Ummah means “community,” referring to the worldwide community of believers bound by their faith in Islam which, ideally, is seen as transcending ethnic, racial, and national differences.


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).


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.

Mohammed, W. Deen

Imam W. Deen Mohammed was born Wallace Fard Muhammad in 1933, son of Elijah Muhammad, charismatic leader of the Nation of Islam, and his wife Clara. He later changed his name to Warith Deen, meaning “the heir of the religion” in Arabic, and altered the spelling of his last name. Although twice expelled for questioning his father’s teachings, W. Deen was appointed Elijah Muhammad’s successor in 1975. However, he soon led the movement away from Black nationalist separatism to integration with Sunni Muslim belief and practice. Today, the Ministry of W. Deen Mohammed serves a loose federation of... Read more about Mohammed, W. Deen

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.


Called “Rasul” in Arabic, the messenger is a special type of prophet commissioned to lead a community and often entrusted with a major revelation from God. Moses, Jesus and Muhammad are examples of messengers in Islam. Other prophets (called nabi) interpret these messages and reform existing communities.


Sunnah, meaning “custom,” refers to the words and actions of the Prophet Muhammad, remembered by the early Muslim community and preserved in narrative accounts (hadith). Because Muhammad is considered to be the best example of how to live, his Sunnah is second in authority only to the Qur’an. In the Shi’i tradition, the Sunnah of the Imams is another important source of guidance.

fajr prayer

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


(also: Medina) The city of Madinah was originally called Yathrib, a city north of Makkah in western Saudi Arabia. It was renamed “the city of the prophet,” (Madinat al-nabi) after Muhammad and his followers emigrated there in 622 to form the first Muslim community. Muslim pilgrims visit the mosque and tomb of the Prophet Muhammad in Madinah.


Shariah, meaning “way or road,” refers to the system of law, ethics, and values based on the Qur’an and Sunnah. As such it is a way of life prescribed by God. The process of interpreting and applying this law led to the formation of four schools of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh).


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.


Jerusalem, the ancient capital of Israel from the time of King David (c. 1000 BCE), was the ritual and spiritual center of the Jewish people for 1,000 years until the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. For Jews, Jerusalem is still the geographical epicenter of the tradition. For Christians, Jerusalem the site of the mighty events of Christ’s death and resurrection. For Muslims, Jerusalem is the place where the prophet Muhammad came on his Night Journey from Makkah to the very throne of God.


Ramadan is the ninth lunar month during which the first revelation of the Qur’an came to Muhammad. Each year in this month, Muslims abstain from all food, drink, and sexual activity from dawn until sunset. They are also meant to make a conscious effort to abstain from any sinful acts during this month. Ramadan is a time of community, as family and friends share meals and festivities after dark. At the end of the month, Muslims gather to perform the prayers of Eid al-Fitr, the Festival of Fast-breaking.


The Ottoman Turks, based after 1453 in Istanbul (Constantinople), established a vast empire that lasted from the 14th century until World War I; at its height, it stretched from Southern Russia to the Indian Ocean, including the Balkans, Hungary and Egypt as well as most of the Middle East. Supporters of Sunni Islam and Sufi orders, they were known for advanced administrative and social institutions and great architectural achievements.


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.