The Islamic Glossary: An Explanation of Names, Terms and Symbols


    You might have noticed unfamiliar Arabic terms or English abbreviations/titles/names. An attempt at explaining them follows. If there is still some term that is unclear, please do not hesitate to contact us through the Site Information section of Al-Islam.org/

    The definitions are by no means comprehensive, and serve as an introduction to the term. A full definition of each term would surely require more disk space than available in all the world.

    Aaron see Harun

    Abar Ali the name of a place where Masjidu Shajarah is situated, 7 km. outside of Medinah.

    Abbas b. Ali b. Abi Talib was the brother of Imam Hussein (A.S.). His mother was Umm al-Banin. Abbas was killed at Karbala.

    Abu Dharr al-Ghiffari (Jundub b. Junada) was a companion of the Prophet (S.A.W.) who was loyal to Imam Ali (A.S.) He died in 32 (A.H.) 651 (A.D.) after being expilled by Uthman.

    Abu Talib was the father of Ali (A.S.). He looked after the Prophet (S.A.W.) when the latter was a child.

    'Adl is Justice

    Adam was the first man and the first prophet of Allah.

    Adhan is the call for daily ritual prayers (Salat).

    Ahlul-Bayt refers to the Household of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.).

    Ahwat is a precaution. This can be obligatory or optional as ruled by the Mujtahid.

    Akhirah is the Hereafter

    A'lam is the top ranking jurist

    Ale Muhammad Blood kin, descendants of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.).

    Ali b. Abi Talib (A.S.) is the first Imam (A.S.), the cousin and son-in-law of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.). He is referred to as Ameer al-Mu'mineen, the Leader of the Faithful. He was poisoned in 661 A.D.

    Ali b. al-Husayn b. Ali b. Abi Talib (A.S.) is the fourth Imam.

    Ali b. Muhammad b. Ali b. Musa al-Hadi, Abu al-Hasan (A.S.) is the 10th Imam.

    Ali b. Musa al-Rida, Abu al-Hasan (A.S.) is the eighth Imam.

    'Alim is a scholar

    Allah refers to God, glory be to Him, there is no god but He. Allah is a Divine name of God. It is the perfect name for God as it truly denotes the absolute Oneness of God. The name has no plural and no feminine form.

    A'maal is an act of worship.

    Amirul Mu'mineen The commander of the faithful, Imam Ali (A.S.).

    Amr bil Ma-roof ordering to goods

    Arafah is the ninth day of Dhul-Hijjah.

    Arafat is the area about 25 km. away from Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

    A.H. refers to After Hijrah.

    A.S. refers to 'Alayhis-salaam, (God's) peace be with him. It is said after the names of all previous prophets, their mothers (e.g. Bibi Maryam [Mary] A.S.), the twelve divine Imams from the household of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) and Bib i Fatima (A.S.). It will change to 'Alayhas-salaam (peace be with her) if it follows a lady's name. After any two names we say 'Alayhimas-salaam and after more than two names or when referring a group of people we say 'Alayhimus-salaam. Thus, we sa y Imams Hasan and Husayn (A.S.='alayhimas-salaam) and the Ahul-Bayt (A.S.'alayhimus-salaam).

    Ashura the day Iman Hussai (sa) was killed in Karbala land

    'Asr is the afternoon, and the prayer of the afternoon

    Ayah is a sign of Allah or a verse of the Qur'an (pl. Ayat)

    Ayatul Kursi Verse No. 255 in Suratul Baqarah

    Baab-al-Salaam is one of the famous gates of Masjidul Haraam.

    Baligh is one who is an adult

    Batil is void

    Bilal was a companion of the Prophet (S.A.W.)

    Bismillah means In the Name of Allah or I begin in the Name of Allah

    Bulugh is puberty

    David see Dawood

    Dawood was a Prophet of Allah mentioned in the Qur'an and the Old Testament.

    Deen is religion

    Dhikr is remembrance, the recitation of special invocations during and after ritual prayers.

    Dhuhr prayers are the afternoon prayers

    Dhul Hijjah is the last month (12th) of the Islamic calendar.

    Dhul Qidah is the 11th month of the Islamic calendar.

    Du'a is supplication

    Ehtiaat see Ahwat

    Ehtiaat-Mustahabbi is a preferable precaution

    Ehtiaat-Waajib is an obligatory precaution which must be followed

    Eid is an Islamic holiday. The four Eids are listed below.

        • Eid ul-Adha falls on the tenth day of Dhul Hijjah.

        • Eid ul-Fitr falls on the 1st day of Shawwal.

        • Eid-e Ghadeer

        • Eid-e Mubahala

    Fajr is dawn, and denotes Subhe-Sadiq, the prime time for prayer

    Farsakh is a distance of five and a half kilometers

    Fatiha is the opening chapter of the Holy Qur'an.

    Fatima or Fatema (A.S.), the Chief of the women of the worlds, is the daughter of the Prophet (S.A.W.) and the wife of Ali b. Abi Talib (A.S.), the mother of Hasan and Hussein (A.S.)

    Fatwa is a verdict, especially of a Mujtahid

    Fidyah is a sacrifice of an animal for expiation

    Fiqh is a science of religious jurispudence

    Fitrah is the charity due on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, on the night after Ramadhan.

    Foroo-e-Din are the branches of Islam

    Ghadeer is the name of a place near Mecca, and the great holiday named after the event that occurred at that place.

    Ghasbi is usurpation

    Ghusl is a spiritual bath required after sexual intercourse, menstruation, seminal discharge, and other conditions.

    Hadath-Akbar is something that needs wudhu or ghusl

    Hadath-Asghar is a minor hadath that needs wudhu

    Hadeeth is a narration/tradition reported from the Prophet (S) and the Imams (a)

    Hajarul Aswad is the Black Stone.

    Hajj is the Islamic pilgrimage

    Hajjatul Tamatu is the secnod session of the Hajj for those who are not resident in Mecca or its vicinity.

    Halal is something that is lawful and permissible to use/consume in Islam

    Halq is to shave off the hair from the head (during Hajj)

    Hamza was an uncle of the Prophet who became a Muslim and was martyred at the battle of Uhud.

    Haq is the right or claim to something

    Haram is that which is unlawful in Islam. It is necessary to abstain from the acts which are haram.

    Harun was the brother of Musa (Moses) and Prophet of Allah mentioned in the Qur'an.

    Hasan b. Ali b. Abi Talib (A.S.) was the secnd Imam.

    Hasan b. Ali b. Muhammad, Abu Muhammad al-Askari (A.S.) was the 11th Imam.

    Hijab is the screening between non-mahram men and women

    Hijra is the day the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) left Mecca for Medina. In particular, it was the Prophet's (S.A.W.) abandoning Mecca because of its mounting hostility, and transferring himself and his followers to Yathrib (200 miles north) whose people had invited him. He arrived on the 20th of September 622 AD, and the city proudly changed its name to Medinatu'l-Nabi (the Prophet's (S.A.W.) city). On Imam Ali's (A.S.) advice, Omar, reproached for not dating documents, took this event as the start o f the Muslim era, dubbing the year of the Hijrah year as Year 1 and starting it on the Lunar New Year's Day, the 1st of Muharram 622 AD.

    Hijr-e-Ismaaeel is a small wall in an arc shape adjoining the Ka'ba on one side

    Hira is the cave wherein Prophet Muhammad (S) sat for worshipping Allah

    Husain b. Ali b. Abi Talib (A.S.) was the third Imam.

    Ibadah is devotion or worship

    Ibrahim

    Iftar is the breaking of the fast

    Ihram is the state in which every pilgrim in Hajj has to perform his/her Hajj, consisting of two modest clothes and 25 restrictions.

    Ihtiyat is a precautionary action which usually requires repetition.

    Ihtiyat Wajib means precautionarily obligatory. Its significance is the same as that of wajib with the difference that in the problems where a mujtahid says it is “precautionarily obligatory”, one has the option of leaving his taqlid in this particular problem and following the rulings of the second-best mujtahid in that problem.

    Imam means Leader in Arabic. The term is generally applied to religious leaders. However, there are 12 infallible and noble Imams, the descendants of Muhammad (S.A.W.).

    Iman is full, deep belief or faith.

    Injil is the New Testament.

    Inshallah means with the will of Allah

    Iqamah is the announcement of the beginning of prayer.

    Isa was the son of Mariam (Mary). He is a prophet of Allah.

    Isha is the commencement of darkness, and the prayer of that time.

    Ishmael see Ismaeel

    Islam was revealed to the Prophet (Sura III: Ali-Imran--The Family of Imran, verse 19) “The Religion of Allah is Al-Islam,” and again (Sura V: Ma'idah--The Table Spread, verse 3) “This day I have approved al-Islam for you as a religion.” Islam is the verbal noun of “asalama”--to submit oneself to God.

    Ismaeel was the son of Abraham, Prophet of Allah and the father of the Arabs.

    Istighfar is to seek the forgiveness of Allah

    Ja'far b. Muhammad b. Ali b. al-Husayn, al-Sadiq, Abu Abd Allah (A.S.) was the 6th Imam.

    Ja'iz see Halal

    Jacob see Yaqub

    Jama'at is a group or a congregation

    Jesus see Isa.

    Jihad is a holy war (striving or fighting in the way of Allah) by the order of the Imam.

    Jinn is a type of creature having, like humans, free will

    Joseph see Yusuf

    Jum'ah is Friday

    Ka'bah is the cubic house built by Prophet Ibrahim (A.S.) and his son Ismaeel (A.S.) more than 3000 years ago in Mecca, towards which all Muslims face for their Salat. It contains the Hajarul Aswad or the Black Stone.

    Kafa is the shroud for the dead

    Kaffarah are alms to be given as penance on different occasions.

    Karbala a holey city In Iraq where Imam Hussain (sa) was killed there in day Ashura

    Khadija was the daughter of Khuwaylid and the wife of the Prophet (S.A.W.). She was the mother of Fatima (A.S.).

    Khums is “a fifth”, obligatory tax-like charity

    Kifie is an obligatory Islamic rule. If one person performs the act, then it is not required for others to perform. For example, the burial of a deceased Muslim is obligatory on any one person to perform.

    Labbaik literally means a response to the call

    Madina means city, and Medinatu'l Nabi (the city of the Prophet) was the name taken by the citizens of Yathrib, the town to which the Prophet (S.A.W.) and his companions migrated during Hijrah.

    Maghrib is sun-down and the prayer associated with it

    Mahram is a person with whom marriage is forbidden

    Makruh is something abominable

    Maqame-e-Ibrahim is a place near the Ka'bah, where there is a stone bearing the footprint of Prophet Ibrahim (a)

    Marwah is a remnant of a mountain in Mecca.

    Masjid is a mosque, a place of Islamic worship.

    Masjid-u-Shajarah is a mosque outside Madinah, where most of the Hajis go there for wearing Ihram; a Meeqat

    Masjid-ul-Haram is the Grand mosque in Makkah, where the Holy Ka'ba is situated

    Mayyit is a corpse, a dead body of a human being

    Mecca is a holy city in Arabia

    Medina see Madina

    Meeqat are appointed places for wearing Ihram before entering Makkah

    Mina is an area about 12 km. from Mecca.

    Moses see Musa

    Muhammad (S.A.W.) is the Last of the Messengers of Allah to mankind.

    Muhammad b. Ali b. al-Husayn al Baqir, Abu Ja'far (A.S.) is the 5th Imam.

    Muhammad b. Ali b. Musa, al-Jawad, is the 9th Imam.

    Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Askari (A.S.) is the 12th Imam.

    Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar.

    Mujtahid is s specialist on the deduction of the Islamic rules from four major sources: the Qur'an, Hadith, conscience of the community, and reasoning.

    Mu'min is a believer, one who has Iman (pl. Mu'mineen)

    Muqallid is a follower of a qualified specialist on religious matters.

    Musa was a Prophet of Allah mentioned in the Qur'an and the Old Testament.

    Musa b. Ja'far b. Muhammad al-Kadhim, Abu al-Hasan (A.S.) is the 7th Imam.

    Muslim is one who believes in Allah, his Prophet (S.A.W.), the day of Resurrection (Qiyamat), recites the Kalemah, and accepts the commandments of Allah and His Prophet (S.A.W.) as the Truth.

    Mustahab or Sunnat is something that is recommended and performed in desire for (divine) love

    Muzdalafah (also called Mash'ar) is the area between Mina and Arafat, about 20 km. form Mecca.

    Nabi is a Prophet

    Nabuwwat is prophet-hood

    Nadhr is one of the three types of vows to Almighty Allah.

    Nafilah are the recommended prayers after or before the daily obligatory Salat.

    Nahi anil Munkar interdicting from ugly (sin)

    Najasat is an impurity

    Najis is something that is impure

    Naar is the fire of Hell

    Nikah is a pronouncement of marriage according to Shari'ah

    Niyyah is an intention to perform an activity.

    Noah see Nuh

    Non-mehram is one with whom marriage is permitted

    Nuh was a prophet of Allah mentioned in the Qur'and and the Old Testament

    Pak is something that is clean, not najis

    Prophet refers to a Messenger sent by Allah to mankind, such as: Adam, Nuh (Noah), Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Isa (Jesus)(A.S.), and the Last Messenger, the Seal of the Prophethood, Muhammad (S.A.W.).

    Qadha is the duty that is required for a missed ritual activity, such as prayers or fasting.

    Qamar is the moon

    Qiblah is the direction of Salat (towards the Ka'bah).

    Qira-at is the reading of the prayer

    Qiyam is the standing during the Salat for recitation of Suratul Hamd and the second Surah, and the standing after the Ruku'.

    Qiyamat is the day of Resurrection

    Qunut is the act of raising both palms in fornt of the face while praying in the second Rakat of Salat.

    Qur'an is the Holy Book, the Living Miracle, revealed from Allah as a guidance to mankind.

    Quraysh is the tribe of Mecca to which Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) belonged. All his descendants are also called Qurayshi.

    Qurbani is a sacrifice

    Qurbat is the niyyah of nearness to Allah

    Rajab is the seventh month of the Islamic calendar.

    Ramadhan is the ninth and the holiest month of the islamic calendar. It is the month of fasting from sunrise to sunset.

    Rasool is messenger

    Rukn literally means a “pillar”. It is also a basis of the prayer.

    Ruku' is the act of bowing in the Salat

    S.A.W. stands for Sallal-lahu 'alayhi wa-alihi wa-sallam in Arabic, and means Blessings and peace of God be with him and his household. It is a prayer which is said after the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.).

    Sadaqah is the charity given to the poor.

    Saee means walking between the rocks of Safa and Marwah

    Safa is the part of a mountain in Mecca.

    Saheefa-Kamila is a collection of supplications by our 4th Imam (a), Zainul Abideen.

    Sajdah is the act of prostration in the Salat, when seven portions of the body touch the earth: the forehead on pure ground, two palms, two knees, and the two big toes. The two Sajdahs together are called sajdatain.

    Salam is a salutation. It is also the last recitation at the end of Salat.

    Salat are the obligatory prayers

    Salawat are invocation of blessings, specifically the recitation of Allahumma Sali 'Ala Muhammadin Wa Aali Muhammad, meaning O Allah, bless Muhammad and the family of Muhammad.

    Salman (al-Farsi) was the Persion Companion of the Prophet (S.A.W.)

    Sawm is the act of fasting

    Sayyid is a descendant of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.)

    Shaabaan is the eighth month of the Islamic calendar.

    Shahadah is declaration

    Shaheed is a martyr in the way of Islam (pl. Shuhada).

    Shaitan is Satan, the enemy of mankind

    Shari'ah are the rules and regulations of Islam, the divine Law. Shari'ah is the totality of of Allah's Commandments relating to man's activities.

    Shams is the sun

    Shawwal is the 10th month of the Islamic calendar.

    Shi'a is a follower of the twelve Imams (A.S.).

    Sunnat or Mustahab means recommendable, desirable. The acts whose neglect is not punished, but whose performance is rewarded, e.g., the call for prayers (adhan).

    Surah is any chapter of the 114 in the Holy Qur'an. It literally means a sign, or a revelation. Each Surah in the Qur'an is named from some subject or word which is particularly striking.

    Tabarra opposite of Tawalla, avoiding and eluding enemies of Allah and prophet and Imams

    Tafseer is a term used for a commentary of any book, specifically the Holy Qur'an.

    Taharat is the state of being clean and not impure

    Tahur is the cave wherein Prophet Muhammad (S) stayed before finally migrating to Madinah

    Takbirah is saying “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the Greatest).

    Talbiyah is the formula of response to the Call of Allah, which must be pronounced immediately after Niyyah of Ihram

    Tawaf is part of the worship of Hajj and Umrah

    Tawalla is loving and supporting and following (Allah and prophet and Imams and their allies)

    Tawbah is repentance

    Tawheed is Divine Unity

    Tayammum means spiritual cleansing which is sometimes a substitute for wudhu and ghusl

    Thawab is a Divine blessing

    Turbah is earth, especially from the shrines of the Holy Imams (A.S.), on which Muslims place their heads during Sajdah

    Umm Kulthum see Zaynab

    'Umra is the “little” pilgrimage, performed in ritual purity wearing the Ihram, the seamless ceremonial garments consisting of a white sheet from the navel to the knees and a white sheet covering the left shoulder, back and breast, knotted on t he right.

    Usule Din are the principles of Islam.

    Wafat is a death

    Wajib is obligatory (pl. Wajibat). An act which must be performed.

    Wudhu is a spiritual wash of the face and hands before Salat

    Yaqub was a prophet of Allah, mentioned in the Qur'an and the Old Testament.

    Yusuf was a prophet of Allah, mentioned the Qur'an and the Old Testament.

    Zakat is an obligatory charity

    Zamzam is the name of a well at Makkah

    Zaynab (Umm Kulthum) was the younger daughter of Ali and Fatima (A.S.).

    Ziyarat is to visit and/or to recite special salutations for the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) and his household (A.S.).

    With contributions from Br. Hasnain Kassamali . Many definitions adapted from

    Articles of Islamic Acts by Ayatullah al-Khui, Islamic Seminary Publications, 1989

    • al-Ahkam al-Shar'iyyah (The Islamic Religious Rules) according to Ayatullah Sayyid Abu al-Qasim al-Musawi al-Khu'i (R.A.), by Sayyid Muhammad Taqi Jalali. Trans. Miyaniji Musabji. The Islamic Community, 1986.

    • Resalah (Epistle) Concise Commandments of Islam, According to the verdicts of Hadhrat Ayatullah Uzma Sayyid Muhammad Redha Musavi Gulpaygani (R.A.). A Translation of Mokhtasarol Ahkam. Dar al-Quran al-Karim, 1992.

    • Kitab al-Irshad. The Book of Guidance. Shaykh al-Mufid. Trans. I.K.A. Howard. Muhammadi Trust.

    • Know Your Islam. Muhammadi Trust. Compiled by Yousuf N. Lalljee, 1976.

    • Manaseke Haj, according to the verdicts of Ayatullah Gulpaygani. 1993, published by Islamic Universal Association, 20 Penzance Place, Holland Park, London, W11 4PG

    • Western Civilization through Muslim Eyes. Sayyid Mujtaba Rukni Musawi Lari, trans. F.J. Goulding.

    • The Tendency of Rationalizing the Laws of the Shari'ah. Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi, 3360 Sexsmith Road, Richmond, B.C. Canada V6X 2H8.

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