Jihad for Dummies – A-Z of Terminology

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Fort Russ – 30th January, 2016


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اهل الكتاب Ahl al-Kitaab – People of the book – Jews, Christians, Muslims (the Abrahamic faiths)

أهل السنة Ahl al-Sunnah – Sunni Islam and it’s adherents

علوي Alawite – the Alawites claim to follow the twelver school of Shiism, but still remain a distinct group. It is believed that this distinction came about due to the geographic isolation of the group during Ottoman rule. In more recent history, Lebanese Shi’a scholars have led attempts to reconcile the Alawites to the Shi’a Twelver school, but it’s not clear how successful this was. It appears that the Syrian regime did not look favorably on these efforts – secular Ba’athists have always looked on the religious activity with suspicion.

أمان Aman – a security contract granted to allow temporary passage or business to non-Muslims in Muslim lands. Also used to describe the safe passage guaranteed to Muslims passing through a specific group’s territory, generally by way of a letter or stamp (often gained after paying a bribe), to let others know not to harm this individual or group.

أمير المؤمنين Amir al-Muhmineen – Commander of the Faithful. Religious title given to the highest religious leader in the land, currently claimed by leader of the Islamic State. 

الأنصار‎  al-Ansar – “helpers” – Often seen in conjunction with “Muhajireen” (travellers, those who make hajj). Comes from the people of Medina who welcomed Mohammed and his followers (see, e.g., Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar)

 بني قريظة Banu Qurayza – Jewish tribe living in Medina exterminated by the early Muslims for the charge of treachery at the Battle of the Trench.

بيعة Bay’aa – means oath or oath of allegiance, basically throughout Islamic history, the great and the good were expected to give their loyalty to the new leader. This term will be more common among the Islamists, refusing to give a new leader your oath is viewed as serious.

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ / بسم الله  Bismillah / Bismillah al-rahman al-raheem – “In the name of God” / “In the name of God, the most Gracious, the most Merciful”- cited before every Sura in the Qu’ran (except the 9th), Bismillah is almost ALWAYS seen in jihadi official videos before anything else (against a black screen in white letters). During interviews before anything else is said, many interviews will begin with the full “Bismillah al-rahman al-raheem” as a preface to other Islamic honorifics and to preset the tone of the conversation. Bismillah has all sorts of Qu’ranic and Hadith based support for repeating it aloud during different scenarios.

دار الحرب Dar al-Harb – Lit. “house of war” – territory outside of Islamic rule.

دار الإسلام‎ Dar al-Islam – Lit. “house of Islam” – territory under Islamic rule / within the Islamic world. Disputes over what exactly is encompassed by this term 

الدعوة Da’wah  – proselytizing, missionary work. Both to non-Muslims and to Muslims who are regarded as having fallen from the path of “true” Islam.

الدين al-Deen – religion

دعاء al-Du’a – personal prayer

ذمي‎  Dhimmi – permanent residents in Muslim lands who are not Muslims. These non-Muslims must pay the jizya tax to enjoy protected status and exemption from certain Islamic requirements (jihad, zakat, etc etc).

دجّال Dijal – essentially occupies the place of the anti-Christ in Muslim eschatology 

فرض Fard – a religious duty or obligatory action. Includes فرض عين Fard Ayn an obligation for ALL Muslims to render aid in a given scenario and فرض كفاية Fard Kifayah or a collective obligation to render aid, freeing individuals to make their own decision.

فتوى‎ Fatwa – an authoritative statement issued from an Islamic authority on a point of Islamic law. Acceptance varies by who considers them to be an authority or not.

فقه Fiqh – jurisprudence as proscribed by sharia law.

فتنة Fitnah – Sedition – used quite frequently to accuse another of causing dissension/division in the ranks (especially of the broader Islamic community or community of jihad)

الْغَنيمَة Ghanima – loot/plunder/booty. Various Islamic rulings apply to how war plunder should be divided including provisions for amounts to be given to the state for the maintenance of the population. Nearly always used to describe captured weapons/ammunition/military equipment. 

حافظ Hafez – one who has memorized the Qu’ran. Also a common male name.

هِجْرَة Hijra – The migration of Mohammed and followers from Mecca to Medina. Also used as a term to describe the return of Muslims to Muslim lands, particularly where jihad is being waged, as in “to make hijra to the Islamic State”. 

حلال Halal – permissible, allowable, particularly within a religious context.  

حقّ Haqq – truth, right, reality. Also one of the 99 names of Allah.

حرام Haram – sinful, not allowed.

حزبالات Hezbollat- A play on the name of the party/armed group “Hezbollah” (Party of God), Hezbollat is a combination of “Hezb” (party) and al-Lat, a pre-Islamic god that many in Saudi Arabia worshiped (the three main gods being al-Uzza, al-Lat, and al-Manat). Can also be interpreted as a crude pluralization of “god” to make Hezbollah appear polytheistic (Party of gods).

حدود Hudud – Lit. “Borders/Limits”. A type of Islamic punishments for Islamic crimes including amputation.

اجتهاد‎ Ijtihad – the independent reasoning and logical deduction on a given theological (or legal) question using Qu’ran and Hadiths as primary sources.

الإخوان‎‎ Ikhwan – Brethren. Commonly used to describe large groups of Muslim “brothers” (akh). May or may not refer to the Muslim Brotherhood.

إِنَّا للهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ  Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un – “Surely we belong to God, and to him we shall return”- most commonly heard as a condolence when someone dies.

إن شاء الله In Shaa Allah – If God Wills It/God Willing- when asked a question about something that will or may occur in the future, if the answer is yes/maybe/hopefully the reply will often be “If God Wills It” instead of “Yes”. It is an acknowledgement of submission to Allah, as most Muslims believe everything is muktub(written) and things will only occur if Allah has willed it to happen.

أستغفر الله Istaghfirullah – I seek the forgiveness of God – an expression of repentance.

استشهاد Istishad – Martyrdom. Widely used to refer to the dead, but specifically those who die in battle and universally used (by the jihadist) to describe those of their own who die in suicide operations (amaliyat istishadiya – “martyrdom operations”).

جهنم Jahannam – hell.

الجاهليّة jahliyyah – Lit. “ignorance”, refers to both the pre-Islamic Arabian peninsula or the time before Islam, as well as areas of the Muslim world or community who have fallen from “true” Islam.

جنة Jannah – heaven.

جزاك الله Jazak Allah – May God Reward You

جزية‎  Jizya – poll tax expected of non-Muslims living in Muslim lands. Replaces the expectation of zakat that Muslims would pay.

كافر/ الكفار Kafir / Kuffar – Infidel / Infidels. Varying levels of agreement on who this encompasses. Much of Islam believes this is those who disbelieve in Islam, but does not encompass Ahl al-Kitab (people of the book): Jews and Christians. Other segments of Islam believe it encompasses all non-Muslims.

الخندق‎ Khandaq – Trench. Usually a reference to the famous Battle of the Trench where Mohammed and the early Muslims defended themselves against a much greater foe by way of trench works that their cavalry couldn’t cross. Trenches hold a special place in jihadist lore for this as well as practical reasons. The Islamic State has written about creating a trench around Mosul reminiscent of the trench from this battle to protect the Muslims there from the Crusaders and Apostates.

خارجي/خوارج Khariji/Khwarij – One who rebels against a Muslim leader, emerged first time when they defected from Ali ibn Abi Talib’s army during the Battle of Siffin, and later sent Ibn Muljim to assassinate him, who was the son-in- law and first cousin of the Prophet. The term has a modern day approach where this is used to fight anyone and everyone who doesn’t see an eye to their beliefs, and they declare them worthy of death. The definition of Khawarij is best translated as “Extremist”. The Khawarij were known in the past for basically killing anyone who did anything haram, anyone who sinned. They were unanimously denounced as extremists, who took a dogmatic and twisted interpretation of the religion and were denounced by the Sahaba, and Imam Ali (as), so this holds considerable weight in both Sunni and Shi’a circles.

مدرسة Madrassa – Lit. “school”, in an Islamic context connotates a seminary or religious academy. 

مجلس الشورى‎ Majlis al-Shura – consultative council. Usually refers to a body of Islamic scholars, judges, or otherwise learned persons.

منهج Manhaj – Ideology/Methodology through which ‘truth’ is reached.

ما شاء الله  Ma Shaa Allah – God has willed it

مسجد Masjid – mosque

مهاجرون Muhajirun – the first Muslims who moved to Medina from Mecca, making hijra as immigrants. This term is often used to refer to foreign fighters who travel to zones of jihad to fight

منافق Munafiq – a hypocrite.

مرتد Murtad – Apostate – used liberally by extremists against any who disagree with the teachings that particular groups uses. ISIL uses it liberally when denouncing Sunnis arrayed against them.

مُشْرِك Mushrik – idolater/polytheist (same root as Shirk)

الموحدين  al-Muwahiddin – “monotheists.” I’ve seen various jihadi/salafist people refer to themselves as monotheists to distinguish themselves from secular governments and tawagheet (idolaters/secular non-shariah governments/tyrants”)

نصيري Nusayri – derogatory term for Alawite (referring to them as followers of Ibn Nusayr)

نصارى  Nasara – a derogatory term for Christians (a reference to Nazarene)

ناصبي  Nusabi – slur used against Sunni by Shi’a. Relatively low frequency word.

قصاص Qisas – equitable retribution (an eye for an eye).

القياس Qiyas – analogical reasoning used as the basis of fiqh.

قريش‎ Quraysh – the tribe to which Mohammed and the first Muslims belonged. Highly prestigious to be able to trace one’s roots back to the Quraysh and some believe it is a requirement to be caliph.

رافضي/روافض Rafidi/Rawafid(pl.) – Literally rejectors A derogatory pejorative used when referring to Shi’a, Shi’as have turned the term around and use it as “rejectors of falsehood”, through wordplay.

الراشدون al-Rashidun – a reference to the first four caliphs, the “rightly guided ones”. Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali.

رباط‎ Ribat – a fortification. Used theologically to refer to defending the periphery of Islam (the “front lines”).

ردة Ridda – apostasy

الصفوية  al-Safawiyah – Safavid – reference to the Safavid empire in Persian, this is a slur used against not only Iranians but those in the Shi’a axis at large.

صحيح Sahih – Lit. “true”. A reference attached to a collection of hadith’s regarding the truthfulness of the compiler.

صحوة Sahwa – means awakening. It carries numerous meanings but perhaps most currently it references the Sunni tribes of Anbar rising up against al-Qaeda in Iraq and kicking them out of their area’s. It is also used a snub against Muslims (especially Sunni) who side with the government instead of with the jihadists. It can also refer to the major Salafi political block in Saudi Arabia that was heavily repressed by the Saudi government in the 1990s and has plays a part in peaceful political reform within the Salafi community. It is almost always used derogatively in jihadist literature.

السلفية  Salafi – comes from the Arabic word Salaf. A Salafi (سلفي) is the word Wahabi’s use to describe themselves. The root of the word is Salaf or predecessor, and Salafi’s contend that they are following in the foot-steps of the the righteous predecessors. these predecessors are the early Muslims who did not have their Islam ‘tainted’ by foreign influences. Their scholars rejected perceived “modernization” in Islamic thinking, primary among these scholars is Ibn Tamiya and Mohammed Ibn Abdulwahhab. Sometimes used as a slur, ascribing all Salafis as cut from the same clothe, i.e. violent extremists. Worth noting that Salafi is not synonymous with jihadist or terrorist. While many jihadist are Salafi, most Salafis are not jihadists. 

صلاة Salat – prayer, especially the five daily prayers of most Muslims.

صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم Sallah Ilahu alayhi wa-alehe wa-sallam – “Peace Be Upon Him” commonly abbreviated as “PBUH” or “SAWS”. Used after mentioning Mohammed.

السلول al-Salul – a play on words as it’s not that far off from al-Saud. Ibn Salul is regarded poorly in Islamic tradition as a big hypocrite (al-munafiq) because his conversion to Islam is believed by many to be a false one or less than sincere. He was a leader of one of the leading tribes in Yathrib (Medina) the Banu Khazraj. His conflict with Mohammed earned him great enmity from many Muslims. This term is often used in place of “al-Saud” to insult the Saudi royals.

صليبي Salibi (plural: Salibiyun) – Crusader- Used as a slur against Christians (especially western Christians).

شهادة  Shahadah – The Muslim declaration of faith. Literally, “the testimony/testimonial”. لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله – La illaha illa Allah Mohammedun rasool allah – “there is no God but Allah, Mohammed is the messenger of God.”

شيطان Shaytan – Satan, the devil.

شيعة / شيعة علي Shi’a – Shi’atu Ali – Shi’a Islam / Followers of Ali

شرك‎  shirk – idolatry/polytheism

شورى Shura – a council or consultative assembly. 

سبحانه و تعالى Subhannu wa t”ala – May He Be Glorified and Exalted – an Islamic honorific that is often added after saying “Allah” either in text (abbreviated SWT) or in speaking. Many videos/interviews will begin with a series of Islamic honorifics, with this often being one of them. 

سورة Sura – one of 114 chapters of the Qu’ran.

الطائفة / الطائفية al-ta’afah / al-ta’afiyah – sect / sectarianism

طاغوت Taghut – Tyrant – Usually means “dictator” or “tyrant”. Used against the governments in the various states they fight against.

تكفيري Takfiri is a neologism for someone who engages in takfir, the act of determining who is and who is not a believer. The word shares the same consonant root as kafir (“nonbeliever” rather than “apostate”). There is a proscription against takfir in Islamic scholarship and jurisprudence generally, as it’s not really supposed to be up to a human being to decide whether or not another person claiming to be a Muslim is in fact a Muslim, a determination that should be left up to Allah. There is no consensus whatsoever among the ulema’ (scholars) and fuqaha (jurisprudents) that “kafir” includes all non-Muslims, and many consider “the believers” to include Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. In short, “takfir” isn’t a determination of one’s apostasy, which specifically means someone who found the correct guidance and became a Muslim, and then turned away from Islam. Sometimes used as a slur to discredit Sunni groups.

تقیة Taqiya – much debated term, that principally means to hide one’s beliefs or act in a manner inconsistent with your religion, in order to protect yourself from retribution- as in Shi’a performing Sunni prayer rituals when in a hostile Sunni country/community, or to it’s most extreme extent, Muslims committing sinful acts to fit into their surroundings. This term is very loaded and often used as an insinuation that an act is insincere and done to confuse or deceive.

توحيد Tawheed – The Belief in the Oneness of God

علماء Ulama – the scholars and clerics of Islamic society.

أمة  Ummah – the group/community of religious believers

والله Wa-Allah – And God/By God: often run together almost as one word (W’allah) this expression has incredibly varied usage from the religious “By God, I will do this” to the shocked “W’allah!” to the casual. It is intended to give a promise that something will be done or to give significance to a statement.

ولاية الفقيه Wilayat al-Faqih – Guardianship of the Jurist – a prevailing theory in Shi’a Islam that Islam should have custodianship over its adherents. This varies in degree from partial to total, and is not accepted by all Shi’a as correct. Often referenced when discussing Iran/Hezbollah and the Iran/Iraq axes.

يهودي / اليهود Yahudi/Yahud – Jew/(pl.)

يا الله Ya Allah – Oh God-  a statement of exclamation, not unlike W’allah. 

يا رب Ya Rub – Oh Lord – Often uttered while awaiting something to occur (a missile to strike, a truck to reach it’s destination, etc etc) as if seeking encouragement from God that something will happen.

زكاة‎  Zakat – alms paid by Muslims. Often used in reference to fundraising for jihad.

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