In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
The explanations of some Arabic terms
Collected by Ummu Mariam.
Ahl-ul-Kitaab: Literally means the People of the Book. This is the Koranic term which is often translated as Jews and Christians, but should in fact be translated as Jews and Nazarenes. In al-Qur‘aan and as-Sunnah there occurs no mention of the terms Christianity [Messianism (Masiihiyyah)] or Christians [Messianists (Masiihiyyuun)], instead the terms Nazarene (Nasraaniyyah) and Nazarenes (Nasaaraa) are used. Thus, for the interpretation of the meaning of the Noble Qur‘aan and al-hadiith, we will use for the Arabic words Nasraaniyyah and Nasaaraa the terms Nazarene and Nazarenes respectively, but as for the usual text we will continue using the same term Christians for whomsoever deviated from the unity of God and claims to hold by the religion that follows Jesus Christ's teachings.
Al-hamdulillaah: 'All praises and thanks are to Allah'. This invocation is said by the Muslim upon any occasion of joy, acceptance of an occurrence good or bad, or as a response to an inquiry of 'How are you?' Its meaning is very broad and it denotes giving thanks to Allah as well as reaffirming that He Alone is to be praised for all that occurs.
'Alaihissalaam (AS): An invocation of security and sanctity that is said on behalf of the prophets and messengers of Allah and the angels when hearing their names mentioned.
Allah denotes the personal name of the Supreme Being. It is not subject to gender (like god and goddess) or plurality (gods). That is why one has to use the name Allah for the Supreme Being, since that it can't be used for anyone else in the whole universe.
The word Allah means "the Being Who comprises all the attributes of perfection", i.e. the Being Who is perfect in every way (in His knowledge, power etc.), and possesses the best and the noblest qualities imaginable in the highest degree. Allah is One and Unique. He has neither a wife, nor a son, nor a partner, nor an equal. He is the sole Creator and the Lord of the universe. Allah is the only One who has the right to be venerated and worshipped.
The word Allah is unique among the names of God in all the languages of mankind, in that it was never applied to any being other than God. Some names of God used by mankind, such as "Lord", "Generous", etc. have also been used for beings other than God. They have meanings which refer to some particular attribute of God, but Allah is the name which refers to the Being Himself as His personal name.
Allah was not "one of the gods" of the pre-Islamic Arabs, as some missionaries claim falsely, but was recognised by them as the Supreme God. There was no idol which they called "Allah". The pre-Islamic Arabs used the name Allah to refer to the Supreme Being, and never applied it to any of the other things they worshipped. Al-Qur‘aan quotes the idol-worshippers as presenting the argument that: "We worship them (i.e. the idols) only that they may bring us nearer to Allah." (Al-Qur‘aan 39:3 – interpretation of the meaning)
In this connection, we would like to indicate that the word God is not the correct English translation for the name Allah. The synonymous name for God (with capital letter) in Arabic is al-Ilaah ("al"-prefix being the definite article in Arabic language). In Arabic language the word ilaah simply means "the one who is worshipped" or what we generally imply by the word "god" in the English language.
Moreover, Allah and al-Ilaah are two different names from the names of Allah and not synonymous. Allah, the Exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): "And (all) the Most Beautiful Names belong to Allah, so call on Him by them, and leave the company of those who belie or deny (or utter impious speech against) His Names. They will be requited for what they used to do." (Al-Qur‘aan 7:180)
Abu Huraira (RAA) narrated that Allah's Messenger (SAAS) said: "Allah has ninety-nine Names, i.e. one hundred minus one, and whoever believes in their meanings and acts accordingly, will enter Paradise; and Allah is Witr (One) and loves 'the witr' (i.e. odd numbers)." (Al-Bukhari)
'Azza wa jall: This is an expression that Muslims use when the name of Allah is pronounced or written. The meaning of this expression is: "He is the Mighty and the Majestic."
Muslims use also other expressions when the name of Allah is written or pronounced. Some of which are: "jalla jalaaluh": He is the Exalted Majestic; "subhaanahu wa ta'aalaa": Allah is pure of having partners and He is exalted from having a son.
Al-barzakh is the period between a person's death and his resurrection on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever dies as a Muslim, obeying Allah (SWT), will be in a blessed state in the world of al-barzakh, and whoever dies as a kaafir, disobeying Allah (SWT), will be punished, and the punishments vary according to the sins committed. Allah, the Exalted, says about the folk of the Pharaoh (interpretation of the meaning): "The Fire, they are exposed to it, morning and afternoon. And on the Day when the Hour will be established (it will be said to the angels): 'Cause Pharaoh's people to enter the severest torment!'" (Al-Qur‘aan 40:46)
Bid'ah: Literally means "innovation". In Islam it refers to introducing new things into religion which have no basis in al-Qur‘aan or as-Sunnah, and in addition to this, to regard these new things as acts of worship.
The bida' (pl of bid'ah) of the people of innovations will be rejected. Allah's Messenger Muhammad (SAAS) said: "He who innovates something in this matter of ours that is not of it will have it rejected." (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Ahl-ul-bida' (the people of innovations) have been warned by Fire. Allah's Messenger Muhammad (SAAS) said: "Every innovation is a deviation, and every deviation is in the Fire." (At-Tirmidhi)
Moreover, repentance shall not be accepted from them. Allah's Messenger Muhammad (SAAS) said: "Verily Allah does not accept the repentance of saahib-ul-bid'ah (one who commits innovations), until he stops the bid'ah." (Sahiih – narrated by at-Tabaraani and al-Maqdisi in al-Mukhtaarah)
Ad-Dajjaal: The one-eyed beast popularly known as the Antichrist. It refers also to any great liar or deceiver.
Fatwaa: Legal opinion concerning Islamic Law (pl Fataawaa).
Fiqh: The meaning of the word fiqh is understanding, comprehension, knowledge and jurisprudence in Islam. According to Islamic law, actions can be categorized according to their degree of lawfulness and unlawfulness. In fiqh, five such classes have been determined:
Al-fuqahaa‘: The scholars of jurisprudence (sing. faqiih). A faqiih is a jurist who is an expert in the matters of the Islamic Law. A faqiih passes verdicts within the rules of the Islamic Law namely sharee'ah.
Al-ghaib literally means a thing not seen. It includes everything that is hidden from the people and which is beyond human perception. Al-ghaib is exclusive to Allah's knowledge.
This word includes vast meanings: Belief in Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, Day of Resurrection and al-qadar (Divine Preordainment). It also includes what Allah and His Messenger (SAAS) informed about the knowledge of the matters of past, present, and future, e.g., news about the creation of the heavens and earth, botanical and zoological life, the news about nations of the past, and about Paradise and Hell. From the matters of al-ghaib are also those pertaining to the Hereafter, al-barzakh, contents of the womb, secrets of the hearts and matters relating to Allah. That is, as far as Allah is concerned, He is beyond human comprehension. Allah, the Exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): "No vision can grasp Him, but He grasps all vision. He is al-Lateef (the Most Subtle and Courteous), Well-Acquainted with all things." (Al-Qur‘aan 6:103)
Allah, the Exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): "And with Him are the keys of al-ghaib (all that is hidden), none knows them but He. And He knows whatever there is in the land and in the sea; not a leaf falls, but he knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry, but is written in a Clear Record." (Al-Qur‘aan 6:59)
Al-hadiith: The second type of revelation from Allah, the Almighty. As-Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAAS) is derived from al-hadiith. The terms al-hadiith and as-Sunnah are often used synonymously, though a hadiith is specifically a narration of a statement, action, tacit approvals of the Prophet Muhammad (SAAS) or description of his character and features, while Sunnah is specifically the ruling or principle derived from hadiith. When the term as-Sunnah is used in general it encompasses both definitions.
Hajj: Literally means pilgrimage. In Islam it refers to the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. It is the 5th pillar of Islam. It is a great sin for an able person not to perform Hajj. Allah, the Exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): "In it are manifest signs, (for example) the maqaam (place) of Abraham; whosoever enters it, he attains security. And Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) to the House (Ka'bah) is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses (for one's conveyance, provision and residence); and whoever disbelieves [i.e. denies Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), then he is a disbeliever of Allah], then Allah stands not in need of any of al-'aalamiin (mankind, jinn and all that exists)." (Al-Qur‘aan 3:97)
Halaal: That which is lawful or permissible in Islam.
Haraam: That which is unlawful or prohibited in Islam.
Al-hijrah: When spoken of Islamic events, we use Islamic calendar. Al-hijrah specifically refers to the migration of Prophet Muhammad (SAAS) from Mecca to Yathrib (Medina) and it is the date upon which the Islamic calendar begins. Al-hijrah is usually signified by A.H. In general al-hijrah means the act of migrating from the land of the disbelievers to the lands of Muslims for the sake of Islam.
Al-hizbiyyah: Fanatic loyalty to a group or ideology. In Islam it is forbidden to join any ideology or party other than the party of Allah (i.e. hizbullaah). It is important to note that this hizbullaah does not refer to the Shia group in Lebanon which was founded in 1982! Instead, "whosoever takes Allah, His Messenger (SAAS), and those who have believed, as Protectors, then the party of Allah will be the victorious." (Al-Qur‘aan 5:56 - interpretation of the meaning)
Allah, the Exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): "You will not find any people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, making friendship with those who oppose Allah and His Messenger [Muhammad (SAAS)], even though they were their fathers or their sons or their brothers or their kindred (people). For such He has written Faith in their hearts, and strengthened them with rooh (proofs, light and true guidance) from Himself. And He will admit them to Gardens (Paradise) under which rivers flow, to dwell therein (forever). Allah is pleased with them, and they with Him. They are the Party of Allah. Verily, it is the Party of Allah that will be the successful." (Al-Qur‘aan 58:22)
To follow or have loyalty to any group, party, organization or association in violation of the sharee'ah is a great sin.
Ilaah: Anything that is worshipped or given unconditional obedience, or is the control centre of emotions such as love, fear, hope, reliance and other actions of the heart. In other words, there can be many deities, both abstract and concrete. Examples of such deities include idols, trees, stones, talismans, money, power, one's wife, children or parents, and so on. Allah, the Exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): "Have you seen him who takes his own lust (vain desires) as his ilaah (god)? And Allah knowing (him as such), left him astray, and sealed his hearing and his heart, and put a cover on his sight. Who then will guide him after Allah? Will you not then remember?" (Al-Qur‘aan 45:23)
However, if the definite Arabic article "al" is added to the word Ilaah, it results in one of the names of Allah, the Almighty, which is al-Ilaah. Contrary to popular belief, the word Allah is not a contraction of al-Ilaah, but a distinct name.
In shaa‘ Allah: 'If Allah wills' should be said by every Muslim when promising to do any action as it is a recognition that Allah is in fact in control.
Jazaakallaahu khairan: 'May Allah reward you with good.' One says this as a supplication to Allah when showing thanks to another Muslim after he performs a righteous or good deed. One should respond 'Wa eyyaak' (And you too).
Jinn are creations, which Allah has created from fire, like human beings are created from dust, and angels from light.
Khaliifah: Linguistically, one who succeeds whoever precedes him. It refers to the overall leader or imam of the Muslims. Also commonly spelled Caliph, Kalif, or Khalif.
Al-Kholafaa‘-ur-Raashiduun: Literally the "Rightly Guided Caliphs" and often mistranslated as the "Orthodox Caliphs". This refers to the first four Caliphs in Islam, namely, Abu Bakr as-Seddiiq (RAA), 'Umar al-Faarooq (RAA), 'Uthman ibn 'Affaan (RAA) and 'Ali ibn Abi Taalib (RAA) who all succeeded Allah's Messenger Muhammad (SAAS) in leading the Muslims after his death. Their periods of rule are considered the best period of government of the Islamic state based upon al-Qur‘aan and as-Sunnah. The Prophet (SAAS) referred to their rule in a statement urging the ummah (Islamic nation) to follow them and hold tightly to their Sunnah with "the molar teeth".
Koran or al-Qur‘aan is the word of the Lord of the Worlds, which the Creator revealed to His Messenger Muhammad (SAAS), to bring mankind forth from darkness into light. Allah, the Exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): "It is He Who sends down manifest aayaat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) to His slave [Muhammad (SAAS)] that He may bring you out from darkness into light. And verily, Allah is to you full of kindness, Most Merciful." (Al-Qur‘aan 57:9)
Allah (SWT) has told us in al-Qur‘aan the stories of the earlier and later generations and the creation of the heavens and the earth. He has explained what is lawful and what is unlawful, the basics of good manners and morals, the rulings of worship and dealings with others, the lives of the Prophets and the righteous, and the reward of the believers and the punishment of the disbelievers. He has described Paradise, the abode of the believers, and He has described Hell, the abode of the disbelievers. He has made al-Qur‘aan an explanation of all things. Allah, the Exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): "And (remember) the Day when We shall raise up from every nation a witness against them from amongst themselves. And We shall bring you [O Muhammad (SAAS)] as a witness against these. And We have sent down to you the Book (al-Qur‘aan) as an exposition of everything, a guidance, a mercy, and glad tidings for those who have submitted themselves (to Allah as Muslims)." (Al-Qur‘aan 16:89)
It should be taken in consideration that every translation of al-Qur‘aan, whether it is in English or in any other language, is not al-Qur‘aan or a version of al-Qur‘aan. It is rather a translation of the meaning of al-Qur‘aan. Al-Qur‘aan exists only in Arabic, the very language that it was revealed with originally. Allah, the Exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): "And truly, this (al-Qur‘aan) is a revelation from the Lord of al-'aalamiin (mankind, jinn and all that exists), which the trustworthy Rooh (Gabriel) has brought down; upon your heart [O Muhammad (SAAS)] that you may be (one) of the warners, in the plain Arabic language." (Al-Qur‘aan 26:192-195)
The same applies also to the ahaadiith [sing. hadiith (tradition)] of the Prophet (SAAS). So when we use the terms "Allah, the Exalted, says…" or "The Prophet (SAAS) said…" we do not mean the specific sayings, but rather their meaning.
Madhhab represents the entire school of thought of a particular mujtahid imam (e.g. Abu Hanifah, Malik, ash-Shafi'i or Ahmad ibn Hanbal) together with many first-rank scholars who came after the imam, and who checked his evidences as well as refined and upgraded his work. Al-madhaahib (pl of al-madhhab) are named after the imams, and the four well-known madhaahib are al-Hanafi, al-Maaliki, ash-Shaafi'i and al-Hanbali.
Mahram: A man, whom a woman cannot marry because of close relationship, such as a brother, a father and an uncle.
Mushrik: A polytheist, an idolater, a disbeliever in the Oneness of Allah.
Mutawaatir: Consecutive. This refers to a hadiith whose narrators in each level of its chain of transmission are so numerous that it is not possible for all of them to have conspired in falsehood - whether intentionally or mistakenly.
Muwahhid: A person who has fulfilled the requirements of tauhiid, i.e. a person who submitted to his Creator by recognizing His unity, obeying Him, and avoiding polytheism and its people. Such person is also called a Muslim.
Qiblah: The direction towards which all Muslims face in prayers and that direction is towards al-Ka'bah in Mecca (Saudi Arabia).
Ar-Rabb: There is no proper equivalent for ar-Rabb in English language. It means the One and the Only Lord for the entire universe, its Creator, Owner, Organizer, Provider, Master, Planner, Sustainer, Cherisher and Giver of security. Ar-Rabb is also one of the Names of Allah (SWT). The word "Lord" is used as nearest to ar-Rabb. All occurrences of "Lord" actually mean ar-Rabb and should be understood as such.
Radiallaahu 'anhu (RAA): 'May Allah be pleased with him.' Usually said in reference to the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (SAAS) upon hearing their names mentioned in recognition of the favour that Allah has bestowed upon them as the forbearers of the Islamic message.
Rahimahullaah: 'May Allah have mercy upon him.' This is said when remembering a deceased Muslim. It can also be said to a living Muslim, but usually it is said when remembering a deceased Muslim.
Roohullaah may be understood as the spirit of Allah, in fact, it is a soul created by Allah, for Allah is its Creator and Sovereign, He takes it (in death) whenever He wills and He sends it whenever He wills.
According to the early religious scholars from among the Companions of Allah's Messenger Muhammad (SAAS), their students and those who follow their guidance, there is a rule to distinguish between the two nouns in the genitive construction:
As-sahaabah (sing. sahaabi): Companions of Allah's Messenger Muhammad (SAAS). Specifically anyone who saw Allah's Messenger Muhammad (SAAS) during his lifetime, believed in him (SAAS) and died upon faith as a Muslim.
As-Salaf-us-Saalih: The Righteous Predecessors. It refers specifically to the first three generations of Islam. The first is the Prophet (SAAS) and his sahaabah [companions (RAA)]; the second, at-taabi'uun (the followers of the companions); and the third, the followers of the followers of the companions. Generally, this term refers to anyone who follows the way of as-Salaf (a shortened version of the word as-Salaf-us-Saalih) and their methodology.
Imam al-Awza'i (d. 157A.H.) rahimahullaah said: "Adhere to the narrations of the Salaf, even if the people were to abandon you. And beware of the opinions of people, no matter how much they beautify it with speech."
Salafi: The person who ascribes and adheres to the way of as-Salaf-us-Saalih or to as-Salafiyyah.
As-Salafiyyah is the way of following the Salaf, in creed/belief, speech and actions, regardless of time or location. It is to understand and implement the religion as was understood and implemented by the salaf. Following it exactly to the best of ones ability, and to beware and refrain from that which opposes it.
lbn Taymiyah (d. 728 A.H.) rahimahullaah said: "There is no criticism for the one who proclaims the way (madhhab) of the Salaf, who attaches himself to it and refers to it. Rather, it is obligatory to accept that from him by unanimous agreement (ittifaaq) because the way (madhhab) of the Salaf is nothing but the truth (haqq)." (Majmuu' al-Fataawaa 4/149)
Sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam (SAAS): This is an invocation of blessing that should be said upon mentioning or hearing the name of the Prophet Muhammad. It is in fact a supplication to Allah that He exalt the mention of Muhammad to the nearest angels (to Him) and that the angels in turn praise Muhammad before Allah. This is a form of praise and blessing to Muhammad and a request that he suffers no harm and is given a sanctified station in the Hereafter. It also makes the one who mentions it worthy of praise and reward.
Shirk: Basically it means polytheism, i.e. associating others beside Allah in any aspect of tauhiid in whatever manner. It is the gravest sin which will not be forgiven if the person dies upon it.
Subhaanahu wa ta'aalaa (SWT): This is an expression that Muslims use whenever the name of Allah is pronounced or written. The first part signifies recognition that Allah is free of any defects or shortcomings and is to be glorified and praised. The second word is actually a verb that signifies that Allah is high above His creation in every aspect.
Sunnah: Literally means way, manner or method. As-Sunnah refers to the whole of Islam in certain contexts. The term sunnah is also used in fiqh terminology when referring to a specific action that is not obligatory for which the one who performs it gets a reward but if not incurs no sin, synonymous with manduub and mustahabb. It may also be used in the context of being opposed to bid'ah (religious innovation or heresy). A widespread and common mistake on the part of many is the misapplication of the term as-Sunnah, i.e. its general meaning is mixed with its specific meaning in al-fiqh (meaning mustahabb). For this reason, one often hears from the tongues of some Muslims "I do not do it because it is only sunnah" when in fact the matter which they have neglected may actually be a fard or waajib (an obligatory act for which the one who performs it gets a reward but if not incurs sin) in the fiqh sense. For example, a man may not let his beard grow with the understanding that such action was merely the personal habit of the Prophet (SAAS) which one may or may not follow, without realizing that the Prophet (SAAS) in fact ordered Muslims to do so (to let the beard grow and to trim the moustache), and any order of the Prophet (SAAS) becomes an obligatory duty upon the believers. Allah, the Exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): "…And whatsoever the Messenger [Muhammad (SAAS)] gives you, take it; and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it). And fear Allah; verily, Allah is Severe in punishment." (Al-Qur‘aan 59:7)
Thus, in our articles when the term as-Sunnah is used in its general meaning, it is written with the capital letter (as-Sunnah), while when it is used in fiqh usage of the term (manduub or mustahabb), it is written with the small letter (sunnah).
Sutrah: An object like a pillar, wall or stick, a spear etc., the height of which should not be less than a foot (about 30 cm) and it should be in front of a person offering prayer to act as a symbolical barrier between him and the others. Allah's Messenger Muhammad (SAAS) used to say: "Do not pray except towards a sutrah, and do not let anyone pass in front of you, but if someone continues (to try to pass) then fight him, for he has a companion (i.e. a satan) with him." (Ibn Khuzaimah in his Sahiih (1/93/1) with a sound isnaad.) However, in congregational prayer, the sutrah of the imam is sufficient for those who follow him.
Ta'aalaa: This is actually a verb that signifies that Allah is high above His creation in every aspect.
Tabaaraka wa ta'aalaa (TWT): Similar to subhaanahu wa ta'aalaa, however, tabaaraka signifies the blessedness and purity of Allah.
Tamthiil: To believe that the Attributes of Allah are like the attributes of a creature. And it is absolutely forbidden to draw parallels to Allah.
Tashbiih: Making similarities or likening Allah, the Creator, to His creation in anything that pertains to His Essence, His Actions, and His Names and Attributes. Likewise it is forbidden to do this in Islam.
Tauhiid (belief in the Oneness of Allah) is in fact the message of all prophets including Noah (AS), Abraham (AS), Moses (AS), Jesus (AS) and Muhammad (SAAS). It means to believe that Allah is the one and only God who deserves to be worshipped. Tauhiid consists of three aspects:
Ustaadh: Professor, teacher, lecturer, reader, master or Mr.
Az-zakaah: The 3rd pillar of Islam. It is an obligatory charity due on wealth. The literal and simple meaning of az-zakaah is purity, while its technical meaning designates the annual amount in kind or cash that a Muslim with means [who possesses the minimum amount of wealth (an-nisaab) according to Islamic Law] must distribute among the rightful beneficiaries according to al-Qur‘aan and as-Sunnah from his yearly net saving. It is basically 2.5% of the money one has saved for a one year period. There are specifics with regards to different types of wealth and the specific amount owed must be calculated accordingly.
Eventually, the transliteration of Arabic words is as close as possible to their pronunciation.