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Glossary for the Middle East, Islam and the Arab World - Index

Glossary of terms, concepts, customs, traditions, people and places most commonly used in connection with the greater Middle East, Islam and the Arab World, including relevant translations of Arabic terms and explanations, in today's contexts, of historic and sectarian terms.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
  1. A (11)
  2. B (4)
  3. C (5)
  4. D (2)
  5. E (1)
  6. F (2)
  7. G (0)
  8. H (7)
  9. I (8)
  10. J (5)
  11. K (3)
  12. L (2)
  13. M (6)
  14. N (3)
  15. O (6)
  16. P (8)
  17. Q (1)
  18. R (1)
  19. S (12)
  20. T (3)
  21. U (5)
  22. V (0)
  23. W (2)
  24. X (0)
  25. Y (1)
  26. Z (1)

Melkite - Melkites
Brief definition and history of the Melkites (eastern-church Catholics) of the Middle East.

AIPAC - The American Israel Public Affairs Committee
A definition of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the U.S.-based pro-Israel lobby.

Dunam or Dunum
Definition of Dunam, or Dunum, the measure of landholdings in the Ottoman Empire and Palestine/Israel.

Hashemite or Hasimi
Brief definition of Hashemite and the Hashemite dynasty, descendded of the clan of Hashim, including the current ruler of Jordan.

"Supreme Leader"
Shiite Islam, the Iranian Revolution and the Concept of Supreme Leader: an invention of Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini.

Irgun Zvai Leumi, or IZL
Glossary definition of the IZL or Irgun Zvai Leumi, the Jewish Terror Organization of the 1930s and 40s

Nowruz, or Norooz, Persian New Year
Definition and brief history of Nowruz, or Norooz, the Persian New Year also celebrated in Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Turkey and other parts of Central Asia and Asia minor.

Jericho
Brief history of Jericho, in the Palestinian West Bank, believed to be the oldest city in the world.

Ottoman Empire
A definition of the Ottoman Empire and its reach in Middle Eastern history from the 13th century to the ruins of World War I.

Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America
Definition and brief history of the Hadassah, Women's Zionist Organization of America.

Arabica Coffee
What is Arabica coffee? A brief lesson in the origins and history of one of the world's richest and most aromatic coffee beans.

Sannin, or Mount Sannin (Jabal Sannin)
Definition of Mount Sannin, one of the highest peaks in the Mount Lebanon mountain range on whose flanks Lebanon's most famous cedars still reign.

Takfir
Definition of takfir, the controversial concept, in perverted interpretations of Islam, of excommunicating unbelievers or apostates and, in some cases, justifying their killing.

Private Security Contractors
A definition of private security contractors, the euphemism used to describe mercenaries providing guard and fighting services in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Blackwater Worldwide
A definition and brief profile of Blackwater Worldwide, the private security contractor and trainer of police and mercenary personnel that gained notoriety from incidents involving abuse of power in the Iraq war.

Twelver Shiites, or Ithna Ahariyah
Definition of Twelver Shiites, or Ithna ‘Ashariyah or Imamiyah, a major subdivision of of Shiitism's spiritual suburbs.

Imam
Definition of Imam, or Khalifah, in Islam.

Abana River
Definition of the Abana River, mentioned in the Bible to refer to a river in Syria that flows through Damascus and is known as the Barada River today.

Masjid al-Haram, or the Grand Mosque in Mecca
Definition and brief history of Masjid al-Haram, or the Grand Mosque, the holiest site in Islam, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Arak
Definition and history of arak, the Lebanese drink also consumed in other parts of the Eastern mediterranean

Palestine National Council
Definition and brief history of the Palestine National Council (PNC), often referred to as the Palestinian National Council--as distinguished from the PLO or Fatah and Hamas.

OECD - The Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation
A Definition of the OECD, the 30-country Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation.

Palmach
Definition of Palmach, or "Strike Force," an elite group of the Haganah in British-Mandate Palestine that formed the core of the Israeli Defense Forces.

Haganah
Origins and definition of Haganah, the paramilitary force at the origin of the Israeli Defense Forces, or Israeli military.

Janissaries of the Ottoman Empire
Definition of Janissaries, the superior fighting force in the Ottoman Empire.

Muslim Brotherhood
What Is the Muslim Brotherhood, when was it founded, by whom and to what purpose? A quick explanation of the Ikhwan movement founded by Hasan al-Banna and remade by Syed Qutb.

Nation of Islam
Definition of the Nation of Islam, and the roles of Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X in the growth of the Black Muslim organization in the United States.

Quraysh Tribe of Mecca
A definition of Quraysh, the old, powerful tribe from Mecca to which Prophet Muhammad once belonged before his expulsion from it.

Fatwa
Definition of Fatwa, or legal opinion interpreting Islamic law.

Iftar
Definition of Iftar, the celebratory evening meals that breaks the fast of Ramadan

Knesset
Definition of the word Knesset, the Israeli parliament.

Zakat or Alms-giving
Zakat, or alms-giving, is one of the five pillars of Islam, the five duties required of every practicing Muslim.

Hajj or pilgrimage
Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, is one of the five pillars of Islam, the five duties required of every practicing Muslim.

Sawm, or Siyam - Ramadan Fasting
Sawm, or fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, the five duties required of every practicing Muslim.

Salat or Islamic Prayer
Salat, or prayer, is one of the five pillars of Islam, the five duties required of every practicing Muslim.

Shahada or Muslim Profession of Faith
Shahada, or Muslim profession of faith is one of the five pillars of Islam, the five duties required of every practicing Muslim.

Kaaba, or Ka'aba
Definition and quick history of the Kaaba in Mecca, Islam's holiest shrine and the destination of the Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage.

Pakistan Muslim League
Quick history and definition of the Pakistan Muslim League, or PML, a collective of generally right-wing, conservative, Islamic Pakistani parties closely linked to Pakistan's military and clerical establishment.

Pakistan Peoples Party
Quick history and definition of the Pakistan Peoples Party, a Socialist party founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1967 and led ever since by members of the Bhyutto family.

Hazara of Afghanistan
A definition of Hazara, the Shiite Afghan minority of the Hazarajat region of Afghanistan.

Lost Boys of Sudan
Definition of the Lost Boys of Sudan, the more than 29,000 boys displaced by the Sudanese Civil War.

Inshallah, or Insha'Allah
Definition and origins of the common Arabic word "Inshallah," or Insha'Allah," meaning "if God is willing."

Suez Canal
Brief definition and history of the Suez Canal and the Suez Canal Company in Egypt.

Ibadi Islam
Ibadi Islam, the moderate form of Islam introduced into Oman in the 8th century, is defined.

Palestine Liberation Organization - The PLO
A definition of the PLO, the Palestine Liberation Organization

Effendi
A definition of "Effendi," the Turkish word denoting a title or a mark of respect.

Fellah and Fellaheen
Fellah is the Arabic word for farmer, or agricultural worker who makes his living from the land. Fellaheen is the plural for the word, which has also come to represent a class of people in the Arab agricultural world.

Arab League
Definition of the 22-member organization created in 1945.

Yom Kippur War, or October War, 1973
A brief explanation of the Yom Kippur, or Ramadan/October war between Israel and Egypt in October 1973.

Ta'ayush
Definition of Ta'ayush, the Palestinian-Israeli grass-roots partnership and human rights movement designed to break down the walls of racism and segregation.

Mahdi Army
Definition of the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia founded by Iraq's Muqtada al-Sadr in August 2003.

Intifada
Definition of Intifada, or uprising, or, literally, "shaking off"--the Palestinian insurgency against Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.

Sunnah
Definition of the word Sunnah, the Arabic term that since before Islamic times has signified established customs and cumulative traditions, but that, in the context of Islam, relate to the exemplary deeds of the Prophet Muhammad.

Litani River, Lebanon
Description and definition of Lebanon's Litani River and its meaning in the geopolitics of the region.

Izz al-Din al-Qassam (1880-1935)
Brief summary of the life of Izz al-Din al-Qassam, founding member of Palestinian resistance against British and Jews during the British mandate over Palestine.

Ihram
Definition of Ihram, the state of purity required of Muslim pilgrims before conducting the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Safavid Dynasty
Read a concise definition of Persia's (Iran's) Safavid Dynasty, which ruled Iran from 1501 to 1722.

Loya Jirga
Definition of Loya Jirga, or "grand assembly," a century-old, consensus-building Afghan tradition.

Pashtun, or Pakhtun
A definiteion of Pashtun, or Pakhtun, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan.

Hijab, or Veil (Burqah, Chador)
A definition of the many meanings and applications of the Arabic word hijab, or veil, in the Middle East and the Islamic world.

Mujahidin, Mujahid
Definition of the Arabic word for "one who engages in jihad," or "warrior of God."

Jihad
A definition of the Arabic word for "holy war," one of the most mis-applied and misunderstood words in the Islamic lexicon.

Surah
Definition of the Arabic word surah, or "chapter."

Ashura
Definition of Ashura, day of the commemoration of the martyrdom of Husayn, Muhammad's grandson and the third imam of Shiite Islam.

Wahhabism, or Wahhabiyah
A definition of Wahhabism, founded by Muhammad Ibn al-Wahhab, the rigid interpretation of Islam that dominates Saudi Arabian society.

Operation Restore Hope (Somalia, 1993-1994)
Definition of the United States-led military and humanitarian intervention to stop the famine in Somalia in 1993.

Buzkashi
Definition of the national sport of Afghanistan and other central Asian cultures.

Iraq War Resolution
Definition and background to the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution by the U.S. Congress on Oct. 10-11, 2002.

Operation Desert Storm
Definition and scope of Operation Desert Storm, the offensive phase of the U.S.-led military operation to clear Kuwait of Iraqi forces in the first Gulf War, in January-February 1991.

Operation Desert Shield
Definition of Operation Desert Shield, precursor to Operation Desert Storm, during the first Gulf War against Iraq in 1990.

National Intelligence Estimates
A definition and explanation of National Intelligence Estimates, the consensus opinion of the U.S. government's 16 intelligence agencies.

Madrassa or Madrasa
A definition of the word that means, in Arabic, "school"

Coalition Provisional Authority, or CPA
A definition of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Bush administration's provisional government for Iraq between April 1003 and June 2004 under the leadership of L. Paul Bremer.

Sharia or Shariah
A definition of Sharia, or Islamic law, with background on historical and contemporary practices

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