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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.