Basic Vocabulary about Muslims and their Faith

Listed here are some general terms that are commonly used or referred to by Muslims. Some of them will be elaborated in more detail in the other curriculums.

  • Abrahamic religion: The three religions–Judaism, Christianity and Islam–which are all believed to originate from God and were conveyed through all the messengers from the time of Adam to the prophet Muhammad, including the prophet Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic).
  • Adhan: The call to prayer which is said in Arabic at the start of the prayer time interval.
  • Allah: The Arabic term for “God.”
  • As-salaam alaikum: A common greeting used by Muslims around the world which means “peace be upon you” in Arabic. The response is wa-alaikum as-salaam, “may peace be upon you too.”
  • Ayah (pl. Ayat): A verse in the Qur’an. Each surah or chapter varies in the number of ayat or verses that it has. The shortest chapter has 3 ayat and the longest has 286. There are over 6,000 ayat or verses in the Qur’an.
  • Eid ul Fitr: Celebration at the end of the month of Ramadan to commemorate the conclusion of the month of fasting. It begins with a special congregational prayer and sermon. Children receive new clothes and gifts, and many communities hold celebrations with carnivals and other fun activities for kids.
  • Eid ul-Adha: Celebration at the end of Hajj to commemorate the lives and examples of the prophets Abraham and Ishmael and those who have performed the ritual that year. It begins with a special congregational prayer and sermon. Many communities also hold celebrations with carnivals and other fun activities for kids.
  • Five pillars of Islam: 5 central practices of Muslims to help establish a spiritual relationship with God. They are: shahada or profession of faith; salat or five daily prayers; zakat, or mandatory donation; sawm or fasting in Ramadan; and hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime if one is able.
  • Hadith: Sayings or actions of the Prophet Muhammad that were recorded by his companions and later collected and preserved for later generations. They help to elaborate on certain teachings, beliefs, and verses in the Qur’an.
  • Hijab: Headscarf worn by Muslim women for modesty.
  • Ihsan: Arabic term which means moral excellence, both in one’s relationship with God and in one’s everyday actions.
  • Imam: The leader of congregational prayer, or a religious leader.
  • Islam: The proper name of the religion which, like the word Muslim, comes from the root s-l-m, which means “peace.” Islam is commonly translated as “peace through following God’s Guidance.”
  • Ka’bah: Building in Mecca that is believed to be the first house of worship to God, which Muslims believe was built by the Prophet Abraham and his son Prophet Ishmael. Muslims face the Ka’bah when they pray. The building is cubical in shape and usually covered with a black cloth for protection.
  • Masjid: The Arabic word for “mosque,” the house of worship where Muslims gather for communal prayers. Masjid literally means “place of prostration.” Masjids in the U.S. generally also serve as community centers to serve a variety of needs of the community.
  • Monotheism: The belief in one God.
  • Muhammad: The final prophet to whom Muslims believe God revealed the Qur’an.
  • Muslim: A person who follows the religion of Islam. It sounds similar to the word Islam. This is because both of the words come from the same root s-l-m which means peace. A Muslim is someone who practices Islam.
  • Prophet: A person Muslims believe was chosen by God to teach two core messages: 1) God alone should be worshiped; and 2) people should strive to live ethically by treating others as they wish to be treated (The Golden Rule.) Adam is considered to be the first prophet and Muhammad is the last, with many others in between, 25 of whom are mentioned by name in the Qur’an, including well-known biblical figures such as Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, David and Jesus.
  • Qur’an: The Holy Book of Islam, which is believed to be the words of God that were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The word Qur’an literally means “the recitation.”
  • Sunnah: The example or practice of the Prophet Muhammad. Much of what is known about the Sunnah is from the collection of sayings or reports known as hadith, or prophetic traditions.
  • Surah: A chapter of the Qur’an. There are 114 surahs in the Qur’an.