Religion :: Common Arabic Words Used by Muslims

Have you ever wondered what 'Allahu Akbar' means or any other common phrases that you may hear in movies or from your Muslim friends and family members? Well, this is a short article designed to give you the basics of the Muslim vocabulary by defining 30 common terms.

Allahu Akbar- Often mistranslated as 'God is the greatest', it actually means 'God is greater'. This indicates that whatever you may be thinking of in your mind, good or bad, God is greater than that. When we begin praying we say 'Allahu Akbar' and raise our hands to the sides of our head, this is signifying throwing the world and all it's worries behind us and concentrating solely on God.

Alhamdulilah- Literally means "All praise is due to God', but you can think of it as 'Thank God'.

Subhan Allah- Means 'Glory be to God' and is used in a variety of situations to denote amazement or awe in both very good and very bad situations.

Bismillah- Means 'In the name of God' and is used whenever we start any activity, from eating or drinking to starting our car. If you feel ashamed to say Bismillah before doing a certain activity, you probably shouldn't be doing it.

Bismillah Ar-rahman Ar-raheem- Means 'In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful'. The Compassionate and the Merciful are two of the names of God mentioned in the Qur'an. God mentions 99 names for himself in the Qur'an which are attributes such as these two, with the crowning jewel, 'Allah' for His proper name. It is interesting to note that of these 99 names, not one of them is 'father'.

La ilaha ill Allah- Means 'There is no deity except Allah'. This is the first part of the creedal statement of Islam and it is something that Muslims repeat to themselves often. Plus, it is very rhythmical and soothing to say!

Dunya- Means the life of this world and everything in it. Money, family, material items and the entire universe is wrapped up in this word. Muslims are encouraged to think beyond the dunya and remember that this life is only a test to determine your placement in the next life, the hereafter, our permanent home.

Akhira- Means 'The Hereafter' or the life of the next world which includes Heaven, Hell, and the Day of Judgment.

Deen- Simply means 'Religion'.

Assalamu alykum- The greeting that Muslims bestow on one another meaning 'Peace be upon you'.

Wa alaykum assalam- The reply to the greeting which means, 'And unto you peace'.

Ma salama- Literally means 'With peace' but is used as 'Goodbye'.

La hawlat wa la guwat illa billahi- This means 'There is now might or power except by the will of God' which is used whenever appropriate.

Ramadan- A month of the Muslim calendar in which Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. Also, it is the month of revelation; the Qur'an was revealed in the fourth week of Ramadan, the Gospel to Jesus in the third week of Ramadan, the Torah to Moses in the second week of Ramadan and the Psalms to David in the first week of Ramadan.

Hajj- The pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim is required to make at least once in their life if they are physically and financially able.

Adhan- The call to prayer.

Rasool Allah- The messenger of God, it can be any messenger of God but in the Islamic context it usually refers to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Salah- This is the prayer that most people associate with Muslims, where they stand in rows and go through a series of positions and prostrations.

Du'a- Another type of prayer which can be done anytime and anywhere, it is simply calling on God. This is what most other religions refer to as prayer, Islam has the formal and informal prayer which are both encouraged.

Zakat- This is the tax that is paid by Muslims once a year to feed the poor. It is 2.5% of the excess wealth that a person has in their bank account for a full year. The money is paid directly to the poor and cannot be used for mosques, schools or anything besides feeding the needy.

Sawm- Means 'fasting' and is required during Ramadan and encouraged to do whenever possible.

Hadith- A saying of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

Sunnah- Includes the hadith and is more expansive to include any of the saying, deeds or beliefs of the Prophet and any action that he gave his explicit or tacit approval or disapproval of. It is the secondary source of Islam since we use the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as our example of how to live by the rules laid out in the Qur'an.

Sahaba- The companions of the Prophet. Anyone who ever met the prophet in person is considered to be a sahaba, whether they were close friends or not.

Jihad- Literally means 'Struggle' and is almost always mistranslated as 'Holy War'. The greater jihad is the struggle to conquer our own desires and submit to God's desires and the lesser jihad is to fight for the sake of God and His religion.

Islam- From the root word 'salama' which means 'peace' it is a derivative which means 'to submit', a complete definition is to achieve peace through submission to God.

Muslim- A person who submits to the will of God.

Qur'an- Literally means 'recitation' or 'something to be recited', it is the literal word of God revealed to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by the Angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years.

Shahada- Means 'Witnessing' and refers to the creedal statement of Islam that one utters to enter Islam, There is no deity worthy of worship besides God, and Muhammad is His prophet.

Insha Allah- Means 'By the will of God' and is used any time that a person refers to the future.

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