Be cautious in using this word because it can imply that something is a false god. For example, do not use idol to refer to the representations Hindus use in worshipping. The correct term to use is murti. For similar reasons, idol worship is also inaccurate.
Pronounced “IJ-tee-haad.” The process of reasoning and interpreting the Quran, hadith and other sacred texts to uncover God’s rulings. Religious scholars effectively terminated the practice five centuries ago, but a need seen by some Muslims to reinterpret the faith for modern times has revived the practice. It is disputed whether ijtihad is reserved for scholars, or open to all Muslims with a basic degree of religious knowledge.
Pronounced “ee-MAHM.” In everyday use, any person who leads a congregational prayer. Traditionally, only men have been imams, although women are allowed to serve as imams for other women. To lead prayers, one does not have to be a cleric. In a more formal sense, an imam is a religious leader, but can also be a political leader. Many Shiites believe imams are intercessors with God; many also believe in the Twelve Imams, descendants of Prophet Muhammad whom they consider his rightful successors. The Twelfth Imam disappeared from the world in 873, but followers of Twelve Imams Shiism believe that he is still alive and will return as the Mahdi, or “the guided one,” who will restore righteousness before the end of the world. On first reference, uppercase imam when preceding a proper name. On second reference, use only the person’s last name. Uppercase imam when referencing the Twelve Imams.
The Roman Catholic dogma that Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, was conceived without original sin. Do not confuse it with the virgin birth of Christ.
Refers to the myriad religious traditions of local and regional societies where language, kinship systems, mythologies and rituals shape religious practices that may borrow from traditional religion but are unique to the local culture.
A term applied to an interpretation of the Bible that holds that every word is accurate, error-free and literally true.
The belief that some aspects of life forms are so complex that they must reflect the design of a conscious, rational intelligence. Proponents do not identify the designer, but most people involved in the debate assume that intelligent design refers to God. Many supporters of intelligent design reject the theory of evolution and support the idea of creationism. Most intelligent design supporters do not believe that life forms share a common ancestor, although some do.
A congregation or organization that is formally approved or under the jurisdiction of more than one denomination. It is not a synonym for nondenominational.
This refers to activities or events that draw people from entirely different religious traditions, such as Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Muslims. It is not a synonym for ecumenical, which refers to a multiplicity of Christian traditions, or interdenominational.
This Islamic term for shaking, uprising and insurrection generally is used to refer to the Palestinian resistance of the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Specific events mark the beginnings of different intifadas.
Religion founded in seventh-century Mecca by the Prophet Muhammad, who said Allah (God), through the Angel Gabriel, revealed the Quran to him between 610 and 632, the year of his death. Followers of Islam are called Muslims. They worship in a mosque, and their weekly holy day is Friday. Islam is the second-largest religion in the world, after Christianity.
After Muhammad’s death, Islam split into two distinct branches — Sunni and Shiite — in an argument over who would succeed him. Sunnis make up an estimated 85 percent of all Muslims. Shiites are the majority in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Bahrain, while Sunnis are the majority in other Islamic countries. In Sunni and Shiite Islam, there are various madhhabs, or schools of thought, and other theological traditions.
There is no central religious authority, so theological and legal interpretations can vary from region to region, country to country and even mosque to mosque.
Capitalize all Islamic titles when used before a name and lowercase otherwise. Use the title and name on first reference and only the person’s last name after that.
Shiites and Sunnis use a few of the same religious titles but differ on others. Shiites have a more-defined hierarchy than Sunnis. For example, Sunnis call people who lead congregational prayers imams, while Shiites almost exclusively reserve imam to refer to any of the 12 descendants of the Prophet Muhammad who Shiites believe were his rightful successors. Sheikh, on the other hand, is used in both communities, but can be used either as term of respect — to address older men, for example — or for a formally trained scholar. Among Sufi Muslims, sheikh holds a more exclusive status that is reserved for highly trained scholars and heads of Sufi orders.
Among Shiites, mullahs are lower-level clergy who generally have only rudimentary religious education. A hujjat al-Islam is more learned than a mullah but does not have the authority to issue legal rulings. Mujtahids and faqihs are jurists with the authority to issue rulings. A higher-level mujtahid is a marja, the most educated of whom are called ayatollahs.
In addition to imam and sheikh, Sunni titles include mufti and grand mufti, which indicate a higher status usually conferred by an institution. Grand muftis are usually the top religious scholar in a country.
Because the Quran is in Arabic, it is a common misconception that all Arabs are Muslim and all Muslims are Arab; neither is true.
An adjective used to describe the religion of Islam. It is not synonymous with Islamist. Muslim is a noun and is the proper term for individual believers. See Islamist, Muslim.
Follow AP style, which defines the term as an “advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam” and gives this guidance: “Do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists.
“Where possible, be specific and use the name of militant affiliations: al-Qaida-linked, Hezbollah, Taliban, etc. Those who view the Quran as a political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from mainstream politicians to militants known as jihadi.”