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.


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.


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.


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.