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Glossary of Key Terms in Islam

adhan  Muslim call to prayer.


Allah  Arabic word for God.


Allahu Akbar  Literally, "God is most great."


Eid al-Adha  Feast of the Sacrifice. Major Muslim holiday falling at the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj).


Eid al-Fitr  Feast of the Breaking of the Fast. Major Muslim holiday that concludes the month of Ramadan.


Five Pillars of Islam  The five acts required of all Muslims: profession of faith, prayer five times daily, the giving of alms (zakat), fasting during Ramadan, and hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) once in a lifetime.


hadith  Traditions said to be Muhammad's deeds and sayings, considered to be a source of scripture for Muslims.


hajj  Pilgrimage to Mecca, which Muslims are required to make a least once in a lifetime. One of the Five Pillars of Islam.


halal  Permitted. Meat that has been prepared in a ritually appropriate way.


haram  Forbidden.


hijab  Veil covering the hair and head of a Muslim woman.


Imam  Prayer leader who delivers Friday sermon for Sunni Muslims. Shii Muslims use Imam as a title for Muhammad's male descendants through Ali and Fatima. Shiis believe that Imams, although human, are divinely inspired, such that their writings and interpretations serve as additional sources of scripture.


Inshallah  An Arabic phrase meaning "God willing."


Kaaba  Muslim House of God, located in Mecca. This cube structure contains the Black Stone, which Muslims believe was given to Abraham by the angel Gabriel.


Khutba  Friday prayer sermon.


Mashallah  An Arabic phrase the means "God has willed" or "as God willing." It is used to express joy, praise, thankfulness, and appreciation.


masjid  Mosque, a place for prayer.




Mecca  Holiest city in Islam, located in Saudi Arabia, where Muslims travel on their pilgrimage (hajj). It is the birthplace of Muhammad and the location of the Kaaba.


Medina  The second holiest city is Islam, also located in Saudi Arabia. It is the city where Muhammad is buried.


mihrab  A niche in the wall of a mosque indicating the direction of Mecca, which congregants face when they pray.


mosque  Muslim house of worship.


Muhammad  Prophet of Islam who received God's revelation through the Quran. Muslims believe that he was the perfect human and seek to follow his example.


People of the Book  Religious group with a revealed scripture or divine revelation. Used by Muslims to refer to Christians and Jews.


Quran  Muslim scripture or holy book revealed to Muhammad.


Ramadan  Muslim month of fasting, which ends with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.


salam  "Peace."


salat  Prayer required by Muslims five times daily. One of the Five Pillars of Islam.


Surah  Chapter of the Quran.


ummah  The worldwide Muslim community.


zakat  Charitable giving consisting of 2.5 percent of a Muslim's entire wealth. One of the Five Pillars of Islam.


Well of Zamzam  This well is located within the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, east of the Kaaba. According to Islamic teachings, the well was miraculously revealed by God thousands of years ago when Abraham's infant son, Ishmael, was left with his mother Hagar in the desert, where he was thirsty and kept crying. Millions of pilgrims visit the well each year during hajj in order to drink its water. 




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