A.H.

An abbreviation used in the Islamic calendar to denote dates that occur "After Hijra." Hijra means "migration" in Arabic, and refers to the Prophet Muhammad's journey from Mecca to Medina in 622 C.E., in the 12th year of his mission, which represents the beginning of the Islamic calendar.

abolish

To put an end to, as, for instance, a government reversing a previous policy.

Abu Simbel

Two temples located close to the border between Sudan and Egypt. They were constructed in the 13th century B.C.E. during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II.

al-Qaeda

An Arabic term meaning "the base," al-Qaeda is an international radical Islamist network that uses terrorist methods to pursue its goals. Al-Qaeda was founded in the late 1980s by Osama bin Laden and Muhammad Atef.

Alawite

Meaning "of Ali" in Arabic, the Alawites are a sect of Shii Muslims who live in Syria. Alawites consider themselves Muslim, though they incorporate tenets that fall outside orthodox Islam. Foremost among these is a belief that Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, was an incarnation of the deity and that praying in the name of Ali is the only way to communicate with Allah. Many members of the ruling political party of Syria are Alawites, including President Bashar al-Assad. Alawites also live in parts of Turkey and Lebanon.

alternative fuels

Fuels that are used in place of petroleum-based fuels such as gasoline and diesel. The U.S. Department of Energy classifies the following fuels as "alternative fuels": biodiesel, electricity, ethanol, hydrogen, methanol, natural gas, propane, p-series, and solar energy.

Anatolia

The large peninsular region of Turkey, bordered by the Black Sea to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and constituting the westernmost point of Asia; also known as Asia Minor.

Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC)

Founded in 1909 following the discovery of a large oil field in Masjet Soleiman, in Iran, the company was originally called the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC). In 1913, the company was granted a license to search for, refine, produce, and export oil. It was renamed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) in 1935.

animist

One who believes in animism, a belief that creatures, objects, and natural phenomena are inhabited by spirits.

anti-Semitic

Discriminatory against a Jewish individual, the Jewish people as a group, Judaism as a religion, or a Jewish institution, such as a government.

aquifer

An underground layer of earth or rocks that produces water.

arable land

Land fit for cultivation.

armistice

A temporary cessation of fighting by mutual agreement between the hostile parties.

asceticism

The principles and practices of strict and austere self-discipline, both physical and spiritual, motivated by religious devotion. The doctrine holds that an ascetic lifestyle releases the soul from its bondage to the body, permitting union with the divine.

Ashkenazi (Ashkenazim)

A word that today refers to Jewish people whose origins lie in Eastern Europe and in the religious traditions of medieval German Judaism. Originally, the term referred to Jews who occupied the Askenaz region between Armenia and the upper Euphrates River, but its meaning subsequently expanded to include Jews in northwestern Europe and later in Northern and Eastern Europe, including Russia.

Asia Minor

The peninsula of western Asia bordered by the Black Sea to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and the Aegean Sea to the west; the Turkish region of Anatolia.

assimilation

The gradual process by which a minority group takes on the characteristics, including customs and attitudes, of the prevailing culture in which it lives.

Aswan High Dam

A large dam on the Nile River in southern Egypt completed in 1970 which provides irrigation and electricity to most of Egypt and forms one of the world's largest man-made reservoirs, Lake Nasser. The original Aswan Dam was built and completed by the British in 1902 about four miles downstream from where the Aswan High Dam is located today.

autocracy

A form of government in which a single person possesses unlimited political power; despotism.

autonomy

The right of a nation to govern itself; independence.

ayatollah

An Arabic word meaning "sign of God," it is used to refer to the Shii title used for top religious officials in Islam.