Glossary and Terms

Caliphate: a region controlled by an Islamic state and government, usually under a system of sharia law.


Sharia law: a legal system based on writings/rules/laws taken from the Quran.

Caliph: the supreme leader of an Islamic caliphate, essentially a King of Islam.

Muhammad: The Last Holy Prophet of the Islamic fate. Popularized the religion and was given the words of the Quran by Allah.

Quran: the sacred text of the Islamic faith.


Allah: the one true God of the Islamic faith.

Islam: one of the major religions of the world, which originated in the Middle East around 600 A.D.

Monotheism: the belief in the existence of one god, and not many.

The Five Pillars of Islam: five practices all Muslims must adhere to in order to live good lives. These dictated the daily way of life for many Muslims.

Shahadah: One of the Five Pillars of Islam. Shahadah refers to the acceptance and recitation of the Muslim profession faith in front of witnesses: “there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.”

Salat: One of the Five Pillars of Islam. Salat requires that Muslims perform ritual prayer at five specific times each day.

Zakat: One of the Five Pillars of Islam. According to Zakat, all Muslims must pay a tax to benefit the poor.

Sawm: One of the Five Pillars of Islam. Sawm requires that all Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan.

Hajj: One of the Five Pillars of Islam. The “Hajj” is a pilgrimage to the Middle East, a trip all Muslims must take during their lives to Mecca and Medina.

Mosque: An Islamic place of worship, similar in meaning to a Christian church or Jewish synagogue.


Imam: an Islamic leadership position, usually given to those who lead worship in a mosque.

Pilgrimage: A holy journey undertaken by those of a faith as a show of devotion/penance.   

Mecca: a holy city in the Islamic faith.

Medina: a holy city in the Islamic faith.

The Rightly Guided Caliphs: the first four caliphs who ruled following the death of Muhammad. They were called the “rightly guided” because they’d all been given personal teaching by Muhammad.

The Great Schism: a split that came in the Muslim faith following the death of the fourth Rightly Guided Caliph. This led to the formation of the Sunni and Shia denominations of the faith.

Sunni: The largest denomination of the Islamic faith. Sunni Muslims did not think that caliphs had to be related to Muhammad.

Shia: The smaller of the two Islamic denominations. Shia Muslims believed that all caliphs had to be descendants of Muhammad.