Today more than ever, Islam and Muslims are appearing frequently in our media. Besides this, we have over five million Muslims in the U.S. This style booklet will help fulfill some of the needs of the media and may become the precursor of a comprehensive stylebook that could serve as a ready tool for reporters, writers and researchers who are writing about Islam and Muslims.




ALHAMDULILLAH- “praise be to God” – said anytime a Muslim expresses thanks to God. It is not confined as a thanks for good things, but even uttered when an apparent misfortune occurs.


ALLAHU AKBAR- “God is great”—used to express happiness or enthusiasm. Also a part of the call to prayer. Not the Muslim “war cry.”


ASSALAMU ALAYKUM- “peace be upon you”—The standard Islamic greeting.


BISMILLAH- “in the name of God”—an invocation uttered by Muslims before doing anything, even an act as simple as eating food, or starting a speech. It signifies the Muslim’s belief that everything emanates from God.




There are 5 million Muslims in America and some 1 billion worldwide. They represent a diversity of opinion on politics, family, life, social, and any other issues encountered in modern life. However, there are certain terms and concepts shared by the vast majority of Muslims around the world.




The word “Islam” means “submission” to the will of God. It is also the faith revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) between 610 and 632 A.D. Demographers say Islam is currently the world’s fastest growing religion.

Every country in the world has at least a small Muslim community.




A “Muslim” is a member of the Islamic faith. In 1990, the Associated Press altered its stylebook to drop the highly offensive and misleading spelling Moslem, and replaced it with the acceptable and phonetically correct spelling “Muslim.” The New York Times and The Washington Post, among others, are using this spelling.

The use of the term “Mohammadan”—a usage initiated by some early orientalists—is highly misleading because it implies the worship of Muhammad, a concept totally alien to the Muslim belief.




The Prophet Muhammad is revered but not worshipped by Muslims. He is not the “founder” of the Islamic faith. His role was that of “transmitter” for the words of God as revealed to him and compiled in the Quran




The Quran or ‘recitation’ was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad over a period of 22 years. It is regarded by Muslims as the direct word of God speaking in the first person.

The usage of “Koran” like “Moslem” is not favored by Muslims. The Quran is not the Muslim “Bible” because the Bible is seen as a secondary text while the Quran is a primary source of revelation.




“Allah” is the name of “the one God.” It is the same name Arabic-speaking Christians use when referring to God. Allah is not “the Muslim God,” but the same God worshipped by Christians and Jews.




Many Muslims have names which contain an attribute of God, such as “abd al-wahid,” “servant of the One.” On second reference, these names must be used in full. If, as in this example, the second reference was “al-Wahid,” the person should be taking on an attribute of God, something a Muslim would abhor.




The word is derived from the Arabic root jahada, and is more accurately translated as exertion of effort, not “holy war”. The Prophet Muhammad said the highest form of jihad is the personal struggle to make oneself a better Muslim

Jihad is also seen by Muslims as a defensive response to an attack on their faith.


Shi’ism or Shi’a


Shi’ism is a branch of Islam compromising about 10 percent of the total Muslim population. The word “Shi’a” derives from “Shi’at Ali” the “party of Ali.”

Shi’as are not members of a “sect” of Islam. They are Muslims who have different perspectives on certain issues that are subject to difference in interpretation.



The word “Sunni” is taken from sunnah, “the practice of the Prophet Muhammad.” While there is no provision in Islam for labeling groups, the term Sunni has come into popular usage and is widely applied for the main body of Muslims- over %90.


Black Muslims


The term “Black Muslims,” first used to describe the followers of the late Elijah Muhammad, is no longer accurate when used to describe African American Muslims. Since the death of Elijah Muhammad, the vast majority of his followers discarded non-Islamic teachings and entered mainstream Islam.




Not all Muslims are Arabs. In fact, Arabs are a minority within the Islamic world. There are Christian Arabs and Jewish Arabs. According to modern usage, the term “Arab” is a linguistic, not an ethnic, designation. Anyone who speaks Arabic as his/her mother tongue is an “Arab.”


Women’s Rights


Under Islamic law, women have always had the right to own property, receive an education, and otherwise take part in community life. The restrictions placed on women concerning dress and social mixing apply equally to men.

If a particular society oppresses women, it is in spite of Islam, not because of it. ( the first person to accept the Prophet’s message was his wife. The martyr in Islam was a woman.)


Muslims and Jews


Until the advent of Zionism in the late 19th century, relations between Muslims and Jews was quite peaceful. Muslims regard Jews as “People of the Book,” meaning they believe in an earlier form of God’s revelation.

Despite the usual problems associated with being a minority, Jews prospered under Islamic rule. There are no Islamic parallels to the European “pogroms” against Jews.




The term “Islamic Fundamentalism” is foreign to Muslims. Islam sets out clear guidelines for life. A Muslim who follows these guidelines is merely obeying God. The word “fundamentalism” like “moderate” and “fanatic” is perceived as an attempt to stereotype Muslims.


Sharia (Islamic Law)


Islamic law is a flexible and sophisticated system of justice based on the Qur’an, the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad and the opinions of Islamic scholars. Its provisions for punishment are viewed as Muslims as more equitable than those in the West.


Shura (Consultation)


“Shura means decision by joint consensus since Islam rejects depotism. Modern democracy is compatible with Islam if it abides by the Qur’an and the Prophets’ teachings”.




When writing or reporting about Islam or Muslims, the tendency is to quote so-called “experts” on the subject. While some of these experts are knowledgeable, many have an ax to grind.

Almost all large cities have Islamic groups capable of responding to a reporter’s inquiries. Look under the yellow pages under Mosques, Masjids, Islamic Centers or Muslim Student Associations.


The “Five Pillars” of Islam


  1. The Declaration Of Faith- A person becomes a Muslim by saying and believing the shahadah: There is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God.

  3. Prayer- A Muslim prays five times a day: at dawn, midday, afternoon, sunset and during the night. The prayers take about 5-10 minutes and can be performed on any clean surface. Muslims pray communally at noon on Friday. Friday is not the Islamic “Sabbath.” Prayers are oriented in the direction of Mecca as a symbol of unity. Muslims pray to God: they do not pray to “Mecca” or to the “East.”

  5. Zakat- A tax on assets that is gathered by the community and distributed according to need. It is generally 2.5 percent of the savings.

  7. Fasting- Muslims abstain from food, drink and sexual activity from dawn to sunset during the lunar month of Ramadan. Eid prayers mark the end of the month.

  9. Hajj- A Muslim must take the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in his or her lifetime if physically and financially able. It symbolizes unity and equality. Muslims of different races, wealth, status, and gender, gather in Mecca for hajj, and all are equal in the eye of God.