vocabulary of islam (banner large)

Vocabulary of Islamic Sciences

Instructor: Dr. Muhammad Habib

Time: Mondays 5pm – 7pm EST; Starting Monday 4th May 2020 for twelve (12) weeks

Location: WebEx & Moodle

Registration Cost: See end of page for information on registration fee, student discount & financial aid.



This course provides students with a firm grasp of principal Arabic words, terms and concepts needed for a sound and profound reading of the Islamic primary sources and engagement with Muslim and interfaith communities. Students will study the nomenclature and linguistic subtleties that comprise the Islamic lingua franca. By the end of the course, students will have gained the ability to engage the primary sources of various Islamic disciplines and will be able to effectively convey the meanings of key Islamic terms and concepts to an English-speaking audience.


Properly understanding the core vocabulary of Islam is crucial for anyone intending to engage with and serve the American Muslim community and the greater American interfaith community. Students must have competence in at least five areas, collectively called the technical terminology (mustalahat) of religious leadership. 

They are comprised of the Vocabulary of

  • Chaplaincy and Counseling
  • The Islamic Worldview
  • Daily Spiritual Vocabulary
  • Da’wa
  • English-language Islamic Studies (in both the western academy as well as the traditional Islamic intellectual tradition.) 

In all five categories of Islamic terminology, proper understanding includes an awareness of the semantic fields of meaning of the original Arabic terms and the cultural implications of their translated counterparts in English. For this reason, translated terms must take into account the multitude of semantic implications of the original Arabic. Furthermore, students must be aware of the linguistic (lughawi), technical (istilahi), Qur’anic (shar’i), and cultural (‘urfi) meanings of words. They must also have an awareness of how terms are defined,  mentioning not merely the definition but also what is excluded by each word of a definition. Students should have an awareness of complete and weak definitions (al-hadd al-tamm wa al-hadd al-naqis) as compared to complete and weak descriptions (al-rasm al-tamm wa al-rasm al-naqis). 

Students require knowledge of the potential dangers of adopting common terms and linguistic customs that can warp the worldview of Muslims raised in the US as well as inaccurately represent Islamic concepts to non-Muslims. Therefore, this class must provide an awareness of potential differences in how terms are intended in the Islamic tradition and how they are expressed in English translations. The upshot is that the core Vocabulary of Islamic Studies will be best expressed in its Arabic original and worked into the American Muslim vocabulary, just as terms like the Hajj or Qibla are rarely translated into English in everyday conversation.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Comprehensively define the core terms of Religious Leadership 
    • Chaplaincy and Counseling
      • such as zawaj (marraige), ‘aqd al-zawaj (marriage contract), islah (mediation), taHakkum (arbitration), etc.)
    • The Islamic Worldview:
      • such as the key terms of Islamic Ontology (‘alam al-ghayb, ‘alam al-shahadah, wujud), Theology (tawhid, al-asma’ wa al-sifat, Epistemology (‘aqli, naqli, ‘adi), Anthropology and Psychology (Insan, ‘Abdullah, Khalifatullah, Ruh, Nafs,) 
    • Daily Spiritual Vocabulary
      • such as common Prophetic duas for daily activities (upon waking or going to sleep, after someone sneezes, prayers for success, etc.)
    • Da’wa
    • English-language Islamic Studies
      • Terms connected to Ijtihad…
      • Terms connected to Iman…
  • Interpret the core terms’ meanings and incorporate them into their own life contexts (professional and personal).
  • Demonstrate how these meanings can impact belief and action. 
  • Distinguish haqq from batil in the multitudes of messaging they are receiving from social media, education, and other sources.
  • Generate knowledge via writing, speaking, and interacting with their communities. 
  • Deliver speeches and write essays using the literacy of the core vocabulary of Islamic Studies, incorporating key concepts from English-language academic and Islamic sources (and other languages in which they may have competency) into their talks, transmitting the most appropriate meanings from the semantic and technical fields of meaning behind each word. 
  • Identify the epistemological channel through which a proposition (declarative sentence) is verified (i.e. rational, empirical, Divine Revelation)    

Who should apply?

  • Required for: All Muslims who have not formally studied the personally obligatory knowledge of belief, practice, and spirituality
  • Recommended for: Parents, teachers, imams, chaplains, and interfaith workers.


Muhammad Habib was born in Egypt he was an Assistant Teaching Professor of Arabic at Georgetown and previously taught at Duke University. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Arabic language and linguistics from Al-Azhar University in Egypt. His research interests include Arabic linguistics, syntax, morphology as well as Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language (TAFL), Arabic Literature, Islamic Studies, and Qur’anic Studies. He has published a monograph in Arabic entitled Usul al-nahw wa masa’ilahi al-khilafiya (Principles of Arabic Grammar and Scholarly Debates Among Medieval Grammarians) as well as several academic articles on historical Arabic grammar and contemporary Arabic language pedagogy. He studied the art of Arabic calligraphy at the Calligraphy Institute in Cairo and has given workshops on Arabic calligraphy at universities around the US.


One 12-week course is $100 for students (including BIS students) or $150 for non-students.

After that, each additional course is an additional $50. Prices will be automatically calculated at checkout.

Financial aid is available for all courses, please scroll down to find out more:


The Boston Islamic Seminary is committed to providing quality instruction to all, regardless of financial circumstances, through a generous financial aid program.

Please note that financial aid is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis until available funds are exhausted.  Please apply as early as possible to increase your chances of being awarded.

Boston Islamic Seminary admits students of any race, color, and national or ethnic origin.