies to conquer Syria, Egypt, Iraq and parts of Persia, Spain, and India. The Umayyads were forced to yield power to the new Abbasid dynasty in 750.


The minaret is a tower often built to adorn a mosque, from which the call to prayer may be sounded.

Tablighi Jama’at

Tablighi Jama’at means literally, “the group that invites.” It is an apolitical missionary movement of Muslims, based in India, with a worldwide membership of millions. The movement sends small groups of Muslim men to visit inactive Muslims or inquirers to persuade them to conform their lives to Qur’an and Sunnah and to perform the prayers and other religious duties.


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.


Masjid (plural masajid) in Arabic means “place of prostration,” or the place where Muslims bow in prayer; in English, this word has become “mosque.” A masjid contains a prayer hall in which there is a mihrab or prayer niche, and a minbar or pulpit; outside of the prayer hall is a place for ablutions. Many masajid are also adorned with a towering minaret, from which the call to prayer may be sounded.


Sufism is often called “the heart of Islam,” as its emphasis on the inner life enlivens and supplements the outward practices of ritual and legal obligation. It is not a sect of Islam, but rather a stream of interpretation stressing the interior path, or tariqah, of mystical devotion to God. Sufi “orders,” groups of disciples, developed around the great masters, each with particular teachings and practices.


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.

Khan, Hazrat Inayat

Hazrat Inayat Khan was the founder of the Sufi Order in the West in 1910. His philosophy aims at “the awakening of the soul of humanity to the consciousness of the divinity of man.” The Sufi meditation and practice to enable this awakening is today carried on by his son Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, who continues to teach in the United States and around the world.


Shahadah means “witness” and refers to the Muslim declaration of faith: “I bear witness that there is no God but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” The shahadah is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

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... Read more about Eid al-Fitr

Jama’ati Islami

Jama’at-i Islami means “The Islamic Group” or “The Islamic Congregation,” a reform movement founded in India by Mawlana Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi (1903-1979) in 1941, dedicated to training small groups of devout Muslims who could form the core of a new Islamic order consistent with the Qur’an and Sunnah. After the founding of Pakistan, the movement has played a major role in debates about the state’s Islamic character, and its ideology has inspired Muslim activists around the globe.

Qur’anic recitation

(also: Tajwid) Qur’an means “recitation.” It is a sacred text meant to be recited and heard. Before the written form of the Qur’an, reciters preserved the verses in memory. Today, young Muslim children learn to recite the Qur’an from memory, and professional reciters perform for special occasions, such as festivals and funerals. The science of tajwid, “making beautiful,” defines strict rules of pronunciation and intonation and separates Qur’anic recitation from musical art in form and intent.


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.