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Islam -- The Straight Path: Islam Interpreted by Muslims by Kenneth W. Morgan


Kenneth W. Morgan is Professor of history and comparative religions at Colgate University. Published by The Ronald Press Company, New York 1958. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


Glossary of Islamic Terms


Abbasid -- Caliphate at Baghdad from 132 (A.D. 750) until the Abbasid dynasty was crushed by the Mongols under Hulagu in 656 (A.D.1158).

Adat -- in Indonesia, pre-Islamic customs which persist even though not reconciled to Islamic law.

Ahmadiyvah -- branch of the Qadiani sect founded at Qadian (now in India) by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (died 1326; A.D. 1908); the Ahmadis look upon their founder as a renovator of Islam while the rest of the Qadianis accept him as a prophet after Muhammad; the general Muslim community does not recognize the distinction and regards both groups as heretical. Well-known for its missionary work in Western countries. The headquarters are now at Rabwah in Pakistan under the leadership of the founder’s son.

Ahund -- in China, a religious leader who teaches, officiates at ceremonies, and settles disputes; it is sometimes transliterated Ahung.

Almohad -- North African dynasty, 524-667 (A.D. 1130-1269), which supplanted the Almoravids and at one time ruled Moorish Spain and all of North Africa to the borders of Egypt.

Almoravid -- a Berber dynasty which established its rule in Morocco and most of Moorish Spain, ruling from 448 to 541 (A.D. 1056-1147).

amir -- commander, or leader; sometimes used in the sense of ruler.

Ansar -- the believers of Medina who helped Muhammad after the Hijrah.

Aoulia -- Allah’s constant obeyers, His favorites.

Ash‘arite -- follower of the theology of al-Ash’ari (died 324; A.D. 935), the theological position most widely held among Sunnis.

Ayyubid -- dynasty which ruled from the Nile to the Euphrates from 564 to 648 (A.D. 1169-1250).

Bektashi -- Sufi order in Turkey, characterized by the ecstatic dances of the darwishes, and the acceptance of some Shi‘a beliefs; although its founder called for complete observance of the shari‘a.some followers regarded shari‘a as of secondary importance.

Buwayhid – Shi‘a dynasty in southern Iran and Iraq, 320-447 (A.D. 932-1055)

Caliph (Khalifa) -- successor to Muhammad; at first, both religious and political leader of the Muslims, but later chiefly political. At present, there is no Caliph.

Chishti -- Sufi order in Pakistan and India, emphasizing poverty, contentment, austerity, no permanent home, and the repetition of the name of Allah.

darwish (dervish)-a Persian word meaning poor; the Arabic word is faqir. Usually used in the sense of a member of a Sufi order, sometimes means a religious wanderer; one who follows ecstatic practices in expressing religious devotion.

dhikr -- to remember Allah, to speak of Allah, to recognize and acknowledge the greatness of Allah. Sometimes used in reference to the ritual prayers, more often refers to additional phrases repeated after the prayers or at other times. Sufi orders have special phrases to be repeated after the prayers and in other ceremonies.

Druze -- sect found in Lebanon and Syria which follows esoteric teachings and worships the Fatimid Caliph Hakim as an incarnation of the Deity; while related to Islam, it is not considered sufficiently orthodox to be generally accepted as Muslim.

faqir -- see darwish.

Fatimid -- Shi‘a dynasty which at one time extended its rule from Syria to Morocco and governed Egypt and Syria from 297 to 567 (A.D. 909-1171).

fatwa -- a formal legal opinion given by a recognized religious leader; a religious pronouncement or verdict concerning a controversial question.

fiqh -- Islamic jurisprudence, covering all aspects of life.

Fitna -- sedition; specifically, the revolt against Uthman.

Ghaznavid -- a dynasty in Afghanistan and the Punjab, 351-582 (A.D. 962-1186).

Ghorid -- a dynasty in Afghanistan and India, 543-612 (A.D. 1148-1215).

Hadith -- the sacred Traditions of Islam which were originated by Muhammad; specifically, the Traditions uttered by Muhammad or based on his actions.

Hajj -- the pilgrimage to Mecca; the fifth pillar of Islam.

Hajji (Hadji) -- a person who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Hamdanid -- Shi‘a dynasty which ruled from Mosul and Aleppo, 317- 94 (A.D. 929-1003).

Han -- the Chinese people.

Hanafi -- one of the four schools of Islamic law, founded by Abu Hanifa (died 150; A.D. 767); followed in Turkey, Afghanistan, Central Asia, China, Pakistan, India, and Egypt.

Hanbali -- one of the four schools of Islamic law, founded by Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (died 241; A.D. 855); followed in Central Arabia, Syria, and some parts of Africa.

Hatip -- altered form of Khatib, used in Turkey and Indonesia.

Hijrah (sometimes anglicized as Hegira)-the migration of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in AD. 622; the Muslim calendar is dated from this event.

Hui -- Muslim people of China.

Hurs -- followers of a renowned religious leader in Pakistan, Pir Pagaro.

Ibadi -- a branch of the Kharijites of early Islam who have accomodated themselves to live within the community of Muslims; found chiefly in Oman, East Africa, and North Africa. They combine Shi‘a and Sunni characteristics, believe in an Imam, follow Maliki jurisprudence, and have Mu‘tazilite tendencies.

Iblis -- the devil.

Id al-Adha -- the great four-day festival which begins on the tenth day of the month Dhu‘l Hijja; the pilgrimage is performed on the first three days. It is also known as Id al-Qurban, and in Turkey as Bairam.

Id al-Fitr -- the little festival, held at the end of the Ramadan fast on the first day of the month Shawwal. This and the Id al-Adha are the two most important festivals in Islam.

ijma -- consensus; the agreement concerning religious opinion reached by those who are qualified by knowledge and experience to form a judgment.

ijtihad -- literally, striving; truth-seeking; the individual opinion or judgment of a person who has considered all the facts in the light of reason and Revelation.

Imam -- in the most general sense, a Muslim head of a movement, community, or state; also used to designate a recognized religious leader. Among Shi‘as, Imam is limited to the recognized successors of Mi.

irja -- the doctrine that judgment on the actions of believers is postponed until the Last Day, the Day of Resurrection.

Isma‘ili -- Shi‘a sect, which includes several sub-sects; followers of those who believe that Isma‘il was the seventh and last Imam. The Fatimids believed that the succession continued through the sons of Muhammad Ibn Isma‘il. The Isma‘il sects today believe either that the seventh Imam was the last and is now the Hidden Imam, or that the succession of Imams has continued in the Prophet’s family from Muhammad Ibn Isma‘il.

Ithna Ashariya -- the major Shi‘a sect which believes that there were twelve Imams and that the Hidden Imam continues as their head; sometimes called the "Twelvers."

Itrat -- the family of the Prophet; belief in the Itrat implies belief that guidance in Islam comes through the descendants of the Prophet, the Imams. (In Egypt it is customary to use the phrase Ali al Bait when referring to the Prophet’s family).

Ja‘fari -- the Shi‘a school of law, named after Ja‘far, the sixth of the twelve Imams; comparable to the four schools of law of the Sunnis; another term for Shi‘as.

Jahiliya -- the pre-Islamic age of ignorance.

Jahriyah -- the only Sufi sect in China; found also in Central Asia, Turkey, and Egypt.

janissaries -- in Turkey, the Sultan’s garrison troops made up of Christian boys who had been captured or levied at any early age and trained as soldiers.

Jinn -- supernatural creatures, sometimes virtuous and sometimes wicked, who receive the revelations through the messengers of Allah and, like men, must take responsibility for bearing and believing Allah’s messages.

Ka‘ba -- the sacred shrine at the center of the Great Mosque in Mecca; the goal of the Muslim pilgrimage.

Kaisani – Shi‘a sect, no longer existing, which believed that the true succession after Ali was through Muhammad Ibn al-Haniflyya, his son by a girl of the Hanifa clan.

Kharijite -- a sect which started with those of Ali’s followers who opposed him for negotiating with Muawiya; known to the Shi‘a as "the people who have forsaken the community"; originally a warrior group, they sought to kill those who disagreed with them, and were condemned by the Muslim community. They denied the validity of the succession of Sunni Caliphs and Shi‘a Imams, recognizing as Caliph only the leader elected from their own group. They exist today in small numbers in Oman, and in the moderate Ibadi sect.

Khatib -- religious leader who preaches in the mosque at the Friday and holiday services.

khums -- special form of almsgiving required of Shi‘a s to provide maintenance for and support the work of the descendants of the Prophet; it is the Arabic word for one-fifth.

Khwarizm -- Muslim dynasty, 470-629 (A.D. 1077-1231), which in its last fifty years extended from the Indus almost to the Euphrates, from the Ural Mountains to the Persian Gulf; it was destroyed by the Mongol invasion.

kudsi Hadith -- a Hadith which expresses God’s meaning in the Prophet’s words.

Lahori -- sect in Pakistan which separated from the Qadianis; looked upon by the orthodox as heretical.

langgar -- a gathering place in Indonesia used as a place of prayer and instruction, but not recognized as a mosque; therefore not used for Friday prayer.

Lodhi -- dynasty in India, 855-930 (A.D. 1451-1526), overcome by Babar.

madrasa -- school or college, often associated with a mosque, primarily for instruction in Islamic beliefs and laws.

Mahdavi -- Muslim sect in India characterized by the belief that Muhammad of Jaunpur was the Mahdi.

Mahdi -- the Guided One, the Expected One who is to come to set right the evils of the world; sometimes refers to the Hidden Imam who is to return.

Maliki -- one of the four schools of law of Islam, based on the interpretations of the Traditions by Malik Ibn Anas (died 179; A.D. 795); found chiefly in North and West Africa and in Egypt.

Mamluk -- Egyptian dynasties ruled by sultans who had been Turkish and Circassian slaves; the Bahri Mamluks ruled from 648 to 792 (A.D. 1250-1390), and the Burji Mamluks from 784 to 922 (A.D. 1382-1517). They resisted the invasions of the Crusaders and the Mongols, maintaining their power until the coming of the Ottoman Turks.

Man -- the Manchu people in China.

mawali -- usually translated "client." Originally a stranger affiliated with an Arabic tribe; with the expansion of Islam it was used to designate a non-Arab convert to Islam, one who in the early years was placed by the Arabs (but not by Islam) in an inferior status.

Mehmed -- when the name Muhammad refers to a person other than the Prophet, it is ordinarily pronounced Mehmed in Turkey and some other non-Arabic-speaking countries.

Meng -- the Mongolian people of China.

Mevlevi -- Turkish Sufi order based on the teachings of Mevlana Jalal al-Din Rumi.

Mu‘attila -- those who insist that the divine attributes are functionless.

Mubaheleh-the ceremony at which heresy is condemned.

mu’ezzin -- the man who gives the call to prayer from the minaret.

Mufti -- in some Muslim countries, the religious leader who is recognized by the community as qualified to give interpretations of Muslim law; in some countries the title is reserved only for the most orthodox leaders.

Muhajirun -- emigrants from Mecca to Medina at the time of the Prophet.

Muharram -- first month of the Muslim calendar; the first ten days are sacred for the Shi‘a festival in memory of the death of Husain.

Mujtahid -- a Shi‘a religious leader who is competent to pronounce an ijtihad, that is, a religious opinion based on the right use of reason, without contradicting Revelation.

Mullah -- a religious leader; usually considered in Pakistan and India to be conservative in his interpretations, and often used there in a depreciatory sense.

Mulud (Mawlid) -- the festival of the birth of Muhammad.

Murjites -- those who postpone all judgment until the Day of Judgment.

Mut‘a -- temporary marriage; a marriage based on an initial agreement that it will be ended after a fixed time. The Sunnis believe that the Prophet originally sanctioned and later forbade such marriages; Shi‘a s believe he did not forbid them.

Mu’tazilite -- the school of rational theologians in Islam.

Naqshbandi -- Sufi order founded some six centuries ago; exists today in India, Central Asia, Turkey, and Indonesia.

nawafil -- extra prayers, said in addition to the required ritual worship.

Pir -- a Sufi sage or founder of a Sufi order; it means "old man."

Qadarites -- those who uphold free will.

Qadi- --a Muslim judge who bases his decisions on Islamic law.

Qadiani -- follower of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad; Qadianis are generally considered to have placed themselves outside Islam by having recognized him as a prophet after Muhammad; called Qadianis to distinguish them from the Lahoris. (See Ahmadiyyah.)

Qadiri -- Sufi order in Pakistan, India, Turkey, and North Africa, founded by Abdul Qadir Jilani (died 562; A.D. 1166).

Qarmatian -- a radical Shi‘a sect which believed in a cyclical process of creation, and that nothing exists outside God; no longer existing.

qiyas -- reasoning; deduction by analogy from the Qur’an and Sunnab.

Quraish -- the inhabitants of Mecca at the time of the Prophet, a tribal group subdivided into clans.

al-Qurban -- see Id al-Adha.

Ramadan -- ninth month of the Muslim year, the month set aside for the annual fast.

Rifa‘i -- Sufi order founded in 571 (A.D. 1175).

riya -- Arabic word for hypocrisy, or ostentation.

Sab‘iya -- the "Seveners"; Shi‘a sects which limit the number of Imams to seven, looking upon Isma‘il as the last Imam.

Salafiya -- traditionalists, from salaf which means ancestors; those who hold to the traditions of their predecessors; also, those who insist on a literal interpretation of all passages in the Qur’an.

salat -- literally, the bowing or kneeling; the daily ritual service of worship; commonly used to refer to the five daily prayers required of Muslims; the second of the five pillars of Islam.

Samanid -- dynasty in Transoxiana which at one time extended from the borders of India almost to Baghdad, 261-389 (A.D. 874-999).

Sayyid (Sayed) -- a title of honor given to a descendant of the Prophet through Fatimah and the family of Ali; in some countries it may be given to a descendant of the Quraish. Literally it means master, as in the relation of a master to a slave.

Seljuq -- Turkish tribe from vicinity of Samarkand which established an empire extending from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, 429-700 (A.D. 1037-1300).

Senussi -- Sufi order, founded in 1253 (A.D. 1837) in North Africa, combining Sufism with Wahhabi ideas.

Shafi‘i -- school of Islamic law founded by al-Shafi‘i (died 205; A.D. 820); followed today chiefly in Indonesia and western India.

Shaikh -- title given in some Muslim countries to a man recognized as a qualified religious teacher; also, the head of a Sufi order or tekke, or the spiritual enlightener of a person.

Sham -- Syria.

shari‘a -- Islamic law, the Islamic code. Literally, the clearly defined path to be followed.

Sharif -- honorary title given to descendants of Ali’s two sons, Husain and Hasan; sometimes given to anyone who can trace his descent from Muhammad. A Sharif is entitled to wear a green band on his turban. Literally, it means "noble, exalted."

Shattari -- Sufi order in India and Indonesia, founded by Abdulla Shattar in 818 (A.D. 1415).

Shazili -- Sufi order, established in North Africa in 594 (A.D. 1197); found today in North Africa, the Balkans, Turkey, and Indonesia.

Shi‘a -- literally, "followers"; the followers of Ali, looking upon him as the true successor of Muhammad. The largest group of the Shi‘a , the Ithna Ashariya, are found chiefly in Iran and Iraq; other sects, commonly called Isma‘ilis, are found in India, Pakistan, the Levant, Oman, Yemen, and East Africa. There are approximately twenty-five million Shi‘a s today.

slametan -- a feast of well-being in Indonesia, customarily held at the end of a religious ceremony or in commemoration of the death of a relative.

Sufi -- a Muslim mystic; a member of a religious order which follows mystical interpretations of Islamic doctrines and practices.

Sunnah -- the prophetic teachings of Muhammad given either by word or example or by tacit approval.

Sunni -- a follower of the Sunnah; by usage it has come to refer to the orthodox position in Islam, those Muslims who are not Shi‘a s.

Surah -- a chapter in the Qur’an.

tafsir -- a commentary, usually on the Qur’an.

ta‘limis -- searchers for truth who require an infallible living teacher.

taqiya -- literally, "caution, fear, disguise"; among Shi‘a s the permission to disguise one’s religious beliefs in a time of persecution.

tariqa -- order; refers to any Sufi order.

tekke (tekkiye) -- a Sufi center or community, made up of residences, a school, and a mosque or a place for performing the ceremonies of the order; sometimes called a lodge or monastery; ribat in Arabic.

Tijani -- Sufi order founded in Morocco by Abul Abbas Ahmad (died 1231; A.D. 1815); it has spread primarily in the Sudan within the last two centuries.

Tsang -- the Tibetan people of China.

Tulunid -- dynasty of Egypt, founded by Abmad Ibn Tulun, a Turkish slave, in 254 (A.D. 868); it lasted only thirty-seven years, but was noted for its wealth and public works.

ulama -- scholars well-versed in Islam, regarded by the orthodox as authoritative interpreters of Islamic beliefs and practices.

Umayyad -- the first hereditary Caliphate of Islam, ruling from Damascus from 4: to 132 (A.D. 661-750).

Vizier -- a minister or high executive officer in the government.

Wahhabi -- Muslim reformist sect in Arabia in the last century opposing innovations in Islam, sometimes with violence.

waqf -- religious endowment or foundation established to support public works and religious institutions.

Zaidi -- Shi‘a sect named after Zaid, the son of the fourth Imam; they believe that it is often necessary to fight for their faith; they have Mu‘tazilite tendencies, follow the Shafr‘i school of law, and are thus close to the Sunnis.

zakat -- almsgiving as required by Islamic law; the third of the five pillars of Islam.

zimmi -- protected persons; those followers of other religions who, under a Muslim ruler, prefer to keep their own religion and are protected in their choice; literally, those for whom the Muslim state considers itself responsible.

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