Updated March 2010
Spelling and pronunciation - English spellings are only an approximation to the Arabic sound, which is why we commonly see at least three spellings of Al-Qaeda, for example. Arabic vowels are also pronounced differently from those in English. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat." But 'a' may be an approximation for another, shorter, letter. 'H " ('Hirbeh, '
, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation. The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G" designates a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." "o" is very short. The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r." It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. The expression 'Al' means 'The' and expressions beginning 'Al-' are listed according to the following word.
A.H. - (Arabic) After the Hijrah, AD 622. It is the reference used in the Islamic calendar, instead of A.D. which is used in the Christian calendar.
Abd - (Arabic) 'Servant of' as in Abdullah (Abd-Allah), name of Mohammed's father.
Adhan - (Arabic) The call for the daily prayers.. The person who calls the Adhan is called a Mu'adhin (or Muezzin). The Adhan is composed of specific words and phrases to be recited loudly in the Arabic language so that the neighbours can recognize the time schedule for the prayers.
Ahmad - (Arabic) 'Highly praised'
Ahmadiya (Ahmadiyya)- Follower of Ghulam Ahmad, self-proclaimed 19th-century 'reformer of the age' who taught the eschatological triumph of Islam.
Ahzab - (Arabic) "Parties;" the different tribes that fought the Muslims in the
of the Ditch in 627.
Aisha or Ayesha - Mohammed's third and favourite wife. It is written in the Hadith and is thus beyond dispute that at the age of 53 Mohammed married Aisha when she was 6 or 7, and consummated the marriage when she was 8 or 9. Muslim scholars contend that girls in hot climates reach maturity earlier and we should not judge Mohammed's time by the standards of our own. Aisha was 18 when Mohammed died. The Hadith portray Aisha as a tyrant and a petulant, spoilt brat.
Alawi - (Arabic) A sect of Shi'ite Muslims in
Allah - (Arabic) God, although it is bit more complicated than that. Al is the definite article and Ilah means God. So Al-Ilah or Allah is literally 'The God' or 'The One God'. The pagan moon god followed by Mohammed's family, before he invented the anti-idolatry 'Islam' was also named 'Allah'. The original Allah's symbol was the crescent moon, the same symbol as that of Islam to this day, and his three demonic daughters, Al-Uzza, Al-Ilat and Manat, became the subject of the Satanic Verses. Muslims claim Allah has no gender, but actually Ilah is masculine, the feminine form being 'Ilat' - goddess.
Amir - means leader or commander.
Al Andalus - The Arabic name for
was the farthest extent of the Arabic Islamic empire, after the first Muslim expansion was stopped by their defeat by Charles Martel at the battle of
in 754. Al Andalus, and other former Muslim conquests are considered by radical Islamists to be Islamic lands lost to the infidels.
Ansar - (Arabic) means helpers. These were the people of
who responded to Mohammed's call to Islam and helped him take over the city.
Aqabah - a place just outside of
, in Mina where the first Muslims from
(Yathrib) pledged allegiance to the Prophet in the year 621 AD. A similar meeting took place the next year when more Muslims from Yathrib pledged their allegiance to the Prophet.
Arafat - a plain north of
. It is on this plain that Muslims believe humanity will be raised on the Day of Judgement for questioning and judgement. During the hajj on the ninth day of the month of Zhu-l-Hijjah, Muslim pilgrims gather on this plain for one day.
Arkan-al-Islam - (Arabic) The (five) Pillars of Islam. More of a Sunni than a Shi-ite concept. The five pillars are: Shahadah (acknowledgment of Allah), Salah (prayer), Zakah (paying of alms), Sawm or Siyam (fasting) and Hajj (pilgrimage). A sixth pillar, Jihad, is often added.
Al Aqsa - (Arabic) "The furthest". Refers to the Mosque in
Al ar-ra'y - (Arabic) "People of opinion;" learned people consulted on Islamic matters.
Ashaabul-Hadeeth - (Arabic) the People of the Hadeeth, in other words, the true followers of the Hadith scriptures.
Asee - (Arabic) somebody who rebels against Islamic laws. He is a violator or disobedient.
Asr - (Arabic) The obligatory prayer of late afternoon.
Ayah - (Arabic) a sign which leads or directs one to something important. Hence an individual verse in the Quran.
Barakah - (Arabic) means blessing or Divine Grace.
Bin - (or Ibn; Arabic) 'son of''. cf Hebrew 'Ben.'
Bint - (Arabic) 'daughter of'. English slang for 'young woman'.