Glossary of Islamic Terms
Allahu Akhbar: "God is Great (-est)"; term of praise; war cry of Muslims.
AH: "after Hijra"; the Islamic calendar's system of dating; employs lunar rather than solar years; as of January 2007, we are in AH 1428.
Ansar: "aiders" or "helpers"; Arabian tribesmen allied with Muhammad and the early Muslims.
Badr: first significant battle fought by Muhammad and the Muslims against the Quraish tribe of Mecca.
Caliph: title of the ruler or leader of the Umma (global Muslim community); the head of the former Islamic Empire; the title was abolished by Kemal Attaturk in 1924 following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the founding of modern Turkey.
dar al-Islam: "House (Realm) of Islam"; Islamic territory ruled by Sharia law
dar al-harb: "House (Realm) of War": territory ruled by infidels
dar al-sulh: "House (Realm) of Truce": territory ruled by infidels but allied with Islam; territory ruled by Muslims but not under Sharia law
Dhimma: the pact of protection extended to non-slave "People of the Book", usually Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians, which permitted them to remain nominally free under Muslim rule.
dhimmi: "protected"; people under the protection of the dhimma.
dhimmitude: word coined by historian Bat Ye'or to describe the status of dhimmi peoples
hadith: "report"; any of thousands of episodes from the life of Muhammad transmitted orally until written down in the eighth century AD; sahih (reliable or sound) hadiths are second only to the Quran in authority.
Hijra: "emigration"; Muhammad's flight from Mecca to Medina (Yathrib) in AD 622.
Islam: "submission" or "surrender."
jizya: the poll or head tax prescribed by Sura 9:29 of the Quran to be paid by Christians and Jews in Muslim-held territory.
Kaba: "cube"; the Meccan temple in which numerous pagan idols were housed before Muhammad's conquest of Mecca in AD 632, which is still the most venerated object in Islam; the Kaba's cornerstone, which is believed to have fallen from heaven, is the stone on which Abraham was to sacrifice his son, Ishmael (not Isaac).
Mecca: holiest city of Islam; place of Muhammad's birth in AD 570; its Great Mosque contains the Kaba stone; early period in Muhammad's life where more peaceful verses of the Quran were revealed; site of Muhammad's victory over the Quraish in AD 630.
Medina: "city," short for "city of the Prophet"; second holiest city of Islam; destination of Muhammad's Hijra (emigration) in AD 622; later period in Muhammad's life where more violent verses of the Quran were revealed; site of third major battle fought by Muhammad against the Quraish tribe from Mecca; formerly called Yathrib.
Muhammad: "the praised one."
Muslim: one who submits.
Quran (Kuran, Quran, etc.): "recitation"; according to Islam, the compiled verbatim words of Allah as dictated by Muhammad.
razzia: "raid"; acts of piracy on land or sea by Muslims against infidels
Sira: "life"; abbreviation of Sirat Rasul Allah, or "Life of the Prophet of God"; the canonical biography of the Prophet Muhammad written in the eighth century by Ibn Ishaq and later edited by Ibn Hisham; modern translation by Alfred Guillaume.
Sunnah: the "Way" of the Prophet Muhammad; includes his teachings, traditions, and example.
Sura: a chapter of the Quran; Quranic passages are cited as "Sura number:verse" number, e.g., 9:5.
Uhud: second major battle fought by Muhammad against the Quraish tribe of Mecca.
Umar: second "rightly-guided" Caliph; ruled AD 634-644, succeeded Abu Bakr; conquered the Holy Land.
Umma (ummah): the global Muslim community; the body of Muslim faithful.
Uthman: third "rightly-guided" Caliph; ruled AD 644-656, succeeded Umar; compiled the Quran in book form.
Yathrib: city to which Muhammad made the Hijra (emigration) in AD 622/AH 1; renamed Medina.