Glossary

I realised that my frequent use of certain Islamic words and phrases may alienate some of my non-muslim readers. To remedy this, please find below a list of commonly used terms. Most are English transliterations of Arabic phrases as Arabic is the language of the Qur'an and of the early Muslims. I'll try and update when necessary, but if you come across a word not listed here then please leave a comment to remind me to add it.

Alhamdulillah Praise and Glory be to Allāh
Alhamdulillahi rabbil 'alameen Praise and Glory be to Allāh, Lord of all creation. Not only is this a wonderful phrase of worship, it also happens to be the second verse of the Holy Qur'an; the first being Bismillah-hirahma-niraheem.
Allāh Essentially it means God, but for a fairer and more detailed explanation, go here.
Allahu akbar Allāh is the Greatest
Akhirah The eternal afterlife where souls will reside in either Jannah or Jahannum.
Astagfirullah I seek forgiveness from Allāh
Awrah The part of the adult human body that should not be revealed in front of other people, the spouse being the exception. For men, this region lies between the navel and the knees. For women, the region depends on who's around! When in the presence of non-mahram men, a muslim woman has been commanded to adopt the hijab. Some scholars say only the face and hands should be visible, though others say nothing except the eyes should be visible. In front of mahram men, other women and children, a muslim woman can dress more freely, and the absolutely forbidden area to be exposed is the same as man's. However the awrah only describes the bare minimum, and both men and women are urged to dress modestly at all times to prevent fitnah in the family and society.
A'authobillah I seek refuge in Allāh [from that]
Bismillah In the Name of Allāh
Bismillah hirahma niraheem In the Name of Allāh, the Most Merciful, the Most Kind. Ar-Rahman [the Most Merciful] and Ar-Raheem [the Most Kind] are names/attributes of Allāh. They are two of the many titles that Allāh has used to describe Himself in the Qur'an, so His creation may know Him and thus attain closeness to Him.
Deen A way of life. Islam is described as a deen rather than as just a religion.
Fitnah A trial/ tribulation
Fitrah Man's natural disposition; the pure state all humans are born in before being influenced by external factors and relationships.
Hadith Narrations of the sayings, actions and approvals of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. The Qur'an is accepted to be 100% authentic by all muslims, and unaltered since the moment it was revealed. However the collections of hadith contain both authentic and fabricated narrations. Alhamdullillah due to the exhaustive efforts of early muslim scholars, the hadith have been categorized into various ranks of authenticity, and there is consensus amongst the ulemah that certain collections, such as those compiled by Bukhari and Muslim are genuine.
Hajj Pilgrimage to the Kabah. One of the five pillars of Islam.
Halal and Haram Permissible and impermissible, respectively
Hijab The clothing a muslim woman adopts to cover her awrah. It is not just the headscarf (khimar) as some people think. It also includes loose fitting outer garments worn over the body to hide a woman's shape (jilbab). It only needs to be worn in the presence of non-mahram men, whether inside or outside the home.
Ibadaah Worship. Any halal act, whether it be of the heart, tongue or limbs, that is solely dedicated for the pleasure of Allāh is considered to be a form of worship. E.g., eating halal food is ibadaah as one is following God's command to only eat that which is pure, and nourishment allows the body to remain fit and healthy so it may be used to carry out further acts of worship.
inshā’Allāh If God wills
Islam The last of the revealed religions. A complete way of life. Followers of Islam are called Muslims. Read more about Islam here.
Jahannum The Hell-fire
Jannah Translated literally as “Garden”, but actually means Paradise.
Kabah The first monument on Earth dedicated to the worship of Allāh. It was raised by the Prophet Abraham and his son, Prophet Ishmael (peace upon them both), in the place later to become known as Makkah, in Saudi Arabia. Muslims are instructed to revere the Kaba and the land surrounding it. The Kabah is the Qibla of the muslims, and we are required to make pilgramage to this site at least once in our lifetimes if possible (Hajj). It is important to note that the muslims do not worship the Kabah itself. It might be called the “House of Allāh” but no muslim should believe that Allāh lives there!! It is the centre point of worship, and all rituals that relate to it have been commanded by God, and thus are means by which we worship Him.
Madressa A school that specialises in the teaching of Islamic studies.
Mahram A man which a women cannot marry, or is already married to. Includes: father, brother, son, uncle, nephew, grandfather, grandson and father-in-law. The foster versions of these via breast-feeding are also mahrams.
māshā’Allāh As Allāh intended. Used when praising someone or something.
Masjid/ Mosque A place or building dedicated to the worship of Allāh. Muslims are commanded to pray each of the five daily obligatory salats in congregation at the masaajid (pl. for masjid). The mosques are places for general remembrance and worship of Allāh, and like churches and temples, are focal points of the religious community. Early muslim settlers in the U.K. would convert their houses into masaajid, with the building of a dedicated mosque being the first sign of an established muslim community.
Muhammad Name of the blessed Prophet and Messenger of Islam (peace be upon him). The final prophet of a long line which includes Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and many, many more (peace be upon them all). Read about him here.
Niqab The face veil. It is debatable whether the niqab is a necessary part of the hijab. A musim woman who observes the veil is sometimes referred to as a niqabi.
Qiblah Direction that all muslims should face when praying the salat. Wherever a muslim is in the world, they pray towards the direction of the Kaba, the first “House of Allāh”, which is based in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
Qur'an The Holy Book of Islam. The ultimate source of guidance. The final revelation to mankind. Believed to be the literal word of Allāh, as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) via the Angel Gabriel (peace be upon him). When i say literal, i mean word-for-word with no paraphrasing! Read more about this miraculous book here.
Ramadaan The holy month in which muslims are commanded to abstain from food, drink and sexual intercourse during the daylight hours. This obligatory fast is called the saum, and is the fourth pillar of Islam.
Sahabah/ Sahabiat Male/ female companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him). May Allāh be pleased with them.
Salat The ritual prayer which involves the recitation of Qur'an, supplications, standing, sitting, bowing and prostating to Allāh in a specified manner and order, whilst facing the Qiblah. The obligatory salat is performed five times a day, at specified times. One can also perform voluntary salat at almost any time. The obligatory salat is the most important of the five main pillars of Islam, after the shahada. Some of the ulema present strong evidence which states that any muslim who neglects to observe the obligatory salat is in fact a disbeliever. This clearly illustrates that true Islam [submission to Allāh] is not just a matter of the heart and mind, but also of the tongue and the limbs.
Shahada Testimony that a person is required to make in order to enter Islam. In arabic it is “Ash-hadu anla illaha ilallah wa ash-hadu anna muhammadan 'abduhu wa rasoolu“. Translation: “I testify that there is no-one worthy of worship, expect Allāh, and that Muhammad is His slave and messenger”. When a person decides to accept Islam and become muslim, they are encouraged to make this testimony in front of witnesses so that the muslim community can identify them, welcome them, and help them to fulfil their islamic duties. However any person who dies sincerely believing in their heart without a public declaration of faith, will inshā’Allāh have died as a muslim. And Allāh is sufficient as a witness over us.
Shaheed A martyr. The rewards of the shaheed are immense and because of this, all muslims should sincerely pray to be blessed with such an honourable death. A martyr is normally thought to be one who dies whilst performing Jihad, but there are many types including those who die from plague, those who are drowned, those who die of pleurisy, those who die of an internal complaint, those who are burnt to death, those who are killed by a building falling on them, women who die while pregnant, those who are killed whilst protecting their property, defending their family, blood or religion. I'm sure there are more examples i am unaware of. Surely Allāh is most Generous.
Subhanallah Praise be to Allāh/ How Perfect is Allāh
Sunnah Path/ way. To follow someone's sunnah is to imitate them. This term is most commonly used to mean the way of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). “You have indeed in the Messenger of Allāh a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allāh and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allāh.” [Qur'an 33:21]
Taqwa Fear of Allāh/ piety. The ability to exert self-control in order to please Allāh.
Tauba The process of repentance. Asking God's forgiveness for your sins, either by prayer, or by actions that earn reward, such as voluntary charity.
Ulema The respected community of Islamic scholars (may Allāh's mercy be upon them).
Ummah The global community of muslims. It can also mean the generation of a particular Prophet, which includes the non-believers. Thus the term may be further defined as the “believing” or “non-believing” ummah. The ummah of Prophet Muhammad includes all humans beings that have existed from his time to the last days.
wuḍūʼ This is the ritual act of ablution that a Muslim needs to perform in order to be pure for prayer. It involves washing the hands, the insides of the mouth & nose, the face, and the arms, followed by wiping of the hair and ears with wet hands, and then finally, the washing of the feet.
Ya Rabb! Ya means “Oh” and Rabb means “Lord”. However, Ya can be used in conjunction with any name as a means of gaining attention, e.g., “Ya Robert! Get me some dinner, i'm starved!”
Zakah Zakat is a levy on the property of the wealthy for distribution to society's poor. The Arabic word “zakat” has connotations of purity, increase and blessing, and paying it purifies, increases and blesses the remainder of one's wealth.
Of their goods, take zakat, so that you might purify and sanctify them.
[Qur'an 9:103]
Zakat is 2.5% of all zakatable wealth that has been in your possession for a lunar year. If your wealth amounts to less than a threshold figure, termed the nisab, then no zakat is payable. This threshold limit is 87.48g (3oz) of gold, or its equivalent in cash. [Definition of Zakah copied from the Islamic Relief website.
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