Glossary for The Guide to Answering Islam

DANIEL JANOSIK : Director of Islamic Studies, Adjunct Professor of Apologetics, Historical Theology, and Islamic Studies at Southern Evangelical Seminary, and the adjunct professor in Apologetics at CIU Columbia International University (A.B., College of William and Mary; M.Div., Columbia International University; M.A., Columbia International University; Ph.D., London School of Theology) Dissertation: John of Damascus, First Apologist to the Muslims.

Abrogation: the belief that later revelations (Medinan surahs) sometimes contradicted the earlier ones (Meccan surahs). Therefore, the later revelations canceled and replaced the earlier ones. For example, Surah 9:5, often called the “sword verse,” is said to nullify and replace 124 verses that called for tolerance, compassion, and peace (Q. 2:106, Q. 16:101, Q. 13:39)

Adhan: the Muslim call to prayer

Ahl al-Kitab: a term meaning “people of the book,” or perhaps “followers of an earlier revelation” (see Armstrong), usually referring to Jews and Christians

Al Kitab: the Book, the Qur’an

Al-Qaeda, al-Qaida: “The Base.” A militant Sunni Islamist organization founded by Osama bin Laden in 1988

Amir: a governor or commander of a Muslim province; this title was common during the military rule of the Middle Period

Ansar: the Helpers; refers to the Medina clansmen who converted to Islam

Arians: Early non-Trinitarian heresy started by Arius in the 4th century, who said that Jesus Christ is the son of God, but that he did not always exist with the Father and therefore was a created being.


Ash’arites: a political-philosophical group that initially followed a middle road seeking to balance reason with revelation, but under the influence of al-Ghazali the synthesis between man’s reason and God’s will was rejected.

Ayah: (pl. ayat) in the context of the Qur’an, ayah means “verse,” and is marked off by a sequential number.

Basmallah/Bismillah: the words of invocation which begin most surahs in the Qur’an – “In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.”

Bid’ah: religious innovation, heretical doctrine, or heresy

Burqa: long drape or veil worn by women that covers the face and body, except for the eyes (except when a mesh screen is used to cover the eyes as well)

Caliph (khalifa): title for the head of the Islamic state. Originally the spiritual and political ‘successor’ to Muhammad; later took on a more strictly political meaning

Caliphate: the rule of the Caliph or Khalifa.

Dabiq: the key site in Muslim apocalyptic views where the great battle of Armageddon will take place, with the Muslims coming out victorious over the non-believers. It is also the name of the official magazine for ISIS, which promotes their views and serves as a major recruiting tool for their cause.

Dar al-Harb: the “House of War;” those outside the House or family of Islam

Dar al-Islam: the “House of Islam; the lands under Muslim rule.

Da’wa: the mission or practice of calling non-believers to Islam. Islamic evangelism.


Dhimmi: “People of the Book” or “protected ones”Jews and Christians who enter into a contract with a Muslim government for protection and pay a head tax called the jizya. This is sometimes referred to as the “third choice” given to non-Muslims under Muslim rule. The first two are “convert or be killed.”

Din/Deen: the idea of faith or religion, specifically as affecting man’s spiritual welfare

Ebionites: An early Jewish-Christian heresy that regarded Jesus Christ as the Messiah but did not accept his divinity or virgin birth. Their emphasis was on following Jewish laws and traditions. There are some references to the Ebionites living in Northwestern Arabia as late as 1000 AD.

Fatwa: legal declaration made by a qualified Muslim jurist on matters of Islamic law

Fiqh: study and application of Islamic law and jurisprudence

Hadith: term meaning “story,” refers to the collection of the traditional sayings and doings of Muhammad not from the Qur’an but recorded by companions and family. Second highest authority after the Qur’an. These were collected and written down around 150 years after the death of Muhammad.


Hajj: the pilgrimage to Mecca; one of the five “pillars” of Islam, and a duty for every Muslim once in his or her lifetime (if able).

Hajji: one who has completed the Hajj to Mecca

Hanifs: pre-Islamic Arab monotheists

Hijab: a veil or headscarf worn by Muslim women; a customary practice of modesty which also marks a sense of pride in Muslim identity

Hijaz: the region of western Arabia, including both Mecca and Medina

Hijra: the emigration from Mecca to Yathrib (Medina) in 622 AD. This is the first year in the Islamic calendar.

Iblis: the devil or Satan (corruption of the Latin word diabolus)

Ijtihad: the “independent reasoning” or personal interpretation that a Muslim jurist uses to apply the sacred traditional law to contemporary circumstances; also an intellectual struggle over (or private opinion of) law and ethics

Imam: divinely inspired leader of the Muslim community

Infidel: a person who does not believe in Islam or who adheres to a religion other than Islam.

Injil: the gospels or New Testament, sent to Jesus by Allah and revised in the Qur’an

Inshallah: common Muslim phrase meaning “if God wills it”

Intermediate Monotheism: pre-Islamic belief in one God inspired by an Arabized mixture of Christian and Jewish beliefs, which later developed into the religion of Islam

Isa: the name used for Jesus in the Qur’an

Islam: “surrender” to the will of God

Islamism: a movement within Islam that primarily seeks the creation of an Islamic polity

Isnad: a chain of transmission that is supposed to validate a particular hadith. Since the hadith was first transmitted orally, this chain of transmission tries to name the people involved in order to provide a reputable link to the sources.

Jahiliyyahh/Jayiliyya: a term meaning “The Time of Ignorance.” This originally referenced Arabian history prior to Islam, but some Muslim fundamentalists today use the word to condemn a modern society that they believe has rejected God, even a society that claims to be Muslim.

Jewish-Christianity: First century Jews who followed Jesus as Messiah but rejected the idea that Jesus could also be God. It is possible that descendants of this group may have contributed to the formation of the intermediate monotheism that became Islam.

Jibril , Jibril: Gabriel, the angel that is said to have revealed the Qur’an to Muhammad

Jihad: holy war; to struggle to finish a task as well as one possibly can

Jinn: spiritual beings – demons or angels of Allah

Jizyah: the head tax paid by a dhimmi for protection under Muslim rule.

Ka’aba: the ancient sanctuary at Mecca that housed the tribal deities of the Hijaz before Muhammad cleansed them and rededicated the sanctuary to Allah alone.

Kafir: term for an unbeliever

Kalam: Islamic theology; the study of Islamic doctrine

Kharijites: secessionists, or “those who leave.” This is the group that broke away from Ali and the early Shiites. They equated faith with works and insisted that in regard to the relationship between faith and works, there could be no middle ground. A Muslim was either a true believer or not a Muslim at all. It is believed that a Kharijite follower later assassinated Ali.

Madrassa: Islamic religious school, usually linked to a mosque

Mahdi: the “hidden Imam,” a significant eschatological figure who is believed to be hidden until the Last Days, when he will bring about a new age of justice

Al-Mahdi: a messianic concept, usually held by various Shi’i sects, which differs from the traditional beliefs concerning the Mahdi and his role

Masjid: place of Muslim worship; a mosque

Meccan Qur’an: the chronologically earlier Surahs supposedly revealed to Muhammad before his emigration to Medina. They are generally short, and they emphasize, among other things, God as the creator of all, some principles for ethical living, and warnings about the judgment to come. These are generally arranged toward the end of the Qur’an even though they are believed to have been revealed to Muhammad before his emigration to Medina.

Theodor Nöldeke proposed a different chronological order, consisting of 90 surahs, as follows:

  • First Meccan Period: from the first to the fifth year of Mohammed’s mission

96, 74, 111, 106, 108, 104, 107, 102, 105, 92, 90, 94, 93, 97, 86, 91, 80, 68, 87, 95, 103, 85, 73, 101, 99, 82, 81, 53, 84, 100, 79, 77, 78, 88, 89, 75, 83, 69, 51, 52, 56, 70, 55, 112, 109, 113, 114, 1

  • Second Meccan Period: the fifth and sixth year of his mission:

54, 37, 71, 76, 44, 50, 20, 26, 15, 19, 38, 36, 43, 72, 67, 23, 21, 25, 17, 27, 18

  • Third Meccan Period: from the seventh year to Hijra:

32, 41, 45, 16, 30, 11, 14, 12, 40, 28, 39, 29, 31, 42, 10, 34, 35, 7, 46, 6, 13

Medinan Qur’an: The last 24 -30 Surahs of the Qur’an, believed to have been revealed in the last years of Muhammad’s life when he lived in Medina. The scholar Nöldeke lists these particular surahs: 2, 98, 64, 62, 8, 47, 3, 61, 57, 4, 65, 59, 33, 63, 24, 58, 22, 48, 66, 60, 110, 49, 9, 5 (Surah 9, one of the last Surahs considered to be revealed, contains a number of verses on violent jihad). They deal with details governing a growing community, such as moral principles, legislation, warfare, and laws governing family, money, and acts of worship. The vocabulary was simpler, and there was a greater focus on offensive jihad, longer verses and the treatment of non-Muslims.

Monophysites: Early Christians who opposed the concept of the hypostatic union, or the union of Christ’s humanity and divinity in one hypostasis, or individual existence. Instead, they believed that Christ had but a single nature with his human nature being absorbed into his divinity.

Muhajirun: migrants who went on the hijra

Mujahadin: Muslim militants; literally “those who wage jihad” (singular mujahid)

Mu’minun: “believers” in a pre-Islamic intermediate monotheism

Murji’ites: A faction which opposed the Kharijite position, believing that faith alone saved a person. The name means “those who defer,” and it was given to them because they deferred final judgment to God, who was the only one who could ultimately decide who would be saved on the Last Day.

Mu’tazilites: “Those who separate themselves.” These were the first to apply reason to their view of God’s justice in man’s freedom of will. They were opposed by the Ash’arites.

Nabi: a prophet

Naskh: the abrogation of one verse in the Qur’an by another verse

Nazarenes: Similar to the Ebionites, the Nazarenes were heretical Christians who rejected Jesus Christ as the Son of God. However, they accepted the virgin birth. Like the Ebionites, they considered themselves Jews, only used the Aramaic Gospel of the Hebrews, and followed the law of Moses.

Nestorians: Early Christians who opposed the concept of the hypostatic union, or the union of Christ’s humanity and divinity in one hypostasis, or individual existence. Instead, they believed that Christ had two somewhat distinct natures, human and divine. Opposite to Monophysitism.

Paradise: literally “garden” – the idea of a place of heavenly rest and delight for those who have lived according to Allah’s will

PBUH: acronym for “peace be upon him,” a phrase used exclusively for prophets

Qadarites: a group that believed that man must have free will and responsibility over his actions. Thus, they opposed the traditionalists who believed that in order for Allah to truly be sovereign that man could not have any free will, since this would limit the power of Allah.

Qiblah: the correct direction of prayer, oriented towards Mecca. This direction was originally towards Jerusalem, but Muhammad altered it later.

Quryana: Syriac forLectionary,” which was composed of Biblical extracts, interspersed with hymns – created for use in Christian services.

Ramadan: the month of fasting and the ninth month of the year in the Muslim calendar

Rashidun Caliphate: the “rightly guided” Caliphs; the first four caliphs after Muhammad’s death: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali.

Rasul: a messenger

Salam: peace

Salat: ritual prayer performed five times a day at sunrise, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening. One of the five “pillars” of Islam.

Sawm: fasting

Shahada: the Muslim creed or profession of faith: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is God’s messenger [prophet].”

Shahid: a martyr

Shariah: Islamic laws that have the Qur’an and Hadith as their primary source; means “straight path”

Shirk: to obscure the Oneness and unity of Allah in any way

Sira: biographical material on Muhammad

Sunna: the traditions of Muhammad composed of the hadith

Surah (Sura): a chapter in the Qur’an. There are 114 Surahs in the Qur’an. It has a similar root with the Hebrew word ‘שורה’ meaning a ‘row’

Tafsir: commentaries on the Qur’an

Taqiyyah: cautionary dissimulation or lying about one’s faith in a specially allowed situation

Taurat or Tawrat: the books of Moses

Tawhid/Tauheed: “making one;” refers to God’s absolute unity and oneness.

Ummah: a community of believers, often refers specifically to the one at Medina

Zabur: the Psalms

Zakat: a term meaning “purity” – refers to the mandatory alms given by each Muslim to the community and distributed to the poor. One of the five “pillars” of Islam.

Zoroastrianism: An ancient monotheistic religion from the region of present-day Iran promoted by the prophet Zoroaster (also known as Zarathustra). Belief is in a supreme being named Ahura Mazda, or Wise Lord. It is possible that Zoroastrian beliefs in judgment after death, heaven and hell, and free will may have influenced Islam.

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