Islamic Vocabulary

This is hardly comprehensive, but I learned some distinctions that matter. If I misrepresent them I hope (as always) that someone will correct me.
The Koran is the text of the literal sayings of Muhammed and are “the direct instruction of God” (37, Nine Parts of Desire, Geraldine Brooks).
Hadith are “anecdotal traditions about the prophet’s life and sayings.” These are “Islam’s second source of religious instruction” and are debated (whereas the Koran is not debatable). The hadith were collected “by the early Muslims in a formidable research effort in the two centuries following Muhammed’s death” (37), and include all sorts of “apparently trivial” (to non-Muslims only?) accounts including “a genealogy that documents the source of the story and exactly how and through whom it was passed on” (38). It turns out that many of the hadith are accounts from Muhammed’s wives.
Haram means forbidden.
Wajib means obligatory.
Makruh are “in-between” haram and wajib, they are “discouraged and unbecoming.”
Sunnat are also in-between haram and wajib, they “are desirable but not obligatory” (38).
The benchmark for these things is the Koran and Muhammed’s personal behavior. It is sunnat to follow as closely as possible (could one say mimic?) Mohammed’s own choices and makruh to do that which Muhammed chose not to do.
Jihad is “holy struggle to spread the faith and defend the Muslim community. Jihad is obligatory on all Muslims but can take many forms…[such as] teaching the faith, or spreading the word through an exemplary life” (emphasis added, 109).
Fatwa is a religious ruling by “a high ranking clerical thinker” (25). It seems this applies only to the Shiite division, not the Sunnis. “While Sunni Muslims assume a direct relationship between believers and God, Shiites believe in the mediation of a highly trained clergy” (25).
Hijab “literally means ‘curtain,’ and it is used in the Koran as an instruction to believers of Muhammed’s day on how they should deal with the prophet’s wives” (20). Quite a novelty for me was to learn that the Ayatollah Khomeini (the one we Americans learned was So Awful when he overthrew the Shah) interpreted this statement literally, as applying only to “the prophet’s wives,” not to all women.” Another absolutely relevant point is that this instruction given by Muhammed was after he was extremely frustrated with visitors who refused to leave so he could “bed” a new wife. Indeed, there are hadith that recount how Muhammed’s wives (among others at the time) noticed a strange peculiarity regarding some of Muhammed’s pronouncements: they often seemed to relate directly to particular conflicts in his own household. I am torn with appreciation (respect) and empathy tinged with frustration. It occurs to me that Muhammed was aware how his words would be taken, and therefore deliberate in what he uttered. In many regards he was clearly ahead of his time (despite fundamentalist “evidence” to the contrary), but in other regards . . . one has to wish he had been able to transcend self-interest just a wee bit more.
Then, there is sigheh or muta, which I’d never heard of before, which is a temporary marriage “agreed between a man and a woman and sanctioned by a cleric, [which] can last as little as a few minutes or as long as ninety-nine years” (43).
Also talaq, in which a man can pronounce &emdash; with no grounds &emdash; three times, “I divorce you,” and be divorced (60), a procedure Brooks argues “only the most convoluted and misogynistic reading of the Koran can support” (60).
Aqd is the marriage contract signed by groom and the bride’s father. It is legal when signed, and typically “document[s] how much the groom pays the bride on marriage, and how much more he will have to pay her if he later decides on a divorce…a well-written aqd can counter some of the inequalities … [including] “the esma, giving her the right to a divorce if she asks for one” (56). I wonder to what extent this continues &emdash; has the practice increased or decreased over the past decade, and what additional items are included (beyond rights to work and further education) or if these gains have been eroded.
Islam – the Submission (75).

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