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Glossary of Arabic terms

About the glossary
This draft glossary of Arabic terms used in teaching and learning Islamic law has been produced as part of the work of the Developing an Islamic law curriculum project. The glossary will be updated as manuals for various Islamic law modules are developed.

This is a work in progress, and the authors look forward to receiving comments and suggestions – contact the project leader, Shaheen Sardar Ali, on e-mail:

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Using the glossary: to look for a term click on the letter it beings with above. For a printer-friendly version click on ‘print page’ at the very top of the screen.


‘adalah – justice, uprightness of character
‘adl – justice
‘amal – literally ‘practice’; constitutes a source of law in the absence of an explicit ruling in the Qur’an and Sunnah
Al-ahkam al-khamsa – five rules of human action
Aql – intellect, reason
Arbainiyyat – collections containing 40 hadith related to one or more subjects which may have appeared to be of special interest to the compiler
Ahad/Misaq – treaty
Ahad – single/isolated
ahad – solitary; hadith report by a single individual
ahkam – (plural of hukm) laws, values, ordinances
Ahl al Kitab – People of the Book
ahliyyah – legal capacity
Al Sahwa – Islamic Awakening
arkaan – (plural of rukn) – essential requirements, pillars
As Siyar – Islamic International law
asl – source, origin, root
Asbab an-nuzul – occasions of revelation
Athna ‘Asharia – Shia subsect
ayah – (plural: ayat) – a section of the Qur’anic text often referred to as a ‘verse’
Ayat – (singular: ayah) – Quranic verse


Baghat – rebels
Batil marriage – null and void
batil – null and void
Bayah – oath


dalil – proof, evidence
Darurah – necessity
Dhimmi – non-Muslim subject of a state governed in accordance with Shari’a
Diya – blood money, compensation


faqih – (plural: fuqaha’) jurist, one who is learned in fiqh
fard – obligatory, obligation
Fasid marriage – irregular/legally defective
fasid – deficient (as opposed to batil, null and void)
Fatwa – a considered opinion made by a mufti
Fiqh – Islamic law
Fitrana – alms given on Eid
furu’ ul fiqh – branches of (fiqh) law


Gadaf – false accusation of incontinence or defamation, slander


hadd – (plural: hudud) literally limit; prescribed penalty/punishment
Hadith – vehicle through which Sunnah is carried and compiled as a text
hajj – the once in a lifetime obligation of pilgrimage to the Ka’bah
Halal – permitted/allowed
Haram – forbidden/prohibited
Hiba – gift
Hizanaat – custody
Huda – a book of guidance
Huqooq Allah – rights of God
Huqooq ul ibad – rights of human beings (human rights)


Ibadaat – worship/prayers
iddah – the waiting period following dissolution of marriage by death or divorce
iftar – breaking the fast
Ijma – consensus of opinion
Ijtihad – independent judicial reasoning; striving in the realm of law to solve new legal problems
Ikhtilaf – juristic disagreement
Islah – reform
Ismailiya – Shia subsect
Isnad – transmission
Istidlal – inference; a distinct legal method to derive rules
Istihisan – juristic preference/equity
Istishab – presumption of continuity
Istislah – consideration of the public interest


Jahilya – era of ignorance; term usually used for pre-Islamic Arab society
Jihad – holy war
Jami – a hadith collection containing traditions relating to all eight topics listed under Risala
Jinayat – offence against the person, tort or injury
Jizyia – poll tax
Juz – a collection of hadith handed down on the authority of one single individual, be he or she a Companion, or a member of any succeeding generation


Kaf’a‘ah – equality in marriage
Kafala – to take care of; the concept is comparable to the western concept of adoption, albeit with some important differences
Khalifa – caliph
Khiyar-u-l bulugh – option of puberty
Khula – divorce at the instance of the wife, where she agrees to forego her dower in return for her release from the marital bond
Khulfa i Rashideen – rightly guided caliphs


Madahab – schools of juristic thought
Mahr – dower or marriage gift given by the husband to the wife
Masl – subject matter (for example of Sunnah)
Mu’amilaat – day to day dealings/worldly pursuits
Mubarat – consensual divorce
Munakihat – laws pertaining to family affairs
Mutawatir – continuous
Muwahhdin – unitarians
Musannaf – a comprehensive collection of hadith in which traditions relating to most or all of the eight topics are assembled and arranged in various ‘books’ or ‘chapters’, each dealing with a particular topic; for example Muwatta
Musnad – collections of hadiths whose material is arranged according to the names of their original narrating authorities, irrespective of subject matter; literally ‘supported’ (reliable)
Mujam – generally applies to works on various subjects arranged in alphabetical order
Mustadrak – a collection in which the compiler, having accepted the conditions laid down by a previous compiler, collects together such other traditions as fulfil those conditions and were missed by his predecessor
Mustakhraj – a collection in which a later compiler collects fresh and additional isnad to add to those cited by an original compiler


Nabi – prophet
Naskh – abrogate
Nikah – marriage contract
Niyah – intention, notion and aim


Qadi – judge
Qanun – law
Qawwam – maintainers/providers
Qiyas – analogy
Qisas – retaliation
Quran – the primary source of Islamic law; the religious text believed by Muslims to be the word of God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad


Rahn – mortgage
Rasool – prophet with a holy book
Riddah – apostasy
Risala – a collection of hadith dealing with one particular topic selected from eight topics into which the contents of the Jami books of hadith may generally be classified


Sadaqah – a voluntary act of giving alms by Muslims wanting to contribute beyond the obligatory zakah
Sahaba/Ashaab – Companions of the Prophet (singular: Sahabi)
Sahih marriage – valid marriage
Sahifa – a collection of sayings of the Prophet written down by one of his Companions during his lifetime or by their successors of the next generation
Salat – prayer
Shahada – evidence/witness
Shari’a – way or path to the water source, flowing water; the term is used for the dynamic body of Islamic legal principles, Divine (The Qur’an) and Divinely inspired (Sunnah) as well as human input in the form of Ijma’, qiyas, ijtihad etc.
Shia – Muslim sect
Siyasa Shariah – state sponsored law making
Sunnah – practice of the Prophet Muhammad
Sunnah mutawarerah – successively reported Sunnah
Sunnah mashoorah – well known Sunnah
Sunni – Muslim sect
Sura – Quranic chapter


Taba Tabaieen – Companions of the Companions
Tabaieen – Companions
Tafsir – commentary of the Qur’an
Tajdid – revival
Takhayur – a juristic technique of pick and choose
Talaq-I-hasan – mode of divorce consisting of three pronouncements by husband made during the wife’s three successive tuhrs (period between menstruations), no intercourse taking place during any of the tuhrs
Talaq-I-Ba’an – Irrevocable Divorce: three pronouncements made during a single tuhr either in one sentence or in three separate sentences
Talaq-i-Tafweed – Delegated Divorce
Talaq – dissolution of marriage by the husband
Talfiq – a process whereby Muslim jurists constructed legal rules by the combination and fusion of opinions of different schools of thought in Islamic legal tradition
Taliq i Ahsan – mode of divorce consisting of a single pronouncement by husband made during wife’s tuhr (period between menstruations) followed by abstinence from sexual intercourse for the period of ‘Iddah
Tazir – discretionary penalty or punishment


Ummah – the universal Muslim community
Uqubat – penal/criminal law in Islam
Urf – custom/practice
Ushr – a form of tax imposed on Muslims
Usul ul Fiqh – sources of law, jurisprudence


Wahi – revelation
Wall-Al-Dam – the next of kindred who has the right to demand retaliation
wali – guardian
Wilayah – guardianship (of minors and people of unsound mind)


Zakah – one of the five pillars of Islam; a mandatory tax on Muslims to pay 2.5% of their wealth to specified categories in society when their annual wealth exceeds a certain level
Zina bil jabr – rape
Zina – adultery, fornication

Last Modified: 18 October 2010