The Terminology of Islam: Is it Islam or Muslim? Muslim or Arab?


If you are new to the world of the Islamic faith, you may find yourself stumbling over your terminology. What is the difference between Muslim and Islam? Are the terms Muslim and Arab interchangeable? And what about Sunni and Shiia — are they both Muslims? Here’s a brief terminology primer:

What is Islam?

The word Islam literally means “Submission to Allah (or G-d)” and is derived from two root words — Silm and Salam, both of which mean “peace” in Arabic. Islam is a monotheistic religion, characterized by submission to God. Adherents to Islam believe that Allah revealed his first prophecy to Muhammad in the Arabian Peninsula at the beginning of the 7th century. (More)

What is a Muslim?

A Muslim is someone who adheres to the teachings of Islam. There are roughly 1 billion Muslims living in some 75 nations around the globe, making Islam the second largest religion after Christianity. (More)

Who is Allah?

Allah is the one and only G-d, believed by Muslims to be the Creator of all human beings. There are 99 different names by which Muslims refer to Allah.(More)

Who is Muhammad?

Muhammad is believed to be the primary and final prophet of G-d, although Muslims count Jesus and Abraham among their prophets as well. Allah revealed to Muhammad the tenants of Islam, including the five pillars of the faith. (More)

What is the Qur’an?

Literally meaning the “exact word of G-d”, the Qur’an is one of two legal sources of Islam. The Qur’an includes all of the prophecies revealed to Muhammad. The other legal source is the Hadith, which recounts the sayings and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad. (More)

What are Sunni and Shiite?

Islam is divided into two major branches, based on differing opinions about the successor to the Prophet Muhammad. The Sunni is the majority opinion, followed by about 85% of Muslims. The minority opinion is held by the Shiite branch.(More)

What is an Arab?

Arab refers to people whose shared linguistic, cultural, ethnic and historic heritage is derived from the Arabian Peninsula. Not all Arabs are Muslim, nor are all Muslims Arab. Arabs practice a multitude of faiths, including Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Bahai, although a majority of Arabs identify as Muslims. There are approximately 200 million Arabs in the world, and over 1 billion Muslims.(More)