The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






List of Islamic terms in Arabic

It is sometimes difficult to separate concepts in Islam from concepts specific to Arab culture, from the language itself. The Qur'an is expressed in Arabic and traditionally Muslims deemed it untranslatable, though this view has changed somewhat in recent decades. Concepts that derive from both Islam and Arab tradition, which are expressed as words in the Arabic language, and are sufficiently specific to these to require their own articles here, are:



  • barakat - a blessing. Also, spiritual wisdom and blessing transmitted from master to pupil
  • basher - literally means 'face' but generally it refers to a person (man/woman)


  • caliph - literally successor; refers to the successor of the prophet Muhammad, the ruler of the Islamic world


  • dajjal - the Islamic counterpart to the Antichrist; means "liar"
  • da'wa - the call to Islam
  • dervish - a Sufi ascetic
  • dhimmi - Jews and Christians (and sometimes others,), whose right to practice their religion is tolerated within an Islamic society, but with lower legal status. Dhimis are freed from conscription and have pay less tax than muslim. If they choose to join the army, they are totaly freed from the obligation of paying taxes for the rest of their life.



  • fana - sufi term meaning extinction - to die to this life while alive. Having no existence outside of God. A unity with Allah.
  • fard - obligatory, you have to do it. praying 5 times a day is fard
  • fatwa (فتاوى) - legal opinion of an (alim) binding on him and on those who follow his taqlid.
  • fiqh - jurisprudence built around the shariah by custom (al-urf).
  • fitna - trial or tribulation; originally applied to the initial schism between Sunnis and Shi'as, now may refer to a period of disorder before the end of the world or any civil strife.


  • hadith - recorded saying or tradition of the prophet Muhammad validated by isnah; with sira these comprise the sunnah and reveal shariah
  • halal - lawful, permitted, good, beneficial, praiseworthy, honourable
  • hafiz - someone who knows the Qur'an by heart. Literal translation = memorizer or Protector.
  • haj or hajj - pilgrimage to Mecca. Sunnis regard this as the fifth Pillar of Islam
  • hanif - the 5 monotheist prophets, namely Prophet Adam, Prophet Abraham/Ibrahim, Prophet Moses/Musa, Prophet Jesus/Isa and Prophet Muhammad.
  • haram - (with a long a) forbidden. Antonym halal. (with a short a) sanctuary.
  • hijab - describes the self-covering of a woman's body for the purposes of modesty and dignity. A woman must conceal her hair and body from the sight of all men except her husband and immediate relatives. However, hijab is more than the thickness of the cloth that covers the body; hijab should be a system of behaviour of modesty and dignity.
  • hijra - literally migration, Muhammad's and his followers' emigration from Mecca to Medina
  • hima - wilderness reserve , protected forest, grazing commons, important to khalifa
  • hizb - one half of a juz'
  • hudna - cease fire (often temporary)
  • hudud - Literally, limits or boundaries. Usually refers to limits placed by God on man; penalties of the Islamic law which are described in the Qur'an


  • ibadah - worship, but not limited to ritual: all expressions of servitude to Allah from pursuit of knowledge living a pious life, helping, charity, humility
  • ihram - state of consecration for haj. Includes dress and or prayer.
  • ijma - the consensus of either the ummah (or just the ulema) - one of four bases of Islamic Law. More generally, political consensus itself.
  • ijtihad - during the early times of Islam the possibility to find a new solution to a juridical problem. Has not been allowed in conservative Islam since the Middle Ages.
  • ilm - all varieties of knowledge, usually a synonym for science
  • imam - literally leader, e.g. a man who leads a community or leads the prayer; the Shi'a sect use the term only as a title for one of the twelve God-appointed successors of Prophet Muhammad.
  • imamah /imamate - Successorship of Prophet Muhammad and the leadership of mankind. Shi'as regard this as the fourth Pillar of Islam.
  • iman - personal faith
  • Infidel - An unbeliever with respect to a particular religion, especially Christianity or Islam.
  • insha'Allah - God Willing.
  • Intifada - An uprising among Palestinian Arabs of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, beginning in late 1987 and continuing sporadically into the early 1990s, in protest against continued Israeli occupation of these territories.
  • Islam - "submission to God".
  • isnad - chain of transmitters of any given hadith
  • isnah - process of validating the hadith; citation methodology
  • isra - the night journey during which Muhammad is said to have visited Heaven. See miraj.
  • istislah - public interest - a source of Islamic Law.
  • istish-haad - heroic martyrdom.


  • jahiliya - the time of ignorance before Islam was realized. Describes polytheistic religions.
  • jamia - "gathering", at university, at a mosque for jumuah prayer, etc.
  • jilbab - long outergarment
  • jihad - struggle. Any earnest striving in the way of Allah, involving personal, physical, intellectual or military effort, for righteousness and against wrong-doing;
    • "Lesser Jihad": fighting to protect Islam from attack or oppression. In such fighting, no woman, child or innocent civilian is to be harmed, and no tree is to be cut down. Shi'as believe that only Prophet Muhammad and the twelve Imams had authority to declare positive jihad of the lesser kind.
    • "Greater Jihad": internal struggle for the soul (nafs ) against evil, e.g. to overcome the temptation to sleep when it is time to pray the morning prayer is a greater jihad.
  • jinn - An invisible being of fire
  • jumuah - Friday prayer
  • juz' - one of thirty parts of the Qur'an


  • kafir - "one who refuses to submit to the one true God". Kafirs include polytheists and atheists.
  • kalam - Islamic theology
  • khalifa - Man's trusteeship and stewardship of Earth; Most basic theory of the Caliphate; Flora and fauna as sacred trust; Accountability to God for harms to nature, failure to actively care and maintain. Three specific ways in which khalifa is manifested in Muslim practice are the creation of haram to protect water, hima to protect other species (including those useful to man), and by resisting infidel domination over Muslim lands, in jihad.
  • kufr - the manifestion of not believing in God, aspects of God's law, names and attributes.


  • la'nat - curse


  • madhab - school of religious jurisprudence, school of thought
  • madrasa - school, university
  • mahdi - "a guide". More specifically al-Mahdi (the guide) is a figure who will appear with Prophet Jesus before the end of time, when God allows it, to bring world peace, order and justice, after it has been overcome with injustice and aggression. The Shi'as regard the twelth Imam as the Mahdi. The Sunnis regard someone else as the Mahdi.
  • mahram - a relative of the opposite gender usually described as being "within the forbidden limits"; a better description is "within the protected limits". means relatives who one can appear before without observing hijab and who one cannot marry.
  • manzil - one of seven parts of the Qur'an
  • masha Allah - God has willed it.
  • masum - a person who does not commit sins, does not make mistakes, does not forget, etc. although he/she does have the choice to commit sins. The Shi'as regard Prophet Muhammad, his daughter (Fatimah) and the twelve Imams to be the fourteen Masumin.
  • me'ad - the Resurrection; God will resurrect all of humankind to be judged. Shi'as regard this as the fifth Pillar of Islam.
  • mecca - the holiest place in Islam
  • miraj - see isra
  • muhajabah - woman who wears hijab
  • mujahid - a fighter for Islam
  • munaqabah - woman who wears niqab
  • murshid - a Sufi teacher


  • nafs - soul, one self
  • nahw - Arabic grammar
  • niqab - veil covering the face
  • nass - a known, clear legal injunction
  • nubuwwah - prophethood. Shi'as regard this as the third Pillar of Islam.


  • purda - not an Arabic term; means "curtain" in Persian. Metaphorically refers to the practice of secluding women.



  • salah/salat - any one of the 5 daily obligatory prayers. Sunnis regard this as the second Pillar of Islam
  • salaam - Peace
  • sawm - fasting during the month of Ramadhan. Sunnis regard this as the third Pillar of Islam.
  • Sayyid - a descendent of any one of the Masumin (the fourteen infallibles)
  • sema
  • shahadah - The expression of faith: La ilaha illa Allah ("There is no god but God"). Sunnis regard this as the first Pillar of Islam
  • shaheed - "witness". More specifically refers to a person killed whilst striving in Islam, a martyr. Often used in modern times for deaths in a political cause (including victims of soldiers, deaths in battle, suicide bombers, etc.)
  • shaikh - a spiritual master
  • sharia/shariah - "the path to a watering hole"; the eternal ethical code and moral code based on Qur'an and sunnah; basis of fiqh
  • Sharif
  • Shi'a - a follower of Prophet Muhammad and his successors (the twelve Imams), the first being Ali. Shi'as constitute the second largest sect in Islam.
  • shirk - idolatry, the sin of believing in any divinity except Allah
  • shura - consultation. majlis ash-shura - advisory council
  • sira - life or biography of the Prophet Muhammad; his moral example - with hadith this comprises the sunnah
  • sufi - a Muslim mystic; Sufism (tasawwuf) is a fairly recent sect in Islam.
  • sunnah - "path" or "example"; sunnah annabi is what the Prophet has done or said or agreed to; He is considered as the best human moral example by Muslims, the best man to follow;
  • sunni - the largest sect in Islam, having no single central authority
  • sura - chapter; the Qur'an is comprised of 114 suras


  • tafsir - exegesis, particularly such commentary on the Qur'an
  • tajwid - special manner of reading the Qur'an. When you do it, you get more rewards for your reading.
  • taqlid - blind imitation of precedent, normally of a classical jurist of fiqh, contrast to ijtihad and ijma which imply status for the community and lay public.
  • taqiyya - the mostly Shi'a principle that one is allowed to hide one's true belief in certain circumstances.
  • tasawwuf or sufism
  • tarkib
  • tariqa - a Muslim religious order, particularly a Sufi order
  • tartil - slow and measured (meditative) recitation of the Qur'an
  • tawheed - monotheism; affirmation of the Oneness of God. Shi'as regard this as the first Pillar of Islam. The opposite of Tawheed is shirk


  • ulema or ulama - the leaders of Islamic society, including teachers, Imams and judges
  • ummah or umma - the global community of all Muslim believers; international personhood of Islam
  • urf - custom of a given society, leading to change in the fiqh


  • wahdat al-wujud - "unity of being". Philosophical term used by some Sufis. Related to fana
  • warraq - traditional scribe, publisher, printer, notary and book copier


  • zakat - tax, alms, tithe as a Muslim duty; Sunnis regard this as the fourth Pillar of Islam. Neither charity nor derived from Islamic economics, but a religious duty and social obligation.
  • zina - sexual activity outside marriage (covering the English words adultery and fornication)

NOTE: Wikipedia is not a general Arabic-to-English dictionary. The list above includes only those concepts sufficiently specific to Islam or Muslim culture to merit their own full articles. The prime purposes of this list are to disambiguate multiple spellings, make note of spellings no longer in use for these concepts, define the concept in one line to make it easy to pin down the one you're looking for, and provide a guide to unique concepts of Islam all in one place.

There is an English/Arabic dictionary on wiktionary.

Other notes

The English word algorithm is derived from the name of the inventor of algebra - an Arabic word like alchemy, alcohol, azimuth, nadir, zenith and oasis, which mean the same as in English.

Arabic numerals are what we use in English ("0", "1", "2",...). The modern Arabs in Arabia generally use the Hindi numerals.

Some English words or phrases would translate very poorly into Arabic for cultural reasons, for instance the English word "crusade" would most likely be interpreted as meaning "genocide", and "infinite justice " would most likely be interpreted as meaning "divine judgement " - adl in Arabic implying Allah's justice. Probably it is best to avoid such terms for anything one intends to translate into Arabic, or knows will be translated.

Some Islamic concepts are usually referred to in Persian or Turkic. Those are typically of later origin that the concepts listed here - for completeness it may be best to list Persian terms and those unique to Shi'a on their own page, likewise Turkic terms and those unique to the Ottoman period on their own page, as these are culturally very distinct.


See also

Last updated: 08-14-2005 06:50:04
Last updated: 09-03-2005 18:37:12