Islam: A Glossary

Answers to your questions about the news.
Sept. 24 2001 6:40 PM

Islam: A Glossary

(Continued from Page 1)

Medina: Also located in western Saudi Arabia, Medina is Islam's second-holiest place. Muhammad migrated to Medina with 70 Muslim families in 622 after being persecuted by the Meccan establishment. It is also the site of Muhammad's tomb.

Advertisement

Mosque: The Arabic word is masjid, meaning "place of prostration" before God. Muhammad built the first mosque in Medina. A mosque should be oriented toward Mecca. In many Islamic societies, mosques serve social and political functions in addition to religious ones.

Muslim: In Arabic, "one who surrenders to God"; a follower of Islam. There are 1 billion Muslims in the world and 6 million in the United States.

Shii: The "partisans" of Ali, the fourth caliph, the Shiis eventually became a distinct Muslim sect. The largest Shii Muslim sect is the "Twelver Shii," named after the first 12 leaders (or imams) of Shii Muslims. Twelver Shii believe that the descendants of Ali, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, were the legitimate leaders of Islam. Shiis believe the last imam is in hiding, and they await his return. Shiis are the majority in Iran, and many can be found in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Pakistan. There are more than 165 million Shii Muslims in the world. (Also known as Shia or Shiite Muslims.)

Sunni: Unlike Shii Muslims, Sunni Muslims believe that Islamic leadership is vested in the consensus of the community, not in religious and political authorities. Their name comes from the word sunna, which is thought to mean "middle of the road." The religious scholar Karen Armstrong emphasizes that, despite their differences, Sunnis and Shiites alike observe the five pillars of Islam. "Like Judaism, Islam is a religion that requires people to live a certain way, rather than to accept certain credal propositions," she writes. "It stresses orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy."

Umma: The worldwide community of Muslims.

Wahabbism: A puritanical form of Islam that flourishes primarily in Saudi Arabia. It is named after Muhammad ibn al-Wahhab, an 18th-century Islamic reformer who wanted to return Islam to its beginnings by emphasizing a fundamentalist approach to the Koran.

Explainer thanks Karen Armstrong's A History of God and Islam: A Short History, Bernard Lewis' The Multiple Identities of the Middle East, and Encarta Online.

TODAY IN SLATE

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

Here’s Just How Far a Southern Woman May Have to Drive to Get an Abortion

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Behold

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 20 2014 1:50 PM Why We Shouldn’t be Too Sure About the Supposed Deal to Return the Abducted Nigerian Schoolgirls
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 12:37 PM The Fed Will Probably Stop Injecting Huge Sums of Money Into the Economy This Month
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 20 2014 1:43 PM Chouara: A Striking 11th-Century Tannery in Morocco
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 1:10 PM Women Are Still Losing Jobs for Getting Pregnant
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 1:26 PM This $248 Denim Jumpsuit Is the Latest Example of a Horrible Fashion Tradition
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 1:51 PM Will Amazon Lead Us to the Golden Age of Books? A Future Tense Event.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 10:23 AM Where I Was Wrong About the Royals I underestimated the value of building a team that’s just barely better than mediocre.