A robelike garment worn by some women who are Muslims. It is often black and may be a caftan or fabric draped over the shoulders or head. It is sometimes worn with a hijab and/or a niqab. See burqa.
Category Archives: Islam
The practice of ritual washing in a religious rite to cleanse a person of sin or disease, to purify, or to signify humility or service to others. In Christianity, baptism and foot-washing are both forms of ablution. In liturgical churches, ablution can refer to purifying fingers or vessels related to the Eucharist. In Islam, ablution is ritual washing, known as wudu, before prayer. In Judaism, immersion in a mikvah is a form of ablution.
An eighth-century mosque in the old city of Jerusalem. Arabs sometimes use the term to designate the surrounding area; Jews refer to that area as the Temple Mount.
The international network of militant terrorists associated with Osama bin Laden and an extremist form of Islam. In Arabic, al-Qaida means “the base.”
Arabic word for God. Some Muslims say they generally say or write God instead of Allah when addressing a non-Muslim to avoid any suggestion that the two are not the same. However, always use Allah when quoting a person or text that uses Allah.
Pronounced “AH-luhu AHK-bar.” In Arabic it means “God is great” or “God is the greatest.” Muslims say it several times a day, such as during the call for prayer, during prayer, when they are happy and when they wish to express their approval of what they hear.
Spirit messengers, both good and evil, accepted in the traditions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and other religions. They appear in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Quran. Capitalize angel when it precedes a name, such as the Angel Gabriel.
Pronounced “eye-ya-TOE-la.” A Shiite term for senior clergyman. Capitalize when used as a title before a name, but lowercase otherwise.
Black Muslim is a term that became associated with the Nation of Islam but is now considered derogatory and should be avoided. The preferred term is simply member of the Nation of Islam. Also, because of that association, do not use Black Muslim to describe African-Americans who practice traditional Islam, whose tenets differ markedly from the Nation’s. Instead, say African-American Muslims. See Islam and Nation of Islam.
A form of covering for women who are Muslims, most frequently found in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is an all-enveloping outer garment with a net-covered opening for the eyes or face to allow the woman to see. See abaya, hijab and niqab.
Pronounced “KAY-luhf.” Successor or representative of the Prophet Muhammad, and the political leader of the Ummah, or Islamic community. A dispute over who should succeed Muhammad after his death prompted the Sunni-Shiite split that continues today. According to Sunnis, who make up the vast majority of Muslims, the first four caliphs were Abu Bakr As-Siddiq, Omar ibn Al-Khattab, Othman ibn ‘Affan and ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. These four are known collectively as the “Rightly Guided Caliphs.” Shiites believe that Muhammad’s relatives should have succeeded him. Another term for caliph is khalifah.
Pronounced “KAY-luhf-ate.” The lands of the Islamic state ruled by the caliph. In 1517, the Ottomans claimed the caliphate and held it until 1923, when the secular nation of Turkey was created. The terrorist Osama bin Laden spoke of restoring the caliphate.
The Washington-based advocacy group challenges stereotypes about Islam and Muslims and aims to provide an Islamic perspective on matters of public importance to Americans. Note the hyphen in the name and that it is the Council on, not of. CAIR is acceptable on second reference.
Pronounced “THIK-er.” The remembrance of God, especially by chanting the names of God to induce alternative states of consciousness. Also sometimes spelled zikr.
In religions such as Christianity and Islam, dogmas are considered core principles that must be adhered to by followers. In Roman Catholicism it is a truth proclaimed by the church as being divinely revealed. Dogma must be based in Scripture or tradition; to deny it is heresy.
Pronounced “DO-uh.” The Islamic term for individuals’ personal supplication to God. In Arabic it means calling.
Pronounced “EED-uhl-ad-ha.” Known as the Feast of Sacrifice, it concludes the annual observance of the pilgrimage to Mecca known as hajj. Muslims everywhere observe Eid al-Adha with community prayers and a feast, whether or not they are on hajj. Eid al-Adha shifts dates every year because Muslims use a lunar calendar that only includes about 354 days. Eid al-Adha commences with the sighting of the new moon. See hajj.
Pronounced “EED-uhl-FIT-uhr.” A joyous Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. It is observed with communal prayers, donations to charity and special meals. Fasting is forbidden on this day. Eid al-Fitr shifts dates every year because Muslims use a lunar calendar that only includes about 354 days. Eid al-Fitr commences with the sighting of the new moon. See Ramadan.
Lowercase. Generally refers to the time of tribulation preceding the Second Coming of Jesus, though it has parallels and roots in all three Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). Sometimes also called the “End of Days.”
The fundamental aspects of Islam that direct the private lives of Muslims in their dealings with God. All branches of Islam accept them. The First Pillar is the Shahada, or profession of faith, that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet. The Second Pillar is salat, or the five daily or canonical prayers for remaining constant in the faith. They are performed at prescribed times with a prescribed ritual. The Third Pillar is zakat, charity for the poor. The Fourth Pillar is fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. The Fifth Pillar is hajj, or the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. Every Muslim who is physically and financially able is required to make the journey once.
Variations on this precept, which can be succinctly stated as “Treat others as you wish to be treated,” are found in the texts of every major religion, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
The most supreme religious leader. One can be a grand mufti of a city, region or country. It is a title used mostly by Sunnis. Capitalize when used before a name.
Pronounced “ha-DEETH.” A report or reports about a saying, action or tradition of Muhammad and his closest companions. Can be used as both a singular and a plural noun. Hadith are viewed by Muslims as explanations of the Quran and are second only to Islam’s holy book in terms of guidance and as a source of Shariah (Islamic law). The two most reliable collections are by Bukhari and his student Muslim, both ninth-century Islamic scholars.
Pronounced “hahj.” In Islam, a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad. It is the fifth of the Five Pillars of Islam. Every Muslim who is physically capable and financially able is expected to make the hajj at least once. Hajj takes place during the 12th month of the Islamic year, and specific rites take place during a five-day period. Because Muslims follow a lunar calendar, the dates move each year. The festival of Eid al-Adha occurs at the end of hajj. A hajji is a person who has undertaken the pilgrimage. See Eid al-Adha.
Pronounced “ha-LAL.” In Arabic, something that is lawful and permitted in Islam. It is often used to refer to Islamic dietary laws, which prescribe ritual slaughtering of beef and poultry, among other things.
Pronounced “HAR-em.” In Arabic, a sanctuary or sacred territory in which all things are considered inviolable. Mecca and Medina both have this designation.
Generally used to describe the scarf many women who are Muslims use to cover their head, but it can also refer to the modest dress, in general, that women wear because of the Quran’s instruction on modesty. Shiites are more likely to wear hijabs than Sunni Muslims, but women decide whether to wear one based on the dictates of their mosque, community and conscience. See abaya, burqa, niqab.
Pronounced “HIJ-ra.” In Arabic, to flee in pursuit of sanctuary; the term refers to the flight of Prophet Muhammad in 622 from Mecca to Medina, and marks the start of the Islamic calendar. Also spelled hijira.
Pronounced “IJ-tee-haad.” The process of reasoning and interpreting the Quran, hadith and other sacred texts to uncover God’s rulings. Religious scholars effectively terminated the practice five centuries ago, but a need seen by some Muslims to reinterpret the faith for modern times has revived the practice. It is disputed whether ijtihad is reserved for scholars, or open to all Muslims with a basic degree of religious knowledge.
Pronounced “ee-MAHM.” In everyday use, any person who leads a congregational prayer. Traditionally, only men have been imams, although women are allowed to serve as imams for other women. To lead prayers, one does not have to be a cleric. In a more formal sense, an imam is a religious leader, but can also be a political leader. Many Shiites believe imams are intercessors with God; many also believe in the Twelve Imams, descendants of Prophet Muhammad whom they consider his rightful successors. The Twelfth Imam disappeared from the world in 873, but followers of Twelve Imams Shiism believe that he is still alive and will return as the Mahdi, or “the guided one,” who will restore righteousness before the end of the world. On first reference, uppercase imam when preceding a proper name. On second reference, use only the person’s last name. Uppercase imam when referencing the Twelve Imams.
This Islamic term for shaking, uprising and insurrection generally is used to refer to the Palestinian resistance of the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Specific events mark the beginnings of different intifadas.
Religion founded in seventh-century Mecca by the Prophet Muhammad, who said Allah (God), through the Angel Gabriel, revealed the Quran to him between 610 and 632, the year of his death. Followers of Islam are called Muslims. They worship in a mosque, and their weekly holy day is Friday. Islam is the second-largest religion in the world, after Christianity.
After Muhammad’s death, Islam split into two distinct branches — Sunni and Shiite — in an argument over who would succeed him. Sunnis make up an estimated 85 percent of all Muslims. Shiites are the majority in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Bahrain, while Sunnis are the majority in other Islamic countries. In Sunni and Shiite Islam, there are various madhhabs, or schools of thought, and other theological traditions.
There is no central religious authority, so theological and legal interpretations can vary from region to region, country to country and even mosque to mosque.
Capitalize all Islamic titles when used before a name and lowercase otherwise. Use the title and name on first reference and only the person’s last name after that.
Shiites and Sunnis use a few of the same religious titles but differ on others. Shiites have a more-defined hierarchy than Sunnis. For example, Sunnis call people who lead congregational prayers imams, while Shiites almost exclusively reserve imam to refer to any of the 12 descendants of the Prophet Muhammad who Shiites believe were his rightful successors. Sheikh, on the other hand, is used in both communities, but can be used either as term of respect — to address older men, for example — or for a formally trained scholar. Among Sufi Muslims, sheikh holds a more exclusive status that is reserved for highly trained scholars and heads of Sufi orders.
Among Shiites, mullahs are lower-level clergy who generally have only rudimentary religious education. A hujjat al-Islam is more learned than a mullah but does not have the authority to issue legal rulings. Mujtahids and faqihs are jurists with the authority to issue rulings. A higher-level mujtahid is a marja, the most educated of whom are called ayatollahs.
In addition to imam and sheikh, Sunni titles include mufti and grand mufti, which indicate a higher status usually conferred by an institution. Grand muftis are usually the top religious scholar in a country.
Because the Quran is in Arabic, it is a common misconception that all Arabs are Muslim and all Muslims are Arab; neither is true.
Follow AP style, which defines the term as an “advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam” and gives this guidance: “Do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists.
“Where possible, be specific and use the name of militant affiliations: al-Qaida-linked, Hezbollah, Taliban, etc. Those who view the Quran as a political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from mainstream politicians to militants known as jihadi.”
An Arabic word that translates as “struggle” or “striving.” It is most commonly used to describe an inward, spiritual struggle for holiness, though traditionally it has also been used to describe defensive military action against non-Muslims. Today militant Muslims use it to call for aggressive armed strikes against non-Muslims, including civilians, and against other Muslims whom they consider impure – all acts condemned by mainstream Islam. Although many in the media translate jihad as “holy war,” it does not mean that literally, and the majority of Muslims do not use it that way.
Quran is the preferred spelling and is capitalized in all references. The spelling Koran should only be used if it is in a specific title or name. See Quran.
Islamic school of thought. There are four schools of thought that most Sunni Muslims follow: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali. There is generally great harmony between these schools, with differences lying in finer points of law rather than in fundamentals of faith. Ja’fari and Zaydi are the two main Shiite schools of thought.
Pronounced “MAAH-dee.” The “guided one” many Muslims believe will appear at the end of times to restore righteousness for a short period before the end of the world. Shiite Muslims believe the Mahdi is the Twelfth Imam, a descendant of Muhammad who disappeared in 873. Many Sunni Muslims also believe in the Mahdi, though not necessarily that he is the Twelfth Imam. However, some noted Sunni authorities have rejected belief in the Mahdi, saying it is not compatible with a religion that does not rely on intercession to achieve salvation.
The African-American civil rights activist who converted to Nation of Islam while in prison and changed his last name to X, symbolizing his lost tribal name. After becoming one of its most prominent spokesmen, he separated from the Nation in 1964 and was assassinated in 1965.
According to the New Testament, Mary was a virgin when she miraculously conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit. She then married Joseph. Catholic and Orthodox Christians believe that she remained a perpetual virgin and that biblical references to Jesus’ brothers and sisters mean either Joseph’s children by an earlier marriage or cousins. Most Protestants believe that Mary and Joseph had children. Mary was present at Jesus’ Crucifixion and was among the disciples gathered when the New Testament says they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. According to one tradition, she went to live with the Apostle John in Ephesus, Greece (in modern-day Turkey), after Jesus’ Crucifixion. Other traditions hold that she lived out her days near Jerusalem. Catholic, Orthodox and some Protestant Christians give her the title Mother of God. Catholic and Orthodox Christians believe that her prayers for them are especially powerful because she has such a close relationship to Jesus.
Catholics alone believe that Mary’s parents conceived her without transmitting original sin to her – a dogma known as the Immaculate Conception. The Immaculate Conception is often confused with the Virgin Birth, which refers to the birth of Jesus by the Virgin Mary. Catholics refer to her as the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Both Catholic and Orthodox Christians believe that she was drawn up bodily into heaven at the end of her life. The Orthodox call this the Dormition of the Theotokos (Theotokos [theh-oh-TOH-kohs] is the usual Orthodox term for Mother of God) and believe that it happened after she died. Catholics call it the Assumption and have never officially resolved whether she died.
Mary is also revered by Muslims, and there is a chapter in the Quran named after her. Veneration is the term that characterizes Catholic devotion to Mary and other saints; only God is worshipped. Marian veneration, along with the entire tradition of devotion to saints, was historically one of the principal divides between Catholics and most Protestants, although many Protestants are rethinking their traditional views of the mother of Jesus.
The birthplace of Muhammad, it is Islam’s holiest place. Located in western Saudi Arabia, Mecca is the focal point of Muslims’ prayers. Muslims pray toward Mecca five times each day.
Founder of the American Society of Muslims, the largest association of African-American Muslims in the United States, and The Mosque Cares. His father, Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole), was a leader of the Nation of Islam who was considered a prophet. After his father’s death in 1975, W. Deen Mohammed led the Nation of Islam toward mainstream Sunni Islam and then formed his own organization; Louis Farrakhan rebuilt the Nation of Islam closer to its previous tenets. Different spellings of both W. Deen Mohammed and Elijah Muhammad have been used over time, sometimes within the same organization, and W. Deen Mohammed changed his name from Muhammad to Mohammed at one point. See Nation of Islam.
A religion devoted to the worship of a single god. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are known as the world’s three great monotheistic religions.
A building in which Muslims gather for prayer and worship. The tower of a mosque, a minaret, is used to chant a call for prayer.
Islam’s most important prophet. Because Muslims believe Islam existed before Muhammad, they consider him to be the religion’s final prophet, not its founder. Non-Muslims refer to Muhammad as the founder of Islam. Capitalize the word prophet when used with Muhammad’s name – as in the Prophet Muhammad – but not when used alone. According to traditional biographers, Muhammad was born circa 570 in Mecca and died in 632 in Medina, both cities in what is now Saudi Arabia.
A leader of the Nation of Islam who is considered a prophet by members. After he died in 1975, his son, W. Deen Mohammed, led the Nation toward mainstream Sunni Islam. Louis Farrakhan then rebuilt the Nation according to Elijah Muhammad’s teachings.
The founder of the Nation of Islam. Members consider him the Mahdi, or savior, and believe that black people are superior to all others. Sometimes referred to as W.D. Fard. See Nation of Islam.
Do not hyphenate. Do hyphenate, however, when the term is used as a compound modifier, as in Muslim-American community.
A Muslim is a follower of Muhammad and the tenets and practices of Islam. The word Muslim is a noun; use the adjective Islamic when referring to the Islamic faith or the Islamic world. See Islam.
A religious and political organization formed in 1930 by Wallace Fard Muhammad with the stated aim of “resurrecting” the spiritual, mental, social and economic condition of black people in America and the world. Its tenets differ markedly from those of traditional Islam.
Elijah Muhammad took over the organization in 1934 and preached separation of blacks and whites, in addition to calling for a strong morality. After his death in 1975, Elijah Muhammad’s son, W. Deen Mohammed, assumed leadership. (Note the different spelling of the last name.) Mohammed began moving the Nation toward mainstream Sunni Islam and shunning black separatist views. He essentially dismantled the Nation and created his own organization.
In 1976, Louis Farrakhan left the Nation of Islam, but in 1978 he and his supporters decided to rebuild the original organization.
Followers should be referred to as members of the Nation of Islam. The term Black Muslim, once associated with the organization, is now considered derogatory and should be avoided.
Nation of Islam clergymen use the title minister, which should be capitalized on first reference before a name. On second reference, use only the person’s last name.
Generally, a person who does not acknowledge the God of Judaism, Christianity or Islam and who is a worshipper of a polytheistic religion. Many pagans follow an Earth-based or nature religion. The modern religious movement known as neo-paganism has adopted the name as a badge of faith. Note: Some pagans prefer to see the term capitalized. See neo-paganism.
Someone who speaks divine revelation, or a message they received directly from God. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all have certain figures they formally recognize as prophets. Some traditions, including the Mormons, some charismatic groups and some non-Christian faiths, believe their leaders receive ongoing divine revelation. In much of Christianity, all ordained clergy are considered to have a prophetic role because their job is to proclaim the word of God. Capitalize when used before the name Muhammad to refer to Islam’s final prophet, but otherwise do not capitalize as a title.
Pronounced “ku-RAHN.” The holy book of Islam, which Muslims believe is the direct word of God as dictated in Arabic to Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel during the month of Ramadan beginning in 610 to about 632. The Quran contains laws for society, as well as descriptions of heaven and hell and warnings on the end of the world. It also includes stories of figures found in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, but Muslims believe the Quran supersedes those holy writings. Quran is the preferred spelling and is capitalized in all references. The spelling Koran should only be used if it is in a specific title or name.
Pronounced “rah-mah-DAHN.” Islam’s holy month, during which Muslims fast from sunup to sundown. Ramadan commemorates the time during which the faithful believe Allah sent the Angel Gabriel to Muhammad in Mecca and gave him the teachings of the Quran. The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid al-Fitr. Because Islam follows a lunar calendar, Ramadan shifts each year as calculated by Western calendars. See Eid al-Fitr.
The prescribed prayer that Muslims offer five times a day to fulfill the second of the Five Pillars of their faith.
In the Hebrew Bible, Satan is depicted as an angel used by God to test man. In the New Testament, Satan is a fallen angel who is the ultimate evil and enemy of God and man. In Islam, Satan was the head jinn or genie until he angered God by refusing to accept man’s superiority. Uppercase in all references, but always lowercase devil.
The Islamic profession of faith that there is no god but God, and Muhammad is God’s prophet. The Shahada is the first of the Five Pillars of Islam.
Pronounced “sha-REE-ya.” The revealed and canonical laws of Islam. Some countries base their legal systems on Shariah; their legislators create laws and rules based on the Quran, hadith and other sources.
Most Islamic clergymen use the title sheikh like a Christian cleric uses the Rev.
Sheikh also is used as a secular title. Capitalize it when used before a name, but lowercase otherwise.
Shiism is the name of the smaller of the two major branches of Islam. It developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, when his followers split over who would lead Islam. The Shiism branch favored Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. Its followers are called Shiites. Use Shiite instead of Shi’ah unless in a quote or as part of a name. Uppercase in all uses.
A small, close-fitting headpiece worn in some religious traditions, particularly by men. Other names for it include yarmulke or kippa (worn by Jews), zucchetto (worn by Roman Catholic prelates) and kufi (worn by Muslims).
Pronounced “SOO-nee.” The largest denomination in Islam, followed by about 85 percent of Muslims. The plural form is Sunnis.
Pronounced “tau-HEED.” The concept that denotes the oneness and unity of God; it is the basis of Islam.
An austere form of Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia and Qatar that follows a strict, literal interpretation of the Quran. Most people in the West knew nothing of Wahhabism until after the 9/11 attacks, which were organized by the terrorist Osama bin Laden, a Wahhabi. Wahhabism has spread rapidly since the 1970s, when the oil-rich Saudi royal family began contributing money to it. It is considered an extremist form of Sunni Islam that strictly enforces rules and criticizes those who follow other traditions of Islam. Use Wahhabi for a follower of Wahhabism.
Pronounced “woo-DOO.” A ritual in Islam in which the hands, face, mouth and feet are cleaned with water, symbolic of spiritual cleansing. It is usually performed before a Muslim goes to prayer five times each day. See ablution.
One of the Five Pillars of Islam. All branches of Islam accept these fundamental aspects of the faith that direct the private lives of Muslims in their dealings with God. Zakat, the Third Pillar, is charity for the poor.
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