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Glossary

Beliefs and Daily Lives of Muslims

Islam Timeline

Allah (A-lah'): Arabic word for God, the same God worshipped by Christians and Jews.

Arab: A person whose ethnic or national background is from an Arab country. Approximately 15 percent of Muslims in the world are Arabs.

Arab countries: Those countries whose primary language is Arabic. There are 22 Arab nations: Algeria, Bahrain, the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Fatwa (Fa'-twa): A non-binding opinion or ruling based on religious knowledge made by an Islamic scholar, mostly on matters of day-to-day life.

Hadith (Ha-deeth'): The reported sayings and actions of the prophet Muhammad which serve as a model of behavior for Muslims.

Hijab (Hee-jab'): Literally, the word translates as "curtain" or "veil." It refers to the headscarf and non-revealing clothing worn by many Muslim women to maintain modesty. The style of headscarf and dress varies from country to country. Modest behavior is mandated for both women and men.

Imam(s): Leaders of prayer in a mosque. In Shia Islam, the descendents of the prophet Muhammad whom he chose to lead the community following his death.

Islam (Is-lam'): Literal translation is "submission to the will of God." It originates from the Arabic word, "salaam," which means peace.

Jihad (Jee-had'): Arabic word meaning "striving in the way of God." This striving can take a number of forms, the most common of which is the daily inner struggle to be a better person. Armed jihad is permitted in defense of Islam.

Lunar Calendar: A calendar that is based on the moon rather than the sun, so that each month begins with the sighting of the new moon. Muslims follow a lunar calendar. This means that each Muslim month begins 11 days earlier than the year before.

Mosque: Place of worship for Muslims. Many mosques are recognized by their tall minarets or towers; however, minarets are not a physical requirement of mosques. Typically, mosques have a prayer hall covered with carpets, and people take their shoes off at the door to maintain the cleanliness of the prayer area. In the U.S., mosques usually have additional areas including classrooms, a lecture hall, dining room and kitchen.

Muhammad: Muslims believe Muhammad was the last in the chain of divinely appointed prophets through whom God sent his message to humankind. Muhammad was born in the year 570 C.E., in the town of Mecca on the Arabian peninsula. Muslims believe that he was the recipient of God's last divine revelation, the Quran.

Muslim (Mus'lim -- the "u" in Muslim is like the "u" in "put"): One who follows the religion of Islam; literally, one who "submits to the will of God."

Quran (Kur-aan'): The holy scripture of Islam, believed to have been revealed to the prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years. It contains many of the same teachings, admonitions, and stories of earlier prophets found in Jewish and Christian scriptures.

Shahada (Sha-ha'-da): The declaration of faith in Islam that "There is no deity except God and Muhammad is the messenger of God." Anyone who believes and declares this is considered a Muslim.

Sharia (Sha-ree'-a): Islamic law, based on the Quran and the sayings and actions of the prophet Muhammad (hadith).

Shiite/Shia: One of the two major groups in Islam, comprising approximately 20 percent of Muslims worldwide. Shiites believe that Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad, was designated as Muhammad's successor.

Sufism: The inner, spiritual dimension of Islam that relates to purification of the heart and involves devotional practices to bring one closer to God.

Sunni: The majority group of Islam, comprising about 80 percent of Muslims worldwide. Sunnis believe that the prophet's best friend, Abu Bakr, was selected by consensus of the majority to succeed him.

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