Glossary of Islam


This glossary of Islam provides definitions of terms related to Islam, with links to full articles where available.

(Latin anno hegirae, "After Hijira"). Western abbreviation for the Islamic dating of years, beginning with Muhammad's flight to Medina in 622 CE.
Arabic. The call to prayer performed by the muezzin before each of the five daily times of prayer (salat).
Strict monotheism. One God (Allah in Arabic); the same God revealed (imperfectly) in the Jewish and Christian Bibles
The Bismi'llah saying, "in the Name of Allah," that invokes a blessing upon an action or undertaking of a Muslim. The full form is bismillahi (ar-)rahmani (ar-)rahim, "in the Name of Allah the merciful the compassionate."
(khalif, "deputy, successor"). A political leader of the Muslim community. The most important of these were the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs who ruled after the death of Muhammad.
(or 'id; from Aramaic/Syriac, "festival"). In Islam, holiday or festival, of which there are two major ones: 'Id al-Adha and 'Id al-Fitr.
Eid Al-Adha
("Feast of the Sacrifice"). Holiday marking the end of the hajj.
Eid Al-Fitr
("Feast of the Breaking of the Fast"). Holiday celebrated at the end of the month of Ramadan.
Five Pillars of Islam
(Arabic Arkan al-Islam, "pillars of Islam" or Arkan ud-Din, "pillars of the faith"). The five primary duties of every Muslim: profession of faith (shahada), ritual prayer (salat), fasting during Ramadan (sawm), pilgrimmage to Mecca (hajj) and charity (zakat). Fulfillment of these duties brings rewards on earth and in the afterlife.
("pilgrimmage"). Pilgrimage to Mecca required of every able Muslim at least once during his or her life. One of the Five Pillars of Islam.
The Prophet's flight to Medina in 622 CE, marking the beginning of the Muslim calendar.
White cloth wound around the body during the hajj.
("striving"). Holy war; the defense of Islam against its enemies. Sufism focuses on the "greater" jihad against sin in oneself.
(from junna, "to be mad, furious, possessed"; singular jinni or genie). Shape-shifting fiery spirits, especially associated with the desert. Belief in jinn predates Islam, where they were widely believed to be the inspiration of poets and seers. In Islam, they are spiritual beings inferior to angels and devils who will face salvation or damnation along with humans.
Cube-shaped monument in Mecca containing a sacred black stone. All Muslim prayer faces the direction (qibla) of the Ka'ba.
(kafara, "conceal; be ungrateful") One who does not believe in Allah, or in the content of the Qur'an, or in the prophetic status of Muhammad. Unbelief (kufr) is fundamental opposition to God and Islam, and is punished eternally in hell.
One who gives the khutbah (Friday sermon). The position is appointed by the government in most countries.
Cloth that covers the Ka'ba shrine in Mecca.
meaning of life
The significance or purpose of human existence.
First month in the Islamic calendar. Also a name for al-Hijra, the Islamic New Year.
(Arabic, "direction"). Direction of the Ka'ba in Mecca, towards which all prayer must face.
The sacred text of Islam, revealed to Muhammad over a 20-year period by the Angel Gabriel.
("reciters"). Professional reciters of the Qur'an, who usually have memorized the text. In early Islamic history, qurra' were called upon to elucidate unclear passages in the written text, often resulting in various schools of interpretation among qurra.
The ninth month in the Islamic calendar, for the duration of which Muslims fast during the daylight hours to commemorate the giving of the Qur'an.
(Arabic, "prayer") Ritual prayer performed five times per day facing the direction (qibla) of Mecca.
(Arabic, "fasting," also spelled siyam). Religious fasting, especially during the month of Ramadan, which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
Ritual of running seven times between two low hills in Mecca during the hajj, representing Hagar's search for water.
("testimony" or "witness"). The profession of faith that "There is no god but God and Muhammad is the prophet of God," which is the only requirement for joining the Muslim community. As one of the Five Pillars of Islam, it must be spoken aloud with full understanding and faith at least once in one's lifetime. It is also included in the call to prayer, most ritual prayers, and is recited at death.
Islamic law, both political and religious.
("Tradition"). Record of the words and deeds of the Prophet. While not the Word of God on a level with the Qur'an, the Sunnah is regarded as inspired and authoritative.
A chapter of the Qur'an.
Branch of Islamic learning devoted to Qur'anic exegesis (interpretation).
concealing one's faith under threat of persecution
Almsgiving. One of the Five Pillars of Islam.
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