Although 80% of Muslims do not converse in Arabic all Muslims use some Arabic terms and phrases because Islam requires uniformity. For example, the Arabic names of all their prophets, including Jesus Christ, are easily recognized by Muslims. The same is true with the universal Muslim greeting, “Salaam alaykum,” because Muhammad required it to be used. For a Christian to use some Muslim-friendly words can help avoid misunderstandings, but it can also lead to the impression that one is interested in converting to Islam. This is a risk worth taking in order to communicate the Good News as a truly positive message, not as a corrupting influence. The following phrases and terms are among the most helpful in using with Muslims. It is good to ask your Muslim friend to help you pronounce these Arabic terms.
Salaam Alaykum (Sa-LAAM Ah-LAY-kim)
Literal meaning: “Peace be upon you” is virtually identical to the Aramaic
phrase Jesus spoke when appearing to the disciples after his resurrection.
(Luke 24:36; John 20:19)
Isa Al Masih (EE-sa ahl Mah-SHEE)
Literally: “Jesus the Mes-si-ah.” The word “Ma-sih” is similar to the Hebrew word. “Isa” for “Jesus” was evidently a sixth century Arabic adaptation from the Hebrew word “Yeshua.”
Literally: “In the name of Allah.” An invocation frequently used by Muslims. Many Muslims use the longer version, Bismallah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim, which means “in the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.” This phrase is interesting because Christians believe that God can be known by these attributes as well.
This term refers to the “book given to Jesus” and is similar to the Greek word “evangel,” meaning “good news.” Muslims do not believe that there is an lnjil remaining on the earth that has not been corrupted. Christians often refer to the Gospels or a single Gospel as “the lnjil” when conversing with Muslims.
Taurat of Musa (Tar-AT MOO-sah)
Literally: “Torah of Moses,” the book given to Moses. The first five books of the Bible.
Zabur of Dawud (Zah-BOOR DAU-ood)
Literally: “Psalms of David,” the book given to David. The Psalms.
Notes and References
“Allah” and “God”
Allah is the proper pre-Islamic Arabic name for God, used even today by Arabic-speaking Christians as well as Muslims. The exact history of the English word “God” is unknown. It may have derived from the Old High German name for God which was “Gott.” The word “God” was never used in any ancient scriptures that were written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, or Latin. Although all Muslims use the Arabic name “Allah,” only 20% are native Arabic speakers. Muslims with other native languages have still another name for God. For example, Farsi-speaking peoples use “Khodah” to mean God. Bible translators usually employ the native language term for God, the uncreated Creator.
Muslim is an Arabic term derived from the same root as the word for peace (salaam). Note that the tri-lateral root _S_L_M_ is shared by all these related terms: SALAM, ISLAM, MUSLIM. The root and its derivatives are very similar to the Hebrew word “Shalom,” which means peace.
Barika or Barikat
Literally means “blessing,” a term that communicates well to Muslims. Barika is a central biblical theme first introduced by God to Abraham (Ebrahim) in Gen. 12:1-3, and about the Gospel (Injil) in Galatians 3.
The five pillars of religion (known as arkan-ad-din in Arabic) are referred to by their Arabic names by all Muslims, regardless of the native language.
- Confessing of Faith (Shahada) is a public statement said in Arabic which means: “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.” Making this confession is the first step in becoming a Muslim. Islam requires that everyone say this confession in Arabic.
- Prayer (Salat) is a set ritual to be done five specific times every day (sometimes combined in three sessions), memorized in Arabic, with ritual washings before each sequence. The head must be covered the body pointed in the direction of Mecca, and the motions and prostrations must be followed for the prayers to be valid.
- Fasting (Sawm) is an annual community event for all Muslims (except children, pregnant woman, and travelers). The fast lasts the entire lunar month known as Ramadan, and involves abstinence from all food, water, and sex during daylight hours. At sunset, when the daily fast ends, there is a special meal (iftar) and another just before sunrise. In Muslim dominated countries there is often a shift to a more nocturnal schedule with more sheep during the daytime and feasting at night.
- Giving of Alms (Zakat) is obligatory giving of 2.5 percent of a Muslims wealth, primary to the poor and certain defined causes, including “the Way of God” (which can mean jihad under certain circumstances).
- Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) is to be carried out at least once in lifetime, provided a Muslim can afford it. Uniformity is enforced in the manner of dressing—in a white garment—to shaving the head (for the men). The objective is to copy the patterns set by Muhammad and do all the various rituals as he did them. Great claims are made for gaining multiplied credits as well as removing the weight of sins in preparation of the scale of Judgment Day.
Captions for Photos and Artwork
Ring (page 2) Afghanistan is famous for its dark blue lapis lazuli gemstone, set here in and handcrafted silver ring featuring a clear symbol of the Trinity. Although its meaning maybe lost in this Muslim nation, this is an ancient Christian symbol of Tri-unity and eternity.
Arabic translations of the Injil (Gospel of Luke) and Taurat (Genesis) (page 3) Muslims treat holy books with great respect, putting them on special reading stands and some wrap them in protective cloths.
Illustration of Muhammad and the archangel Gabriel (page 4) Copy of a sixteenth-century Turkish manuscript called The Progress of the Prophet. Notice the prophet is veiled to avoid sacrilege.
The Kaaba (page 5) The Kaaba is a cube-shaped building in Mecca toward which Muslims pray. Muslims believe the Kaaba was an altar used by Ebrahim (Abraham)
Time magazine cover and advertisement (page 9) This cover of Time magazine and advertisement on the back display a common misunderstanding about Western culture.::: Back To TOP