Glossary of Islam
This is a list of common expressions used in Islam with a description of their meanings given in English.
The Glossary was compiled with the contributions of members of the Inverness Muslim Support Group on Facebook and our thanks go to the various members of the group who helped to compile the list and provide definitions. The Inverness Muslim Support Group consists of a bunch of people who are interested in Islam as a path for life or who have converted to Islam or who are just there to help people learn about Islam and provide support for them.
Adab, Adhab – good manners and fine etiquette. It can also mean ‘the right way of doing something’. Like the adab of eating, reciting Quran, addressing the elderly, sitting in the mosque ..etc. There is adab for pretty much everything in Islam, from the most intimate and private actions to the opposite end of the scale.
Adhān, Azan, Athan and Adhan – the call to prayer, used to assemble worshippers for the prayer in the masjid
Ahl al-Bayt/Ahl ul-Bayt – the household of the prophet (PBUH). Ahl = people / family. Bayt = house
Ahl al-Kitāb / ʾAhl ul-Kitāb – People of the Book (old scriptures) = Jews and Christians. Ahl = people / family. Kitab = book.
Ākhirah – Hereafter / Afterlife / the Eternal Life to Come.
ʾAkhlāq – Virtues/Good character.
‘Alayhis-salaam – peace be with him, peace be upon him. Often abbreviated as (AS) in written text. It is said after the names of the Prophets who preceded Prophet Muhammad ﷺ e.g. Musa (AS). It is also said after the names of one of the archangels e.g. Jibreel (AS).
Alhamdulillah – Praise be to Allah
Allāhu ʾaʿlam – Allah knows best. Said when you’re not sure about something or simply don’t know.
ʾAmānah – Trust. It can also mean ‘the Trust’ ʾwhich Allah allowed human beings and jinns to carry.
Anṣār (أنصار) – Helpers. Refers to the Muslim converts of Medina who helped the Muslims from Makkah after the Hijrah (migration).
Aqida – Sometimes loosely translated as creed. It is related to “holding tightly and making a knot” – holding firm belief and strong conviction in your heart. It is also a stand-alone field of knowledge which is referred to as ‘Islamic Theology’.
As-salaamu alaikum – Peace be upon you
Āyah ( plural: āyāt ) – a sign. Also can be taken to mean evidence, proof. In the Qur’an, individual “verses” are referred to as Āyah, each being a sign from Allāh.
Āyat al-Kursī / Āyatul Kursī – Sometimes referred to as the “Verse of the Throne”. Āyatul Kursī is āyah 255 of the second sūrah of the Qur’an, Sūrat al-Baqarah (The Chapter of the Cow)
Bayt al-Mal – the ‘House of Wealth’, the treasury of the Muslims where income from zakat and other sources is gathered for redistribution. In an Islamic State this would be the State Treasury. It acted as the royal treasury for caliphs and sultans.
Burāq / al-Burāq – heavenly steed who carried the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah aza wa Jal be upon him, during the “Night Journey”. Burāq carried the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah ta’ala be upon him, from Makkah to Jerusalem to the site of the Temple. Then Burāq launched off from the rock in the centre of the site of the Temple to carry Prophet Muhammad, salallahu alaihi wa salam, to the seven Heavens. In the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount in Jerusalem, you can see where Burāq began his ascent.
Caliph – successor, ruler of an Islamic theocracy, leader of Islamic ummah. More usually referred to as khalifah.
Da’wah – meaning invitation. The means of calling people to Islam or of inviting people to Islam
Dīn – The way of life of righteous Muslims, living according to Shari’a. The religion of Islam together with it’s practices. Also seen sometimes written as Deen.
Dunya – this world, the life of this world; deceiving enjoyment; temporary abode
Eid-ul-adha – Festival of sacrifice, celebrated at the end of the Hajj period by all Muslims, not just those who performed Hajj
Eid-ul-fitr – Festival of breaking the fast at the end of Ramadan.
Farḍ – a religious duty. If something is fard then it is obligatory to carry out the action. A duty is classified as fard where it has been ordered through clear and definite evidence.
Farḍ al-Ayn – an individual obligation that must be performed by every Muslim e.g. Salah
Farḍ al-Kifaya – an obligation that must be performed by the Muslim community. If some members of the community perform the obligation then it is lifted from the rest. If no-one performs the obligation then everyone is responsible for the omission. Example – janaza/funeral
Fiqh – the science of Islamic religious jurisprudence – the study of Islamic law or Shari’ah. Fiqh deals with the observance of rituals, morals and social legislation in Islam.
Fitna – sometimes used to describe the trials and temptations that may face the believers. Fitna has also been used to describe divisions which occur in the Muslim community. It can contain elements of fragmentation, chaos, unrest, scandal, disorder, mistrust, hatred, grudge.
Fitra (fiṭrah) – primordial human nature, instinct. In Islamic theology, human beings are born with an innate inclination of a belief in Allah aza wa jal.
Furqān – the criterion of right and wrong, true and false; the standard to distinguish between good and bad. The name “The Criterion” refers to the Qur’an. The 25th surah of the Qur’an is also named ‘Al-Furqān’ , ‘The Criterion’.
Ghusl – is the full body ablution which is required under certain circumstances prior to performing salah or various rituals. It is sometimes referred to as the Purificatory Bath. Ghusl is mandatory to lift a state of major ritual impurity ( Janaba ) or menstruation. Occasions when Ghusl is performed (not an exhaustive list) :- Attending Jumu’ua, On the two ‘Eids, Upon becoming a Muslim, Before entering the state of pilgrim sanctity e.g. ihram, After washing the dead, After recovering one’s sanity
Halal – those things that are lawful for Muslims. Apart from a small number of proscribed (haram) things, we have been blessed with provisions of goodness
Ḥalaqa – A religious gathering or meeting for the primary purpose of learning about Islam or the Qur’an. Ḥalaqa refers to a circle.
Ḥaram (حرم) – sanctuary, sacred. Ḥaram is pronounced almost like harm/harum Ḥarām (حرام) – proscribed, impermissible, forbidden. Ḥarām is pronounced with a long a – as in haraam
Hijama – the practice of cupping, a therapeutic practice where blood is drawn by vacuum from a small akin incision. Hijama means sucking or drawing out. Hijama is used to treat a wide range of ailments including back pain, arthritis, colds & flu, headaches.
Hilm – a wisdom, a forbearance that allows someone to control their emotions, especially anger – even when their anger is justified. To control your anger and not to manifest it. Hilm is the root of one of the names of Allah subhanu wa ta’ala … Al Haleem
Hikmah – wisdom. Granted and bestowed upon a person by Allah subhanu wa ta’ala
Hira – the cave of Hira on the outskirts of Makkah is where our Prophet, may the peace and blessing of Allah the Almighty be upon him, used to go to meditate and worship Allah subhanu wa ta’ala. This is where the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad salallahu alaihi wa salam by the angel Jibril alaihi salam.
Ibādah – commonly translated as worship. It embodies obedience, submission, and devotion to Allāh subhanu wa ta’ala.
ʾIḥrām – the state of consecration for performing hajj or umrah. A special state of spiritual purity entered into with intention, by donning prescribed clothing and refraining from certain proscribed acts. The term ʾIḥrām is also used to describe the outfit of 2 white sheets that men wear for hajj/umrah.
Janābah – a state of spiritual impurity entered into after sexual intercourse or ejaculation.It is a natural occurence but it means that you need to carry out major ritual ablution – ghusl, washing of the whole body – before performing salah. Wudu is insufficient for salah when in this state.
Jihād – struggle, an earnest striving in the way of Allāh. There are many types of Jihād. The greatest Jihād is sometimes said to be the struggle against your own soul so that you become truly obedient to Allāh subhanu wa ta’ala. Another Jihād has also been said to be speaking a word against a tyrant.
Ka’aba – literally ‘The Cube’, The House of Allah. Prophet Ibrahim alayhi salaam was ordained by Allah aza wa jal to build the Ka’aba in what is now Makkah. Tradition has it that when Ibrahim alayhi salaam and his son Ismail were erecting the Ka’aba, they uncovered the foundations of the original shrine built on the same spot by Adam alayhi salaam. It has been rebuilt several times down through the years.
Kaf’n or Kafan – the burial shroud of a Muslim. The shroud should be simple and modest. It is normally of white cotton cloth but other colours and fabrics can be used – but not silk. The Kaf’n for men consists of three pieces of cloth. For women it consists of five pieces.
Kitāb – book, in Arabic. (As defined in the comments under the letter A) In Islamic thought the Ahl al-Kitāb / ʾAhl ul-Kitāb are the people of the book – referring to the old scriptures. These are Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians and Sabians.
Khatib – the person giving the khutbah at Jumu’ah prayer
Khushūʿ – especially in performing salah, Khushūʿ involves humility, devotion and concentration. It means to get rid of heedlessness and be concerned with fearing, obeying, being modest and submitting to Allah.
Khuṭbah – the sermon at Jumu’ah prayer on a Friday
Lā ‘ilāha ‘ill-Allāh (لا إله إلا الله) – There is no god but Allāh
Maghrib– one of mandatory salah in Islam. It is prayed at the time of sunset
Masha Allah – “God has willed it”. An expression of appreciation, joy, praise, or thankfulness and a reminder that all is achieved through the will of Allah subhanu wa ta’ala.
Nabi – he who brings his own shari’ah ( new laws and system) for his nation/followers.
Nafs – the part of our consciousness that tends towards fulfilment of desires and self-serving passions. It is predisposed to characteristics such as anger, jealousy and arrogance. The greatest jihad, the greatest struggle, is said to be the internal battle with the nafs. You might also hear it referred to as the ego.
Niyyat or niyah – refers to the intention behind an action. The intention distinguishes normal actions from acts of worship and can also distinguish between one act of worship and another act of worship. Before we perform salah, we make niyyat to perform a certain number of rakat of fard salah. Before carrying out any act we should make the niyyat to perform the act to please Allah aza wa jal.
Qadha or Qada – the duty that is required for a missed ritual activity – such as prayers or fasting. Qadha Salah means to fulfill or perform a Salah after expiry of the time of that Salah. All Fard salah must be prayed. If you have missed a salah, this is wrong and the missed fard salah must be “made up” by performing qadha.
Qibla – the direction that should be faced when a Muslim prays during salah prayers. It is often said that Muslims pray towards Makkah. More accurately, we face the Ka’aba in Makkah in our salah. Mosques contain a wall niche, known as a mihrab, that indicates the Qibla.
Radhiallahu ‘anhu ( رضي الله عنه) – is an Arabic phrase meaning, “May Allah Be Pleased With Him.” This phrase is usually said after a Companion’s name. There are variations used after the names of female Companions or when more than one person is mentioned at the same time – Radhi Allah AnHU (to a male), Radhi Allah AnHA (to a female), Radhi Allah AnHUM (to them)
Rak’a – a single cycle of the motions and litany of the Muslim prayer: standing, bowing, straightening up, prostrating, sitting back, and prostrating again
Rasūl – messenger. Messengers are given scripture by Allah subhanu wa ta’ala. All messengers are also considered prophets. Muhammad, salallahu alaihi wa salam, is the final messenger and prophet sent by God. Other messengers were Moses, David and Jesus – may peace be upon them all. Moses was given the Torah. David was given the Psalms, Jesus was given the message of the Gospel.
Rasulullah – the Messenger of Allah.
Ruh – the spirit; the soul. The essence of the human being which gives life to the body and which was created to know, love and return to Allah subhanu wa ta’ala.
Ruku’ – the act of bowing in the Salat. Bending forward from the waist, placing the hands on the knees, with the back level to the ground.
Sabr – patience. Sabr includes patience, perseverance, acceptance of the will of Allah subhanu wa ta’ala. It is waiting on God and relying wholly on God in good and in bad.
Sahabah – a Companion of the Prophet salallahu alaihi wa salem. A sahabah is someone who met the Prophet salallahu alahi wa salem, accepted him as Rasul, and died with iman (i.e. as a Muslim)
Sajdah – the act of prostration before Allah in the Salat. This is also referred to as sujud
Sawm – fasting, one of the pillars of Islam. Ramadan is one time where all Muslims (who are able) practice sawm. But it is recommended to fast at other times too. It was the practice of Rasulullah, may the peace of Allah the Almighty be upon him, to fast on a Monday and a Thursday. Fasting helps to bring us closer to Allah subhanu wa ta’ala. Fasting is also beneficial in bringing the nafs under control.
Shahadah – testimony of faith
Shaitan – (Satan) living in the company of Angels and with the Almighty Allah…but with one act of arrogance brought him down to become the lowest of the low, as he was being thrown out of Heaven he requested to Allah “may I be allowed respite, I will deter this man (Adam) and his descendants from the righteous path” Allah swt said “yes you’ve till the end of time but I’ll forgive my servant each time he seeks forgiveness”. Satan’s one mission “to ensure that mankind is far from deen and Allah swt”.
Taslim – means to give peace. This is the concluding part of salah which is done after the Tashahud and the Prayer of Ibrahim. To make the Taslim you turn your head to your right shoulder and say: “Assalaamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullah” and then turn your head to your left shoulder and say the same thing. At this point, the salah is complete. (some madhabs, e.g. Maliki, have a variation of the above – but this is probably the most widely practiced taslim)
Tajweed – rules governing pronunciation during recitation of the Holy Qur’an
Takbir – Allahu Akbar, God is Great
Tasbeh – set of beads that are used during dhikr of Allah. You will see advice, for example, saying that you should say subhanallah 33 times, alhamdulillah 33 times and allahu akbar 34 times – because this is pleasing to Allah subhanu wa ta’ala. You can use your fingers to count these but you can also use tesbeeh/tasbih
Tawaf – one of the best act of worship around the house of Allah built by Ibrahim a.s. and his son Ismail a.s. Some scholars said that it was originally built by Adam a.s.
Tawbah – asking repentance from Allah for the sins that we commit. Sincere repentance involves recognising one’s mistakes and sins, feeling ashamed of our sin, and the intention not to repeat the wrong behaviour
Ummah – the body of all believing Muslims, the Nation of Believers, the community of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
Umrah – the blessed journey for the house of Allah
Wajib – incumbent, requisite. This means that an act must be carried out. Fardh means that something is obligatory, wajib carries equivalent emphasis.
Witr – is intended to be the last prayer of the day. It is a voluntary prayer but is looked on as almost compulsory to perform it. Most people will pray it just after they have performed the fard and sunnah rakat of Isha salah.
Wudu – Purification ritual before salah. We wash our external features but the wudu is also symbolic of inner, spiritual purification
When someone sneezes and says ‘alhamdulillah’ you should return the blessing by saying ‘yarhamuk-Allah’. It means may Allah give you Mercy
Zamzam – a blessed well in Makkah. It still provides bountiful water today and drinking of the water
Zakat – a fard obligation on wealth to be distributed to the needy. It is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is a purifying alms. In giving zakat you are thanking Allah for the providence He has given to you and it is a means of purifying the wealth that you have been given.