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129 G l o s s a r y o f A r a b i c T e r m s ahl al-bayt: people of the house. In Shi`ite tradition, refers to the Prophet Muhammad and his family: Fatima, `Ali, Hasan, and Husayn. ahl al-kisa´: people of the cloak. Refers to a Shi`ite tradition wherein the Prophet Muhammad designates his family—Fatima, `Ali, Hasan, and Husayn—as his chosen successors by wrapping them in his cloak.`aql: reason. Shi`ites contend that reason is the primary source of most basic theological principles. batin: internal or esoteric meaning; opposite of zahir. al-batul: virgin. An epithet often applied to Mary and Fatima. bayt al-ahzan: house of suffering. Refers particularly to the suffering of the ahl al-bayt. ghayba: occultation, or concealment. Used to describe the current state of the twelfth Imam. ghulat: extremists. Early groups of Shi`ites that held “extreme” views, for example , that one or more of the Imams were, in fact, divine. ghusl: full ablution. Purity ritual that involves a full bath. haram: forbidden. huriyat: pl. of hur, or virgin of paradise. ijtihad: Independent legal reason used in Islamic law, practiced by a mujtahid.`ilm: knowledge or science. Those who possess religious knowledge are called`ulama´.`isma: infallible. In Shi`ite tradition the ahl al-bayt and the Imams are considered màsumin, or the infallible ones. isnad: the chain of transmitters in hadith. Ithna-`ashariyya: the Twelvers, the largest sect of Shi`ism. The name refers to the recognition of twelve Imams. madrasa: school. matn: the text or “story” of hadith. mihrab: the niche in a mosque’s qibla wall, indicating the direction of Mecca for prayer. minbar: pulpit. The raised pulpit in a mosque from which the imam delivers the Friday sermon. mi`raj: ascension. Refers specifically to Muhammad’s night journey to paradise where he met Allah. mubahala: ritual cursing. According to Shi`ite tradition, the Qur’anic mubahala verse (3.61) was revealed at the occasion when Muhammad, `Ali, Hasan, and Husayn became known as the ahl al-kisa´. mut`a: temporary marriage. nass: the formal designation of an Imam’s successor. nur: light. According to Shi`ite tradition, the primordial Muhammad and Imams existed as “light” on Allah’s throne. Rashidun: The rightly-guided caliphs that succeeded the Prophet. sahaba: companions. 130 Glossary of Arabic Terms salat: ritual prayer. shi`at ` Ali: party of `Ali. shirk: association. Considered one of the most grievous sins when one associates others with Allah. sunna: custom or way of acting. The customs of the Prophet are especially valued and transmitted in hadith. takbir: The uttering of “Allahu Akbar.” tafsir: Qur’anic exegesis. tawhid: Maintaining the unity of Allah. tàziya: consolation. In Shi`ite tradition the tàziya is the passion drama commemorating Imam Husayn’s death at Karbala.`ulama´: the class of learned religious scholars. umma: community. wali: friend or protector. Can also refer to Muslim saints (pl. awliya). wilaya: legal guardianship. wudu´: lesser ablutions performed before prayer and reading the Qur’an. zahir: external or obvious meaning; opposite of batin. ziyara: visitation. Pilgrimage to a holy place or shrine. Glossary of Arabic Terms 131 ...


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