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What do all these Arabic words mean? Help for non-muslims

Forum: Islamic Parenting


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July 4th, 2012, 03:58 AM
shilo's Avatar Mega Super Mommy
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Somewhere Green
Posts: 2,171
For the majority of muslims, Arabic is not our first language (or even second)! But since we all recite the Qur'an in Arabic for the five daily prayers, it is something of a common ground in Muslims around the world and many Arabic phrases are commonly used mixed in with regular speech in English, Spanish, Urdu, etc. even for those who do not actually speak Arabic otherwise. You may encounter some on this board!

If you are non-muslim, recently reverted, just browsing, or just wondering, this guide is for you and you can look up any expressions you don't know Feel free to post any additional phrases you don't see in the list here for an explanation.

Allah - The Arabic word for God with a capital G (the one God). The meaning is not limited to muslims, the same word is used by Arabic-speaking Christians and other faiths to refer to a monotheistic god.

Allahu A’lam - Allah knows best. (Often in response to something where the person is unsure or does not know, or doesn't wish to debate further).

Alhamdulillah (all praise is due to Allah) - There are a lot of occasions on which to say this, but it frequently comes in in conversation when you want to emphasize that something is a blessing that god caused to happen, as opposed to being your own doing. People may also say this if you ask how they are, meaning they are fine, or if they are offered more food and they are full and do not want any more. Also said upon sneezing by the person who sneezed (the other person then blesses them).

Assalamou alaikum (Peace be upon you) - It is the traditional Muslim greeting and is usually responded to with "wa alaikum essalam" (and upon you be peace). The longer version is "Assalmou alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu (peace be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings).

Salam - Peace. Sometimes used as a shortened form of the greeting. Islam and Salam come from the same root in Arabic.

Yarhamukallah - (May Allah Have Mercy on You) - Similar to the English "Bless you." Can be said if somebody sneezes as well.

Baraka Allahu fika - May Allah bestow his blessing on you - In this case another bless you but typically in response to something good the other person did, as in "thank you very much."

JazakAllah (May Allah Reward you) - General all-purpose thank you when somebody does something nice.

Bismillah - (In the name of Allah) - This can be said before doing anything, for example eating a meal.

Tawakkalna ala Allah - I place my absolute trust in Allah - Can be used when beginning to do something, similar in that way to Bismillah.

Du'a - Prayer - There are two kinds of "prayer" in Islam, Du'a and Salat. Du'a is more similar to the type of informal prayer that is usually meant when the word is used in english: You talk to God or ask for something. You may sit down and do this with a set purpose and recite portions of the Qur'an or prayers that the Prophet used to say, especially at certain times, or it could be you running out of the house and praying ad lib that you get to work on time .

Salat - Prayer - This is the other kind of prayer which is the one referred to in terms of praying 5 times a day. The Salat prayer has a pattern of movements and recitations, including standing, bowing, kneeling, and prostrating, and different parts of the Qur'an can also be recited along with it. It may be aloud or silent, and the number of reptitions is tied to which time of day it is held at (for example, 3 sets of movement or "rakat") at the prayer held following sunset. The required prayers may be prayed alone or synchronized with others in congregation. In addition to the 5 daily required salat people commonly pray additional voluntary salat before or after or at other times if they wish. Each of the 5 obligatory prayers has a time period during the day and can be prayed at any point during that window.There are a number of exemptions to praying Salat 5 times a day depending on different situations.

Five Pillars of Islam - These are the "backbone" of Islamic practice: The testament of faith (Shahada), the 5 daily prayers (Salat), fasting during the month of Ramadan, giving a type of yearly charity (Zakat), and the pilgrimage to Mecca (The Hajj).

Shahada - The statement of faith, made upon "reverting" or "converting" to Islam and also recited in each Salat prayer. The translation is "There is no god except God, and Mohammed is the messenger of God."

Ramadan - The 9th month of the Islamic calendar, during which time adult muslims are required to fast from dawn until sunset. There are exemptions to this for various situations which would make fasting difficult. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar (each month starts with the new crescent moon) so it is slightly shorter than the gregorian calendar and thus rotates a little bit earlier each year. Since the month starts based on sighting the new moon in a given location, there is a variation of a day or two around the world (the month could be either 29 or 30 days), thus dates such as the start of Ramadan and the holiday following it (Eid al Fitr) may only be approximately determined in advance.

Suhoor - A meal eaten during Ramadan before beginning fasting (often very early in the morning, depending on when Ramadan falls during the year). Suhoor is eaten before it begins to get light.

Iftar - A meal eaten during Ramadan at the time of breaking the fast (when the sun goes down).

Eid - literally holiday. There are two main holidays in Islam: Eid al Fitr (at the end of Ramadan) and Eid al Adha (during Hajj but celebrated by those not on Hajj as well). Each "Eid" technically lasts for 3 days and generally includes a special prayer combining multiple congregations, special foods or feasts, gifts, charity, and other festivities which vary by culture and location. Popular greetings at this time include: Eid Mubarak, Eid Saeed (Blessed Eid, Happy Eid).

Hadith - A hadith is a reported saying, deed or action narrated about the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) (or sometimes his companions). The hadiths were passed down through various chains of narrators, some of which are considered to be more authentic than others. Hadiths are often used to further explain things in the Qur'an or in Islamic practices.

Sunnah - Often heard in conjuction with hadith. The sunnah refers to the practice of the prophet. Following the sunnah or practice of the prophet is the way to follow Islam according to the Qur'an. When someone says a particular action is sunnah this means it is good and desirable because this is how the prophet practiced, even if it is not necessarily required.

Hajj - The pilgrimage to Mecca and the Kabaa which is obligatory on each muslim at least once in his/her lifetime (if possible). It takes place only at a certain time of year in the Islamic Calendar.

Kabaa - A building in Mecca, Saudia Arabia, which is the focus point of the Hajj pilgrimage. The 5 daily Salat prayers are done facing the Kabaa. It is also referred to as Baitullah (house of God) though this is not intended as a literal description. The Kabaa was originally built by prophet Abraham, who also established the pilgrimage, later revived during the time of prophet Mohammed. There is a now also a mosque built surrounding it with the Kabaa standing in the middle.

Qibla - The direction in which the Kabaa lies (the way muslims face for Salat prayer).

Qur'an - The revelation from Allah to the prophet Mohammed through the angel Gabriel, as a message for all people. It is unchanged and protected from any corruption, though there are many translations into languages other than Arabic and sometimes differing interpretations as to the meaning of verses in Arabic.

Halal - Something is halal if it is lawful, or permitted, in Islam. In general, things which are not specifically prohibited are considered halal. The term halal is also often used to refer to food, both as a label on products that contain nothing unlawful for muslims to eat and in reference to the meat of animals killed following the islamic slaughtering guidelines.

Haram - Something that is specifically forbidden (described as haram) in Islam. It is not permissible to describe something as haram unless this occurs in the Qur'an or hadith, even if it is considered to be disliked.

Insha'allah (if Allah wills it/God willing) - One place it's often said if is if you are saying you plan to do something, or you hope for something, because it's all dependent on Allah's will really. It is preferred to add this in case of any uncertainty because only God knows what is actually going to take place

Jahannam - Hell - A place of punishment after death and judgement.

Jannah (Garden) - Paradise or Heaven - A place of reward after death and judgement.

Masha'allah (as Allah wishes) - people usually say this in response to hearing/seeing something good, etc. ("your baby is so cute, mashallah"). If you praise somebody without saying this, somebody might remind you to "say mashallah"). Often used in circumstances where you might say Wow, Great, etc.

Sallallahu `alahi wasallam (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) - Typically abbreviated as s.a.w. this is something that Muslims say after the mention of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.). You may also see Peace Be Upon Him abbreviated similarly (pbuh).

Subhanallah (Glorified is Allah) - Sort of similar to hallelujah in english, but a lot more common. If you see something amazing it would be appropriate.

Zakat - A type of charity which is obligatory for muslims having a certain minimum amount of wealth, which is to be given yearly to certain categories of people.

Sadaqah - Charity in general terms, outside of the obligatory Zakat. Charity can refer to things other than money, even smiling at someone is considered a charity for which there is a reward from Allah.

Fajr - The Salat prayer at dawn. The time for this prayer is between when it first starts to get light and when the sun begins to rise, and like the other Salat prayers, it can be prayed at any time during this window.

Zhuhr /Dhuhr - The noon prayer, which can be prayed after the sun has passed the zenith and before the time for Asr starts.

Asr - The afternoon prayer, the time for which begins in midafternoon (when the shadow of an object has increased by the height of the object) until sunset.

Maghrib - The evening prayer, the time of which begins at sunset and extends until the time for Isha prayer starts.

Isha - The night prayer, which begins when the sunlight has disappeared from the sky and darkness has settled, and extends until the time for Fajr.

Wudhu - Ablution or ritual washing before salat prayer and at some other times.

Ghusl - Advanded ablution which includes Wudu and washing the entire body.

Mabrook - Congratulations! (e.g. at the birth of a baby).

Inna Lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un - (Surely we belong to God and to Him shall we return) - Most commonly upon hearing that somebody has died. Also could be in response to other misfortune.

Astaghfirullah - (I seek forgiveness from Allah) - Basically if you think you have done something wrong, asking God to forgive you.

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