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Islamic Studies Key words and Concepts

Islamic Studies Key words and Concepts

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‘Adl : Justice.

‘Adl (al-) : the Just. It is one of the 99th attributes of God.

                 Can also mean a person of probity.


Aḥkām al-khamsah- (al) : the five judgments or normative categories. The way in which Islamic law and ethics have traditionally divided human behavior. The five categories classifies behavior as obligatory (wājibfarḍ), recommended (mandūbmustaḥabb), indifferent, morally neutral or permissible (mubāḥ), reprehensible (makrūh)  and forbidden (ḥarām).

Aḥkām al-sulṭaniyyah (al-) : Political Ordinances. It is the title of a book written by al-Māwardī in which the author lists seven conditions or prerequisites the caliph should meet to qualify for the caliphal office. The prerequisites are: justice, knowledge, soundness of the organs of sense, soundness of body, soundness of judgment, courage and finally the Quraysh pedigree.

Ahl al-ḥaqq : the adherents of the truth (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-Fārābīthe 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-basīṭah (al-) : simple bodies, primary elements. According to Ibn Rushd they are four:
1) al- nār : the fire
2) al-hawā’ : the air
3) al-mā’ : the water
4) al-arḍ : the soil.

Akhlāq (sing. khuluq: character, manners; relating to individual mannerism, nature, see [Q68:V4]. According to Ikhwān al-Ṣafāit 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.

‘Ālim (al-: the One who knows. It is one of the 99th attributes of God. Also, one of the attributes of the First, according to al-Fārābī. (see al-awwal)

Allāh : the God.

‘Amal : action, practice, behavior.


‘Aqīdah : articles of faith.
1. Belief in God (Allāh).
2. Belief that Muḥammad is the Messenger of God.
3. Belief in the Books (Torah, Zabūr (Psalms), Injīl (Gospels), Qur’ān).
4. Belief in the existence of angels and jinn.
                    5. Belief in the Last Day, Paradise, Hell…
6. Belief in divine qaḍā’ and qadar.

‘Aql : reason, mind, intellect (see al-Fārābī).  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.
1) prudence or sound judgment in determining what is right and what is wrong.
2) 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).
3) 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”.
4) a part of the soul which is able to gain, through habituation and prolonged experience, a certain apprehension of premises pertaining to volitional matters, which are susceptible of being sought or shunned. This reason grows with age.
5) potential, actual, acquired and active reason.

‘aql,‘āqil wa ma‘qūl : Plato believed that it is the Active Intellect or the unmoved Mover. Clearly distinguishable from the First Principle (al-awwal) upon Whom it depends, it is the ultimate principle of motion, in substance and actuality.

Arkān : pillars. They are the ritual practices (‘ibādāt).
1. Declaration of faith. (see Shahādah).
2. Performance of obligatory prayers (see Ṣalāh).
3. Mandatory alms tax (see Zakāh).
4. Fasting all days of Ramaḍān (see Ṣawm).
5. Undertaking the journey of pilgrimage (see Ḥajj).

Ash‘arī (al-), Abū al-Ḥassan ‘Alī Ibn Isma‘īl (873-4/ 260H -935-6/ 324H) : A famous medieval Muslim theologian. He was born in Basra and he died in Baghdad. Originally he was a member of the Mu‘tazilah but he abandoned their doctrine in 912-3. He is the author of The Treatises of the Islamic Sects (maqālat al-islāmiyyīn). His followers are called the Ash‘arites (al-Ashā‘iriah).

Awwal (al-: the First.  Following the example of Proclus of Athens, al-Fārābī calls God al-awwal or the first being from whom all other beings emanate.  Al-Fārābī believed that, the successive orders of intellect (‘aql), soul (nafs) and prime matter (hayūlah) arised from the First Being through a process of progressive overflowing (see al-Fārābī).

Azraqiyyah (azraqites) : a kharajite group that believes īmān wa ‘amal (faith and action) are not dividable.  One cannot pretend to have the faith unless one acts according to this faith.

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Bāri’ (al-: the Creator.

Baṣrī (al-), Ḥasan, (born in 642, in Madīnah, died in 728, Basra, Iraq) : an important religious figure in Islam, founder of the school of rationalism. He argued that a Muslim who commits a kabīrah is a munāfiq (a liar, a hypocrite); hence, he is punished by hell.

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 the bay‘ah ‘āmmah (secondary to bay‘ah khāṣah, and done by Non-Muslims too).

Burhāniyyah : (from the Arabic noun Burhān = proof) demonstrative philosophy.


Consequentialism: a modern Western moral theory that holds that known consequences dictate moral values. In short, an act is morally right if and only if that act maximizes the good.



Dalīl (pl. dalā’il or adillah: proof.

Deontologism: a modern Western moral theory that holds that actions conform to certain laws, prohibitions, and commandments. Hence, moral acts are acts that conform to the values expressed in the laws, prohibitions and positive commandments (system of obligations).

Dhāt : self.


Ethics: a. in Greek ‘Ethike/ Ethicos’, relating to good and bad.
b. The corpus of rules and the system of principles governing the practice in respect to a single class of human actions.

Eudemonia (from Greek): a state of being Happy. Not an instance of feeling Happy. Most influential Ancient Greek thinkers thought that the Happy person is the virtuous one. The virtuous person is He who has a settled disposition to reliably do virtuous things. Human virtue (or excellence) consists of courage, moderation, justice and wisdom… in short, in Greek ethical theories, virtuous agents are happy.

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Faḍīlah –(pl. fadā‘il : excellence, merit, virtue.

Faḥṣ : inquiry, examination.

Falsafah : philosophy. The word derives from the Greek philosophia.


Faqīh – (pl. fuqahā’: jurist, jurisprudence, one who practices fiqh jurisprudence.

Faqr : poverty. It is a principal virtue (a first-order virtue), in Sufi teaching.

Fārābī (al-), Abū Naṣr Muḥammad al-Fārābī (870-950) : one of the renowned Islamic philosophers. He occupies a unique position in the history of philosophy, as the link between Greek philosophy and Islamic thought. He is also a leading advocate of the Islamic Neoplatonism school of reasoning. He became known as the Second Teacher (al-mu‘allim al-thānī) after Aristotle himself. His major contribution to Islamic metaphysics was his development of the doctrine of essence and existenceFollowing the example of Greek philosophers, al-Fārābī believed in the concept of emanation according to which the successive orders of intellect (‘aql), soul (nafs) and prime matter (hayūlah) arised from the First Being through a process of progressive overflowing.  This issue became one of the most heated controversies between the Islamic philosophers and the theologians (mutakallimūn).He is the author of the Virtuous City (al-madīnah al-fāḍilah) and the Civil Polity (al-Siyāsah al-madaniyyah). His philosophical successor was Ibn Sīnā.

Farḍ : see wājib.


Fayḍ : “emanation” from a purely technical philosophical point of view. The contrast posed was between a world created ex nihilo at a moment in time by God, and a world which emanated eternally from God. The later was frequently opposed by ahl al-kalām and seen as heretical (see al-Fārābī).


Fiqh Islamic law. Originally the word meant ‘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 Ṣufyān.


Ghaffār (al-) : the Forgiver. It is one of the 99th attributes of God.

Ghalabah : literally, it means “victory, overcoming something”.  Ghalabah is a gender, ethnic, tribal and linguistic based dominance that forces a choice.

Ghāyah : purpose.

Ghazālī (al-), Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad (1058-1111) : Muslim theologian. He was also a scholar of Islamic philosophy and a Sufi. He is the author of Revival of the Religious Sciences (iḥyā’ ‘ulūm al-dīn).

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Ḥadd : definition.

Ḥadīth –(pl. al-aḥādīth: the Arabic word has many meanings: ‘sayings’, ‘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.

Ḥākim (al-) : the Sage, the Wise. Ḥakīm related to the word ḥikmah (wisdom).
1) Al-Fārābī refers to Plato as al-ḥakīm. Al-ḥakīmān (the two Sages) are Plato and Aristotle.
2) al-ḥakīm is also one of the attributes of the First, according to al-Fārābī (see al-awwal).


Ḥaqq (al-) the Truth. One of the 99th attributes of God. Also, one of the attributes of the First, according to al-Fārābī. (see al-awwal).

Ḥarām : forbidden. One of the five categories in which Islamic law and ethics have traditionally divided human behavior.

Hawā’: air. Ikhwān al-Ṣafā use hawā’ as “climate”.

Ḥayā’ : bashfulness, shyness.

Hayūlā : substance, matter, indivisible matter, primordial matter (see al-Fārābī Ibn Rushd).

Ḥayy (al-) : the Living. One of the 99th attributes of God. Also, one of the attributes of the First, according to al-Fārābī (see al-awwal).

Hedonism: a moral theory that argues that: a) morals are of consequence only if they motivate the agent to act,
b) The agent will act only to receive pleasure and avoid pain.


Hidāyat Allāh : divine guidance, God’s guidance.


Ḥikmah : wisdom.

Ḥilm : forebearance, indulgence, gentleness.

Ḥusn al-dhātī (al) : inherent goodness. A mu‘tazilah doctrine.

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Iblīs : satan.

Ibn ‘Atā’ al Ghazāl, Wāṣil, also called Abū Ḥudhayfah (700– 748, Arabia) : After he left al-Baṣrī ‘s study circle, he founded theMu‘tazilite school of thought.

Ibn Rushd, Abū el-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn Aḥmad (1126- 1198) : he is known in the West as Averroes, a Hispano-Arabphilosopher, commentator on Aristotle, who also was a qadi and a doctor. His books were ordered to be burned and very little has remained of his writings. Ibn Rushd  argued that all “imperfect” existing bodies consist of hayūlā (substance) and ṣūrah (form). He considers that any jism (body) has to be a combination of these two components in order to be able to exist (see al-ajsām al-basīṭahhayūlāṣūrah).

Iffah : temperance, purity, abstinence.

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.

Ijtimā‘ : derives from the same root as ijmā‘ but it does not have the same legalistic force. Ijtimā‘ can mean consensus or converging on one idea or conclusion.

Ikhlāṣ : sincerity, faithfulness, fidelity. A supporting mystical virtue or a second-order virtue in Sufi teaching.

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 4th/10th or 5th/11th centuries. They were believed to be isma‘īlī. They are the authors of fifty-two epistles (Rasā’il) which 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:
a) positive and negative commands: amr wa nahy 
b) promise of positive reward and promise of painful reward: wa‘d wa wa‘īd 
c) praise and bashing: madḥ wa dhamm 
d) enticement and threat: targhīb wa tarhīb 

‘Ilm : science. Genuine knowledge.

Imām : a) leader of the prayers.
b) for Shī‘ah, he is the successor of the Prophet and is believed to be infallible.

Īmān : faith, belief.

Īmān wa ‘amal : faith and action.

Ins : mankind. Ins has the same root as insān (a human being).

‘Iqāb : punishment.

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. (see ra’y)

Irādah : volition, want, will.

Ishq : erotic passion. According to al-Fārābīit is a disposition of the human soul to seek the satisfaction of ‘beastly’ passion and renounce divine things.

Islām : literally, it means ‘submission’. Islām is one of the three monotheistic religions. It was founded by Muḥammad in the 7thcentury, after God reveald the Qur’ān  to him through the archangel Jibrīl.

Isti‘dād : preparedness.

I‘tidāl : moderation.

Ittiṣāl : conjunction. According to al-Farābīwhen humans attain the highest stage of theoretical knowledge, they attain the stage of union with the Active Intellect. Al-Farābī sometimes calls this stage conjunction, sometimes proximity, of which humans’ ultimate happiness consists.

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Jabbār (al-) : the Restorer. It is one of the 99th attributes of God.

Jabr (al-) : Opposite of ikhtiyār.

Jabriyyah : early Muslims who believed in predetermination.

Jadal (adj. Jadalī/ jadaliyyah: dialectic. Al-Fārābī believed that one cannot acquire genuine knowledge without prior training in dialectic.

Jāhiliyyah : derives from the Arabic noun jahl (state of ignorance). It is used to refer to the pre-Islamic period.

Jannah (al-) : literally: ‘the garden’.  In the Qur’ān it is often used to refer to ‘paradise’. Paradise is also referred to with the words ‘Adan (Eden) and Firdaws.

Jawhar : substance.


Jazā’ : reward (positive reward).

Jiblah (pl. jibillah: natural disposition, nature.

Jihād : comes from the Arabic verb jahada: to strive for a better way of life. Jihād means endeavor, strain, exertion, effort, diligence, fighting to defend one’s life, land, and religion.

Jinn : in the Qur’ān, jinn are beings made from fire (or flame) who can take different forms. There are good jinn and bad ones.

Jubā‘ī (al-), Abū ‘Alī Muḥammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (?-303/915-6) : one of the celebrated thinkers of mu‘tazilah. He was born at Jubba in Khuzistan, and he attended the school at Baṣrā of Abū Ya‘qūb Yūsuf al-Shahhām. Abū al-Ḥassan al-Ash‘arī  was one of his pupils, but in 912-913 he broke away and founded the Ash‘arite school of thought.


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Kabīrah : grave moral or religious wrong.

Kalām : literally it means ‘speech’. In Islam however, ‘ilm al- kalām is the science of theology. Therefore, kalām includes the theological debates that took place in Islam and that dealt with the theological subjects on which some scholars disagreed.

Karam generosity, nobility.

Karīm (al-) : the Generous. It is one of the 99th 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’ānthe 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) : derives 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 Siffīn,opposing ‘Alī Ibn Alī Ṭālib and Mu‘āwiyah Ibn Abī Ṣufyā 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 : caliphate. (see khalīfah).

Khuluq ḥasan a good character, virtuous manner.

Kitāb : book.


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 Shī‘ite doctrine arguing that there should be always an infallible imām that exists.

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Madhhab al- ladhdhāt : hedonism.

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).

Mālik: Abū ‘Abd Allāh Mālik Ibn Anas (716- 795) : One of the most important jurists of Medieval Islam. He lived and spent most of his life in Madinah where he also died. He is the founder of the Māliki school that considers the ‘practice’ (‘amal) of Madinah as the ideal and example to follow. Mālik is the author of what is considered as the first major Ḥadīth in Islam: The Smoothed Path(al-muwaṭṭa’). Nowadays, followers of the Mālikī school of law are located mainly in North Africa as well as the West and Center of the African continent  .


Mālik (al-) the Ruler or the Owner. One of the 99th attributes of God.

Mālik al-Mulk : the Owner or the Ruler of the universe. One of the 99th 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. Manṭiq derives from nuṭq.

Ma‘qūl : intelligible.  Al-Fārābī believed the First to be an intelligible in act, since matter is what impedes an entity from being an intelligible in act. (see al-Fārābī)

Māturīdī: Muḥammad Ibn Muḥammad Ibn Maḥmūd Abū Manṣūr al-Samarqandī al-Māturīdī al-Ḥanafī (died in 944 in Māturīd in Samarqand) : he was one of the most important imām of the mutakallimūn of ahl al-sunnah and the founder of the Māturīdīschool of theology.

Mizāj : mixture. Also, temperament, mood, humor, state of mind, physical constitution.

Morality: a. in Latin ‘moralis’, meaning custom; relating to right and wrong in terms of behavior.
b. Descriptively: a code of conduct put forward by some group, an individual, or society.
c. Normatively: a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.

Mubāḥ : permissible, morally neutral. One of the five normative categories (see al-aḥkām al-khamsah).

Mughālaṭah : sophistry.

Muḥammad Ibn ‘Abd Allāh (570-632) : prophet of Islam. He is reported to have received the first revelation of the Qur’ān inMeccathrough the angel Gabriel (Jibrīl) when he was about 40 years old.

Muḥāsabah : self-examination or accounting for one’s own actions. A supporting mystical virtue or a second-order virtue in Sufiteaching.

Muḥdath : created in time. Plato believed that the world is created in time, while Aristotle is alleged to hold that it is eternal.

Mukhāṭabah : modes of address.

Munāfiq : Hypocrite, liar.

Muqārabah : see qurb.

Murāqabah : vigilance. A supporting mystical virtue or a second-order virtue in Sufi teaching.

Murji’ah :  a sect of Islam. Murji’ah believe that ‘sinful’ actions do not adversely affect faith the same way that acts of obedience are of no benefit if they are accompanied by disbelief. Murji’ah withheld judgment regarding those who start / participate in fitnah.

Mustaḥabb: recommended (see mandūb). One of the five normative categories (see al-aḥkām al-khamsah).

Mu‘tazilites (or mu‘tazilah: 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’ānand man’s free will.

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Nafs (pl. nufūs, anfus: soul (see al-Fārābī).

Nāmūs : law, natural law, moral law, possibly religious law. Ikhwān al-afā, 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: the fire. It is the most common name by which ‘hell’ is referred to in the Qur’ān.

Naẓar : literally: sight, discernment. Deliberation.

Niyyah : Intention. A supporting mystical virtue or a second-order virtue in Sufi teaching.


Nubuwwah : prophetic office.

Nūr : light. Angels are believed to be created from nūr, as opposed to humans (ins) from clay, and jinn from fire.


Nūr (al-) The Light. It is one of the 99th attributes of God.

Nuṭq : speech. Philosophers divided nuṭq in two parts:
1) the power to conceive of intelligible in the practical and theoretical fields.
2) the power of expression in spoken language.


Philosophers : timeline of medieval philosophers, mystics and thinkers.
Al-Kindī: (805-873 CE)
Abū al-Ḥassan ‘Alī Ibn Isma‘īl al-Ash’arī(873-936 CE)
Abū Naṣr Muḥammad al-Fārābī (870-950 CE)
Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna) (980-1130 CE)
Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad al-Ghaẓālī (1058-1111)
Ibn Tufayl (110-1185 CE)
Abū al-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn Aḥmad Ibn Rushd (1126- 1198)
Ramba’m Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon  (Maimonides) (1135-1204 CE)
Ibn al-‘Arābī (1165-1240)
Rabbi Abraham bin Ha-Ramba’m Abraham (son of Maimonides) (1186-1237 CE)
Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274)
Ibn Khaldūn (1332-1395 CE)

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Qadariyyah : early Muslims who believed in free-will.

Qaḍī judge.

Qalb : heart. According to al-Ghazālī, it is the same as al-rūḥ  (the soul, the spirit). The virtues of the heart are:
a) virtues of devils: akhlāq al-shayāṭīn 
b) virtues of domestic animals: akhlāq al-bahā’im 
c) virtues of predatory animals: akhlāq al-sibā‘ 
d) virtues of angels: akhlāq al-malā’ikah 

Qiyās : ‘analogy’ or ‘analogical reasoning’. A method of extracting (deriving) legal rulings when none exists in the Qur’ān,Sunnahand ijmā‘ . In his writings, al-Fārābī is critical of this method of analogy on the ground that it is reductible 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 mu‘tazilah doctrine.


Qudrah : power to perform an act.

Qur’ān : Also spelled in English as Koran. Literally this word means ‘Recitation’. The Qur’an is Islam’s holiest book.

Qurb (also muqārabah:  proximity. According to al-Farābīwhen humans attain the highest stage of theoretical knowledge, they attain the stage of union with the Active Intellect. Al-Farābī sometimes calls this stage  conjunction (ittiṣāl).

Quwwah : power.

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Raḥīm (al-) : the Compassionate. It is one of the 99th attributes of God.

Raḥmān (al-) : the Merciful. It is one of the 99th attributes of God.

Ra’īs : the Master Ruler.

Rajā’ : hope. It is a principal virtue (a first-order virtue) in Sufi teaching.


Ramaḍān : it is the 9th month of the Muslim lunar calendar: it is believed that the Qur’ān was descended 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.

Ra’y : opinion. According to al-Fārābīboth conjecture and certainty are species of opinion (ra’y) which is liable to truth or falsity.

Riḍah : satisfaction. It is a virtue produced by love, by pleasant acts, feelings…

Rushd : morality, guidance, conscious awareness.

Ru’yah : vision.

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Sa‘ādah : happiness.  According to al-Ghazālīhappiness is achieved through:
a) the power of anger: quwwat al-ghaḍab 
b) the power of lust: quwwat al-shahwah 
c) the power of knowledge: quwwat al-‘ilm 

Ṣabr : patience. It is a principal virtue (a first-order virtue) in Sufi teaching.


Ṣafḥ : forgiveness.


Ṣalāh : ritual prayer. A muslim does his/her prayer five times a day. Ṣalāh is the second of the five Arkān (pillars) of Islām.

Ṣāni‘ (al-: the Demiurgus. Plato believed that a Creator whom he called the Demiurgus created the world out of a formless matter.


Ṣawm : Fasting during RamaḍānIt is the third of the five pillars (Arkān) of Islām.

Shabībah : group among the kharajites who argued that even a woman who is faithful and practicing can be a khalīfah.

Shāfi‘ī (al-), Muḥammad Ibn Idrīs (767-820) : Muslim jurist, founder of one of the four major schools of Islamic jurisprudence. He provided a formal structure of Islam’s obligation materials in law and morality. His name was given to the Shafi‘ī school of jurisprudence founded by his disciples: the Shāfi‘īs.

Shahādah profession of faith that a person must recite in order to become a Muslim.  It is the first of the five pillars (Arkān) ofIslām, and is declared once a lifetime.

Shahwah (pl. shahawāt) : craving, desire, passion, lust, appetite (see Ikhwān al-Ṣafāand al-Ghazālī).

Shajā‘ah : courage.

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.

Sharī‘ah : Commonly referred to as “Islamic law” it is a code of behavior, a composite science of law and morality that is at the same time more and less than a simple legal system in the Western sense of the term. More, because it regulates private acts such as ritual practices of the faith or social behavior. Less, because it ignores entire parts of human activity that would be taken into consideration in other juridical codes. Thus, Sharī‘ah is a combination of law, morality, religion and etiquette.

Sharr : what is bad, evil.

Shāṭibī (al-), Abū Isḥāq Ibn Mūsā al-Shāṭibī al-Mālikī (?-1388) : One of the founding scholars of uṣūl al-fiqh, he laid great emphasis on the requirement of complete knowledge and erudition in the Arabic language, not merely correct understanding, for those who practice ijtihād. He is the author of muwafaqāt fī uṣul al-Sharī‘ah (The Congruences of the Sources of the Divine Law).

Shawq : yearning. It is a virtue produced by love in Sufi teaching.


Shī‘ah : originally, means ‘group’, ‘party’, ‘followers of someone’.  Shī‘ah is one of the two major theological and legal school of thought in Islam. It derives 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 MuḥammadIn the civil war (fitnah) between ‘Alī Ibn Abī Ṭālib and Mu‘āwiyah Ibn Abī Ṣufyān they supported ‘Alī Ibn Abī Ṭālib. They also argue for the need for infallible imām to head the community.


Shi‘ite: anglicized from the Arabic word Shī‘i  (a member of the Shī‘ah  group).

Shukr : gratitude, thankfulness. It is a principal virtue (a first-order virtue) in Sufi  teaching.

Ṣidq : truthfulness. A supporting mystical virtue or a second-order virtue in Sufi teaching.

Ṣinā‘at al- kalām : art of theology (see kalām).

Sīrah (pl. siyar: history of way of life.

Ṣūfi : an adept of Sufism (ṣūfiyyah or taṣawwuf).

Ṣūfiyyah or Taṣawwuf : Sufism, the mysticism of Islām.

Sunnah : literally, it can mean ‘trodden path’, ‘way’, ‘rule’, ‘manner of acting’ or ‘mode of life’.  Originally it meant ‘customary practice’, it now indicates the specific actions or doings of the Prophet Muḥammad himself verses the specific sayings (Ḥadīth or reports). Since the life 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 (Sunnah). These virtuous acts are then converted into obligations of which total constitutes the Sharī‘ahCustomarily, Sunnah and Ḥadīth are used interchangeably nowadays. (see Ḥadīth).

Ṣūrah : according to Ibn Rushdthe ṣūrah is the entity that does enjoy neither power (quwwah) nor preparedness (isti‘dād).

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Ṭā‘ah : obedience.

Ṭabī‘ah (pl. ṭabā’i‘) : nature.

Tafakkur : meditation, deliberation, pondering. A supporting mystical virtue, or a second-order virtue in Sufi teaching.

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 of reconciliation and/or to determine if the wife is pregnant.

Ta‘līm : instruction, teaching.

Taqṣīr : poor judgment.

Taqiyyah : Dissimulation of one’s religion, especially in time of persecution or danger. The practice is permitted by the shī‘ah.

Taṣawwuf : see ṣūfiyyah.

Taṣawwur : conception.

Tasdīd : leading, guiding, directing, conducting.


Taṭahhur see Taṭayyub.

Taṭayyub / Taṭahhur :  personal hygiene, ritual purity.

Tawakkul : trust in God, rely on God. . It is a principal virtue (a first-order virtue) in Sufi teaching.


Tawbah : Repentance, atonement. It is a principal virtue (a first-order virtue) in Sufi teaching.


Tawḥīd : declaration of divine unity. It is a principal virtue (a first-order virtue) in Sufi teaching.

Ta’wīl : the interpretation of the words of the Lawgiver or His ordinances.


Ta’yīd : Support.

Turbah or turāb : soil. Adam, the first man, is made of turbah or turāb.

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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-fiqh : Means ‘the roots’ or ‘sources’ of law: foundation of law. Islamic jurisprudence.

Utilitarianism: modern moral theorists who adhere to a form of Consequentialism.


Wa‘d : promise of good reward for the faithful who upholds a virtuous Islamic life.

Wadūd (al-) : the Loving. It is one of the 99th attributes of God.

Wa‘īd : threat. “Promise” of painful reward for those who led a non-virtuous life that contradicted the code of morality established in Qur’ān and Sunnah.

Wājib, farḍ : Required, obligatory. One of the five categories in which Islamic law and ethics have traditionally divided human behavior.


Yaqīn : certain knowledge, certainty (see manṭiq).


Zakāh : Alms tax, Almsgiving. It is the fourth of the five pillars (Arkān) of Islām. Zakāh is obligatory for Muslims, and is given yearly by those who have to pay it.


Ẓann : conjecture.

Zindīq (pl. zanādiqah: unbeliever, heretic, “free thinker”.

Zuhd : asceticism, soberness, by the mere necessities (shunning of luxury). It is a principal virtue (a first-order virtue) in Sufiteaching.