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.


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.


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.

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

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.

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.


(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.


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.


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.


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 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.