Many of the words or terms one comes across when looking at Islam are in Arabic, the language of the Muslim scripture. Sometimes these words can have both a literal meaning and usage that has developed from the literal meaning. However, not all Islamic words one comes across are Arabic; some are a reflection of the wider Muslim world and the many languages it includes. Because there is no standard way of transliterating these terms into English, the same term can sometimes be spelt differently.
Arabic for ‘God’. Traditionally used by Arabs, including Christians, to mean God.
A Muslim greeting that means, ‘peace be upon you’.
Verses of the Quran (literally: signs).
A knowledgeable person, usually a scholar (singular: Alim, plural: Ulama).
The articles of faith or belief (literally: a knot that binds).
Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim
‘In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful’. Customarily used when beginning something good.
‘Abode of war’, an old term that identified the territories at war with the Islamic world.
‘Abode of Islam’, an old term that identified the Muslim world.
Necessity, used as a legal term.
An old term that identified protected minority groups (literally: responsibility).
The ‘Celebration of Sacrifice’, commemorates Abraham’s outstanding faith in being ready to sacrifice his beloved son.
The ‘Celebration of Fast Breaking’ marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting.
A learned or legal opinion on a point of religious law.
Human nature or natural disposition.
The interpretation and application of legal principles (literally: understanding).
Refers to reports of what Prophet Muhammad said and did (literally: statements or talk).
The grand pilgrimage to Mecca in commemoration of Abraham (literally: journey towards).
Lawful or permissible.
One of four major schools of Sunni law, named after the jurist Abu Hanifa (d. 767 AD).
Refers to the concept of modesty (and separation) and is often used to mean the headscarf worn by women (literally: barrier or curtain).
Scholarly reasoning and interpretation in Islamic thought and law (literally: hard work or striving).
Leader, usually one who leads prayer; also religious teacher (literally: in front).
Has two meanings intertwined, ‘peace’ and to ‘give one’s will to God’.
Struggle in everyday life. Can also refer to warfare.
An old tax collected from protected minorities exempt from military service (literally: recompense).
Large community prayer service that takes place on Friday (mid-day) (literally: gathering).
Persian word for God.
Sermon or address. Usually delivered as part of the Juma prayer on Fridays.
A class where the Quran is taught, often after school (literally: place of study).
The daily prayers or salah in Iranian, Turkish and South Asian languages.
Marriage (literally: union or bond).
Veil that covers the face.
‘Screening’ in South Asian languages, refers to veiling by women.
The Muslim scripture (literally: Recitation).
The most Merciful.
The 9th month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims observe fasting.
Ritual prayer, alone or in a group (literally: link or communication).
Fasting. The fast begins before sunrise and ends at sunset each day.
To ‘Witness’ God, a declaration of faith in God and His Messenger, Muhammad.
The values, principles, ethics and law of Islam (literally: pathway).
Refers to a scholar and also used as a title of respect to elders (literally: elderly man).
A denomination in Islam (15-20%) that holds religious authority after Prophet Muhammad must lie in his descendant, Ali and his lineage (literally: party).
A mystical and spiritual approach to Islam.
The practice and traditions of Prophet Muhammad (literally: trodden path).
The major of branch of Islam (80-85%) that accepts the first four caliphs as rightful successors to Prophet Muhammad.
A chapter of the Quran (literally: divider).
Commentary of the Quran.
‘Following’ the traditions or opinions of others, usually earlier generations.
The belief that there is one God alone (literally: unify).
‘Community’, usually Muslims worldwide.
The ‘lesser’ pilgrimage to Mecca (as distinct from the Hajj) (literally: visit).
A charitable contribution of 2.5% donated to the poor and needy (literally: purification).