Back again with the Islamic bookclub! I’ll post a summary of each chapter of an Islamic book I’m reading, so you get the rundown without ever picking it up!
This is all about the common phrases in the Muslim community…
Being Muslim: A Practical Guide by Asad Tarsin
- ‘A’ishah bint Abu Bakr: Lady ‘A’ishah (salamu llah ‘alayha) was the daughter of Abu Bakr (radhiallahu ‘anhu) and the wife of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. She was a young woman known for her intelligence and strength. After the death of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, she was able to provide believers with unparalleled access to details of the domestic life of the Prophet, thus giving us many insights into the standard we should emulate.
- ‘AbdAllah bin ‘Abdal-Muttalib: The father of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, who passed away in Medina before his only child was born. He was the tenth son of his father, ‘Abdal-Muttalib, and was a man of nobility and beauty. He was of the clan of Banu Hashim, an important part of the tribe of Quraysh.
- Abu Bakr as-Siddiq: The first of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, he was the first adult male to accept the message of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and was the closest and most loyal of his Sahabah. He was the only one who accompanied Prophet Muhammad for the migration to Medina, and as the father of Lady ‘A’ishah (salamu llah ‘alayha) he would eventually become the father-in-law of the Prophet. He was well known for his humility and unwavering commitment to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
- Abu Jahl: One of the most vile and vicious of the Prophet’s opponents, his title means “the owner of ignorance.” He constantly fueled the flames of animosity towards the Prophet and worked to assassinate him. He also personally led much of the persecution of Muslims in Mecca.
- Abu Talib bin ‘Abdal-Muttalib: The paternal uncle of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, he was his loyal supporter and protector from the Prophet’s childhood onward. He became his guardian after his parents and grandfather passed away. He protected Prophet Muhammad ﷺ from the Quraysh’s oppression and violence during his life. Abu Talib is also the father of ‘Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
- Adab (Courteous Conduct): A term that can refer to either the possession of a refined nature or the appropriate etiquette of performing a particular act.
- Adhan (Call to Prayer): A series of invocations and declarations which is called aloud with the dual purpose of announcing the beginning of a new prayer time and calling believers to congregate for the salah.
- Akhirah (Afterlife): The life after our resurrection from the graves, which God makes perpetual and unending. Determining our destinies in that life is the purpose of this life. In the afterlife, every person ends up in either Jannah or Jahannam.
- Alhamdulillah (Praise Belongs to God): An invocation which is uttered as a means of expressing gratitude to God for bounties. It is a common response when a person is asked how they are doing, etc.
- ‘Ali bin Abu Talib: The fourth of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, he was the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, married to his daughter Fatima (salamu llah ‘alayha). As a young he was the first, after Lady Khadijah (salamu llah ‘alayha), to accept the message of the Prophet. He was among the closest of the Sahabah to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and was known for his piety, sacrifice, and courage on the battlefield.
- Allah (God): The name of the Creator and Substainer of the universe, Who is beyond our ability to comprehend and Who, by His very nature, alone is worthy of worship. He transcends gender, time, space, and being bound by directions. He created the universe for a purpose, and sent prophets and messengers to teach creation its purpose. He is Independent, and all of creation is dependent upon Him. Because He created us, we are His, and to Him we shall return, for Him to do with us as He wills.
- Allahu Akbar (God is Greater): An invocation that, by means of an incomplete phrase, exclaims God’s supremacy over everything. It is a common expression of joy uttered after a momentous event.
- Aminah bin Wahb: The mother of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, who spoke of miracles during her pregnancy and miracles upon the birth of Prophet Muhammad into the world. She passed away when Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was six years old.
- Ansar (Helpers): A classification used to designate those Muslims who lived in Medina and opened their homes and hearts to the incoming Muhajirun. After the Muhajiruns’ arrival, the Prophet ordered that each Muhajirun should pair up with a Helper, who would share his wealth and home with his brother in faith.
- ‘Aql (Reason): The “executive function” of the mind, which can sort through decisions and possibilities and subject the other components of consciousness to its decisions. It interacts with the desires of the nafs and the understandings of the fitrah in an attempt to reconcile and prioritize them.
- ‘Asr (Afternoon Prayer): One of the five daily prayers, its timeframe starts when an object’s shadow is equal to its own length (plus the length of its shadow at high noon) and ends when the disc of the sun touches the western horizon. It consists of four rak’ahs, in each of which the Quran is recited silently.
- Ayah (Verse): The smallest whole unit of the Quran, of which surahs are composed. Some verses are long passages, others are single sentences, some are phrases, and others still are only letters.
- Badr: A region nearly halfway between the cities of Mecca and Medina, it was the site of the first major battle in Islam’s history. On Friday, the 17th of Ramadan, during the second year of the migration of the Prophet, the Muslim army of just over three hundred believers met the Quraysh army, which numbered more than one thousand. Many in Mecca were sure this would be a massacre of the Muslims. The battle was filled with numerous miracles witnessed by the Muslims and the disbelieving polytheists of Mecca. In the end, the Muslims had miraculously defeated the much larger army.
- Barakah (Blessing): An important concept, baraka is a manifestation of Divine Grace which enhances and increases the bounties of God in our lives. Blessing makes us able to do many things in a short amount of time; it makes a small amount of something sufficient for a large group; it makes the money that we receive from God enough for our needs. Certain times, places, and objects contain especially great blessing and are thus a means of accessing this grace to benefit our lives.
- Battle of the Trench: An important battle between the polytheists of the Quraysh and the Muslims in Medina, wherein the former created a coalition of allies and led an army of over nine thousand to attack the city of Medina itself. At the passage-way into Medina, the Muslims dug a wide trench that was impassable, surprising the invading coalition. The battle ended when the Prophet’s dua was answered by a great and torrential windstorm which scattered the invaders, causing them to abandon any hope of taking Medina.
- Bid’ah (Innovation): The introduction into the religion of an act or belief that has no basis or foundation in shari’ah. Scholars of shari’ah examine the purpose and result of any newly initiated practices, measuring them against the spirit of the sacred law. Anything that they reject as inconsistent with religious teachings is deemed a blameworthy bid’ah.
- Bismillah (In God’s Name): An essential part of a Muslim’s life, saying Bismillah is the means by which barakah can be derived, simply by uttering it at the outset of any action whatsoever. It is common for Muslims to use this phrase when leaving the house, opening the door, starting the car, etc.
- Black Stone: A sacred stone which descended from heaven white as milk and was blemished by the sins of men. This heavenly stone is the cornerstone of the Ka’bah and was kissed by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. All who visit the Ka’bah seek to kiss it and make prayers before it.
- Buraq: A heavenly steed which Prophet Muhammad ﷺ rode to Jerusalem on the Night Journey and Ascension. The white riding beast with wings was brought to him in Mecca by Archangel Jibril.
- Dhkir (Invocation): Also called the remembrance of God, dhikr is an action of the tongue and heart in which the name of God, or His praise, is uttered repeatedly, with the purpose of bringing Him to the forefront of the heart and mind. A transformative practice that spiritually purifies a believer, it is a means to draw nearer to God.
- Dimensions of Islam: The three elements that together make up the comprehensive nature of the religion: iman, islam, and ihsan.
- Du’a (Supplication): A direct petition to God, in any language, by which believers may directly beseech Him for any of their needs, whether worldly or spiritual.
- Dunya (Transient World): The temporal realm of this worldly life, with all of its inherent challenge, difficulties, and tendencies to pull the soul away from awareness of God. This term can be also used to refer to indulging in materialism, as opposed to properly using the world as a means to gain God’s good pleasure.
- Fajr (Dawn Prayer): One of the five daily prayers, its timeframe starts when light begins to appear along the eastern horizon. It must be performed before sunrise, when the disc of the sun begins to appear above the horizon. It is composed of two rak’ahs, in both of which Quran is recited aloud.
- Fard (Requirement): An act that God has commanded a Muslim must perform. Performing a required act begets reward from God, while neglecting it causes sin to accrue.
- Fatihah (The Opening): The first chapter in the Quran as it is ordered and arranged (though not the first chapter revealed), it is essentially an affirmation of our commitment to God and a prayer for His guidance.
- Fatimah bint Muhammad: Also known as Fatimah al-Zahra (salamu llah ‘alayha), she was the youngest daughter of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and was well-known for her piety. She married Prophet Muhammad’s cousin, the mighty and noble ‘Ali bin Abu Talib. They had four, among them al-Hasan and al-Husayn, the beloved grandchildren of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. It is primarily through her that, to this day, people can trace their lineage back to Prophet Muhammad.
- Filial Piety: A duty ordained upon us by God to honor and show righteous behavior towards our parents. It is a right of parents that carries no preconditios and deeply impacts our relationship with God and our ability to receive His divine mercy.
- Fitrah (Primary Nature): The natural state of the human soul as God created it. One in this state knows, recognizes, and inclines towards all that is good, beautiful, and pure, and thus innately knows and needs God. Our primary nature also is opposed to everything that is ugly and vile, and senses a void in a life not filled with God. Revitalizing and reconnecting with the primary nature is one of the goals of the path of self-purification.
- Five Pillars of Islam: The five foundational devotions that make up islam, one of the three dimensions of the religion. They are: to state the Testimony of Faith, to pray the five daily prayers, to fast the month of Ramadan, to pay the purified alms, and, if able, to make pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime.
- Ghayb (Unseen): A realm of God’s creation that is beyond human perception. Belief in its reality is an essential component of complete faith.
- Ghusl (Ritual Bath): A ritual purification in which the entire body is washed with pure, unaltered water. This form of purification rectifies the state of major ritual impurity.
- Hadith (Prophetic Narration): Hadiths are verified accounts of Prophet Muhammad’s words, actions, and tacit approvals and disapprovals. Some narrations consist of statements made by the Prophet, while others are accounts of things he did, or things that were done in his presence. Each of these gives an indication of part of his Sunnah.
- Hajj (Pilgri
- Tmage):The fifth pillar of the dimension of devotional practice (islam), the Hajj is the pilgrimage on which Muslims set out from all over the world to converge at the Sacred House at the Sanctuary Mecca. It is fard , for every Muslim who is physically and financially capable of doing so, to undertake the pilgrimage at least once in his or her life. It consists of various rituals instituted by the patriarch, Prophet Ibrahim (AS), performed over a number of days. Upon successful completion, if all is done properly and sincerely, a Muslim emerges as sinless as a newborn child.
- Halal (Lawful): A generic term for the broad category of actions that are not haram. It implies that an action falls under one of the other four legal rulings (disliked, permissible, commendable, or required). This term is used as a synonym for the mubah acts.
- Another use of the term refers to meat prepared according to the humane guidelines set by Islamic law for animal slaughter (“halal meat”). Common Muslim parlance will sometimes use the term dhabihah (Arabic for “slaughtered,” sometimes pronounced “zabihah”) to denote the same concept.
- Halimah as-Sa’diyyaah: The Bedouin wet-nurse who took Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, as a child, into her care and witnessed many of his miracles.
- Hamza bin ‘Abdal-Muttalib: The paternal uncle and close friend of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. He was a mighty and fierce warrior who would eventually be martyred on the battlefield during the Battle of Uhud. He is buried alongside Mount Uhud. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ used to visit his grave regularly.
- Haram (Forbidden): Acts that a Muslim is commanded never to do. Such an act accrues sin, while avoiding the act is a duty to God that begets His generous reward.
- Hasad (Resentful Envy): A mortal vice in which one wishes to possess another person’s particular bounty (worldly or spiritual) from God, and at the same time wishes also that the other person should lose that bounty.
- Hijab (Headscarf): A simple cloth wrapped around the head, to cover the hair of Muslim women when in the presence of marriageable men.
- Hijrah (Migration): The migration of the Prophet ﷺ from Mecca to Medina in the year 624 CE, from which the Muslim calendar begins.
- Hira’ Cave: A cave found on the Mountain of Light, a mountain to the northeast of the Meccan Sanctuary. In this cave, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ retreated from the paganism of Mecca and meditated on the transcendent oneness of God for days on end. This is where, one night, the Archangel Jibril (AS) appeared to him and recited the first verse of the Quran.
- Ibrahim (Abraham):
- ‘Id al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice):
- ‘Id al-Fitr (Festival of Completing the Fast):
- Ihram (State of Inviolability):
- Imam (Prayer Leader):
- Injil (Gospel):
- Insha’Allah (If God Wills):
- Iqamah (Call to Stand):
- ‘Isa (Jesus):
- ‘Isha’ (Night Prayer):
- ‘Isra’ and Ma’raj (Night Journey and Asension):
- Israfil (Raphael):
- ‘Izra’il (Azrael):
- Jahannam (Hell): A place in which God justly punishes those who reject and rebel against Him and die in such a state, if He so chooses. It is an abode of blazing torment, and its inhabitants suffer immense pain and know no joy.
- Jahiliyyah (Era of Ignorance): The period before Islam in Arabia, which was characterized by cycles of lawless bloodshed, a caste-like system, extreme tribalism, and idolatrous polytheism. In this system, the weak could easily be oppressed, and the mighty could get away with anything. The term is also used to refer to the values of that era, most of which are opposed to the values of Islam.
- Jama’ah (Congregation): Any group of two or more people performing the salah together, with one of them designated as the imam. A prayer in jama’ah brings about twenty-seven-fold multiplication of the reward of prayer.
- Jannah (Paradise): A place with which God rewards His servants. Its inhabitants dwell therein forever, with peace, joy, and serenity. They know no pain or suffering, nor any unfulfilled wish.
- Jazak Allahu Khayran (May God Reward you with Good):
- Jibril (Gabriel):
- Jihad (Struggle):
- Jumu’ah (Friday Congregational Prayer):
- Ka’bah (Sacred House): A large cubic structure, now draped in black cloth, which was built by Prophet Ibrahim and Prophet Ishma’il in the city of Mecca. It was built as a house of worship of the One God. Visitors to the Meccan Sanctuary perform tawaf around the Ka’bah, making seven counter-clockwise circuits while in constant supplication and invocation.
- Khadijah bint Khuwaylid: Also known as Khadijah the Great, she is a very significant figure in Islamic history. She was the first Muslim, a staunch and loyal supporter of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, his first and most beloved wife, and the mother of his children. She was a widow and a wealthy merchant who employed Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in his earlier years. A noble and virtuous woman, she believed in the message of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as soon as she heard of it. She gladly underwent many hardships in support of her husband, including subjecting herself, in solidarity with him, to the boycott of the clan of Banu Hashim, even though it did not apply to her. She died shortly thereafter in what would be called the Year of Sorrow.
- Khalifah (Caliph): An office which stands in the place of the Prophet as the political leader of the ummah. It is the consensus of the scholars of normative Islam that the first four caliphs, who were he four closest companions of the prophet, represent the four best Muslims after Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. They are, listed in order of rank and rule as caliph: Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, ‘Umar bin al-Khattab, ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan, and the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet, ‘Ali bin Abu Talib (AS). This group is called the Rightly Guided Caliphs.
- Khutbah (Sermon): An essential component of the Jumu’ah meant to inspire them to grow in taqwa and piety. It is composed of two parts, and is usually brief, lasting approximately fifteen to thirty minutes. In the khutbah, the prayer leader reminds the faithful of their duties to God and usually selects a topic of religious life to highlight.
- Kufr (Disbelief): As a general concept, disbelief is defined as actively rejecting the revealed signs that indicate God’s dominion over us and our obligation to serve Him. It can also have a specific usage, based on context: to espouse heretical beliefs that contradict the most fundamental beliefs of Islam, therefore nullifying one’s supposed faith.
- Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Glory): A night during the month of Ramadan on which the reward for devotional acts is greater than that of a thousand months of similar acts in ordinary time. The exact date of the Laylat al-Qadr is not known with certainty. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ taught us that it is a night within he last ten nights, on an odd-numbered date.
- Legal Ruling: In shari’ah, the legal status of a particular action that defines the consequences, good or bad, of that action. There are five possible rulings, which form of a spectrum from virtue to vice: fard, mustahab, mubah, makruh, and haram.
- Liability Minimum: The minimum amount of wealth a person must possess to be subject to the obligation to pay the zakah.
- Madhhab (Legal School):
- Maghrib (Sunset Prayer):
- Major Ritual Impurity:
- Makruh (Disliked):
- Maryam (Lady Mary):
- Masjid (Mosque):
- Mika’il (Michael):
- Minor Ritual Impurity:
- Morally Accountable:
- Mubah (Permissible):
- Mushaf (Hard Copy of the Quran):
- Muhajirun (Emigrants):
- Munafiqun (Hypocrites):
- Munkar and Nakir:
- Musa (Moses):
- Mustahab (Commendable):
- Nabi (Prophet): A person chosen by God to receive revelation from Him and sent to a people, bearing a message that God wants them to follow. Nabis, including those in the subcategory of “messengers,” are infallible –protected from error with respect to God’s commands, always truthful, and conveying God’s message with integrity.
- Nafs (Ego): The part of our consciousness with an “animalistic” nature that tends towards fulfillment of desires and is primarily concerned with self-serving passions for food, drink, sex, and the like. It is predisposed to base characteristics such as anger, jealousy, and arrogance. Being primarily concerned with self-satisfaction and stimulation, usually through the bodily senses, it must be suppressed for self-purification.
- Najasah (Filth): A category of substances, defined by shari’ah, which must be removed from a persons attire, prayer area, and body in order to perform the salah and certain other devotions.
- Nuh (Noah): A prophet of God who was sent to his people and called them to God’s way for a miraculous 950 years. They rejected and ridiculed him and his followers. God commanded him to build an ark to carry away the believers before God sent a storm that would flood and destroy his people. Prophet Nuh ﷺ was given the title “The One Rescued by God.”
- People of the Book: A special categorization given to people from two faith traditions–Judaism and Christianity–establishing a special status for them within Islam: The adherents of these religions are granted specific legal rulings not applicable to other non-believers. This status applies even in those religions’ current forms, despite their historical alterations, simply because they spring from divine sources.
- Proof-text: A text–usually a Quranic verse, hadith, or statement of an authoritative scholar–used as the basis for deriving a legal ruling or religious understanding. It is generally the role of specially trained scholars to derive understandings from proof-texts for a scholar’s reasoning, although non-experts should not attempt to interpret them independently without qualified scholarly guidance.
- Purification: This term refers either to the process of removing filth to attain ritual cleanliness or to the performance of the ritual washings to attain that status of ritual purity. Both modes of purification require the use of pure, unaltered water. Rituals of purification include wudu and the ghusl.
- Qadr (Divine Decree): The foundational Islamic belief that all matters–both good and evil–are known to God and a direct result of His willing them, decreeing them, and having the power and ability to make them so. This means that nothing happens independent of His will, and of course, that nothing can alter the command of God. It is all written: our lifespans, our financial provisions, and our destinations in the next life. This belief does not preclude the role we play in bringing God’s decree to fruition, nor our moral accountability in doing so.
- Qalb (Heart): The qalb is the point where the components of consciousness interact, and thus it is the center of our consciousness. It is the seat of our spiritual experiences, the means by which we connect with revelation and the Divine, and the portal through which we achieve piety in devotion.
- The term is sometimes used as a synonym for the ruh.
- Qiblah (Prayer Direction): The diection of the Ka’bah in Mecca, which a person faces in salah from wherever they are in the world.
- Qiyam al-Layl (Night of Vigil Prayers): Voluntary salah that are performed in the last half or third of the night (calculated based on on the time from sunset to dawn). It is a time most beloved by God, because it is when those burning with the desire to draw nearer to Him are aroused, and when their clarity of heart and mind is greatest.
- Quran: (Literally “the often recited”), this divine scripture is the last revelation from God. Revealed to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in the Arabic language in the 7th century CE, the Quran is the direct verbatim word of God, which will be protected eternally from distortion by God Himself.
- Quraysh: The most prominent tribe of Mecca, they were charged with caring for the pilgrims that came from all over Arabia to visit the Ka’bah. They are the tribe of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, and as a pagan and idolatrous people, they opposed his marriage and tortured his followers in the early years of his mission. Even after the migration of the Muslims to Medina, they continued to launch offensives aimed at ending the mission of monotheism in Arabia. Eventually, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ defeated the Quraysh but allowed them to surrender peacefully, with no bloodshed.
- Radi Allahu ‘Anhu (May God Be Pleased with Him): A prayer uttered after the mention of one of the Sahabah of Prophet Muhammmad ﷺ.
- Rak’ah (Prayer Unit): The building block of the salah, rak’ah is composed of a specific set of actions, performed in a particular sequence, and repeated multiple times throughout the salah. A rak’ah includes four positions: ruku’, sujud and julus.
- Ramadan: The ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. As a natural phenomenon, lunar months vary in length, having either twenty-nine or thirty days. Ramadan is the month of required swam, which is the fourth pillar of Islam.
- Raqib and ‘Atid: Also titled with Honorable Recorders, they are two angels who sit on our shoulders. Their charge is to record each good and evil act we perform.
- Rasul (Messenger): A messenger is a prophet who received a revelation that includes a revealed scripture and a consequent legal system. Messengers possess the same qualities of infallibility as prophets.
- Ritual Cleanliness: One of the two types of ritual purity related to devotional acts, it is present when an object or space is devoid of certain substances designed by shari’ah as najasah.
- Riya’ (Showing Off): A disease of the heart consisting of performing acts for the purpose of gaining other people’s admiration. The worst form of this vice is performing religious and devotional activities in order to gain praise, rather than to please God. For this reason Prophet Muhammad ﷺ called it the minor form shirk.
- Ruh (Spirit or Soul): The ruh is the immaterial essence of a human being. It is what gives life to the body, and its true nature is unknown to man.
- The term ruh is also used as a synonym for the qalb, which is the focal point of the soul’s interaction with God and the other facets of our consciousness.
- God states the in the Quran, “They ask you, [Prophet], about the Spirit. Say, ‘The Spirit is part of my Lord’s domain. You have only been given a little knowledge.”
- Ruku’ (Bowing): One of the four main positions of the salah, the bowing position is comprised of bending at the waist and resting the palms above the knees, to make them parallel to the ground, to the best of one’s ability.
- Sabr (Patience): To have grace in adversity, remaining content with the difficulties God has decreed; to preserve in obedience to God, and to silently endure the trials of life, without complaint or resentment.
- Sadaqah (Charity): A voluntary sharing of wealth with the needy that can take many forms and need not be financial in nature–“even a smile” can be rewarded by God as an act of charity. Because there are no restrictions on the categories of persons to whom voluntary charity can be given, believers may freely give to anyone they deem in need of help.
- Sahabah (Companions): A category which refers to those believing Muslims who met Prophet ﷺ during his lifetime. The direct students of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, they are considered the best generation of believers overall.
- Sa’i (Treading): A ritual of the hajj based on the events of the life of Lady Hagar, it consists in passing seven times between the two hills of Safa and Marwah near the Ka’bah.
- Salah al-Ibrahimiyyah (Abrahamic Prayer): A prayer is recited in the last sitting of salah after the at-Tashahhud.
- Salah (Prayer): A devotional act, structured and formalized, provided to us through the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. It includes various devotional positions, recitations from the Quran, and inocations of God. The term is used both for the required daily prayers, which occur at specified times defined by the position of the sun with respect to the horizon, and also for voluntary prayers, which are commendable means of drawing nearer to God.
- Salam (Greeting of Peace): The traditional Muslim method of greeting one another when we meet or begin a conversation. It consists of the statement as-Salamu ‘Alaykum, which means “May peace be upon you.” The response is wa ‘Alaykum as-Salam, which means “and peace be upon you, too.” The same phrases are used for concluding the encounter or conversation.
- Salawat (Blessing Upon the Prophet): The act of asking God to send blessings and salutations upon Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his noble family. Much divine benefit can be derived from sending blessings upon the Prophet. This act has particular significance and reward on Fridays.
- Salla Allahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam (God Bless and Grant Him Peace): A prayer which we are commanded to say after an mention of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. It is a source of immense blessing and reward for one who says it.
- Sawm (Fasting): A devotional act in which believers abstain from eating, drinking, and sexual relations from the time when the dark night sky is broken by the first rays of dawn until complete sunset.
- Shafi’ (Intercessor): A very important and central of Prophet Muhammad on the Day of Judgement. On that day, God will grant Prophet Muhammad ﷺ the ability to intercede with Him, petitioning on behalf of his followers until anyone who said and believed in the Shahadah is removed from Jahannam.
- Shahadah (Testimony of Faith): A statement, consisting of two testimonies, which, when believed and proclaimed by a person, formally enters him or her into the religion of Islam:
- La ilaha ill-Allah: Nothing is worthy of worship except God
- Muhammad rasul Allah: Muhammad is the Messenger of God
- Shari’ah (Sacred or Islamic Law): A set of codes and principles, based on divine revelation and derived through complex legal reasoning, by which all important matters of Muslim life are guided. It is generally described as having two realms:
- Devotional: governs the interaction between humans and the divine
- Social: governs interaction among humans
- Shaytan (Devil): The forefather of the jinn, a free-willed species created from fire, Iblis, the proper name of the Shaytan, is the declared enemy of humanity. When God created Adam, the forefather of humanity, He commanded those in the divine presence (both angels and jinn) to bow in reverence before God’s new creature. All obeyed except Iblis, who objected to the command, feeling he was superior to Adam based simply on the materials from which he was created. This arrogance and envy led to Iblis’ expulsion from the divine presence, after which he requested God to grant him reprieve of punishment, delaying it to the Last Day. After God granted Iblis his request, Iblis vowed to devote himself to leading astray as many of Adam’s offspring as he could. The jinn descended from him, but, because of their free will, not all of them disobeyed God and followed Iblis; some followed the prophets and messengers of God.
- Shirk (Associating Partners with God): Any belief that violates the tawhid of God, particularly any belief sets up deities to be worshiped alongside God, or holds there to be divisions of God.
- Also under this category is the rejection of God altogether (atheism). Orthodox belief holds that to believe anything has power or ability independent of God constitutes shirk. It is the one and only unforgivable sin, if one dies without repenting and correcting the erroneous beliefs.
- Shukr (Gratitude): A sense of indebted gratitude to God for His countless bounties upon us.
- State of Ritual Purity: One of the two types of ritual purity related to devotional acts, it is a metaphysical status that a person can bring about or invalidate, based on particular actions and events.
- Suhur (Pre-Dawn Meal): An important sunnah associated with fasting, suhur consists of eating some food, even if it’s a small amount, before dawn’s light strikes the horizon and the time of the fast nears.
- Sujud (Prostration): One of the four main positions of the salah, in which a person places the forehead and nose to the ground, palms resting on the ground on either side of the shoulders, with the toes and balls of the feet turned forward, placed on the ground as well.
- Sunnah (Prophetic Ways or Prophetic Practice): The specific meaning of the term Sunah depends on the context in which it is used. In the context of shari’ah, it refers to a higher grade of mustahab acts–those that were performed by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ regularly. In the broadest sense, Sunnah means the Prophetic Way of Prophet Muhammad: it includes the aforementioned category and much more. It may also be used as a synonym for hadiths of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Note that some commands contained within the narration literature create rulings that do not carry the legal ruling of a sunnah, but can be fard or mubah.
- Surah (Chapter): The main division of the Quran, a surah is a collection of ayahs. The Quran contains a total of 114 surah of varying length, each with its own title. After the first surah, “The Opening (al-Fatihah),” the surahs are basically arranged in order of length, from longest to shortest.
- Tabi’i (Follower): A term which refers to the generation of the believers that met any of the Sahabah of the Prophet Muhammad. One generation removed from Prophet Muhammad, they are the second best generation of believers overall.
- Talbiyah (Response of the Summoned): The mantra of the hajj, it is a declaration of God’s oneness and a pilgrim’s active response to His call, repeated until the pilgrims reach the Sanctuary of Mecca.
- Taqwa (Conscientiousness): Sometimes translated as “piety,” Taqwa is a spiritual awareness of God’s right over you and your duty to Him. It incorporates doing what God commands, avoiding what He has forbidden, embodying the spiritual virtues, and ridding yourself of the spiritual vices.
- Tarawih Prayers: A special form of voluntary salah, the Tarawih Prayers are congregational ritual prayer that takes place every night during Ramadan. Islamic jurists differ regarding the number of rak’ahs that should be prayed in Tarawih. Some recommend offering eight rak’ah, others twenty, and some even more. Each of these recommendations is based on a different valid legal opinion.
- Tashahhud (Testimonial Invocation): An invocation that is recited in both the second and last rak’ahs while in the sitting position.
- Tawaf (Circling): A ritual devotion, instituted by the Prophet Ibraham ﷺ, which can be performed only at the Ka’bah. It consists of making seven counter-clockwise circuits around the black cubic structure while in a constant state of supplication and invocation of God.
- Tawakkul (Reliance Upon God): Putting your trust in God that He will guide your affairs, and that, ultimately, it is He Who is your protector and sustainer. To rely upon God means that, while you strive to do your best, you ultimately place your hope not in your own efforts, but in God. It also includes trusting that whatever outcomes results, that is what God, in His infinite knowledge, has deemed best for you.
- Tawbah (Repentance): The process through which a person may have sins absolved. It includes feeling a sense of remorse for the misdeed, immediately abandoning the misdeed, resolving in your heart never to return to the act, and rectifying the harm you may have caused to another.
- Tawhid (Oneness of God): The most fundamental component of a Muslim’s belief, tawhid indicates the reality that there is only one deity, Who is the All-Powerful, the Creator of everything, Who is in complete control of all of His creation. It also implies other beliefs regarding the nature of God: that He has no beginning, can have no end, does not have offspring, and was not brought into existence. He is transcendent above the limitations of His creation, and thus it is inconceivable that the distinction between the created and the Creator can be blurred.
- Tawrat (Torah): The divine scripture that was revealed to Prophet Musa ﷺ. It contained laws for the Children of Israel and was a source of light and guidance for them, but over time it fell victim to distortion.
- Uhud: A sacred mountain which the Prophet called “a mountain that loves us,” Uhud was the site of the second major battle of Islam. The Quraysh were three thousand in number, and the Muslims were seven hundred. Early in the battle, the Muslims were winning and the Quraysh were in retreat, but some of the Muslims disobeyed the instructions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, causing their defeat. In this battle many were martyred, including the mighty Hamza (RA). Prophet Muhammad was also wounded and was initially rumored to have been killed.
- ‘Umar bin al-Khattab: The second of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, ‘Umar (RA) was a mighty warrior feared by his people. He initially opposed Islam and set out to kill Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, but on his way to do so, he heard some ayahs from the Quran which so impressed him that he entered the faith. Known as “the Distinguisher” (between truth and falsehood), he had a deep and undying commitment to justice and integrity.
- Ummah (Nation of Believers): A term denoting the entire body of all believing Muslims, in which each Muslim is the brother or sister in faith of other believers. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ instilled a unified consciousness into the ummah, instructing us to have mutual concern for each other’s welfare and guidance.
- ‘Umrah (Lesser Pilgrimage): A devotional ritual performed at the Sanctuary in Mecca that begins with entering a state of ihram, followed by performing the tawaf, then the sa’i between the hills Safa and Marwah. The ‘umrah is concluded with either shaving or trimming the hair to end the state of inviolability.
- Unaltered Water: Water that is colorless, tasteless, and has no smell and thus can be used in ritual purification. Both types of purification–removing najasah and attaining a state of ritual purity–are obtained through processes requiring unaltered water, due to its purifying quality.
- Voluntary Act: An optional devotional act which helps to bring a believer nearer to God. Voluntary acts are not required by God, but the reward for such acts is immense, and they make one’s surrender more complete.
- Wali (Saint or Ally/Friend of God): A person whose purity of heart and righteousness of acts has granted him or her a closeness to God which entails divine protection and fulfilled prayers, Muslim doctrine requires believing that this class of people exists, that they can be granted “lesser miracles,” and that we should seek out their du’a on our behalf.
- Wird (Litany): An arranged series of dhikr and du’a that a person regularly recites. There are many famous litanies complied by various scholars and saints. Their regular recitation acts as a strengthening regimen for the heart and has a cumulative effect upon the heart.
- Wudu’ (Ritual Washing): A ritual washing of the limbs of the body performed with unaltered water, by which a person can remove the status of minor, but not major, of ritual impurity.
- Zabihah: A term in common Muslim parlance that refers to halal meat, meat prepared according to the humane guidelines set by Islamic law for animal slaughter. This is a phonetic variant of the Arabic word “dhabihah,” which literally means “slaughtered.”
- Zabur (Psalms): The divine scripture that was revealed to Prophet Dawud ﷺ.
- Zakah (Purifying Alms): A fard tax on certain types of wealth and assets to be distributed to the needy. Only those who are above the poverty line, as determined by the liability minimum, are required to pay this tax. The standard rate is two-and-a-half percent, or one-fortieth, of the applicable amount.
- Zakat al-Fitr (Alms for Completing the Fast): A gift of charity that every Muslim must pay before the day of the ‘Id al-Fitr. The amount is based on measurements based on the value of a particular volume of food (roughly 2 liters, based on measurements used by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ) which would be constitute a meal for a person of average socioeconomic status.
- Zamzam: A blessing well which pours forth sacred water, Zamzam was discovered by Prophet Isma’il ﷺ as a baby. In barren Mecca, he became thirsty, and his concerned mother, Lady Hagar, ran between two hills, looking for any sign of water or help. She did this seven times, until she heard the bubbling water and saw that a spring had erupted from beneath the feet of the kicking babe. This well still runs today, and pilgrims drink from its sacred water, from which they seek blessing, healing, and answers to their prayers.
- Zuhd (Detachment): A saving virtue which counteracts the ego’s tendency towards material indulgence. A person with zuhd uses this world as a means to an other-worldly end, recognizing that material wealth should be in our hands, not in our hearts.
- Zuhr (Midday Prayer): One of the five daily prayers, its time frame starts when the sun moves past the zenith and ends with the entry of the next prayer time, the ‘Asr prayer. It consists of four rak’ahs, in each of which the Quran is recited silently.
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