Thursday, September 30, 2010

Islam Vocabulary and Concepts

Dear friends,

In my middle school English class at our (former) home school co-op last spring, I gave my students an assignment to read a missionary biography and write a report about it.  In conjunction with this, I taught a series on major religions and world views, explaining the vocabulary and concepts behind Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, atheism/secularism, communism/socialism, tribal religions and Judaism. You can find the Judaism list here: Judaism Vocabulary and Concepts.  

This is the vocabulary word list for Islam.  In addition to the following vocabulary words, I printed out current news reports related to Islam, plus an article about Samuel Zwemer, who was a missionary to Muslims.  We discussed all of this in class, as well as comparing Islam with the Christian Bible.  For more information on Islam from a Christian perspective, visit

Islam Vocabulary Words

  • Allah: name for God; they often say "Insha Allah" which means "if Allah is willing"
  • Arabic: the language that the Qur'an is written in
  • burqa: full coverage clothing worn by many Muslim women
  • caliph: ruler of an Islamic Empire -- or a representative
  • Crusades: the battles that the Catholic church waged against Islam in an attempt to capture the Holy Lands during the Middle Ages.
  • fatwa: religious verdict/ruling; (in 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa that sentenced author Salman Rushdie to death for publishing an anti-Islamic book but the fatwa was lifted 1998)
  • Five Pillars of Islam: the main duties of Muslims: shahada, salat, zakat, sawm, and hajj
  • Gabriel: the angel who supposedly spoke to the Prophet Mohammad
  • hajj: A pilgrimage to Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammad, is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith.
  • imam: a leader of Muslim religious services
  • Islam: the name of the religion which worships Allah -- it means "submission to the will of Allah"
  • jihad:“striving” or “holy war”
  • minaret: a tower of the mosque where the muezzin issues the call to prayer
  • Mohammad: prophet who founded Islam, also spelled Muhammad or Mohammed
  • mosque: a Muslim place of worship
  • muezzin: a man who calls others to pray five times a day, usually from a minaret
  • mulla: a scholar or teacher of Islamic law
  • Muslim: a member of the religion of Islam, also spelled Moslem
  • Qur'an: the Muslim holy book, also spelled Koran
  • Ramadan: the month of prayer and fasting (Arabic name for fasting is sawm; it is one of the five pillars of Islam); Ramadan ends in the festival of Eid al-Fitr
  • salat: the Moslem ritual of praying five times a day after a handwashing ritual. It is one of the five pillars of Islamic faith
  • Saudi Arabia: the country where the religion of Islam started
  • shahada: the declaration of Muslim faith: "There is no god but Allah; Mohammad is the messenger of Allah." This is the first of the five pillars of Islam
  • shari’ah: system of law imposed in Muslim countries -- many Muslims are trying to get shari'ah law into European countries
  • Shi’ites: a strict Muslim sect which rejects the first three caliphs, insisting that Mohammad’s son-in-law ’Ah was Mohammad's rightful initial successor; they believe that imams are infallible (never make mistakes); 10% of Muslims (about 170 million) are Shi'ites, and they are predominant in Iran and Iraq
  • Sufi: a small Muslim sect of Iranian (Persian) philosophical mystics who have adapted and reinterpreted Islam to make it a "heart religion" rather than a system of rules; they are often persecuted by other Muslims
  • Sunni: The largest Muslim sect which acknowledges the first four caliphs as Mohammad’s rightful successors; 90% of Muslims (more than a billion!) are Sunni
  • surah: a chapter of the Qur'an -- there are 114 surahs
  • zakat: donations or charity; money given to provide education, keep up or build mosques or help the needy -- one of the five pillars of Islam
Islam Vocabulary Questions

1. What are the Five Pillars of Islam?

_____________________ (declaration)

_____________________ (prayer)

_____________________ (charity)

_____________________ (fasting)

_____________________ (pilgrimage)

2. Which three vocabulary words are names of sects of Islam?

__________________________ (biggest one)

__________________________ (strictest one)

__________________________ (mystical one)

3. Which vocabulary words are different kinds of individual people who lead in Islam?




4. How many surahs are in the Qur'an? What language is it written in? What is another spelling for Qur'an?
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