The Prophet ﷺ said, "The best words are the Words of Allah"
Glossary of Words and Phrases
Muslims use a lot of words and phrases in the Arabic language, even if they do not speak Arabic fluently. It is necessary to know the meaning of key words and phrases to better understand Islam, gain rewards from Allah (SWT), and to improve your interactions with other Muslims, therefore, here is a list of some commonly used words and phrases.
Ahlan Wasahlan This means “Welcome.” It is not specific to Muslims but common to hear.
Alayhis Salam Abbreviated as AS; This means “Peace be upon him." This expression normally follows after naming a prophet (other than Muhammad ﷺ SAW), or one of the noble Angels.
Alhumdulillah (Ar-Rubil ‘Alamin) This means: "Praise be to Allah (the Lord of the worlds)."
A Muslim says this anytime he wants to thank Allah (i.e. upon finishing eating, upon finishing a project, upon waking, etc.)
Allahu Akbar This means “Allah is the Greatest.” Muslims say it during the call for prayer, during prayer, when they are happy, and wish to express their approval of what they hear, when they slaughter an animal, and when they want to praise a speaker.
AS This is an abbreviation commonly given and used on this website to stand for "Alayhis Salam", which means 'Upon Him/Her Be Peace'. It is a respectable phrase said after mentioning a Prophet, an Imam or other very high-status figures as a show of respect; Another English acronym of the same meaning: Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH).
Assalamu ‘Alaikum The meaning is: "Peace be upon you." Muslims say this as a greeting to one another. You might also hear or use “Assalamu ‘Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah Wa Barakatuh," which means "May the peace, the mercy, and the blessings of Allah be upon you."
Asr This is the third compulsory prayer of the day to be given in the afternoon; Four ruk’ah in length. Its exact time varies for each geographic location, so it’s necessary to obtain a prayer calendar for your local area.
Astaghfirullah This means "I ask Allah forgiveness," and is said by a Muslim when he wants to ask Allah for forgiveness.
Athan The call to prayer given by a muezzin (person calling out)
A’uzu Billahi Minash-shaitan Ir-Rajeem This translates to mean, "I seek refuge with Allah from the outcast Satan." Muslims say this before to reciting/reading Qur'an, and at the beginning of every salah (prayer).
Awrah The areas of the body that must be concealed from others.
Ayah/Ayat(pl.) Verse/verses in Qur’an
Bismillah Ir-Rahman Ir-Raheem This means "In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful." It is found at the start of each surah in the Qu’ran and recited before reading from the Qur'an. One also says this before starting anything (such as before eating or drinking, before sleeping, before making wudoo/ghusl, before starting any task, work, cooking, etc.).
Caliph These are the spiritual leader(s) who succeeded the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ after his death.
Dawah Inviting others to Islam, teaching them about Islam
Dhikr (the plural is Adhkaar) are Remembrances of Allah (SWT), praising of Allah. Dhikr is made in one's heart (and by continually repeating praises of Allah: "Subhanallah", "Allahu Akbar", "Alhumdulillah", "La illaha illallah", etc. )
Dhuhr This is the second compulsory prayer of the day to be given at midday; Four ruk’ah in length. Its exact time varies for each geographic location, so it’s necessary to obtain a prayer calendar for your local area.
Dua’a Prayer to ask Allah (SWT) for something that you want or need. Du'aa can be said in one's own language.
Eid Al-Adha This is the Islamic holiday commemorating the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim (AS) to sacrifice his son Isma'il. The holiday falls on the 10th day of the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah and lasts for four days. Celebrations start after the descent of the Hajj from Mount Arafat (a hill east of Mecca), which is part of the rituals in Hajj.
Eid Al-Fitr This is the Islamic holiday following the month of Ramadan. It lasts three days.
Fajr This is the first compulsory prayer of the day to be given after daybreak but before sunrise; Two ruk’ah in length. Its exact time varies for each geographic location, so it’s necessary to obtain a prayer calendar for your local area.
Fatwa A decisive Islamic law which gives a ruling on various matters. The necessity for this is usually modern issues, which came about after the time of the Prophet (SAW). Rulings are made by Islamic scholars based on evidences in Qur’an and Sunnah.
Ghusl A full methodical bath/cleansing following menstruation, cessation of post-natal bleeding, sexual intercourse or semen discharge. Also recommended to be done on Friday before Salat al-Jummah. See the Prayer page for a video which details its performance.
Haram (ha-RAHM) Not permitted
Hajj Pilgrimage to Mecca
Halal (ha-LEL) Lawful, commonly used to describe food which is permissible to eat, investments which are free from Riba (usury/interest)
Hijab (h-JAB) Literally it means “veil”. Usually when we say a woman is wearing hijab it means she is wearing a scarf covering her hair, however hijab is characterized by the whole of her appearance, which is modest from head to toe, not just covering hair. See How to Tie a Hijab
Ihram A sacred state which a Muslim must enter in order to perform the major pilgrimage (Hajj) or the minor pilgrimage (Umrah)
Imam (e-MAM) Spiritual leader in Islam; the one who leads the prayer (and in many cases he is the one who delivers the khutbah/lecture). "Sheikh" is also commonly used.
Iman (e-MAN) Faith
Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un This means 'Surely we belong to God and to Him shall we return'. It is part of the Qur'an, Surat Al-Baqara, Verse 156. Muslims usually recite this phrase upon hearing the news of someone's death.
Insha’ Allah This means “If Allah wills.” If you say/pledge to do something (“I will _____”), this is an appropriate time to add this phrase. Only by the will of Allah (SWT) will you make achievements, so we give credit to Him for everything.
Iqamah (ih-QA-ma) This is a second call to prayer said just before commencing with the formal congregational prayer. It is usually said quickly and in a monotone (versus the athan).
Isha This is the fifth and last compulsory prayer of the day to be given upon complete darkness of night; Four ruk’ah in length. Its exact time varies for each geographic location, so it’s necessary to obtain a prayer calendar for your local area.
Jannah (JEN-nah) Paradise; what many refer to in English as Heaven
Jezak Allahu Khair/Khayrun means “May Allah reward you for the good.” A Muslim says this to another person as an expression of thanks and appreciation, instead of just saying "thanks". Human beings can't repay one another enough, hence, it is better to request Almighty Allah to reward the person who did a favor.
Jinn Unseen spiritual beings which can be either good or evil spirited
Jumu'ah Friday; as in Salat al-Jumu'ah
Junub A state of impurity due to sexual intercourse or semen discharge; requires a full bath (ghusl) to remove impurity
Ka’bah This literally means “cube” and it refers to the cube-shaped building in the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca originally built by the Prophet Ibrahim (AS). It is the center which people circulate around during the Hajj pilgrimage and pray facing.
Kafir Disbeliever; this word should not be thrown around lightly and it refers to people who completely disbelieve in God, as in atheists
Khutbah Lecture; given during Salat al-Jumu'ah
La Hawla Wa La Quwwata illah Billah The meaning of this expression is: "There is no power and no strength save in Allah." It is said by a Muslim when he is struck by a calamity, or is taken over by a situation beyond his control, simply when he is in distress. A Muslim puts his trust in the hands of Allah, and submits himself to Allah.
La Ilaha Illalah means "There is no lord worthy of worship except Allah." It is the most important belief in Islam. It is the first part of the creed every person recites to be considered Muslim. The second part of this declaration is "Muhammadun Rasul Allah," which means "Muhammad is the messenger of Allah."
Mabrook This means the same as “Congratulations.”
Maghrib This is the fourth compulsory prayer of the day to be given after sunset; Three ruk’ah in length. Its exact time varies for each geographic location, so it’s necessary to obtain a prayer calendar for your local area.
Mahram Like a guardian; A woman’s mahram is a male and can be her father, brother, uncle, son, etc.
Masha’ Allah The meaning of "Masha' Allah" is "Whatever Allah wants" or "Whatever Allah wants to give, He gives." Muslims say this whenever they see something they like, wish to express their happiness, when giving a compliment to a Muslim. It is proper etiquette to say “mashallah” with a compliment and Muslims believe that it can avert envy.
Masjid Mosque; place of worship for Muslims
Muhammadun Rasulillah means "Muhammad is the messenger of Allah." This is the second part of the Shahada, and also important because it shows belief in Islamic monotheism given by the example of the last and final Prophet of Allah.
Mus-haf Some people refer to the Qur'an as "The Mus-haf," the meaning of which essentially means "The Book."
Nasheed These are songs which glorify Allah (SWT) and are free of musical instruments, so only have voices.
Niqab This is a face veil some Muslim women wear, but it is not mandatory
Qiblah This is the geographic direction facing the Ka’bah in Mecca, hence it is different from city to city. This is the direction in which all Muslims face in prayer. Find your Qiblah
Qur'an Islam's holy book. Muslims believe this book is the words of Allah the Almighty. It was revealed over 23 years in stages to the last and final messenger of God, Muhammad SAW. It is preserved its pristine state just as it was when it was revealed. Early followers of Islam committed the revelations to memory, which were later recorded in the form of a book.
Quraysh The name of a tribe in Arabia of which the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) belonged
Rak’ah One cycle of standing, bowing and prostrations in prayer
Riba Usury/Interest (as in loans)
SAW This is an abbreviation used on this website to stand for "Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam" which means "May the blessings and the peace of Allah be upon him (Muhammad)". When the name of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is mentioned or written, a Muslim is to respect him and invoke this statement of peace upon him.
Sahaba Companions (as in the companions of the Prophet SAW)
Salah/Salat means prayer, for example the prayer at daybreak is called Salat al-Fajr, the prayer of Fajr.
Salat-al-Jumu'ah Friday prayer given at midday in congregation, including a lecture (sermon) called a khutbah
Sullallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam (Abbreviated as SAW) This means "May the blessings and the peace of Allah be upon him (Muhammad)". When the name of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is mentioned or written, a Muslim is to respect him and invoke this statement of peace upon him.
Shari'a (SHAR-y-'a) This refers to the system of Islamic laws. See more about shari'a
Shahada (sha-HAD-a) This is the declaration of faith “Eshhadu en la illaha illalah, wa eshhadu ana Muhammadan Rasulillah.” This is the most important phrase in Islam, the first Pillar of Islam.
Sheikh (Pronounced with a hard K sound not similar to any phonemic sound in English). This is a learned Islamic scholar.
Shukran (SHOOK-rahn) means “Thank you”. Not specific to only Muslims, but common to hear.
Subhanahu Wa Ta’Ala (Abbreviated on this website as SWT) This means "Allah is free of having partners and He is exempted from having a son." Muslims say this whenever they say/write the name of Allah (SWT).
Sujood is the position of formal prayer where Muslims have their forehead and nose touching the ground, on hands and knees.
Sunnah means the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW); his sayings, actions and habits. These can be found in Hadith. Muslims believe that anything that we can do to be more like him, the more good deeds we earn.
Surah This is a chapter of Qur’an; Surat is the plural
Sutrah is an object used by a person performing Salah as a barrier between himself and one passing in front of him.
SWT This is an abbreviation used on this website to stand for "Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala" which means "Allah is free of having partners and He is exempted from having a son." Muslims say this as a show of respect whenever they say/write the name of Allah (SWT).
Taahir means to be pure, as in having wudoo.
Tafseer Interpretations and explanations of Qur’an
Tarawah Special prayers performed during the month of Ramadan given after the Isha prayer, commonly in congregation, but not necessarily.
Tawaf Circling around the Kabah; part of Umrah or Hajj activities
Tawheed Belief in Allah alone as God and Lord
Ummah This refers to the followers of Islam, similar to “congregation” in English.
Umrah Umrah is known as the small/lesser pilgrimage to Mecca.
Wallah The meaning in English is "I swear to God."
Wa ‘Alaikum Assalam This is the reply when someone says “Assalamu ‘Alaikum” to you. The meaning is: "And upon you is peace." One can also add to the end of that phrase, to say: "Wa ‘Alaikum Assalam Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatu,” which means “And upon you is peace, mercy and blessings of Allah”
Wudoo/Wudhu Methodical washing before prayer/reading from Qur’an
Zakat Charity/poor tax
Zam Zam (Zum-Zum) This is a well located within the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. The water which comes from this well is called Zum Zum water. It is noted in Hadith that Hajar, the wife of Prophet Ibrahim (AS), was searching for water to quench her and Isma'il's thirst. An angel aided her in finding the spot of the well. It is still in use today.
Zina Adulterous relations