Noor Cultural Centre

Resources | Islam & Muslims

Aug 6th 2023


Faith Fundamentals

The Five Articles of Faith: Central tenets of the Islamic belief system: 1) Divine Unity; 2) Prophecy; 3) Revelation (including the Torah as revealed to Moses, the Psalms of David, the Gospel of Jesus, and the Qur’an of Muhammad); 4) Angels; 5) the existence of an Afterlife

The Five Pillars of Practice: Required elements of Islamic practice: 1) Declaration of Faith (the Shahada); 2) Daily Prayer; 3) Charitable giving (zakat); 4) Pilgrimage to the Ka’ba in Mecca (the Hajj); 5) Fasting during the month of Ramadan

Some Commonly-Used Terms and Definitions

Allah: Arabic word for “God”; also used by non-Muslim Arabs to refer to God

Allahu Akbar: translated as ‘God is greater’, a phrase recited repeatedly during prayers

Ayatollah: High-ranking member of the Twelver Shi’i (see below) authority authorized to engage in independent legal reasoning (ijtihad (see below))

Burqa: Full face and body covering, with a mesh screen covering the eyes

Eid: A Muslim festival; Muslims celebrate two Eids: Eid al-Fitr, to commemorate the end of Ramadan (see below); and Eid al-Adha, to mark the end of the Hajj (see below) pilgrimage

Fatwa: A non-binding opinion given by a mufti (see below) to a legal question

Fiqh: Translated literally as “understanding” or “comprehension”; the human process of jurisprudence through which the rules of Islamic law are developed from the Qur’an (see below) and the Sunnah (the practice of the Prophet Muhammad (see below)) that later coalesced into well-defined madhhabs (“schools” (see below)) of jurisprudence

Hadith: Traditions or anecdotes concerning the sayings or doings of the Prophet Muhammad; an important basis for religious practice and legal analysis; the subject of a vast science of authentication to determine the soundness of particular hadith and the weight that should be given to them

Halal/Haram: Legal categories used to denote acts that are permissible (halal) and forbidden (haram) in Islam

Hijab: Scarf covering the head and neck, but leaving the face exposed

Imam: Means “leader”; applied to anyone who leads prayers in a mosque (there is no official authority structure in Islam); in Shi’i (see below) Islam, the title of the rightful leader (descended from the Prophet Muhammad) of the Muslim community

Islam: Often translated as “submission to Allah,” or “engaged surrender”; the name of a monotheistic religion, closely related to Judaism and Christianity, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in 7th-century Arabia

Ijtihad: The independent legal reasoning or interpretation of a qualified Muslim scholar; derived from the same Arabic root as the word jihad(see below)

Jihad: Translated as “striving” or “struggle”, connoting striving/struggle in the way of God;al-jihad al-akbar (“the greater struggle”) refers to internal, spiritual struggle, while al-jihad al-asghar (“the lesser struggle”) refers to external, physical struggle, including martial combat

Ka’ba: A cubic structure in Mecca, believed by Muslims to have been constructed by the Prophet Abraham at God’s command; Muslims pray towards the Ka’ba, and it is the focal point of the Hajj (see above ‘Five Pillars of Practice’) pilgrimage.

Khutbah: Sermon delivered as a ritual component of the Friday congregational prayers

Madhhab: A “school” of jurisprudence consisting of formalized legal doctrines that cover, more or less comprehensively, fundamental practical questions in the ritual, family, and commercial life of a Muslim, as well as some rules governing public law. There are four main Sunni (see below) madhabs (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali) and two main Shi’i (see below) madhabs (Ja’fari and Zaidi)

Madrasah: usually a college of Islamic learning; In Arabic, the word simply means ‘school’

Masjid: Arabic word for mosque (see below)

Mosque: A Muslim place of prayer

Mufti: A jurist who issues fatwas (see above)

Muharram: The first month of the Islamic lunar calendar, during which Shi’i (see below) Muslims engage in mourning rituals for the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law Ali, and of Ali’s son Husayn

Mujtahid: a scholar of Islamic law capable of exercising independent reasoning in an attempt to derive legal norms (the fiqh (see above)) from Islamic sources of law.

Muslim/Muslimah(f.): A practitioner of the religion of Islam (see above)

Niqab: Veil covering the face, but leaving the area around the eyes clear

Political Islam/Islamism: Term describing a variety of ideologies drawing on Islam in pursuance of political objectives; there is a great diversity in Islamist groups, from the non-violent to the violent, from the local to the transnational

(The) Prophet Muhammad: The Prophet of Islam, believed to be the last in a long line of prophets that includes Adam, Abraham (Ibrahim), Moses (Musa), and Jesus (Isa)

(The) Qur’an: The scripture Muslims believe was revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad (see above)

Ramadan: The ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, during which Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, violence, and sex from dawn to sunset . It is believed that the Quran (see above) was first revealed during Ramadan

Shi’i (or Shi’a): Group of sects comprising approximately 15 percent of the world’s Muslims (the other 85% are Sunni (see below)); includes several branches such as the Twelver Shi’is, the Bohras, and the Nizari Ismailis (followers of the Aga Khan)

Sufism: Wide range of branches of Islamic mysticism

(The) Sunnah (of the Prophet Muhammad): The custom or tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (see above); used as a source of law and as a model of behaviour in everyday life

Shari’a: Translated literally as “path to water”; commonly translated as the “Islamic law” or “Divine law” which fiqh (see above) seeks to achieve

Sunni: The name of the majority sect in Islam (comprising around 85 percent of the world’s Muslim population); the split between Sunni and Shi’i (see above) Islam arose from a dispute over who should succeed the Prophet Muhammad as leader of the Muslim community following his death

Ummah: Means “nation” or “community”; refers to the global community of Muslims, currently comprising around 1.2-1.5 billion people from a great diversity of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and following different schools of praxis and thought

Wahhabism: A traditionalist Islamic movement, concentrated in Saudi Arabia, developed by 18th-century theologian Muhammad ibn al-Wahhab


Other Resources 

This is not an exhaustive catalog of readings/videos on Islam and Muslims, but a short list of resources that we have found to be helpful and accessible:


Muslims Today

Islamophobia: General

Islamophobia: Muslims & ‘Terrorism’

Islamophobia: Muslims & Misogyny

Islamophobia & Other Forms of Racism

Persecution Against Rohingya & Uyghur People

Islamic History Month Canada – Resources (download the PDF)

In 2007, Parliament designated October as Islamic History Month Canada, to celebrate the history, and intellectual, scientific and cultural contributions of Muslims and Islamic civilizations.  Since 2016, October is also recognized as Islamic Heritage Month in Ontario.  

Videos –

Articles –

  • There Was No Black ‘Contribution’ to Islam (2017)
    “this article …. confront[s] the implicit way Black Muslims are often regarded as fringe associates rather than inherent fellows.”
  • Islam’s invented Golden Age (2013)
    “it has become apparent that simple and naïve binaries, such as reason vs. revelation, rationalist vs. scripturalist, Golden Age vs. Dark Ages, and philosopher vs. mulla, must simply be discarded”
  • The Lost Female Scholars of Islam (N.D)
    “when I started, I thought there may be thirty to forty women, but as the study progressed, the accounts of female scholars kept growing and growing, until eventually there were no less than 8,000 biographical accounts to be found. Such vast numbers truly testify to the huge role that women have played in the preservation and development of Islamic learning since the time of the blessed Prophet Muhammad.”

Websites –

Books –


Islam & The Prophet Muhammad

  • Event Recording | ‘Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires’ by Prof. Juan Cole (Noor Cultural Centre, January 19, 2019)
  • Islam – A Short History, by Karen Armstrong (Modern Library, 2002)
  • Muhammad: A Prophet of Our Time, by Karen Armstrong (Harperone, 2007)
  • In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad, by Tariq Ramadan (Oxford University Press, 2007)
  • The Story of the Qur’an – Its History and Place in Muslim Life, by Ingrid Mattson (Blackwell Publishing, 2008)
  • Major Themes of the Qur’an, by Fazlur Rahman (Bibliotheca Islamica, 1989)
  • The Qur’an: A User’s Guide, by Farid Esack (Oneworld, 2005)
  • Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World, by Jonathan A C Brown (Oneworld, 2009)
  • And God Alone Knows the Soldiers: The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourse, by Khaled Abou El Fadl (University Press of America, 2011)
  • The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to Islam, by Jamal J Elias (Pearson Education Inc, 2003)
  • Animals in the Qur’an, by Sarra Tlili (Cambridge University Press, 2012)