new Muslims

New Muslims are those who have recently embraced Islam. Some Muslims do not speak of “converts” to Islam, since the language of “conversion” carries negative and coercive connotations and because of the belief that all people are ‘born Muslim’. Thus, those who as adolescents or adults recognize the oneness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad are often called “new Muslims.”

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.

Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)

The Islamic Circle of North America was formed in 1968 by a group within the Muslim Student Association with roots in the Jama’at-i Islami movement of Pakistan but has since tried to diversify its membership. The organization publishes the magazine The Message and sponsors national conferences and youth camps, provides financial services, multimedia production and educational materials.

Wahhaj, Siraj

Imam of Masjid al-Taqwa in Brooklyn, New York, Siraj Wahhaj is one of the most dynamic African-American leaders of Sunni Islam in the United States. On June 15, 1991, Imam Siraj Wahhaj was the first Muslim to offer the opening prayer in the U.S. House of Representatives.


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.


Iftar is “breaking the fast” at the end of each day of the month of Ramadan. After sundown during Ramadan, most Muslims ceremonially break their fast by eating dried dates and soup before the maghreb prayer. Later they may eat a larger meal with relatives and friends.

Muhammad, Elijah

Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole, 1897; d.1975) became leader of the Nation of Islam after the founder, Wallace Fard, disappeared in 1934. Poole and others adopted African and Islamic names as a sign of their emancipation from the domination of whites and Christianity. Elijah Muhammad’s message—a combination of black nationalist separatism and teachings from the Bible and Qur’an—focused on abstinence from alcohol and drugs, strict conformity to Islamic codes of dress and conduct, and self-sufficient economic and political development by African Americans.


Tarawih is an added devotional practice during Ramadan in which Muslims gather to perform extra ritual prayers after the final prayer of the day, sometimes staying up most of the night reciting the Qur’an and engaging in other rigorous or supererogatory forms of worship.


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.

Sunni Muslim

Sunni Muslims emphasize the authoritative role of the consensus of religious scholars (‘ulama) in interpreting the Qur’an and the Sunnah (custom) of the Prophet. The community could thus choose any good Muslim as a successor (khalifah) to Muhammad, though the leader would have no special spiritual guidance as Shi’i Muslims believe. Sunni Muslims comprise approximately 85 percent of Muslims today.

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).


Messiah means, literally, the “anointed one.” In Biblical tradition, the term came to mean a redeemer and royal descendant of the dynasty of David who would restore the united kingdom of Israel and Judah and usher in an age of peace, justice and plenty, sometimes called the Messianic age. Judaism, throughout its history, has lived through many false messianic claims. While the most famous one, from a Jewish perspective, is Jesus of Nazareth, the notion of proclaiming oneself, or one’s spiritual mentor, to be the messiah, was common in Medieval Judaism as well. Shabbetai Tzvi (1626-1676)... Read more about Messiah


(also: sheik, sheikh, pir) The Arabic term “shaykh” literally means a gray-haired old man. The Persian term “pir” means “elder, master.” Both terms have become titles of respect for a leader with great authority or religious piety. In the context of Sufi orders, the shaykh or pir is the spiritual teacher and guide.

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.


Mahdi means “the rightly guided one.” The Mahdi is a messianic figure, who will come to earth before the Last Judgment to guide people to the true path and establish a just world order based on true Islam. In Shi’i Islam, this figure is identified with the last Imam who now lives in hiding but will be revealed at the appointed time.