The adhan, also called azan or the call to prayer, is called out by the muezzin five times each day to all Muslims within hearing distance. Contained in this call is the shahadah, the “witness” to the two fundamental convictions of Muslim religious belief: “There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.”


Imam means “leader,” particularly the person who leads the daily ritual prayer or, more broadly, to the one who serves as a leader of the community because of his religious learning. In Shi’i Islam, it refers to one of a succession of direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad who are believed to have inherited the religious and temporal leadership of the community after the Prophet’s death.


The prayer area or hall in a masjid (mosque) is called a musalla, although any open and clean space may serve as a musalla.


Zakat, literally meaning “purification,” is almsgiving (approximately 2.5 percent of annual accumulated wealth) for the needy and for Islamic work. Giving zakat purifies the remainder of one’s wealth for personal use. Zakat al-fitr is a special offering given during Ramadan.


Haram means “prohibited” or “impure.” For Muslims, haram is a legal term referring to sinful actions and impure food. Haram is the opposite of Halal.


A muezzin is the one who beckons the faithful to prayer five times each day. The call is issued in a clear voice, often from atop the minaret of a masjid.


Tauhid means “oneness, unity.” Tauhid is the central monotheistic doctrine of Islam expressed in the phrase: “There is no God but God.”


In Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions, Gabriel is an archangel. In Christianity, Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear Jesus. For Muslims, Gabriel is the angel who conveyed God’s message to the Prophets. He recited the Qur’an to Muhammad, instructed him in matters of conduct, and guided him on his journey through the heavens.

Mevlevi Order

Inspired by the 13th century mystical poet Jalal al Din Rumi, the Mevlevi Sufi order originated in Turkey. Its distinctive mystical dance concert in which the dancers revolve while moving in a circle, symbolizing the return of all creation to the One Creator, earned Mevlevis the nickname “Whirling Dervishes.”


The text of the Qur’an is divided into 114 surahs or chapters, arranged roughly from the longest to the shortest. They include praises, warnings of judgment, exhortations, directives, and occasional short narratives. Every Muslim must learn to recite the opening surah of the Qur’an and some of the shorter ones to perform the ritual prayers properly.

Farrakhan, Louis

Minister Louis Farrakhan (b. Louis Eugene Wolcott, 1933) revived the old Nation of Islam in 1977, restoring its original ideology and organization and establishing the University of Islam in Chicago. He states that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, after his death, commanded him to continue leading the chosen Black race to liberation from slavery.

Makkah; Mecca

Makkah (also spelled Mecca) is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, the hub of the caravan trade in the Arabian Peninsula, and the site of the holy Ka’bah. After receiving the first revelations of the Qur’an on a mountain outside Makkah, Muhammad developed a small following, but he had to flee to Madinah to escape persecution. In 630, Muhammad and his strengthened community returned to Makkah, establishing it as the spiritual center of the Islamic world and performing the first Islamic pilgrimage.


(also: shi'a, shi'i, shi'ite) The Shi’at ‘Ali (the party of ‘Ali, for which Shi’ah is an abbreviation and from which the adjective Shi’i comes) believed that the Prophet Muhammad designated his son-in-law ‘Ali and his descendants to be leader (imam) of the ummah after his death. The imam is regarded as an infallible interpreter of the revelation as well as the political leader. The various groups of Shi’i Muslims comprise about 15 percent of Muslims today.


Dhikr means “remembering” and refers to the Sufi form of devotional worship which usually involves rhythmic chanting of the names of God or litanies, sometimes accompanied by poetry, dance, drums or a reed flute.


Friday is called Yawm al-Jum’ah in Arabic, meaning the Day of Assembly. On this day, Muslims pause from their work at mid-day to gather for congregational worship. The regular mid-day prayer on Friday is supplemented by a two-part sermon known as the khutbah, in the middle of which a time of personal prayer, or du’a, is encouraged. Read more about Jum’ah