This dictionary is an archive of all entries in the Word of The Week series, which features various terms relating to our global community, history, and faith.


An Arabic term, barakat is a blessing and grace that comes from God and flows into the world through those who are believed to be closest to God, such as the prophets, including the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the Ahl al-Bayt (the Prophet’s family), the Shi’i Imams, and Sufi shaykhs and pirs.

Bay'ah (Baiyat)

An Arabic term, referring to an oath of allegiance. In many Muslim traditions, it means to offer oneself to a spiritual master, pir, murshid, or shaykh, from whom one receives spiritual knowledge and guidance. For Ismailis, it is the acceptance of the permanent spiritual bond between the Imam-of-the-Time and the murid.

Civil Society

Private organisations that operate on a voluntary basis, but are designed to serve public goals. Also referred to as Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) or the ‘third sector’, distinguishing it from the government and business sectors.

Eid ul-Fitr

An Arabic term which means 'the festival of breaking (the fast).' The festival marks the culmination of the month of Ramadan, during which Muslims turn inwards through fasting and spiritual devotion; and outwards through acts of kindness and compassion. Historically, Muslims have celebrated Eid ul-Fitr since the time of Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him and his progeny) emphasising our values of spiritual uplimftment and generosity towards those facing difficulty and hardship.


A Persian term meaning “command,” “authority,” “will,” or “permission.” In some contexts, such as the Ottoman empire, it referred to an edict or proclamation issued by a ruler. For Shia Ismaili Muslims, it refers to guidance given by the Imam-of-the-Time to his followers.


An Arabic term meaning “knowledge.” Muslims view the search for knowledge as a way to more deeply understand and serve God’s creation. In Shia Islam, it also refers to the belief that each Imam-of-the-Time is granted divinely-inspired knowledge, through which he interprets the faith for changing contexts and guides his followers according to the time and place that they live in.


A Persian term meaning “the house of the community.” From two words: jama‘at (“community”) and khana (“house”). Diverse Muslim communities use a variety of spaces of prayer and gathering. Spaces called Jamatkhanas have been used by both Sunni and Shia communities. Today Ismailis globally use Jamatkhanas as their place of worship and gathering.


Meaning “may your house prosper,” this originates from the Persian term, khana-abadan. For Shia Ismaili Muslims, it is a blessing from the Imam-of-the-Time to his murids, often conveyed by his appointed representatives.


An Arabic term meaning "service" in a general sense. It is often used as an ethical term for service to humanity, including volunteerism. For Ismailis, the term khidma or khidmat is used as an expression of unconditional service to the Imam-of-the-Time.


A Persian term, also found in several South Asian languages, meaning “birthday” or “anniversary.” In some Shia Ismaili traditions, it refers to the celebration of the birthday of the Imam-of-the-Time. Salgirah offers an occasion for Ismailis to express their love, loyalty, and devotion to the Imam.

Laylat al-Qadr

An Arabic term meaning 'the Night of Power,' commemorating the night when Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him and his progeny) received the first revelation of the Holy Qur'an from Allah. Muslims observe Laylat al-Qadr on various nights during the last 10 days of Ramadan. Shia Ismaili Muslims observe it on the 23rd night, based on a saying of Hazrat Ali. It is a night of special prayer and rememberance of Allah.


A Persian term, meaning “extending hospitality” or an "offering", usually to guests. In many cultures, guests are to be treated with generosity and kindness. For Ismailis, mehmani is an offering of our generosity to the Imam-of-the-Time.


An Arabic word meaning “ladder.” In Muslim tradition, Mi‘raj refers to the ascent to heaven by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family), during which he is said to have encountered God. Esoteric interpretations of Islam tend to emphasise Mi‘raj as a symbol of the spiritual journey of the soul, and the human potential to rise above the trappings of material life through prayer, piety, and discipline.


An Arabic term meaning "committed one". In Sufi and Shia traditions, a murid is someone who seeks enlightenment through the teachings of a spiritual guide. In the Ismaili tariqah specifically, murid refers to a follower who has offered an oath of allegiance to the Imam-of-the-Time.


An Arabic term meaning "one who provides direction or guidance". In Muslim esoteric traditions, it refers to a spiritual guide or teacher. For Shia Ismailis, it refers specifically to the hereditary Imam-of-the-Time.


A Persian term meaning “new day.” It is celebrated on the first day of the month of Farvardin of the Persian Solar Hijri calendar, which is about the 21st of March on the Gregorian calendar. Navroz is a time of spiritual revitalisation, of giving thanks for Divine blessings, and for looking ahead to the future with optimism and hope. It is a time of forgiveness and new beginnings, and extending goodwill, help and support towards those in need.


An Arabic term meaning "an explicit statement" or "designation". In Shia tradition, nass is the designation by the Imam-of-the-Time of his hereditary successor.


Pluralism is a positive response to diversity. Going beyond tolerance, pluralism promotes the respect, embrace, and celebration of difference. A spirit of Pluralism encourages the peaceful coexistence of people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.


An Arabic term, which is the plural of salat, meaning “prayer”. It is used by all Muslims to refer to prayers to invoke blessings on Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), as mandated by a Qur’anic injunction. Believers recite Salawat for a variety of reasons, including to seek Allah’s help, support, and grace, and to express gratitude for Divine blessings. Shia and many Sunni Muslims also include the Prophet’s family in their Salawat. One common form is: Allahumma salli ala Muhammadin wa aali Muhammad (“O Allah, send Your blessings on Muhammad and his family”).


A Sanskrit term meaning "service". Used in various South Asian religions to refer to selfless service to others. For Ismailis, this reflects the Islamic notion of voluntary giving.


An Arabic term meaning “gratitude” or “thankfulness”. It is one of the most highly esteemed virtues associated with believers in the Holy Qur’an. Variants of the term are found in several languages, including Persian, Turkish, Hindi, and Urdu, such as tashakkur and shukrana.


An Arabic term, also used in other languages, meaning education or teaching. In Shia Ismaili tradition, Ta'lim refers to the guidance of the hereditary Imam-of-the-Time, rooted in divinely-inspired knowledge ('Ilm).


An Arabic word meaning “path.” It refers to a path to spiritual enlightenment and union with God. Tariqas are communities of Muslims that follow a path guided in their interpretation and practice of the Islamic faith by a spiritual leader, such as a Shia Imam or a Sufi murshid. For Ismailis, the Imam-of-the-Time has the sole authority to determine tariqa practices in Jamatkhana.

Yawm-e Ali

An Arabic phrase meaning “Day of Ali.” It marks the birthday of Hazrat Ali (pbuh), the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Hazrat Ali is widely recognised as an important spiritual and intellectual authority, and is also revered as the fourth caliph of the early Muslim community. Shia Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad designated Hazrat Ali as his successor and the first in a line of hereditary Imams from the Prophet's family.