Glossary of Terms

Alhumdulillah: Thanks be to God.

Asr: The afternoon prayer, to be prayed when the sun is halfway between its zenith and the true horizon or when an objects shadow is as long as its length.

Assalaamu Alaykum: Peace be upon you. To be answered with ‘Wa Alaykum Assalaam’ which means ‘And upon you peace.’ Its the standard greeting in the Arab world but is mostly used by Muslims.

Baweb: Doormen who live on the ground floor of apartment buildings and guard/clean/run errands for the apartment residents. Considered one of the lower classes of people in Egypt and who are given very little choice in life for self-improvement.

Bedouin: The nomadic tribes that wander the deserts, or settle around Oases/ the North Shore. They stretch from the Arabian Peninsula through Israel and Jordan, across Egypt, and into Libya. Often thought of as uneducated because they usually lack formal schooling unless they have lived in a large city, they speak their own language or a variation of Arabic.

Dhuhr: The noon prayer, to be prayed when the sun is at its highest zenith in the sky.

Fajr: Referred to as the sunrise prayer, it is actually to be prayed before the sun begins to rise.

Fellahin: Meaning “farmers” or people from small villages in far-flung areas, often used to describe someone from a small village who is uneducated. Not to be confused with the Sayeedi and Bedouin peoples.

Halal: Literally means “permitted” or “allowed” but often is used (in Western countries) to refer to meat that has been butchered with the Islamic ritual method; something like Kosher but for Muslims. In Muslim countries it is referred to as “Zabiha”.

Hijab: The headscarf Muslim women wear.

Hijabi: A woman who wears the headscarf.

Iftar: The meal eaten to break the Ramadan fast once the sun has set- the fast is broken immediately after the maghrib prayer has been called.

InshaAllah: God willing. Culturally used as ‘maybe’.
E.g. Me: Habibi, I want to go to City Stars tomorrow.
Husband: InshAllah.
Me: Is that a ‘real’ inshAllah, or an ‘egyptian’ inshAllah?

‘Isha: The night prayer, usually prayed around two hours after maghrib.

Jilbab/Abaya: The long dress worn by women.

Maalesh: I’m sorry/its ok, or alternatively used as a ‘sorry, I can’t do anything to help you so quit asking.’

Maghrib: Sunset prayer, prayed once the sun has fully set.

Malhaffa (mal7affa): A large baggy version of abaya that hangs from the head.

MashAllah: God protect [the subject] from harm.

Niqab: The veil worn over the face that leaves only the eyes showing.

Niqabi: A woman who wears the niqab.

Salaat: Prayer; there are five prayers a day: Fajr, Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib, ‘Isha.

Sayeedi: From the “Sayeed” or “Upper Egypt” area (which is actually the southern part of Egypt from Luxor down to Sudan) they are a cultural and in some ways ethnic group that is known for being very traditional, conservative, and uneducated. Bawebs (doormen) and drivers are usually Sayeedis who have moved to the big city for economic reasons and who are never given anything but the most poorly paid and menial of jobs.

SubhanAllah: Glory be to God.

Suhoor: The meal eaten right before the fajr prayer has  been called and the fast begins.

Zabiha: See Halal.

4 responses to “Glossary of Terms

  1. As salaamu alaykum sister.

    This is a very nice glossary you have here, mashaa Allaah!

    I just wanted to point out that “mashaa Allaah” means “It is what Allaah willed.”

    We say it when we marvel at something.

    If that something belongs to us, we say it to remind ourselves that it came from Allaah, and had He not willed it, it would not be. In this way we don’t become conceited about the thing.

    If that something belongs to someone else, we say it to remind ourselves that Allaah willed that person to have it, and did not will for us to have it. So in this way we save ourselves from jealousy for the person, and pity for ourselves.

    Some people add to it “Laa quwwata illa billaah.” Which means “There is no power except by Allaah.” This is a further reminder that everything is in Allaah’s Hands.

    “Mashaa Allaah La quwwata illa billaah” is in a verse in Surat al-Kahf, in reference to the owner of the 2 gardens, who become conceited with the fact that he had these 2 beautiful gardens, and actually went so far as to tell his neighbor, “I’m better than you.” So his neighbor reminded him to say “Mashaa Allaah, la quwwata illa billaah.”

    I believe there is a hadeeth that in addition to saying this, we should make du’aa to Allaah for Barakah (blessings). Since He has already bestowed a ni’mah (bounty) upon us (sor someone else), after acknowledging that it is His will, and that there is no power except by Him, we ask Him to bless us.

    Sorry for the loooooong comment! I pray it was beneficial. May Allah forgive me for any mistakes and may Allaah reward you for this blog that I have been enjoying reading for the past 15 minutes, ameen!

  2. I was translating as how the phrase is used, not necessarily what it specifically means in Arabic. Like using the word halal to mean zabihah meat.

    But it is really good for people reading the glossary to have that information, its very informative.

    Shukran. 🙂

  3. SuhanaAllah how nice of you to make a glossary for your readers Molly 🙂

  4. Hi Molly,
    I was never a blog follower since i don’t know how to deal with blogs, i don’t know what to press, where to search. i probably know nothing about blogs but i was searching something and i found your blog right in front of my eyes and i found it REALLY interesting to read and to “follow”. I hope I’ll learn how to view pix on ur blog i can see them now as tiny, soon ill b able to view the whole pic; anywya it was really nice to know about you and knowing your point of view about some stuff. I’ll send you later when I read more.
    am glad you’re liking your stay in Egypt.

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