Glossary of Arabic Words and Their Derivatives
Glossary of Arabic Words and Their Derivatives
This glossary is meant to aid readers in understanding some of the key Arabic words. The pronunciation (audio clips) of these terms as well as a more comprehensive list of similar words is available online at Here.
`adālah, `adl: Justice, fairness; someone who is `adl could also mean a person of probity.
`adhāb: Punishment, torture.
`āla: To divide something equitably.
`ālim (al-): The one who knows; it is one of the ninety-nine attributes of God.
`amal: Action, practice, deed.
`aqīdah: Articles of faith, dogma, creed.
- Belief in God (Allāh).
- Belief that Muḥammad is the Messenger of God.
- Belief in the Books (Torah, Zabūr [Psalms], Injīl [Gospels], Qur’ān).
- Belief in the existence of angels and jinn.
- Belief in the Last Day, Paradise, Hell…
- Belief in qaḍā’ and qadar.
`aql: Reason, mind, intellect. In his treatise On the Meanings of the Intellect (fī ma`āni al-`aql), al-Fārābī gives a list of the meanings of the intellect or reason as used by the general public, the mutakallimūn, and Aristotle:
- Prudence or sound judgment in determining what is right and what is wrong.
- The mutakallimūn use it when referring to certain actions enjoined or repudiated by reason (generally received by the public as a whole or for the most part).
- For Aristotle, it is a “faculty of the soul whereby man is able to attain certainty by recourse to universal, true and necessary premises, known neither by deduction nor reflection, but rather naturally and instinctively.”
- A part of the soul that is able to gain, through habituation and prolonged experience, a certain apprehension of premises pertaining to volitional matters, which are susceptible to being sought or shunned. This reason grows with age.
- Potential, actual, acquired and active reason.
`aṣabah: Category of heirs as classified in Islamic law of inheritance.
`awl: A legal doctrine adopted by the second Caliph and applies when the number of heirs is greater than the predetermined shares.
`ibādī: My servants.
`iffah: Temperance, purity, abstinence.
`illah: Legal purpose, justification.
`ilm: Science; genuine knowledge.
`ishq: Erotic passion. According to al-Fārābī, it is a disposition of the human soul to seek the satisfaction of “beastly” passion and renounce divine things.
`ulamā’: Scholars, learned persons.
`ulūm al-`amaliyyah (al-): Practical sciences; generally, refers to legal sciences.
`aql,`āqil wa-ma`qūl: Plato believed that it is the active intellect or the unmoved mover.
A`ḍā’ wa-’l-jurūḥ (al-): Body parts and wounds.
Adillah al-shar`iyyah (al-) or al-aḥkām al-uṣūliyyah: Legal rules (5).
Aḥkām al-khamsah (al-): Legal rulings (∞).
Aḥkām al-khamsah (al): The five judgments or normative categories; the way in which Islamic law and ethics have traditionally categorized human behavior. The five categories classifies behavior as obligatory (wājib, farḍ), recommended (mandūb, mustaḥabb), indifferent, morally neutral or permissible (mubāḥ), reprehensible (makrūh), and forbidden (ḥarām).
Aḥkām: Legal rulings.
Ahl al-`ilm: People of knowledge.
Ahl al-ḥaqq: Literally, “the people of the truth.” It could also mean “the people of the true one,” i. e., “the people of God.”
Ahl al-kalām (also mutakallimūn): Muslim theologians (see kalām). According to al-Fārābī, the methods used by theologians essentially recourse to persuasive (iqnā`ī) or dialectical (jadalī) arguments, in which imaginative representations tend to replace demonstrative proofs. Al-Fārābī believed that these arguments are inferior to dialectical ones.
Ajsām al-baṣīṭah (al-): Simple bodies, primary elements. According to Ibn Rushd they are four:
- al-Nār: the fire
- al-Hawā’: the air
- al-Mā’: the water
- al-Arḍ: the soil.
Akhbār: Neutral statements, informative narratives.
Akhlāq (sing. khuluq): Character, manners; relating to individual mannerism, nature, see [Q68:V4]. According to Ikhwān al-Ṣafā, it is a natural disposition that prepares each and every member part of the body to enable the soul to act.
Akhlāṭ (sing. khalīṭ): Mixtures.
Alfāẓ (sing. lafẓ): (pronounced) Terms.
Allā ta`dilū: That you do not act justly.
Allā ta`ūlū: That you do not act fairly.
Allā tuqsiṭū: That you do not act equitably.
Allāh: The God.
Amr: Positive command.
Arkān: Pillars. They are the ritual practices (`ibādāt).
- Declaration of faith. (see Shahādah).
- Performance of obligatory prayers (see Ṣalāh).
- Mandatory alms tax (see Zakāh).
- Fasting all days of Ramaḍān (see Ṣawm).
- Undertaking the journey of pilgrimage (see Ḥajj).
Āthār (sing. Athar): Traditions.
Awlād (sing. walad): Children.
Bāri’ (al-): The Creator.
Bay`ah: It is an oath of allegiance to the caliph, once he has been established as such. Traditionally this endorsement of the caliph had to be open/public. A later development of the bay`ah distinguished between the bay`ah khāṣah (done only by Muslims) and bay`ah `āmmah (secondary to bay`ah khāṣah, and done by non-Muslims too).
Bayt al-māl: Treasury.
Bayyinah: Evidence, proof.
Bilā kayfa: Without having to explain how.
Bilā limādhah: Without having to explain why.
Burhāniyyah: From the Arabic noun Burhān = proof; demonstrative philosophy.
Dalīl (pl. dalā’il or adillah): Proof.
Ḍarūrāt tubīḥ al-maḥḍūrāt (al-): Necessities override prohibitions.
Dhā maṣlaḥah: A thing that is praiseworthy.
Diyah: Monetary fine (redress) paid to homicide or wounds victims.
Fa’in khiftum allā tuqsiṭū: If you fear that you are unable to act fairly.
Faḍīlah –(pl. Fadā’il): Excellence, merit, virtue.
Faḥṣ: Inquiry, examination.
Falā tankiḥūhunna: Then do not marry them.
Falsafah: Philosophy; the word was derived from the Greek philosophia.
Faqīh (pl. fuqahā’): Legal scholar, he who is versed in Islamic law.
Farā’iḍ (sing. farīḍah or farḍ): Legal obligations.
Fawāḥish (sing. fāḥishah): Obscenities
Fi`l fāsid: An act that is blameworthy.
Fi`l ṣāliḥ: An act that is praiseworthy.
Fiqh: Islamic law. Literally, it means “understanding” or “knowledge.”
Fitnah: Social upheaval, civil war. Fitnah is often used to refer to the civil war between `Alī Ibn Abī Ṭālib and Mu`āwiyah Ibn Abī Sufyān.
Ghaffār (al-): The Forgiver; it is one of the ninety-nine attributes of God.
Ghalabah: Literally, it means “victory,” “overcoming something.” Ghalabah is a gender, ethnic, tribal, and linguistic-based dominance that forces the acceptance of one’s rule.
Ḥadd: Definition; punishment for capital crimes as categorized in Islamic law.
Ḥadīth (pl. al-aḥādīth): The Arabic word has many meanings: “saying,” “uttering,” “conversation,” “speech,” “report.” In Islam, it means “tradition.” It is a record of the sayings or doings of the Prophet and his Companions. The Ḥadīth is considered as a source of Islamic law, dogma, and ritual second only to the Qur’ān.
Ḥajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca. It is the fifth of the five pillars (Arkān) of Islām.
Ḥaqq (al-): The Truth. One of the ninety-nine attributes of God.
Ḥayā’: Bashfulness, shyness.
Ḥayy (al-): The Living. One of the ninety-nine attributes of God.
Ḥilm: Forbearance, indulgence, gentleness.
Ḥudūd: Boundaries; refers to some capital offenses in Islamic law.
Ḥukm: Legal ruling.
Hum: They (masculine pronoun).
Hunna: They (feminine pronoun).
Ḥusn al-dhātī (al): Inherent goodness.
Iḥtikār: To establish a monopoly.
Ijmā`: In jurisprudence this term can be translated as “consensus” along with the Qur’ān, the Sunnah, it is one of the main sources of law and ethics in Islam.
Ijtihād: Informed independent reasoning.
Ikhlāṣ: Sincerity, faithfulness, fidelity.
Ikhtilāṭ: Admixture, combination.
Ikhtiyār (al-): Men’s free will to choose.
Ikhwān al-Ṣafā: A secret group of Muslim philosophers, theologians and intellectuals who flourished most probably in Basra in the fourth to tenth or fifth to eleventh centuries. They were believed to be ismā`īlī. They are the authors of fifty-two epistles (Rasā’il) that were encyclopedic in range, covering subjects as diverse as music, astronomy, embryology, and philosophy. According to Ikhwān al-Ṣafā, all souls (living beings) are moved by the desire to live (shahwat at-baqā’) and contempt of death (karāhiyyat al-fanā’). Ikhwān al-Ṣafā also believe that humans act only when faced with:
- Positive and negative commands: amr wa-nahy
- Promise of positive reward and promise of painful reward: wa`d wa-wa`īd
- Praise and bashing: madḥ wa-dhamm
- Enticement and threat: targhīb wa-tarhīb
Imām: a. Leader of the prayers.
- For Shī`ah, he is the successor of the Prophet and is believed to be infallible.
Imām al-ma`ṣūm (al-): Infallible Imam.
Īmān wa-`amal: Faith and deeds.
Īmān: Faith, belief.
Iqnā` (adj. iqnā`ī/ iqnā`yyah): Persuasion. According to al-Fārābī, persuasion is a form of conjecture (ẓann), in which one believes a thing to be such and such, although it is possible for it to be otherwise.
Irādah: Volition, want, will.
Irtidād: To revert to a previously held belief.
Islām: Literally, it means “submission.” Islām is one of the three Semitic religions. It was founded by Muḥammad in the seventh century.
Istiḥbāb: One of the five legal rules, reference, desirability.
Istiḥsān: To prefer.
Istiqrā’: To rely on some kind of deductive reasoning.
Istiṣḥāb: To assume that an established state of being still exists.
Jabbār (al-): The Restorer. It is one of the ninety-nine attributes of God.
Jabr (al-): Opposite of ikhtiyār; to compel.
Jabriyyah: Early Muslims who believed in predetermination.
Jadal (adj. Jadalī/ jadaliyyah): Dialectic.
Jāhiliyyah: Derives from the Arabic noun jahl (state of ignorance). It is used to refer to the pre-Islamic period.
Jazā’: Reward (positive reward).
Kabīrah: Grave moral or religious wrong.
Kahf (al-): The cave.
Kalām: Literally it means “speech.” In Islam however, `ilm al- kalām is theology. Therefore, kalām includes the debates that took place in early Islam and that dealt with the theological subjects on which some scholars disagreed.
Kāna: He was.
Kānat: She was.
Kānū: They (masc. pl.) were.
Karam: Generosity, nobility.
Karīm (al-): The Generous. It is one of the ninety-nine attributes of God.
Khalīfah (pl. khulafā’): Caliph. Originally the word meant “successor” (i.e., of the Prophet). In Islam, the caliph is the head of the community of believers. His functions are secular as well as religious. The first four caliphs are called al-khulafā’ al-rāshidūn (the wise caliphs). In the Qur’ān, the title of khalīfah is given to both Ādam and Dāwūd (David).
Khalq: Creation. According to al-Māturīdī, God created everything including acts.
Kharajites (in Arabic khawārij): Derived from the Arabic root “kharajah” (means “to go out,” “to secede”); a revolutionary and egalitarian group that revolted against the Caliph `Uthmān Ibn `Affān and later against `Alī Ibn Alī Ṭālib. In the battle of Ṣiffīn, opposing `Alī Ibn Abī Ṭālib and Mu`āwiyah Ibn Abī Sufyān they refused any form of arbitration saying that the judgment should be left only to God.
Khāṣṣah: The elite. For al-Fārābī, the philosopher should be regarded as a member of the elite in an absolute sense.
Khawf: Fear; it is a principal virtue (a first-order virtue) in Sufi teaching.
Khayr: As adjective, means “charitable,” “good.” As nouns, means “goodness,” “welfare.”
Khilāfah al-rāshidah (al-): Righteously guided Caliphate.
Khuluq ḥasan: Good character, virtuous manner.
Kitāb (al-): The Book.
Kunna: They (fem. pl.) were.
Lā yuḥibb: He does not like.
Lā yuḥibbu al-mu`tadīn: He does not like aggressors.
Lā: Do not.
Ladhdhah (pl. ladhdhāt): Pleasure, bliss, enjoyment. According to al-Ghazālī, the ultimate pleasure (a`ẓam ladhdhah) is knowing God.
Luṭf: Divine grace; it is a Shi`ite doctrine arguing that there should be always an infallible imām that exists to interpret the Qur’ān and determine the law.
Mā ṭāba lakum: What you find desirable.
Madhāhib (sing. madhhab): Schools of thought.
Madhhab al- ladhdhāt: Hedonism.
Mafsadah: A bad thing.
Maḥabbah: Platonic love; it is a principal virtue (a first-order virtue) in Sufi teaching.
Maḥrūrī al-ṭibā`: Hot-tempered persons.
Makrūh: Reprehensible, discouraged; one of the five normative categories (see al-aḥkām al-khamsah).
Maktūb: Written, fateful.
Mālik (al-): The ruler or the owner; one of the ninety-nine attributes of God.
Mālik al-Mulk: The owner or the ruler of the universe; one of the ninety-nine attributes of God.
Mandūb: Recommended (also mustaḥabb); one of the five normative categories (see al-aḥkām al-khamsah).
Manṭiq: Logic. According to al-Fārābī, logic is a tool which, when used properly, will yield to certainty (yaqīn) in all theoretical and practical sciences and is absolutely indispensable for attaining that goal.
Masjid al-ḍirār: The name of a mosque from the time of the Prophet.
Mathnā: In threes.
Mizāj: Mixture; also, temperament, mood, humor, state of mind, physical constitution.
Mu`ālajat al-ḍarar: Managing the harm.
Mu`tazilah (or Mu`tazilites): The word derives from the Arabic verb i`tazala; to seclude oneself. In effect, the term refers to some scholars who disagreed with theologians on a number of points among which the doctrine of a created Qur’ān, and man’s free will.
Mubāḥ: Permissible, morally neutral; one of the five normative categories (see al-aḥkām al-khamsah).
Mudda`ī (al-): Plaintiff; the claimant.
Mufti: A person who is qualified to issue religious edicts.
Muḥāsabah: Self-examination or accounting for one’s actions; a supporting mystical virtue or a second-order virtue in Sufi teaching.
Muḥdath: That which is created in time. Plato believed that the world is created in time, while Aristotle is alleged to hold that it is eternal.
Muḥtasib: Market controller.
Mujtama` (al-): Society, association, community.
Mukhāṭabah: Modes of address; talking to someone.
Munāfiq: Hypocrite, liar.
Munkir (al-): The defendant.
Murāqabah: Vigilance; a supporting mystical virtue or a second-order virtue in Sufi teaching.
Mustaḥabb: Recommended (see mandūb); one of the five normative categories (see al-aḥkām al-khamsah).
Nafs (pl. nufūs, anfus): Soul; self.
Nahy: Negative command.
Nāmūs: Law, natural law, moral law, possibly religious law. Ikhwān al-Ṣafā, organize all living beings in categories. According to them, plants rank under animals, animals rank under humans, humans rank under wise people, wise people rank under the people of law (nāmūs), who in turn, rank under angels.
Nār: Literally, fire; it is a common name by which “hell” is referred to in the Qur’ān.
Naẓar: Literally, sight, discernment; deliberation; opinion.
Nubuwwah: Prophetic office.
Nūr (al-): The Light; it is one of the ninety-nine attributes of God. Angels are believed to be created from nūr, as opposed to humans (ins) from clay, and jinn from fire.
Nuṭq: Speech. Philosophers divided nuṭq in two parts:
- The power to conceive of intelligible; in the practical and theoretical fields.
- The power of expression in spoken language.
Qadariyyah: Early Muslims who believed in free will.
Qadhf: To falsely accuse a woman of adultery.
Qalb: Heart. According to al-Ghazālī, it is the same as al-rūḥ (the soul, the spirit). The virtues of the heart are:
- Virtues of devils: akhlāq al-shayāṭīn.
- Virtues of domestic animals: akhlāq al-bahā’im.
- Virtues of predatory animals: akhlāq al-sibā`.
- Virtues of angels: akhlāq al-malā’ikah.
Qarābah: Blood relation.
Qaṭ` al-ṭarīq: Road banditry.
Qiṣāṣ: Reciprocal punishment.
Qiyās: Analogy or “analogical reasoning”; a method of extracting (deriving) legal rulings when none exists in the Qur’ān, Sunnah, and ijmā`. In his writings, al-Fārābī is critical of this method of analogy on the ground that it is reducible to similarity (shabah) rather than deduction in the strict sense. According to him, there are five types of qiyās: the demonstrative, the dialectical, the sophistical, the rhetorical, and the poetical.
Qubḥ al-dhātī (al-): Inherent badness; a doctrine of the mu`tazilah.
Qudrah: Power to perform an act.
Qurb (also muqārabah): Proximity. According to al-Fārābī, when humans attain the highest stage of theoretical knowledge, they attain the stage of union with the Active Intellect. Al-Fārābī sometimes calls this stage conjunction (ittiṣāl).
Quwwah: Power, force.
Ra’y: Opinion. According to al-Fārābī, both conjecture and certainty are species of opinion (ra’y) which is liable to truth or falsity.
Radd: To return something.
Raḥīm (al-): The Compassionate. It is one of the ninety-nine attributes of God.
Raḥmān (al-): The Merciful. It is one of the ninety-nine attributes of God.
Rajā’: Hope; it is a principal virtue (a first-order virtue) in Sufi teaching.
Ramaḍān: it is the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar; it is believed that the Qur’ān was descended during that month. It is also the month of fasting. During the fast the believer must abstain from food, drink, and sexual intercourse during daylight hours.
Riḍā’: Satisfaction; it is a virtue produced by love, by pleasant acts, feelings.
Rubā`: In fours.
Rushd: Maturity, guidance, conscious awareness.
Sa`ādah: Happiness. According to al-Ghazālī, happiness is achieved through:
- The power of anger: quwwat al-ghaḍab.
- The power of lust: quwwat al-shahwah.
- The power of knowledge: quwwat al-`ilm.
Ṣabr: Patience. It is a principal virtue (a first-order virtue) in Sufi teaching.
Ṣaḥābah: Companions of the Prophet.
Salaf: Early generation of Islamic authorities.
Ṣalāh: Ritual prayer. A Muslim does his/her prayer five times a day. Ṣalāh is the second of the five Arkān (pillars) of Islām.
Ṣawm: Fasting during the month of Ramaḍān. It is the third of the five pillars (Arkān) of Islām.
Shahādah: Profession of faith that a person must recite in order to become a Muslim. It is the first of the five pillars (Arkān) of Islām and is declared once in one’s lifetime.
Shahwah (pl. shahawāt): Craving, desire, passion, lust, appetite (see Ikhwān al-Ṣafā, and al-Ghazālī).
Shakk: Doubt. According to al-Fārābī, shakk is the suspension of judgment with respect to two opinions equally credible.
Shar`: “The road leading to water” (or to the source of life); it is also coined to refer to law.
Shī`ah: Originally meant “group,” “party,” “followers of someone”; it is derived from Shī`at `Alī (followers of `Alī Ibn Abī Ṭālib). The Shi`ites believe that it is `Alī Ibn Abī Ṭālib (cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet) rather than Abū Bakr who should have succeeded Muḥammad. In the civil war (fitnah) between `Alī Ibn Abī Ṭālib and Mu`āwiyah Ibn Abī Sufyān they supported `Alī Ibn Abī Ṭālib. They also argue for the need for infallible imām to guide the community.
Shukr: Gratitude, thankfulness.
Shurb al-khamr: Drinking wine.
Ṣidq: Truthfulness; a supporting mystical virtue or a second-order virtue in Sufi teaching.
Sīrah (pl. siyar): History of one’s way of life.
Sunnah: Literally, it can mean “trodden path,” “way,” “rule,” “manner of acting” or “mode of life.” Originally it meant “customary practice.” Since the behavior of the Prophet is believed to be virtuous and exemplary, the acts of Muḥammad provide the norms and set the model of human life and behavior. These virtuous acts are then converted into obligations of which total constitutes the sharī`ah. Customarily, Sunnah and Ḥadīth are used interchangeably (see Ḥadīth).
Ṣūrah: According to Ibn Rushd, the ṣūrah is the entity that does enjoy neither power (quwwah) nor preparedness (isti`dād).
Ta`līm: Instruction, teaching.
Ta`ṣīb: A method of distrubuting inheritance.
Ta`zīr (al-): Discretionary punishment.
Ta’wīl: The interpretation of the words of the Lawgiver or His ordinances.
Ṭabī`ah (pl. ṭabā’i`): Nature.
Tafakkur: Meditation, deliberation, pondering.
Tafsīr al-ishārī (al-): Interpretation based on hints; deductive interpretation.
Tafsīr al-riwā’ī (al-): Interpretation based on tradition.
Tafsīr: Commentaries on the Qur’an.
Ṭalāq rij`ī: Revocable divorce.
Ṭalāq: Divorce. A saying attributed to the Prophet states that among all things permitted by God, divorce is the most blameworthy. Thus divorce is clearly permitted in Islam but not encouraged. If the divorce is done by repudiating a marriage three times then this repudiation cancels any opportunity for reconciliation. Otherwise, it should be followed by a waiting period of three menstrual cycles that is supposed to give the spouses a chance for reconciliation and/or to determine if the wife is pregnant.
Taqiyyah: Dissimulation of one’s religion, especially in time of persecution or danger. The practice is permitted by the Shī`ah.
Taqṣīr: Poor judgment.
Tasdīd: Leading, guiding, directing; conducting.
Tawakkul: Trust in God, rely on God.
Tawbah: Repentance, atonement.
Tawbīkh: To scold or reprimand an offender; to shame an offender.
Tawḥīd: Declaration of divine unity.
Tazwīr: To falsify testimony or evidence.
Thābit yaqīnan (al-): That which is positively evident.
Thawāb (al-): Positive reward.
Thulāth: In threes.
Ummah (pl. umam): Nation or community. This was a highly emotive word in early Islamic history in the time of the Prophet and remains so among the Arabs today.
Uns: Intimacy; it is a virtue produced by love.
Uṣūl al-dīn: Reformed Islamic theology.
Uṣūl al-fiqh: Means “the roots” or “sources” of law; foundation of law; Islamic jurisprudence.
Uṣūl: Roots, origins; foundations.
Wa`d: Promise of good reward for the faithful who upholds a virtuous Islamic life.
Wa`īd: Threat. “Promise” of painful reward for those who led a nonvirtuous life that contradicted the code of morality established in the Qur’ān and Sunnah.
Wadūd (al-): The Loving. It is one of the ninety-nine attributes of God.
Wājib: (farḍ); Required; obligatory; one of the five categories in which Islamic law and ethics have traditionally divided human behavior.
Yā: Vocative O!
Yakrah: He dislikes, he hates.
Yaqīn: Certain knowledge, certainty (see manṭiq).
Yatāmā (al-): Orphans.
Yathrib: The pre-Islamic name of Madīnah.
Ẓāhir: Appearance, superficial.
Zakāh: Alms tax, Almsgiving; it is the fourth of the five pillars (Arkān) of Islām.
Zindīq (pl. zanādiqah): Nonbeliever, heretic, “free thinker.”
Zuhd: Asceticism, soberness, by the mere necessities (shunning of luxury). It is a principal virtue (a first-order virtue) in Sufi teaching.