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.

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.


The Ka’bah is a cube-shaped building located within the Grand Mosque in Makkah, the most sacred place on earth for Muslims. Believed to have been built by Abraham on the site of Adam’s original temple, the Ka’bah serves as the focal point toward which the Muslim ritual prayer (salat) is directed and around which pilgrims of the Hajj circumambulate.


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.


I’tikaf is the practice of secluding oneself in a mosque or other private space for the purpose of prayer and Qur’anic recitation. I’tikaf is most commonly practiced during the last ten days of Ramadan, during which the Night of Power (revelation of the first verses of the Qur’an) occurred.


The word Qur’an literally means “recitation.” Revealed orally to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel, he recited it to his followers. These recitations collected in written form are arranged in 114 surahs, generally from longest to shortest. Muslims consider the Qur’an to be the literal word of God. While it is possible to translate the message of the Qur’an into other languages, Muslims consider translations to be interpretations and not the Qur’an itself.


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.

Islamic center

An Islamic center will typically include a mosque, school, and area for social and cultural activities. When a new Islamic center is being organized in the United States, attention is paid to community needs, including a weekend or full-time school, indicating an emphasis on educating the next generation.

Nation of Islam

The Lost-Found Nation of Islam in America, begun by Wallace D. Fard in Detroit in the 1930’s, was developed by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Elijah Muhammad preached some Islamic principles, but his lessons about the superiority of the Black Man were considered by many Muslims to be contrary to Qur’anic teachings of racial equality. His son W. Deen Mohammed disbanded the Nation in 1975 and called followers to embrace Sunni Islam. In 1977, Minister Louis Farrakhan revived the old Nation of Islam, with some 20,000 members and over 60 affiliated mosques. The Nation publishes the Final Call... Read more about Nation of Islam


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).


Ibadat refers to the duties of worship to God according to the law, including the five pillars. Obligations toward other human beings are called Mu’amalat.