Glossary of Arabic Terms in Volume 1
Sorted by Chapter
Chapter 1: Surah Al-Fatiha
1. Al-Hamdu: This is the very first word of the first Surah in the Qur’an, its root of which is “hmd” and means praise. Al-Hamdu relates to the fact that God deserves sincere and plentiful praise for who He is and what He has blessed us with. This is a very fundamental concept in Islamic belief and in the Islamic mind-set. Praise implies a sense of gratitude, and true believers remain ever grateful to God for all His blessings, mercy, creativity, and nurturing for each and every one of us. One of God’s 99 names is Hamid, meaning praiseworthy.
There is a hadith in which the Prophet was asked why he was so diligent in his worship of God, as we know that he was legendary for his devotion to God, even in the wee hours of the night, given that he was the most pure and sincere human being. His simple reply was, “Should I not be a grateful servant?” Our worship and our prayers should not be directed only toward asking for God’s mercy and forgiveness but also toward expressing our sincere and heartfelt gratitude. The Prophet’s name is also derived from this root word; the names Ahmad and Mohammad mean someone who is a praised one, a befitting name for the Prophet.
2. Rabb: This means the master, sustainer, cherisher, or someone who not only rules but also sustains, nourishes, nurtures, guides, protects, perfects, inspires, and regulates and ensures success for those who desire it in this life and in the Hereafter. In Islam, the concept of God is not that of a father- child, king-subject, or elder-younger relationship but that of a Creator who acts as the universal patron and guardian to help His creatures develop their full potential. The typical English translation of Rabb as “Lord” is a poor substitute. God is unique and unlike anything we know and is not a favored deity of one nation or one group; He is not our “Father in Heaven” or the Jewish God or the Lord Krishna or the Lord Buddha. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists in this universe.
3. Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim: Meaning full of mercy and the instiller of mercy, these names represent one of God’s major attributes, which He chose to highlight in the first chapter of the Qur’an and are required to be read at the beginning of every chapter. Not only does this imply that God is full of mercy, but that this mercy flows continuously to the created universe, including all of His creations. A causal and simple observation of a mother and child relationship is enough to demonstrate the presence of mercy and love that is abundant in mankind and in the animal kingdom. This earth, with its abundant water, air, mineral resources, and ability to produce food for us, is another example of God’s mercy and compassion.
There is a saying of the Prophet that God assigned 1% of His mercy to the living world and reserved the remaining 99% for Himself, including the mercy to be displayed on the Day of Judgment. His mercy to the world, for example, is reflected in the unconditional love of a mother for her child, whether we look at a human mother hugging her infant child, a fearsome lioness gently carrying its baby, or a bird feeding its chicks in the nest, and these are just a few of the everyday experiences that we take for granted. These instinctive actions of tenderness and love are grand examples of how God instills mercy and love into His creations.
Once, a companion of the Prophet caught several baby birds from a nest and went to the Prophet while the mother bird kept hovering over them and making noises of anxiety over the distress of losing her babies. The Prophet became very upset at this sight and asked his companion to release the babies. The Prophet then remarked that God is even more anxious for the safety and well-being of His creatures.
The root word here, “rhm,” is also the root word for the mother’s womb in Arabic. The female gender comes closer to God in terms of their compassion and concern for other human beings. The dignity that God placed on the female gender is extraordinary, yet in too many Muslim societies women are not given the dignity they are assigned by God and that is due to them.
4. Yauu-middin: This refers to the Day of Judgment, accountability, and, in a deeper sense, the consequence of our own actions. “Yaum” in Arabic implies days or moments in time. Judgment is a continuous process in this world, even though the outcome or consequences may happen in a discontinuous fashion. The concept of judgment and accountability is very fundamental to Islamic faith, and one should realize that all our activities and sayings are recorded by assigned angels and will be delivered to us in the form of a book on the Day of Judgment. Nothing will be left unrecorded, and if we were to dispute with God on any of the actions recorded in the book, our bodies would testify against us in God’s presence. Accountability is a serious matter, and each one of us has to be cognizant of our roles and responsibilities in this life to each other and fulfill these obligations in an honest, truthful, and expeditious manner, as there is no guarantee of the longevity of our lives on this earth.
Even though in conventional thinking the Day of Judgment is implied by this word, one has to recognize that judgment is being rendered on a continual basis while some judgment will be deferred until the formal Day of Judgment when every person will be raised again and will stand in front of God. It will indeed be a very difficult and terrifying day when we will face the consequences of our own actions with no recourse to go back and make amends. It is the day when we will testify against ourselves, it is the day when we will see our life’s work in front of us, it is the day when those who denied this Day of Judgment will say, “I wish I could go back” or “I wish I were dust,” it is the day when God will judge and nobody will be wronged in the least bit, it is the day we will finally be paid back for what we earned or did not earn. It is also the day that all people who failed to respect other people, who propagated falsehood to deceive people, who oppressed people and failed to uphold moral values and human dignity, and who failed to accept God as the ultimate truth will dread the consequences of their lifelong efforts.
The realities of the Day of Judgment and our ongoing accountability should be a strong reminder for all of us, especially those of faith, that life has a purpose and a drive behind it and that we need to listen to our conscience and behave and act accordingly. This is no different from the accountability demanded by our jobs, our societies, and our physical existence. Ignoring these particular responsibilities creates immediate repercussions, whereas failing to abide by God’s guidance may sometimes have a delayed consequence and therefore make us lax, and, perhaps, this is the best trial that God could give us.
5. Yaka Na’budu wa Yaka Nastayin: “It is You (God) that we truly serve, and it is You (God) that we seek help from” (1:4). This statement of intent or yearning of the human soul is fundamental to what God wants us to do: Our purpose is to worship God and to serve others. Also, we need to realize that God is independent and that He is not in need of our services. Serving God really means we acknowledge His being God and then follow His guidance in worship and in our dealings with the created world. The true measure of our service to God is really how successfully we serve other people and other creatures and how responsibly we use the resources that God has placed at our disposal while preserving the nature and the environment. Too many Muslims today think simplistically that if we worship God in the form of the five pillars of Islam we are done and are accomplished Muslims. Nothing is further from the truth. True Muslims should use the five pillars of Islam as the instruments for self-awareness and self-discipline so that they can successfully engage in a determined fashion to create a society where dignity, knowledge, freedom, justice, safety, health, and a lack of hunger prevail. As God said, “You are the best community, evolved for the benefit of mankind because you encourage what is good, you discourage what is evil, and you believe in God” (3:110). I hope we are paying attention to what God made so clear to us. What is our excuse for the lack of clarity in our purpose and the lack of sincere devotion to God and preserving human dignity? All Muslims, whether ordinary citizens, public leaders, business persons, professionals, religious scholars, intellectuals, media experts, or kings and queens, need to ask themselves first and then their communities how each one of us, individually and collectively, is fulfilling our promise of serving God (and each other) and seeing God’s help (and collective effort), which we utter each day as we recite Surah Al-Fatiha in our daily prayers.
6. Siratal Mustaquim: This phrase means the straight path or true guidance. The guidance of God is here termed as the Straight Path. The Qur’an declares that Abraham, the patriarch of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, belonged to this Straight Path or guidance. This is the guidance that is based on truth and is in conformity with our collective human knowledge, intuitive sense, human conscience, and the yearning of the human soul. This path is achieved less by what we say (such as claiming to be a Muslim, a Jew, or a Christian and as such being rightly guided) and more by what we do, how other people will see our accomplishments, and how effectively we can defend and justify our actions to God and to others. Each one of us needs to do a self-assessment every now and then in a sincere and honest manner to determine how far away we are from this Straight Path knowing full well that God has given us complete guidance to travel on this path in our current journey on this earth. The Qur’an is nothing but an elaboration of this Straight Path so that we cannot claim that God did not adequately define for us the navigational system through which to follow this Straight Path. Our accountability to God is independent of who we call ourselves, whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, or any other name. Each one of us is bound by the same set of standards and the same set of moral and social rules as presented in the Qur’an and corroborated by other Books of revelation, by prophets, and by people of truth, righteousness, and faith. It is important for every person to ensure that they find the guidance that leads to this Straight Path.
Chapter 2: Surah Al-Baqarah
7. Kitab: Meaning to write, note, record, or ordain, this word refers to the Qur’an, as it has been declared as a book or something written. The word Qur’an itself denotes that it is something to be read or a recitation in an oral tradition. It should also be noted that the Qur’an is the only revealed book that has been written down as it was revealed, whereas other revelations were maintained in oral traditions for a long time and were summarized at a later date purely from memory by future generations. Hence, the original contents were lost, and what remains are the interpretations or understandings of individual writers far removed from the prophets who were the real conveyers of the revelations. Yet, we should respect these earlier Books of revelation and study them to gain confirmation of God’s oneness and appreciate the evolution of guidance keeping pace with human maturity and intellectual growth. Unlike Christians and Jews who are very limited in their views of their religion and feel that they have some kind of entitlement to God, Muslims should be much more confident in their faith and their religion since we believe that, fundamentally, there is only one religion or way of life and that it is the same way of life that has been preached by Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, and other prophets of antiquity. As such, we should derive wisdom and insights from all religious books without being discriminatory or disrespectful to other religions or their religious books. Also, as you recall from the first few verses of Surah Al-Baqarah, having faith in other religious books is a fundamental requirement of being a person of faith, from an Islamic perspective.
8. Huda: The Qur’an has been declared as a guide for the responsible believers (Muttaquin), and it is a very profound and fundamental statement from God that the faithful should take seriously. In various parts of the Qur’an God declares that He has touched on every conceivable topic of importance in the Qur’an and has made those topics clear and concise so that we can read, reflect, understand, deliberate, and implement them. Just like great leaders who inspire with basic fundamental values, principles, and guidelines, the Qur’an does the same. It is up to us to create workable frameworks and processes that allow us to implement those ideas, values, and principles so that each of us can attain our highest personal level of success and create a just society that allows everyone to reach their potential individually and collectively. Only such consciousness and deliberate action will assure everyone the ability to come out clean and successful on the Day of Judgment in front of our God, the Almighty, as He had intended.
9. Muttaquin: This implies a broad meaning of responsibility in response to being a person of faith. There are very many conventional meanings attached to this important and much-used word, some of which are duty-bound, God consciousness, fear of God, and piety. I prefer the meaning similar to a bond between God and His creation, which comes from a sense of responsibility and accountability. A Muttaquin is someone who not only has faith but is also driven to action in this world based on a clear understanding of one’s responsibility. For a Muttaquin, belief has to turn into action. God promised salvation and His mercy for “those who believe and do good work” and not for those who only profess belief and fail to act beyond ritual worship (2:25 and numerous other verses). This is a very fundamental Islamic concept, and in today’s context, the Muslim community has seriously compromised the meaning and implication of being a Muttaquin. I dare say that what Islam wants is not mere Muslims or Mo’men—it wants to create true Muttaquin, hence God’s choice of the word in this context. A Muslim is someone who declares to be faithful to God, which we take at face value (without undue questioning), whereas a Mo’men is someone who claims to have faith, which again we take at face value and perhaps measure by their adherence to the five pillars of Islam. But a Muttaquin is someone who combines faith with action to demonstrate his humanity in front of God and to his fellow men. One should take serious note of this profound distinction, otherwise we will fail as a community, as is quite evident in our current conditions of a lack of knowledge, personal development, and large scale social, political, and moral upliftment of Muslim masses all over the world . For more details on this term, please see the “Characteristics of the Muttaquin” portion of the Key Concepts in Surah Al-Baqarah.
10. Al-Ghaib: Meaning unseen or hidden, this word refers to the idea that a person of belief has to understand and accept certain matters that are hidden from human senses in this world. Unseen or hidden does not necessarily mean incomprehensible or not within the grasp of human conscience or understanding. God is one of those realities that are hidden from our physical senses, yet a person of intellect, reflection, and good observance can see the presence of God everywhere in nature and in our own physical and spiritual existence. We are to believe in God, the Day of Judgment, angels, the Afterlife, and our souls as well as other matters of the unseen, which are not observable with our senses or with scientific instruments yet are key aspects of our faith and realities, and God wants us to accept these as the first key element of being a responsible believer. A relentless pursuit of the unseen should continue through scientific, spiritual, and philosophical means, but we need to respect all branches of human intelligence that God has empowered us with and seek a unified and dignified means by which to collaborate with humility as opposed to downplaying one or another means due to arrogance or overconfidence.
11. As-Salat: Salat refers to the five, formal daily prayers. Salat is a very unique form of worship established in Islam, and the Prophet of Islam has shown how it has to be done. Before Islam, our Prophet used to stay in a cave for long hours worshipping God, but his worship was more mental and spiritual in nature. After his prophethood, he was given instructions by the Archangel Gabriel on how to perform the formal Salat, which has a spiritual component as well as a physical component. Islam acknowledges that humans exist on two planes, the physical and the spiritual, and that all of our activities have to harmonize these two fundamental forms of existence. This is also a very important distinction of Islam from other religions and their religious rituals, and the form, shape, and mental and physical aspects of Salat were clearly established by the Prophet so that the Islamic form of worship would be identical all over the world. One starts Salat with a process of physical cleanliness and mental preparedness. Then one goes through a series of physical gestures (e.g., bowing, prostrating, etc.) to show his humility and submission to God while at the same time reciting and reflecting on select verses from the Qur’an and reiterating his commitment to God and to serving his fellow men (for more details on this, see “The Five Daily Worships (Salat)” portion of the Key Concepts in Surah Al-Baqarah). For prayer to be really meaningful and draw people’s attention, it should be conducted in the language that people understand. For many, this is controversial, but perhaps as a compromise each community should make sure that all Qur’anic recitations and supplications made during prayer are also translated into the language of the congregation as part of the prayer rituals. This is an urgent matter and needs to be done with proper discourse and community consensus while keeping the purpose of Salat in mind.
12. Ar-Rizq: Meaning provision or resources, this word refers to God’s provisions for us, which have a wide meaning and imply more than just pure physical sustenance such as food. God’s gifts come in the forms of knowledge, intellectual capability, vision, natural resources, physical ability, virtues, longevity, good health, leisure time, and many others. It is important that each one of these provisions or gifts be utilized properly for the benefit of oneself and the rest of mankind, as we are accountable for the proper usage of these provisions from God. God’s gifts are closely related to the concept of trust or endowment; whatever God gave each of us in the form of money, earnings, and physical and intellectual properties is in fact an endowment or trust which has be to put to use with proper care and humility. There is a simple hadith of the Prophet in which he said, “There are three gifts of God that the servants of God tend to misuse: youth, good health, and leisure time!” This is something we all should reflect on.
13. Al-Akhirah: Akhirah means to put behind or delay, and in the following context it is in reference to life after death, the Afterlife, and the Hereafter. In Islam, one of the pertinent beliefs of the faithful is life after death, which is closely tied to the Day of Judgment and which brings about a keen sense of accountability and an elation that all of our hard work done in good faith, in a proper manner, and with good intentions will be rewarded not only in this life but also in the Hereafter. Hence, the Afterlife becomes a source of great anticipation but also a reminder to lead a responsible life in this world, as this is the one chance we have to prove to God that we have lived our lives as they should have been lived, in harmony with nature and serving people. For some people the concept of the Afterlife has become a source of reclusiveness from this world, although Islam vehemently opposes any form of inactivity and withdrawal from society. There is no monastery in Islam, and Muslims actively have to participate in the struggles of life, family, and community to establish faith in God, the rule of law, and a just society. Unfortunately, the opposite is true for the majority of Muslims and Muslim communities. It is really disheartening to see how such a great religion, which is in effect the mother of all religions (from a spiritual and unified guidance perspective), has come to symbolize inaction, ignorance, and irrational thinking. In reality, it is not Islam which is at fault, but its followers, similar to the followers of Moses and Jesus who have also failed to live up to the true spirit of their teachings. It is time for the followers of these three great religions to come together, share their common heritage, and bring back faith and servitude to humanity in their true manifestations because we all will face God on the Day of Judgment after our deaths and have to demonstrate our true commitment to His guidance that is reflected in the Qur’an, Bible, Torah, and other books.
14. (Alladhina) Kafaru: This refers to those who are the deniers of truth and, in this context, who persistently deny the truth, disbelieve in the truth, or deny faith in and the guidance of God. God is always willing to offer people chances to correct themselves, but those who make a deliberate and consistent attempt to deny God’s existence and refuse to accept His guidance are called Kafirs (Disbelievers). Kufr, however, is the state of denial of God’s guidance or sovereignty. Even a person of faith who does something contrary to God’s instruction in a moment of failing will be in a state of Kufr for those moments or times. But a true believer will recover from that state and will try his best not to do the same thing again. As God indicated in the Qur’an, He will forget or forgive the mistakes or evils of a believer if he stops doing it and does not persist on it, whether it is a matter of faith or deed (4:137; 8:29). It is a shameful practice among many conservative Muslims to immediately brand a person that disagrees with them as a Kafir out of spite and frustration rather than on any sound judgment or basis. Only God knows who has faith and who does not, and one should refrain from such subjective opinions and reflect more on one’s own conditions and failings.
15. An-Nar: Nar means fire, but in this context Hellfire. The law of consequences (e.g., reward and punishment) is central to the Islamic concept of responsibility and also assures that those who did not receive generous rewards for good work and those who did not receive measured punishment for evil deeds in this life will be accounted for on the Day of Judgment. According to common beliefs, ideas, and revealed texts, Hell is considered a place of torment where people will burn in fire, be unable to quench thirst except with hot water or unpleasant drinks, be unable to die from torment, and be cursed by the guardian angels. Some people consider the punishments to be more in a mental form than in a physical form, as we experience in this life, since we will not exist in our physical forms in the Hereafter. As God indicated early in Surah Al-Baqarah, the Afterlife is a matter unknown to us, but He has given us glimpses, in light of our own experiences on this earth, of what that life may look like and how unpleasant and painful it will be in the Hellfire to show the severity of the consequences that will follow from a lack of faith and good deeds (for more details on this, see the “Heaven and Hell” portion of the Key Concepts in Surah Al-Baqarah).
16. Jannat: Jannat means Heaven or garden, and it is reserved for the faithful who not only professed faith but also acted on it in multiple dimensions, including through worship of God and serving others. The best action is in the creation of a social order where goodness prevails and evil is contained and eradicated, as our Prophet and his followers struggled hard to create such a society beyond worship and God consciousness. Heaven is a place of ultimate reward, where successful people will live in harmony with their spouses and neighbors, content with the provision of pure drinks, food, comfort, and the continuous blessings and presence of God. Jannat is not reserved for those who commit violence against the innocent, but for those who struggle to preserve justice and the rule of law; it is not reserved for imams, sheikhs, or kings who use religion for their personal benefits, but for those leaders and faithful who worship God without showmanship and serve humanity for its betterment without reward or recognition.
17. Azwazun: This implies a spouse or companion. The Qur’an, in general, is addressed to the audience as if it is male for perhaps two reasons: First, the primary audience in the social context of when it was revealed was male. Second, for literary simplicity, a gender needed to be assumed and the default was chosen to be the male gender, as is done in many of the literature and in all scriptures of antiquity without any exception. This is not to be confused with the importance of males and the negligence of females. The Qur’an has been very emphatic about equal opportunity for and equal responsibility of both males and females and the need for harmony and the sharing of responsibility. Hence, when the Qur’an implies that a man in Heaven will have his female companion, it implies equally that a female will have her male companion of equal purity and compatibility. In some of the male-dominated Muslim societies, this sometimes is taken to mean that God is favoring males over females and has become a source of complaints for many people, both Muslims and followers of other faiths. Such concepts and biases are absurd and need to be corrected through education and discussion and not through acrimony, since all religious scriptures have similar language, and we need to put things in the proper perspective and strive hard to bring equality among males and females in all spheres of activities, whether religious, work related, educational, or regarding access to free will or legal protection, among many others.
18. Ahad-Ullah: This implies a bond or covenant with God or a duty imposed by God to mankind. This is an important concept to understand as a person of faith and as a Muslim. God has created us in His nature, and we have an inner affinity for goodness and a dislike for evil and falsehood. In addition, God has made us aware of our existence and our responsibilities through His guidance that came through prophets and revelations as well as through His gifts to us in terms of our physical senses, intellectual capabilities, and inner consciousness so that we are able to reflect, comprehend, and formulate our thoughts and actions. Maintaining this bond (and this relationship) is about God and our fellow men; those who disregard this bond with God (that we are His creation and are thereby duty-bound) and destroy relationships with our fellow men through means of injustice and tyranny, for example, are the true transgressors and, hence, go outside the boundary of faith and goodness. This bond is not just among people of faith but among all created beings and entities, and it defines our interactions with our fellow men, our usage and consumption of natural resources, the equality of human beings, and our utmost respect for our common humanity. Some people feel that as long as they fulfill their commitment to God, such as through ritual worship, they can flaunt their commitment to their fellow men, which is fundamentally at odds with the teachings of Islam. A simple hadith, if given deeper reflection, will prove this point: God will tell someone on the Day of Judgment that He was hungry and that this person did not feed Him. The person will respond that day, “You are God, how could I have fed you?” and God will say, “Such and such a person was in need of food, and had you fed him, you would have fed Me.” In another hadith, the Prophet Mohammad is reported to have said, “Those of you who live in society, support your family, and live with the challenges of life are better in the eyes of God than those who go to the mountains and spend their lives worshipping God alone.”
19. Malaika: This commonly refers to the angels who are special creatures of God believed to be made of fire, be able to travel at the speed of light, carry out the commands of God as intermediaries between God and man as well as perform other functions as desired by God. The Archangel Gabriel is the angel primarily responsible for bringing God’s revelation to the prophets of God. There are many accounts of interactions between Prophet Mohammad and the Archangel Gabriel, including during the first revelation, subsequent messages from God as well as the teaching of how to perform the Islamic prayer. There are also angels who record human activities and prepare our individual records; angels in charge of Hell and Heaven, restraining the Devil, and inspiring us in goodness; and the Angel of Death who takes the human soul away at the time of death. Angels are fully controlled by God and lack free will, unlike humans. Some commentators also refer to angels as the controlling forces of nature, as defined and created by God. Again, this is a matter of the unseen and the unknown by humans, and accepting it is an act of faith. Therefore, we should confine our understanding of angels to what has been described by God, the Creator of angels, and not speculate on their nature, as some religions and cultures do in their portrayals of angels being of the female gender or as daughters of God. We need to recognize the presence of angels and understand that they perform according to God’s will and do not aid in the evil doings of mankind. We should recognize their presence in our universe and the role they play in our lives and seek their aid (with God’s permission) in helping us to perform good deeds in our lives.
20. Khalifa: Here, it implies someone who inherits, succeeds, or is appointed as an agent of someone (God, in the context of the Qur’an).The human race has been positioned as the successor or representative of God on this earth with intelligence to command the resources available and with conscience to make appropriate choices in the consumption of those resources and the execution of individual and collective responsibilities and obligations. The prostration of the angels before Adam shows the superiority of the human race due to our knowledge and sense of responsibility, and Iblis’ refusal to follow God’s command shows the potential consequences of failing to follow God’s command and guidance. This major responsibility of being God’s representative on Earth is something that most of humanity today is in denial about, because of which many conflicts, the lack of human rights, pervasive poverty, and the denial of political and economic freedom exist in many parts of the world. This is especially true of Muslim nations and their people that are supposed to uphold the highest standards in representing the Creator on this earth.
21. Asma’a: Though this conventionally means names, here it implies the names of things or the knowledge of things that are known from their names. God endowed mankind with knowledge and conscience, which are far superior to anything He has given to other creatures, including the angels. And while the angels commented on the darker side of the human race, God was pointing to the better side, intending to give us the gift of knowledge and understanding, wherein is the likeness of God, who is the possessor of all knowledge and wisdom. Being the bearers of knowledge also endows us with the freedom and responsibility to use that knowledge to better ourselves and demonstrate our gratitude for God’s grace. Yet too many of us today do not have equal access to knowledge, and our educational system is not geared toward providing a balanced perspective of life and its pursuits on this planet. Some of us also misuse our possession of God-given knowledge and its resultant enlightenment by either not acting accordingly or not sharing that knowledge widely.
22. Iblis: This implies someone who is in despair or has lost all hope. Another name for Iblis is Shaitan, meaning someone who has become distant or remote. Iblis, represented by the one who disobeyed God’s command to bow before Adam, is a symbol of those who are proud and willfully disobey God. When God asked the angels to bow before Adam, Iblis refused and was therefore removed from God’s grace. There is disagreement as to whether Iblis was an angel or, as some tend to believe, a Jinn (another creation of God also made from fire or pure energy) who achieved nearness to God through his good deeds and faith but ultimately failed to maintain God’s good grace due to his disobedience. This is also a reminder for every individual that we can be disgraced if we disobey God in this life despite our good deeds. As the Prophet had mentioned in a hadith, a person of faith can lose all his good deeds through a single act of disobedience or ungodliness while a person of evildoing can secure God’s blessing through a single act of goodness. Therefore, we should not be too comfortable with ourselves or be in despair of God’s grace. And the story of Iblis should serve as a constant reminder. Iblis, or Shaitan, is also commonly known as the Devil, who continues to persist either directly or indirectly through our evil thoughts and evildoings and, according to Qur’an, has been given life until Judgment Day.
23. Jwalimin: This means someone doing wrong or being unjust to others. Those who disobey God’s guidance and established moral or ethical limits are called wrongdoers. An example of such an unjust action would be making earnings illegally, such as through bribes, which is forbidden. But if any such act is done to defy God, then it could be an act of Kufr, meaning the denial of truth or God, which then becomes a serious act of disobedience that God may not forgive, whereas an act of wrongdoing will be forgiven if we stop doing it and ask for sincere forgiveness. In a broader sense, any unjust or immoral act becomes a source of wrongdoing and, as such, becomes tantamount to disbelief. Islam takes a strong stance on being just and doing the right things; yet it is really disheartening to see that some people perpetrate wrongdoings such as suicide bombings and corrupt practices such as the denial of citizens’ and women’s rights (e.g., voting rights, the right to drive, and in some Muslim countries the freedom to choose one’s husband) in the name of Islam and service to God.
24. As-Sabt: This implies a stance to cease to work or cut off the relationship from worldly activities, such as the Sabbath, the Jewish day of worship. Jews and Christians each have a day set aside for religious worship (Saturday for the Jews and Sunday for the Christians), and they are forbidden to work on that day. In this sense, Muslims do not have a Sabbath. Our Friday is a day of community prayer (mass), but only for a short duration, and before and after it we are not only allowed but also encouraged to continue to seek ways of livelihood and other meaningful worldly engagements. The Jewish law for the observance of the Sabbath is very detailed, and there have been numerous violations of the law, so much so that God Himself and many of the later prophets, including Jesus Christ, have reproved the Jewish people for it. Islam takes a more pragmatic approach, consistent with the duality of faith and good deeds that is the cornerstone of an Islamic way of life. But this is not how the majority of Muslims are following their ways of life. Our Friday prayers have become lifeless, and the Khutbahs (speeches or sermons) given have narrow meanings, useless rhetoric, and very little practical wisdom and too often are given by people whose understanding of the world and the community is limited. Additionally, the language in which the speeches are given is not the spoken language of the congregation, thereby further limiting the benefits of such an important communal teaching and communicational provision.
25. Ar-Rasul: This implies the Messenger or Prophet. The Qur’an uses several terms, such as Rasul and Nabi’, to indicate prophethood. Some prophets, such as Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad, have been gifted with divine books like the Old and New Testaments and the Qur’an, the final testament, such that their messages and communiqué could be available to later generations, while other prophets were aided and inspired by God through direct communication, such as Prophet Abraham when confronting the polytheists and Prophet Noah when building the ark to preserve life. God says in the Qur’an that prophets have been sent to every nation on Earth, and according to a hadith, there could have been as many as 140,000 prophets sent to guide people throughout the ages. The Bible and the Qur’an mention about over 20 names of prophets and provide the historical backgrounds of their times and lives. Adam is considered the first Prophet. Some prophets and their accounts are lost in history and some survive through legends and other religious writings that may not truly reflect their prophetic identities. It is quite possible and probable that historical figures such as the Buddha (the central figure in Buddhism), Lord Krishna (one of the key deities in Hinduism), and Confucius (who propagated ideals of sound governance and social justice in ancient China) are prophets of God who inspired their followers so much so that their prophethood was distorted into godhead, similar to how present-day Christians view Jesus. It is because of the legacies of the prophets, their knowledge that came to various nations and communities, and their universal human appeal that the Prophet of Islam urged his followers with his famous statement to “Seek knowledge even if you have to go to distant China,” thereby not only urging Muslims to seek knowledge and make it a priority but also to ensure that we never fall for the false pretense that we have nothing to learn from other people or other nations.
26. Ruhil-Kuddus: This implies a soul that is pure and sublime, sometimes implies the Archangel Gabriel, and at other times is a representation of the human soul as it originates from God and is endowed with God’s spirit that is pure and sublime. The souls and spirits of mankind are commands from God that endow human beings with knowledge and a conscience: “And when they ask you about the soul, say, ‘The soul is but the command of my Sustainer’” (17:85). The Holy Spirit in Islam refers to divine inspiration and in some cases refers to the Archangel Gabriel who is not necessarily the same as the Holy Spirit in Christianity, a deity in their doctrine of the Trinity: “God . . . strengthened him (Jesus) with Holy Spirit” (Qur’an 2:87); “The Holy Spirit has brought it (the Qur’an) from your Sustainer” (16:102); and “ . . . surely this is a revelation from the Sustainer of the Universe; the Faithful Spirit has brought in unto your (the Prophet’s) heart so that you may be an Adviser and a Warner” (26:192–195).
27. Ashraku: This term implies to share or associate and primarily denotes those who assign or the act of assigning divinity to anyone other than God. This is totally opposite to the Islamic concept of monotheism, as God strongly condemns any form of partnership to Him. One of the sayings of the Prophet makes the point very clear: “God, who is immensely merciful to mankind, will forgive all possible sins, with the exception of the singular sin of worshiping someone other than God, the Almighty.” Monotheistic religions, such as Christianity, have fallen into the trap of assigning partnership to God, while older religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, have made idol worshipping a regular ritual similar to that which was done by Arabs at the time of the Prophet. As we accept the concept of a singular head of state for a country or a chief executive officer of a commercial organization in our affairs in this world, it behooves us to accept a similar concept which is further corroborated by the immense grandeur and unifying theme of the universe and the uniform governing rules and aspects of our created world. Conceiving multiple deities and accepting power sharing among deities go against our own grain of thinking, practical wisdom, and smooth functioning of any elaborate system or organization. The presence of an omnipotent and omniscient God works well with our own experiences and our own inner yearnings to seek harmony and purpose in our existence.
28. Al-Fasikum: This term implies one who trespasses, violates, or transgresses by crossing the boundaries of legal and moral codes, violating established norms or universal values, exceeding limits of wickedness, not listening to calls for goodness, and consistently siding with evil. Those who deliberately and persistently violate or ignore the norms set by God in His Books of revelation create injustice (e.g., racism), the persecution of the innocent (e.g., ethnic cleansing), deceptive practices (e.g., colonial double standards and communism), a lack of a civil society (e.g., dictatorships and lawlessness), and economic disparity (e.g., unrestrained capitalism and a lack of shared prosperity) which, among other evil acts, are some of the most glaring and contemporary forms of acts of transgression prevalent in the world, including in Western and Muslim societies.
29. Sihr: This term refers to witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment, voodoo sciences, and other types of superstitions or activities and practices related to these. Engaging in any type of supernatural activity with or without one’s knowledge and ascribing divine power to anything or to any created being other than God go against human dignity and conscience while also marginalizing God’s gifts of knowledge and science to us. In modern times, our knowledge, which has expanded significantly and which opposes the art of witchcraft and superstition, has itself been used for evil purposes, such as in the making of the atom bomb, the corporate manipulation of natural resources in countries, false public relations campaigns, and disinformation from the media. Science and technology, which are meant to enlighten us, are increasingly being used to create a digital divide and trivialize our lives with harmful entertainment. Therefore, we need to be extra careful in understanding the underlying intent and purpose of our actions as we evaluate what is acceptable and what is not according to our social values, moral codes, laws, and faith.
30. Ayat: This term implies a sign or a message. An Ayat is a message or sign from God or a message or sign from God in nature, but it is also a verse, as in a verse of the Qur’an. The word Ayat is used in many instances in the Qur’an to draw attention to a number of things that may be relevant to the context of a passage or to draw attention to a broader view of the world. Sometimes it refers to a verse or a collection of verses in the Qur’an or even to the Qur’an as a whole, implying a collection of messages or verses. It also refers to examples of nature as providing insights (e.g., messages) about the creative power of God and the order of things in the natural world that provides meaning and insights to our lives and our purpose. Just like the Qur’an talks about God and offers guidance to mankind, nature itself is a compendium of facts and examples within the reach of our sensory abilities and capabilities that allows us to see God’s presence and creative existence. For example, why does an apple tree never refuse to give an apple to anyone who wishes to eat one, but we human beings always want to lay claim to things, sometimes to the detriment of others? Where is the sense of sharing and common purpose that is evident in nature and in our own bodies, where every cell strives to live in harmony with the cell next to it?
31. Mohsen: This term refers to a true believer who has to be a doer of good things to others as well as display a sense of purity and wholesomeness so that people find them to be pleasant to be around and interact with. Exhibiting these traits is a natural progression of true belief, and the absence of goodness in a believer actually signifies a lack of faith. The coexistence of belief and good actions is fundamental to the Islamic way of life, and every Muslim has to critically assess his state of being in terms of these two critical attributes. Similarly, Muslim societies and communities need to assess their success in terms of the overall condition of their members in light of these two attributes. Mohsen is also used in the context of fighting, so that even in a time of hostility goodness has to prevail so that we can achieve the intended result, which is the betterment of mankind and not just the winning of a war. In modern warfare, the values of being good to others (friends and foes alike) are seriously lacking, and many world and country- specific leaders have made attempts to destroy these values in the name of national securities and geopolitics, thereby lowering our standards and morals to the same level of evil that we are trying to contain and eliminate.
32. Subhanahu: This is an expression attributable to God alone, signifying His magnificence and perfection whereby He sustains everything and is not in need of sustenance from anyone else. Hence, this expression is used in the context of the Christian belief that Jesus is the son of God, meaning that God is above such attributes or human dependencies. Attributes and characteristics of God such as begetting a human or being subject to the human condition of needing to have a son are an assertion of blemishes to His essence, and the expression of Subhanahu is a powerful and emphatic refutation that God is not subject to such human limitations or confinement. God mentions in the Quran that if He is able to create the heavens and the earth then to create the likes of human beings is simpler. In another part of the Quran, He likens the creation of Jesus to that of Adam, thereby refuting the Jewish claim that Jesus could not have been born without blemish to Mary, mother of Jesus, or the Christian assertion that God has to be the father to clear Mary’s name.
33. Badiyu: A badiyu is someone who originates something from nothing (the True Creator or God), thereby contrasting the Creator with the creative power of the created beings. Our own creative power is more of a transformation; that is, we create something from something else or we achieve a form of transformation, like creating a new chemical from an existing chemical or through a recombination of existing atoms and molecules. God is the source of all creation, and that is part of our Islamic faith. As such, while all creative energies and capabilities need to be preserved and encouraged, it is unacceptable to God for us to claim His power of divinity and creation, as is claimed by some of the world’s religions and overly confident adherents to science and technology. Even some Muslims have fallen into a similar mind-set and think that some imams, pirs, and saints share in God’s creative power, as they present themselves to people as such.
34. Kun fa yakun: This means to say it and it becomes. A very pervasive expression in the Qur’an, it connotes the process of creation or destruction by God and His ability to do whatever He desires with ease and in a timely manner as He deems appropriate. The process could be instantaneous like an atomic reaction or a long-term process like evolution, but the outcome is controlled and fashioned by God as He so desires: “He is the doer of what He intends, and He is not afraid of its consequence” (91:15). These attributes of God are fundamental to our belief and are critical to understanding our own existence. The Qur’an says that whenever God intends to create something He says it and it is created, as is manifest in the gradual blooming of flowers, the birth of a child, the continuous advancement of glaciers as well as in the sudden occurrence of a volcanic eruption, a tsunami, or an avalanche. As God said in the Qur’an, “…Not a leaf falls without His knowledge…” (6:59), and so is the process and outcome of any event that happens in our lives, which is timed, managed, and driven to intended consequences through established physical causality as well as mental and spiritual dimensions that drive many of our decisions, actions, and consequences.
35. Al-Bait: This term means the House, which is now known as the famous Ka’bah (the kiblah or direction for Muslim prayer). The Ka’bah was built by the Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael in Mecca. It has been referred to by different names in various places in the Qur’an. It is known as the House of God (Bait Allah) and is the same as Bethel in the Bible. The Ka’bah is also referred to as The Sacred Sanctuary (Al-Bait Al-Haram), The Ancient House (Al-Bait Al-Atiq), and the House of Visitation or Pilgrimage (Al- Bait Al-Mamur). In 3:95, it is also referred to as the First House appointed for mankind for divine worship, and some historians, by implication, have commented that this is the place where Adam and Eve landed once displaced from Heaven to experience the harsh realities of life on this earth. It is interesting to note that while this House signifies the unity of direction in our prayer and, by implication, our purpose, Muslims have become the most divided communities in the world today.
36. Millat Ibrahim: This is the Community of Abraham or followers of Abraham. As Jews and Christians claimed that Prophet Abraham was a Jew or a Christian, the Qur’an in reply actually asked them to be part of the Community of Abraham who truly believed in one God and had served Him and humanity well. The Qur’an also asked the rhetorical question, “How could Abraham be a Jew or a Christian when he preceded both Moses and Jesus?” Abraham is legendary in his God consciousness and devotion to human upliftment, as is evident in his fervent work, aspirations, and prayers to see his posterity prosper in good acts and high morals. His advocating against the idol worshiping of his parents’ generation is well documented, and his incessant pursuit for the Creator of his known world is foundational for the person yearning to find his Sustainer. The three great religions of today—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—all go back to Abraham. Muslims should return to following his footsteps, as we are losing his legacy by not doing so.
37. Hanifa: This is someone who is inclined to be truthful, faithful, and righteous. This word has been used frequently in the Qur’an in reference to Prophet Abraham, signifying a key element of the view of the life of a Muslim, a true believer. He was not only a person of true faith, but he was always ready to demonstrate his faith with righteousness. He sought the truth regarding God in his early life; fought against the idol worshiping of his father’s generation; built the Ka’bah, the center of Islamic ritual prayer; strove diligently against temptation and the great trials that God tested him with; and was relentless in his desire to have the future generation be rightly guided. It is a remarkable fact that the Prophets Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad all came from his lineage.
38. Sibghat: This word is used in reference to asking believers to take on the color of God, i.e., fully committing to the essence of God; keeping our promise to him; deliberately moving toward goodness, righteousness, truth, kindness, justice, and human services; and consciously avoiding evil, lies, rudeness, oppression, etc. Perhaps we should look at the 99 attributes of God, as mentioned in the Qur’an, and try our best to inculcate those attributes in our lives through words and actions so that we can truly be God’s representatives on this Earth.
39. Ummatan Wasatan: This implies a community or group of people who follow a middle course in all matters, avoiding extremes. It is a community of a balanced view in life, of middle ground, devoid of extremism. This is a very apt definition of a Muslim community in which the citizenship and leadership of the community have to ensure that extremism of any form, whether spiritual or material, is prevented though proper education, civil governance, and an atmosphere of constructive dialogue with humility before God and compassion for our fellow men as the norm. In almost all Muslim countries, we have moved away from such a balanced view about life and the pursuit of success in this world and in the Hereafter. On one hand, we have become ignorant, arrogant, and devoid of the guidance of the Qur’an based on superficial and literal understandings rather than having gained a deeper, contextual, and nuanced understanding; on the other hand, we have become blind imitators of material progress and excesses in the name of material development. We need to critically reflect on life, and our teachers and leaders have to guide people and humanity to the proper and balanced course. Islam came, in some sense, to tame the overly material outlook of the Jewish community and the monastic view of the followers of Jesus, a delicate balancing act which was to confer upon believers true faith in one God and a purposeful attitude toward the material world to seek and responsibly benefit from each other and from the material world without abuse, misuse, and unwarranted hoarding.
40. Zikr: This term means remembrance, as in remembering God through words and, more importantly, through actions. Followers of Sufism and some Muslims take the meaning literally and engage in group chanting of God’s names as a form of Zikr, which more appropriately falls into the category of making an act of religion a showcase that benefits no one. I have seen people doing this chanting in Mosques over loud speakers, annoying people and disturbing their sleep at night time. However, these are a less impactful and public show of God’s remembrance. True remembrance comes in the forms of constant awareness and consciousness of God, where all of our activities, decisions, and thoughts are guided by God’s teachings and directives as well as our God-given talents, intuition, and innate sense of right and wrong.
41. Kaumi Yakilun: This term refers to people of deep conviction, reasoning, and understanding. In the Qur’an, God draws attention to natural phenomena, e.g., rain, wind, vegetation, creatures, the cycle of day and night, the seasons, the flight of birds, ships made by man that ply though the vast ocean, etc. so as to enable us to comprehend God’s grand design and creative hand in action. The Prophet of Islam used to spend hours alone in a cave reflecting on the nature of things and human societies, worshipping God, and praying. Deep reflection, reasoning, and understanding are critical to developing firm faith even though one can be faithful or act as a faithful without much reasoning or thinking. But true and committed believers have to reinforce their beliefs through contemplation and conviction and not through mere imitation. Some Muslim scholars and less-educated imams, following the footsteps of the clergy and rabbis, say that Muslims, just like Christians and Jews, should blindly follow the Qur’an and hadith (Prophet’s actions and words) without thinking or questioning the teachings to understand their true meanings. Such positioning is contrary to the real essence of Islam and Islamic teachings. The rise of Madrassas, where reasoning is absent and the secular education of God’s essence is not taught, created a vast group of Muslims who lack true understanding of and true commitment to Islamic ways of thinking, working, and managing affairs. Actions that are lacking in self-analysis, self-criticism, and retrospective thinking and that are performed without questioning Qur’anic guidance with an open mind and without understanding why certain guidance came along, what the relevance of that guidance is in light of our contemporary world, and how that guidance can be adjusted are all challenges that we need to face and act on; otherwise, Islam will become stagnant, and Muslims will become marginalized in the global competition for goodness and influence.
42. Halalan Taiyeban: This represents food that is acceptable and pure. In the Qur’an, God has simplified the dietary rules for Muslims in comparison to some of the complicated rules that other religions, for example Judaism, follow. In Islam, all provisions from God that are good and pure are accepted as lawful (halal), with the following exceptions: the meat of animals that are slaughtered with the invocation of false gods, dead animals, blood, the meat of swine (pork), alcohol, and drugs that intoxicate, impair judgment, or cause bodily harm. Animals who eat other animals, who have claws, etc. are also considered unacceptable based on hadith. Islam also considers the food of the Christians and Jews acceptable, with the exceptions noted above. Being overly restrictive in matters where God has allowed wider latitude is a sign of religious extremism and demonstrates a lack of appreciation for God’s mercy on and benevolence toward mankind. Some Muslims are overly restrictive in their dietary restrictions; for example, unless meat is strictly halal (similar to the Jewish insistence of kosher food), they will not eat the meat, whereas a broader view and middle ground would be that unless the meat can be proven to be haram (unlawful), they can and should consume it. In one of his most famous sayings, the Prophet said, “When I have multiple options to choose from, I chose the one that is easy for people to execute.”
43. Haram: This means to forbid or to be unlawful. Certain foods and certain immoral stances are considered unlawful in Islam. What is unlawful regarding food items has already been mentioned above under “Halal.” In terms of immoral standpoints, killing a person without just cause, terrorizing and causing anarchy in society, devouring others’ property by unlawful means, having sex outside of marriage, and burdening a borrower with all the risks in a financial transaction are just some major examples of what acts are forbidden for people of faith (also see 5:3). While it is imperative that we stay away from haram ways of life, it is also important that Muslim societies create conditions and institutions that provide lawful preventives to discourage immoral elements, such as maintaining justice, allowing adequate protection for women, and creating appropriate financial institutions and instruments. The absence of evil is not enough to create a successful society, but an abundance of goodness that permeates every aspect of our lives will ensure such success. It is remarkable that God exhorts Muslims (or anyone of faith) to do several things in the following statement: “You are the best community, evolved for the benefit of mankind because you encourage what is good, you discourage what is evil, and you believe in God” (3:110). Three acts are mentioned here in specific order: first, doing good things; second, eliminating evil; and, finally, having faith in God. Faith cannot coexist with evil, the lack of evil is not the same as the presence of active goodness, and the justification of evil things (such as suicide bombings) in the name of justice is absurd and ungodly. It may be that many of us, if not all, need to really think about how we understand our religion.
44. Quisas: This term means retaliation or, more appropriately, just retribution. Since the matter of killing involves a variety of circumstances—premeditated murder, murder under extreme provocation, culpable homicide, accidental manslaughter, and so forth—pure and simple retaliation in the same manner is not the best and fairest of options; just retribution that reflects the circumstance, interest, and well-being of the parties involved should be factored in. Banning capital punishment altogether and ignoring the feelings and aspirations of the grieved parties encourage more killing on both sides, do not render justice, and, in the case of life imprisonment, put a heavy burden on society to support killers who grossly violated their obligations as responsible individuals. The Islamic doctrine of capital punishment provides the clear disincentive to any individual contemplating murder that he will lose his life in such a case and also guarantees that the victim’s heirs will receive justice while allowing for potential clemency and a just compensation in case of involuntary murder according to the wishes of the victim’s heirs and mutually acceptable terms. The details of these legal injunctions can be obtained from other legal sources on Islamic law. Every Muslim country and society should periodically review such laws to ensure that they conform to the true spirit of Islamic guidance for justice and mercy while being responsive to evolving views on such matters based on collective discussion, wisdom, deeper investigation of cause and effect, and the overall welfare of the society. Some of these social and secular matters should not be construed as inviolable, rather, they should be opportunities to continually question and conform to human development and enlightenment.
45. Forq’an: This term refers to an ability to separate, distinguish, and decide or something that does so. This is also an attribute or name of the Qur’an. The Qur’an as a divine revelation has been described by God and the Prophet in terms of several key attributes or distinctions: (1) a divine book of revelation, (2) a book of truth, (3) a book of guidance for mankind, (4) a self-evident proof of guidance, and, lastly, (5) a book of criteria for mankind to judge between right and wrong, good and evil, and truth and falsehood. The name has also been applied to the Torah (the Jewish holy book), for example, again testifying to the unity and universality of Islamic teachings in line with all revealed faiths and guidance. It is really important that what we draw from the Qur’an are the guidance and principles of living and serving rather than blind imitation, literal follow-through, and the blind following of previous generations of Muslims without the proper use of reasoning, collective and vigorous investigation, and God-given intellectual capabilities, instincts, and insights. It is also important to remember that God gave us (humans) brains to comprehend the universe and the Qur’an and did not give us the Qur’an to shape our brains, as some religious extremists and uneducated imams would like us to believe.
46. Q’italo: This word means both to fight and kill and should be applied only in the context in which it is used. Fighting a defensive war or battle, which may involve killing, is allowed in the face of persistent oppression, killing, and denial of freedom and human rights. Muslims are not allowed to fight without just cause, and, hence, any preemptive strike is not allowed unless there is imminent danger and provocation. God said categorically that He does not approve of aggression and also stipulated that if an aggressive party is inclined to peace (barring deception), the benefit of doubt should be extended and hostilities should be stopped (8:61). Fighting should be in favor of any people, irrespective of their religious background, if they are oppressed and murdered without due cause. Muslims are to protect all people, not just their own, including innocent civilians, especially women, children, and the elderly, as well as properties and natural resources. Our behavior should be different from that of our adversaries, who may do the opposite of what the Qur’an says to do. As God states in the Qur’an, “…And let not the hatred of a people—because they barred you from reaching the Sacred Mosque—incite you to acts of transgression. And help one another in righteous deeds and responsible acts…” (5:2). Perhaps the extremists from a