Glossary terms with pronunciation guide

Browse through the list or click on a letter to jump straight to that section.

By clicking on the term you can listen to how it is pronounced. Many thanks to Mona Sedky Goode for her assistance with this audio guide.

You can also test your knowledge of these terms with our glossary flashcards.

 

ʿAbbāsids


 

dynasty of caliphs ruling from 750, through the era of the flowering of Islam, and coming to a final end in 1258, although it had lost any meaningful power several centuries earlier with the rise of the Buwayhids.

adab

 

“morals” or “courtesy”; the habitual way of acting in accordance with social standards.

adhān

 

the call to prayer.

Allāh

 

Arabic for God.

amīr

 

commander or prince, frequently used in reference to the person who leads the community.

āya

 

verse of the Qurʾān; also used in a general meaning of “sign” from God.

baqāʾ

 

Ṣūfī term for the mystic’s “continuance” of existence with God.

basmala

 

the statement at the beginning of each sūra of the Qur’ān (except sūra 9), “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate,” also used by Muslims as an invocation.

Burāq

 

the winged creature which carried Muḥammad on his “night journey” (isrāʾ) from Mecca to Jerusalem.

Buwayhids

 

dynasty of Shīʿī Persian military rulers who took over rule in 945 and lasted until the takeover by the Sunnī Seljuq rulers in 1055 (also spelled Būyids).

dhikr

 

“mentioning” or “remembrance”; term used for the chant in Ṣūfī meditations.

dhimmī

 

a member of a protected community, especially referring to the Jews and Christians who live under Muslim rule. The right to practise their own religion was guaranteed by their payment of a special poll tax, the jizya.

dīn

 

religion; the word is used in the Qurʾān to refer to the specific beliefs and practices of people.

duʿāʾ

 

“calling” upon God, used for informal prayer and supplication, as compared to ṣalāt.

fanāʾ

 

Ṣūfī term for the “passing away” or absorption of the individual into God.

fātiḥa

                      

 

“opening,” the first sūra of the Qurʾān, used especially in prayer.

fatwā

 

a legal decision rendered by a muftī, who is a jurist qualified to make decisions of a general religious nature.

fiqh

                      

 

jurisprudence, the science of religious law, as described by the jurists known as the fuqahāʾ (of which the singular is faqīh).

ghayba

 

“occultation” of the last Imām in the Shīʿī tradition.

ghusl

 

major ablution, requiring a full washing.

ḥadd

 

the restrictive ordinances of God as stated in the Qurʾān, all of which have a specific penalty involved for their violation.

ḥadīth

 

a tradition or written report, being the source material for the sunna of Muḥammad, gathered together in the six books of authoritative traditions in Sunnī Islam.

ḥajj

 

pilgrimage to Mecca performed in the month of Dhūʾl-ḥijja, one of the “Five Pillars” of Islam; a requirement for all Muslims, if they are able, once in a lifetime.

Ḥanābila

 

the Sunnī school of law (the “Ḥanbalī school”) named after Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal (d. 855).

Ḥanafiyya

 

the Sunnī school of law named after Abū Ḥanīfa (d. 767), the “Ḥanafī school.”

ḥanīf

 

the attribute, especially ascribed to Abraham in the Qurʾān, of being a sincere believer in God.

ḥijāb

 

the veil or partition which prevents men from gazing at the “charms of women.” A variety of styles exists but most emphasize covering the hair and hiding the shape of the body.

Ḥijāz

 

region in the west of central Arabia, the birthplace of Muḥammad.

hijra

 

Muḥammad’s emigration from Mecca to Medina in the year 622 CE, understood as the date for the beginning of the Muslim hijrī calendar.

iḥrām

 

the state of consecration into which the pilgrim enters (thus becoming a muḥrim) in order to perform the ḥajj or the ʿumra.

iʿjāz

 

doctrine which states that the Qurʾān cannot be imitated; the “inimitability” of the Qurʾān.

ijmāʿ

 

“consensus,” one of the four sources of law in Sunnī Islam, the others being Qurʾān, sunna, and qiyās.

ijtihād

 

the use of one’s “personal effort” in order to make a decision on a point of law not explicitly covered by the Qurʾān or the sunna; the person with the authority to do this is called a mujtahid.

imām

                      

 

literally the “model,” here generally referring to the prayer leader in the ṣalāt who stands in front of the rows of worshipers, keeping their actions in unison during the prayer. The word is also used in other contexts. It is a title of the revered early leaders of the Shīʿa who are the source of authority in that community; these Imāms are ʿAlī ibn abī Ṭālib and certain of his descendants who were designated as holding the position. The word is also commonly used as a title of the founders of the Sunnī schools of law – Abū Ḥanīfa, Mālik ibn Anas, al-Shāfiʿī and Ibn Ḥanbal – and similarly for other significant religious figures.

Imāmī

 

generic name given to the largest group of the Shīʿa, the Ithnā ʿAshariyya.

īmān

 

faith; one who has faith is a muʾmin.

iṣlāḥ

 

“reformism,” especially in the nineteenth-century Arab world as proposed by people such as Muḥammad ʿAbduh.

Islam

 

the name of the religion preached by Muḥammad, so named in the Qurʾān, literally meaning “submission”; those who adhere to Islam are called Muslims.

ʿiṣma

 

a doctrine which states that the prophets, and especially Muḥammad, were protected from sin (maʿṣūm) during their lifetimes. It is also applied to the Shīʿī Imāms.

isnād

 

the chain of authorities through whom a ḥadīth report has passed; the list of these people forms the first part of the ḥadīth report, the text which comes after it being called the matn.

isrāʾ

 

Muḥammad’s “night journey” to Jerusalem, connected to the heavenly ascension, miʿrāj.

jāhiliyya

 

the “Age of Ignorance,” historically seen to be before Muḥammad but in a general religious sense referring to ignoring, or ignorance of, Islam; especially used with moral overtones.

jihād

 

“striving for the faith” or “holy war,” sometimes seen as a “sixth pillar” of Islam.

jinn

 

genies, another dimension of animate creation on earth.

jumʿa

                      

 

in reference to prayer, ṣalāt; it is the Friday noon gathering of the community which is enjoined in the Qurʾān and which takes place in the jāmiʿ or congregational mosque.

Kaʿba

 

the sacred black cube building in the middle of the mosque in Mecca; Muslims face in the direction of the Kaʿba when they perform the ritual prayer (ṣalāt) and circumambulate it when they perform the pilgrimage (ḥajj or ʿumra).

kalām

 

literally, “speech”; refers to a mode of theological discussion framed in terms of an argument and thence to speculative theology as a whole.

khalīfa

 

Caliph, the leader of the Sunnī community, the “successor” to Muḥammad.

khaṭīb

 

the person at the Friday noon prayer who delivers the address, the khuṭba.

Khawārij

 

group in early Islam who believed in absolute devotion as the mark of a true Muslim, all others being unbelievers (singular: Khārijī; also known as the Kharijites).

khuṭba

 

the address given at the Friday noon prayer by the khaṭīb.

madhhab

 

a school of law formed around one of the four early figures significant in juristic discussions (Abū Ḥanīfa, Mālik ibn Anas, al-Shāfiʿī, Ibn Ḥanbal); plural: madhāhib.

Mālikiyya

 

followers of the legal school named after Mālik ibn Anas (d. 795).

maʿrifa

 

mystical knowledge.

maṣlaḥa

 

“general good” and “public interest,” used as a basis for legal decisions.

matn

 

the text of a ḥadīth report, as compared to the isnād, the chain of transmission.

mawlid

 

birthday; specifically the celebration of the birthday of Muḥammad.

miḥna

 

the “inquisition,” primarily under the Abbasid caliph al-Maʾmūn (ruled 813–33), which demanded that government officials and religious leaders adhere to the doctrine of the “created Qurʾān.”

miḥrāb

 

the niche in the wall of a mosque marking the qibla, or direction of prayer towards Mecca.

minbar

 

 

the “pulpit” on which the khaṭīb gives the address (khuṭba).

miʿrāj

 

the “heavenly ascension” of Muḥammad, reported to have taken place around the year 6 of the hijra, in which he met with the prophets of the past, was given visions of heaven and hell, gazed upon God and was given the command of five prayers a day for all Muslims.

muftī

 

a jurist who is authorized to give a fatwā or legal decision on a religious matter.

mujaddid

 

a renewer or the faith, stated in a ḥadīth report to appear in the Muslim community every 100 years, in order to revive the true spirit of Islam through the process of tajdīd, “renewal.”

mujtahid

 

a jurist who is qualified to exercise ijtihād or personal effort in making legal decisions on matters where there is no explicit text of the Qurʾān or the sunna to be followed.

Murjiʾa

 

group in early Islam who held the status quo position in the debates over faith, generally connected to Abū Ḥanīfa (d. 767).

Muslim

 

a person who follows the Islamic religion.

Muʿtazila

 

a theological school of thought which blossomed in the eighth and ninth centuries; it stressed human free will and the unity and justice of God, and embraced Greek rationalist modes of argumentation. In modern times, certain thinkers (e.g., Muḥammad ʿAbduh) are sometimes considered “neo-Muʿtazilī” because of their reintroduction of some of these ideas.

nahḍa

 

the renaissance of the Muslim world in general that was pictured by reformers as resulting from the cultural renewal which would take place in modern times.

purdah

 

a term from India referring to seclusion and veiling of women; the same as ḥijāb.

qadar

 

preordination of events by God.

Qadariyya

 

group in early Islam who argued for free will in the theological debates, precursors of the Muʿtazila.

qāḍī

         

 

a judge who makes decisions on the basis of the religious law.

qibla

 

the direction in which one faces in prayer (Mecca), marked by the miḥrāb in the mosque.

qiyās

 

“analogy,” one of the four sources of law in Sunnī Islam, the others being Qurʾān, sunna, and ijmāʿ.

rakʿa

                      

 

cycle of postures through which a person goes in performing the ṣalāt: standing, bowing, prostrating, sitting.

ṣadaqa

 

charity, often used interchangeably with zakāt, but also with the sense of free-will offering rather than a required donation.

salaf

 

the “pious ancestors,” the first three generations of Muslims, who some modern Islamists (also known as Salafīs) hold up as embodying the ideal manifestation of Islam.

ṣalāt

 

the prescribed five prayers a day, one the “Five Pillars” required of all Muslims.

ṣawm

 

fasting performed in the month of Ramaḍān, one of the “Five Pillars” required of all Muslims (also called ṣiyām).

Shāfiʿiyya

 

followers of the school of law named after al-Shāfiʿī (d. 820).

shahāda

 

“witness to faith”; saying (in Arabic), “There is no god but God and Muḥammad is His messenger”; one of the “Five Pillars” required of all Muslims, indicating conversion to Islam but also a part of the ritual prayer (ṣalāt).

sharīʿa

 

the religious law derived from the four sources of law in Sunnī Islam (Qurʾān, sunna, qiyās, and ijmāʿ).

shaykh

 

literally, “an old man” and used as a term of respect for a religious teacher; used especially of a Ṣūfī master.

Shīʿa

 

the religio-political party championing the claims of ʿAlī ibn abī Ṭālib and his heirs to the rightful leadership of the community and to their status as Imāms; since the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Shīʿī position has been the official state religion of Iran and most of its followers live there. They comprise about 10 percent of the world population of Muslims.

shūrā

 

“consultation,” a concept to which Islamists frequently appeal when speaking of Islamic ways of structuring governments.

silsila

 

the Ṣūfī “chain” of authority which traces spiritual lineage.

Sīra

 

the biography of Muḥammad as found in written form.

Ṣūfī

 

an adherent to the mystical way of Islam, Sufism, taṣawwuf.

sunna

 

“custom”; the way Muḥammad acted which is then emulated by Muslims. The source material for the sunna is found in the ḥadīth reports. The sunna is one of the four sources of law for Sunnī Islam, along with Qurʾān, qiyās, and ijmāʿ.

Sunnīs

 

the majority form of Islam, those who follow the sunna (thus being called the ahl al-sunna), who do not recognize the authority of the Shīʿī Imāms.

sūra

 

a chapter of the Qurʾān.

tafsīr

 

interpretation of the Qurʾān, especially as found in written form. Such books generally follow the order of the Quranic text and pay attention to the meaning of each word or sentence.

taqiyya

 

doctrine in Shiʿism that allows “dissimulation,” that is, denying one’s Shīʿī allegiances and not performing outward manifestations of one’s faith in order to protect one’s life.

taqlīd

 

the reliance upon decisions made in the past in matters of religious law; the word is set in opposition to ijtihād, “personal effort,” and frequently has a negative sense in the modern context.

ṭarīqa

 

“the way” of Sufism; a Ṣūfī order or brotherhood.

taṣawwuf

 

Sufism, the mystical way in Islam.

ṭawāf

 

the ritual of the circumambulation of the Kaʿba during the pilgrimage.

tawakkul

 

“trust” in God, especially among the Ṣūfīs.

tawḥīd

 

doctrine holding to the proclamation of the unity of God.

ʿulamāʾ

 

the learned class, especially those learned in religious matters (singular: ʿālim).

Umayyads

 

the first dynasty of caliphs, ruling from 661 until the takeover of the ʿAbbāsids in 750.

umma

 

the community; the body of Muslims.

ʿumra

 

the “visitation” of the holy places in Mecca, the lesser pilgrimage; it can be performed at any time of the year but is also joined with the ḥajj.

Wahhābiyya

 

the followers of Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb (d. 1787); a revivalist-purificatory movement in Arabia which became (and continues to be) the official religious policy of Saudi Arabia, now often called the Salafiyya.

wilāya

 

position of ʿAlī as the “friend” (walī) of God.

wuḍūʾ

 

minor ablution required prior to some ritual performances.

zakāt

 

alms tax, one of the “Five Pillars” required of all Muslims.

ʿAbbāsids


 

dynasty of caliphs ruling from 750, through the era of the flowering of Islam, and coming to a final end in 1258, although it had lost any meaningful power several centuries earlier with the rise of the Buwayhids.

adab

 

“morals” or “courtesy”; the habitual way of acting in accordance with social standards.

adhān

 

the call to prayer.

Allāh

 

Arabic for God.

amīr

 

commander or prince, frequently used in reference to the person who leads the community.

āya

 

verse of the Qurʾān; also used in a general meaning of “sign” from God.

baqāʾ

 

Ṣūfī term for the mystic’s “continuance” of existence with God.

basmala

 

the statement at the beginning of each sūra of the Qur’ān (except sūra 9), “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate,” also used by Muslims as an invocation.

Burāq

 

the winged creature which carried Muḥammad on his “night journey” (isrāʾ) from Mecca to Jerusalem.

Buwayhids

 

dynasty of Shīʿī Persian military rulers who took over rule in 945 and lasted until the takeover by the Sunnī Seljuq rulers in 1055 (also spelled Būyids).

dhikr

 

“mentioning” or “remembrance”; term used for the chant in Ṣūfī meditations.

dhimmī

 

a member of a protected community, especially referring to the Jews and Christians who live under Muslim rule. The right to practise their own religion was guaranteed by their payment of a special poll tax, the jizya.

dīn

 

religion; the word is used in the Qurʾān to refer to the specific beliefs and practices of people.

duʿāʾ

 

“calling” upon God, used for informal prayer and supplication, as compared to ṣalāt.

fanāʾ

 

Ṣūfī term for the “passing away” or absorption of the individual into God.

fātiḥa

                      

 

“opening,” the first sūra of the Qurʾān, used especially in prayer.

fatwā

 

a legal decision rendered by a muftī, who is a jurist qualified to make decisions of a general religious nature.

fiqh

                      

 

jurisprudence, the science of religious law, as described by the jurists known as the fuqahāʾ (of which the singular is faqīh).

ghayba

 

“occultation” of the last Imām in the Shīʿī tradition.

ghusl

 

major ablution, requiring a full washing.

ḥadd

 

the restrictive ordinances of God as stated in the Qurʾān, all of which have a specific penalty involved for their violation.

ḥadīth

 

a tradition or written report, being the source material for the sunna of Muḥammad, gathered together in the six books of authoritative traditions in Sunnī Islam.

ḥajj

 

pilgrimage to Mecca performed in the month of Dhūʾl-ḥijja, one of the “Five Pillars” of Islam; a requirement for all Muslims, if they are able, once in a lifetime.

Ḥanābila

 

the Sunnī school of law (the “Ḥanbalī school”) named after Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal (d. 855).

Ḥanafiyya

 

the Sunnī school of law named after Abū Ḥanīfa (d. 767), the “Ḥanafī school.”

ḥanīf

 

the attribute, especially ascribed to Abraham in the Qurʾān, of being a sincere believer in God.

ḥijāb

 

the veil or partition which prevents men from gazing at the “charms of women.” A variety of styles exists but most emphasize covering the hair and hiding the shape of the body.

Ḥijāz

 

region in the west of central Arabia, the birthplace of Muḥammad.

hijra

 

Muḥammad’s emigration from Mecca to Medina in the year 622 CE, understood as the date for the beginning of the Muslim hijrī calendar.

iḥrām

 

the state of consecration into which the pilgrim enters (thus becoming a muḥrim) in order to perform the ḥajj or the ʿumra.

iʿjāz

 

doctrine which states that the Qurʾān cannot be imitated; the “inimitability” of the Qurʾān.

ijmāʿ

 

“consensus,” one of the four sources of law in Sunnī Islam, the others being Qurʾān, sunna, and qiyās.

ijtihād

 

the use of one’s “personal effort” in order to make a decision on a point of law not explicitly covered by the Qurʾān or the sunna; the person with the authority to do this is called a mujtahid.

imām

                      

 

literally the “model,” here generally referring to the prayer leader in the ṣalāt who stands in front of the rows of worshipers, keeping their actions in unison during the prayer. The word is also used in other contexts. It is a title of the revered early leaders of the Shīʿa who are the source of authority in that community; these Imāms are ʿAlī ibn abī Ṭālib and certain of his descendants who were designated as holding the position. The word is also commonly used as a title of the founders of the Sunnī schools of law – Abū Ḥanīfa, Mālik ibn Anas, al-Shāfiʿī and Ibn Ḥanbal – and similarly for other significant religious figures.

Imāmī

 

generic name given to the largest group of the Shīʿa, the Ithnā ʿAshariyya.

īmān

 

faith; one who has faith is a muʾmin.

iṣlāḥ

 

“reformism,” especially in the nineteenth-century Arab world as proposed by people such as Muḥammad ʿAbduh.

Islam

 

the name of the religion preached by Muḥammad, so named in the Qurʾān, literally meaning “submission”; those who adhere to Islam are called Muslims.

ʿiṣma

 

a doctrine which states that the prophets, and especially Muḥammad, were protected from sin (maʿṣūm) during their lifetimes. It is also applied to the Shīʿī Imāms.

isnād

 

the chain of authorities through whom a ḥadīth report has passed; the list of these people forms the first part of the ḥadīth report, the text which comes after it being called the matn.

isrāʾ

 

Muḥammad’s “night journey” to Jerusalem, connected to the heavenly ascension, miʿrāj.

jāhiliyya

 

the “Age of Ignorance,” historically seen to be before Muḥammad but in a general religious sense referring to ignoring, or ignorance of, Islam; especially used with moral overtones.

jihād

 

“striving for the faith” or “holy war,” sometimes seen as a “sixth pillar” of Islam.

jinn

 

genies, another dimension of animate creation on earth.

jumʿa

                      

 

in reference to prayer, ṣalāt; it is the Friday noon gathering of the community which is enjoined in the Qurʾān and which takes place in the jāmiʿ or congregational mosque.

Kaʿba

 

the sacred black cube building in the middle of the mosque in Mecca; Muslims face in the direction of the Kaʿba when they perform the ritual prayer (ṣalāt) and circumambulate it when they perform the pilgrimage (ḥajj or ʿumra).

kalām

 

literally, “speech”; refers to a mode of theological discussion framed in terms of an argument and thence to speculative theology as a whole.

khalīfa

 

Caliph, the leader of the Sunnī community, the “successor” to Muḥammad.

khaṭīb

 

the person at the Friday noon prayer who delivers the address, the khuṭba.

Khawārij

 

group in early Islam who believed in absolute devotion as the mark of a true Muslim, all others being unbelievers (singular: Khārijī; also known as the Kharijites).

khuṭba

 

the address given at the Friday noon prayer by the khaṭīb.

madhhab

 

a school of law formed around one of the four early figures significant in juristic discussions (Abū Ḥanīfa, Mālik ibn Anas, al-Shāfiʿī, Ibn Ḥanbal); plural: madhāhib.

Mālikiyya

 

followers of the legal school named after Mālik ibn Anas (d. 795).

maʿrifa

 

mystical knowledge.

maṣlaḥa

 

“general good” and “public interest,” used as a basis for legal decisions.

matn

 

the text of a ḥadīth report, as compared to the isnād, the chain of transmission.

mawlid

 

birthday; specifically the celebration of the birthday of Muḥammad.

miḥna

 

the “inquisition,” primarily under the Abbasid caliph al-Maʾmūn (ruled 813–33), which demanded that government officials and religious leaders adhere to the doctrine of the “created Qurʾān.”

miḥrāb

 

the niche in the wall of a mosque marking the qibla, or direction of prayer towards Mecca.

minbar

 

 

the “pulpit” on which the khaṭīb gives the address (khuṭba).

miʿrāj

 

the “heavenly ascension” of Muḥammad, reported to have taken place around the year 6 of the hijra, in which he met with the prophets of the past, was given visions of heaven and hell, gazed upon God and was given the command of five prayers a day for all Muslims.

muftī

 

a jurist who is authorized to give a fatwā or legal decision on a religious matter.

mujaddid

 

a renewer or the faith, stated in a ḥadīth report to appear in the Muslim community every 100 years, in order to revive the true spirit of Islam through the process of tajdīd, “renewal.”

mujtahid

 

a jurist who is qualified to exercise ijtihād or personal effort in making legal decisions on matters where there is no explicit text of the Qurʾān or the sunna to be followed.

Murjiʾa

 

group in early Islam who held the status quo position in the debates over faith, generally connected to Abū Ḥanīfa (d. 767).

Muslim

 

a person who follows the Islamic religion.

Muʿtazila

 

a theological school of thought which blossomed in the eighth and ninth centuries; it stressed human free will and the unity and justice of God, and embraced Greek rationalist modes of argumentation. In modern times, certain thinkers (e.g., Muḥammad ʿAbduh) are sometimes considered “neo-Muʿtazilī” because of their reintroduction of some of these ideas.

nahḍa

 

the renaissance of the Muslim world in general that was pictured by reformers as resulting from the cultural renewal which would take place in modern times.

purdah

 

a term from India referring to seclusion and veiling of women; the same as ḥijāb.

qadar

 

preordination of events by God.

Qadariyya

 

group in early Islam who argued for free will in the theological debates, precursors of the Muʿtazila.

qāḍī

         

 

a judge who makes decisions on the basis of the religious law.

qibla

 

the direction in which one faces in prayer (Mecca), marked by the miḥrāb in the mosque.

qiyās

 

“analogy,” one of the four sources of law in Sunnī Islam, the others being Qurʾān, sunna, and ijmāʿ.

rakʿa

                      

 

cycle of postures through which a person goes in performing the ṣalāt: standing, bowing, prostrating, sitting.

ṣadaqa

 

charity, often used interchangeably with zakāt, but also with the sense of free-will offering rather than a required donation.

salaf

 

the “pious ancestors,” the first three generations of Muslims, who some modern Islamists (also known as Salafīs) hold up as embodying the ideal manifestation of Islam.

ṣalāt

 

the prescribed five prayers a day, one the “Five Pillars” required of all Muslims.

ṣawm

 

fasting performed in the month of Ramaḍān, one of the “Five Pillars” required of all Muslims (also called ṣiyām).

Shāfiʿiyya

 

followers of the school of law named after al-Shāfiʿī (d. 820).

shahāda

 

“witness to faith”; saying (in Arabic), “There is no god but God and Muḥammad is His messenger”; one of the “Five Pillars” required of all Muslims, indicating conversion to Islam but also a part of the ritual prayer (ṣalāt).

sharīʿa

 

the religious law derived from the four sources of law in Sunnī Islam (Qurʾān, sunna, qiyās, and ijmāʿ).

shaykh

 

literally, “an old man” and used as a term of respect for a religious teacher; used especially of a Ṣūfī master.

Shīʿa

 

the religio-political party championing the claims of ʿAlī ibn abī Ṭālib and his heirs to the rightful leadership of the community and to their status as Imāms; since the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Shīʿī position has been the official state religion of Iran and most of its followers live there. They comprise about 10 percent of the world population of Muslims.

shūrā

 

“consultation,” a concept to which Islamists frequently appeal when speaking of Islamic ways of structuring governments.

silsila

 

the Ṣūfī “chain” of authority which traces spiritual lineage.

Sīra

 

the biography of Muḥammad as found in written form.

Ṣūfī

 

an adherent to the mystical way of Islam, Sufism, taṣawwuf.

sunna

 

“custom”; the way Muḥammad acted which is then emulated by Muslims. The source material for the sunna is found in the ḥadīth reports. The sunna is one of the four sources of law for Sunnī Islam, along with Qurʾān, qiyās, and ijmāʿ.

Sunnīs

 

the majority form of Islam, those who follow the sunna (thus being called the ahl al-sunna), who do not recognize the authority of the Shīʿī Imāms.

sūra

 

a chapter of the Qurʾān.

tafsīr

 

interpretation of the Qurʾān, especially as found in written form. Such books generally follow the order of the Quranic text and pay attention to the meaning of each word or sentence.

taqiyya

 

doctrine in Shiʿism that allows “dissimulation,” that is, denying one’s Shīʿī allegiances and not performing outward manifestations of one’s faith in order to protect one’s life.

taqlīd

 

the reliance upon decisions made in the past in matters of religious law; the word is set in opposition to ijtihād, “personal effort,” and frequently has a negative sense in the modern context.

ṭarīqa

 

“the way” of Sufism; a Ṣūfī order or brotherhood.

taṣawwuf

 

Sufism, the mystical way in Islam.

ṭawāf

 

the ritual of the circumambulation of the Kaʿba during the pilgrimage.

tawakkul

 

“trust” in God, especially among the Ṣūfīs.

tawḥīd

 

doctrine holding to the proclamation of the unity of God.

ʿulamāʾ

 

the learned class, especially those learned in religious matters (singular: ʿālim).

Umayyads

 

the first dynasty of caliphs, ruling from 661 until the takeover of the ʿAbbāsids in 750.

umma

 

the community; the body of Muslims.

ʿumra

 

the “visitation” of the holy places in Mecca, the lesser pilgrimage; it can be performed at any time of the year but is also joined with the ḥajj.

Wahhābiyya

 

the followers of Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb (d. 1787); a revivalist-purificatory movement in Arabia which became (and continues to be) the official religious policy of Saudi Arabia, now often called the Salafiyya.

wilāya

 

position of ʿAlī as the “friend” (walī) of God.

wuḍūʾ

 

minor ablution required prior to some ritual performances.

zakāt

 

alms tax, one of the “Five Pillars” required of all Muslims.