Islamic terms 1


The Arabic word for "God", used in Islam and Christianity. The term "Allah" comes from the Arabic "Allah", that can be translated with "The God". Some also say that it would be derived from "al-ilah" in Arabic, where "al" stands for "the" and "ilah" stands for "deity", so that reads like "the -only- deity". In pre-Islamic times, in the polytheistic religion of Mecca, there was a god that was called Al-Lat, the moon god, which was probably considered as the highest god, but not an acting power, and therefore rarely focused on in rituals. While Islam rejects the other deities, Allah is described as the one eternal, omnipotent god. "Allah" is therefore not a proper name, and also Arabic Christians use "Allah" in their Arabic Bible.

In Islam there are 99 different names of God, but these are also not to be considered as proper names, the idea of actually naming God for Muslims, will be regarded as a way of reducing God into a human framework. The high number of names must be understood as an expression of the incapacity of man to grasp the total nature of God. Most common of the 99 names are ar-Rahman, the Merciful, and ar-Rahim, the Compassionate.

Ayah - Ayet

The Arabic meaning of Ayah is a miracle and a sign. The Qur'an is considered to be a miracle itself. Each verse or sentence is called an Ayah or a miracle. The plural of Ayah is called Ayat, which means miracles.


High-ranking and well respected Twelver Shi'ite religious scholar and legal expert.


Opening phrase of all suras in the Koran, meaning 'In the name of God; the Merciful; the Compassionate', except for sura 9 (the reason for this omission is that the beginning of this sura makes the bismillah superfluous).

The function of the bismillah is to state that the sura is issued in the name of God, and is not made by man. Learned Muslims will in most cases say that it is Muhammad who have added the bismillah to the revealed texts, with this purpose in mind.

As Allah, Rahman, and Rahim all can be name of gods, there were some few local speculations in early Islam whether the bismillah was referring to one, or to three gods. Some Meccans in the first years of Islam did see in this a polytheism. There have been very few attempts to interpret the bismillah into a trinity equal to the one of Christianity.

The short form bismillah is used as a part of daily language, normally as a way of underlining sincerity and honesty. The long form is Bismillahirrahmanirrahim.

Listen to Bismillah


Honorary title, Arabic, for military or political leaders in Islam. Emir is often used as the Arabic equivalent to "prince". Emir is one of a handful of designations on descendants of Muhammad. Emir is also used for tribal chiefs. Emirate was a tribe ruled by Emirs.


Opening sura of the Holy Koran, that doubles as creed of Islam and as a salutation that expresses strong feelings and important happenings in life, such as love, fidelity, births, marriages and burials. While the Koran is arranged so that long suras come early, and short suras late, the Fatiha is relatively short with its 7 ayas. Nor is the Fatiha ever suggested as being early among the suras revealed, it is in the Koran dated to the Meccan period, a minimum of 12 years after the prophet Muhammad received his first revelation. It is its broad aspect and message of the Fatiha, that sums up the entire content of Islam, which has made this sura stand out not only in the Koran, but in the believer's mind as well.

Fatima (fâtimatu z-zahrâ')

Born in Mecca c.605 - Died in Madina 633). Daughter of the messenger of Islam, Muhammad, and Khadija, and married to Ali, and mother of Hasan and Husayin (according to Shi'i traditions, a third son, Muhassin, died as a child), and two daughters.

Fatima is therefore the ancestral mother of the Imams of the Shi'i Muslims, as well the ancestral mother of all claiming to be descending from Muhammad, as no other of Muhammad's children brought the seed on. Little is reported from Fatima's life, but she appears to have had bad health all through her life. Her relationship with Muhammad's wife 'A'isha (Ayse), carried a lot of hostilities. When Abu Bakr became the first Caliph, her relations with him, was also difficult, probably because she had expected her husband to take over after Muhammad, and because Abu Bakr denied her the inheritance of the oasis of Fadak from her father. Most of the other Shi'i stories are strongly religious.

All Muslims have great respect for her, but it is in Shi'i Islam that she plays the most important part, and here she is ascribed with superhuman qualities, and is the "noblest ideal of human conception". She is called "the virgin" and "the mother of the two Jesuses", reflecting an important influence from Christianity. In Shi'i Islam, her birthday and her marriage are two dates that are celebrated.

Fatwa - Fetva

A technical term used in Islamic law to indicate a formal legal judgment or view of the Mufti.


Warrior of the Islamic faith, often awarded as a title in recognition for valor in battle. Many gazis were mercenaries, fighting for booty or a chance to establish a chieftaincy on conquered territory. Sometimes spelled ghazi in English. Many Ottoman sultans called themselves as Gazi.


Third largest religion in Middle East and North Africa. Has about 5 million adherents here, where about 90% live in Israel. The largest communities outside Israel is in Palestine, but almost all countries in this region has a small Jewish group. Also Turkey has many Jewish citizens, mostly in Istanbul and Izmir.

Kadi - Qadi

A Muslim judge in early and medieval Islam.

Madina - Medine

City in Saudi Arabia with over a million of inhabitants. Situated in Hijaz, in western Saudi Arabia. This city was originally called Yathrib. When Muhammad and the Muslim community fled Mecca in 622, Yathrib was chosen as the new headquarter, 330 km north of Mecca. From this place Muhammad's community grew in strength, size and importance. After 8 years they had grown strong enough to make Mecca give in.

Muhammad did visit Mecca after this, but he died in 632 in Yathrib, or the city of the Prophet as it came to be called, Madinatu n-Nabiyy. Muhammad was buried here, and a mosque was built round his grave. His daughter Fatima and the Caliph Omar, the second Caliph, was also buried here. Medina was the capital of the Muslim community until 661. Soon after the death of Muhammad, people started coming to Medina, to see his grave. Despite the objections of the Ulama, this tradition has grown in importance, and today all those who has the means, try to visit Medina after doing the hajj in Mecca.

Mecca - Makkah

Mecca MosqueCity in Saudi Arabia with 1,5 million inhabitants. Mecca is located about 80 km from the Red Sea Coast, around a natural well.

Mecca is the most holy city in Islam. The city is revered from being the first place created on earth, as well as the place where Ibrahim together with his son Isma'il, built the Ka'ba. The Ka'ba, the centre of Islam, is a rectangular building made of bricks. Around the Ka'ba is the great mosque, al-Haram, and around the mosque, in between the mountains, are the houses making up Mecca.

Mecca was a central point on the caravan routes running over the Arabian peninsula at the time of Muhammad. Mecca was revered as a holy city even before the first revelations came to Muhammad. Today's pilgrimage in Mecca has many common traits with the pagan activities in the city. Mecca's importance as a centre of religious teaching must not be exaggerated. Very soon in the beginning of the Muslim expansion, religious teaching moved to other places in the Muslim world. Mecca is important in two points: Centre of the compulsory pilgrimage, as a part of five pillars, and a focal point for all Muslims.

Today, many of the people living in Mecca are pilgrims wanting to study Islam in the very centre of the world. But this learning is primarily aimed at normal people, and even today Muslim theology is exercised other places. But for Saudi Arabia, Mecca is the centre of religious teaching.

Apart from the services for pilgrimage there are only modest economical activities going on. Every year some 2,5 million pilgrims attend the hajj, and this number is now regulated, where each country has their number. The numbers of Muslims coming to Mecca for the umra, the lesser pilgrimage are far less, and not regulated.

Mulla - Molla

Word derived from the Arabic mawla, a word meaning "master". It was born as a title of respect by religious figures and jurists in Iran and other parts of Asia.


A Muslim legal consultant who delivers a Fatwa. He may or may not hold the rank of Kadi (Qadi). The mufti constitutes a living bridge from pure Islamic jurisprudence to everyday Islamic life. In the past, some countries had the office of Grand Mufti.