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Index of Common Islamic Terms

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Common Phrases

Adhab

Behaviour appropriate to a given situation; good manners. Fundamental to our religious lives, in our relationship with Allah and with our fellow beings.(See section on Adhab)

Adhan

The call to prayer, usually delivered several minutes before the second call (Iqama, q. v.)

Ahlu'l Kitab

The people of the Book i.e. Christians and Jews.

Akhira

The next world.

Alim

Knowledgeable person; Scholar (pl. Ulama q.v.)

Amir

The leader of the community. Every group of more than two or gathering of Muslims should have an Amir.

Aqida

Doctrine, or creed.

Aqiqa

The slaughtering of a sheep (one for a girl, two for a boy) in thanksgiving for the birth of a child. The meat may be distributed, cooked and eaten at a collective community gathering or its equivalent donated to a reputable Islamic aid centre for the poor.

Aql

Intelligence; the faculty of reason or at a higher level the faculty of the soul (Ruh) which gives spiritual understanding.

Arkan

Pillars; the 5 pillars of Islam - Shahada;The declaration of Faith, Salat; the Five obligatory daily Prayers, Zakat; Alms paying, Sawm; fasting the month of Ramadan, and Hajj; Pilgrimage to Mecca if it is within ones means.

Ayatullah

A spiritual leader of the Shi'i Muslims. Means "sign of Allah".

Ayat/Ayah

Lit: a sign. Usually means a verse of the Qur'an, such as Ayatu'l Kursi, the Throne verse.
The Qur'an also speaks of natural phenomena such as the sun, trees, sea, etc., as being among the 'Signs of God'. We cannot see Him directly but we may come to know Him through His signs in what He has created and what He has revealed in the Qur'an.


B

Bay'a/Ayah

Oath of allegiance, initially to Allah's Messenger (PBUH) then to his successors (Khalifs q.v.), an Amir.

Baraka(h)

Blessing, grace.

Basharah

Good News.

Bid'a

Innovation, usually unfavourable, in religious belief or practice.

al-Bukhari

(810-870) The greatest of the Hadith compilers, born and died at Bukhara in Central Asia.


D

Dar ul-Islam

According to the'medieval theorists', the lands where the Shari'ah is politically dominant. Contrasted with Daru'l Sulh, the lands in treaty with Muslims, and Daru'l Harb, areas at war with Islam.

Dawah

Work aimed at revitalising or spreading the message of Islam.

Derwish

Persian word for a religious mendicant; often a synonym for Faqeer (q.v.)

Dhikr

Broadly, any activity involving the remembrance of God. Used often as a technical term for the repetition of Qur'anic formula, either individually or in a group ceremony. The function of Dhikr is the purification of the heart.

Deen

Usually translated as religion, the Arabic word itself has a much wider connotation and can be taken to mean an entire way of life.

While the word can be applied to any religion or way of life, it is used for Islam in the understanding that there has only ever been one Deen from God to man.

Du'a

Prayer of supplication. Can form part of, but is not restricted to, the obligatory Salat (Five times daily Prayer). May take the form of a spontaneous address to God, or of petitionary formulas.

Dunya

'This world'. The opposite of Akhira (q.v.). Dunya is the realm of action; Akhira is the place of requital for action.

Durood

Urdu for Salawat (q.v.); invoking blessings upon the Prophet (PBUH).


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Common Phrases 

E

Eid

A festival. Two principal festivals are recognised in Islam:

1. Eidu'l-Fitr is celebrated on the day following the month of Ramadan (The 9th month of the Islamic calendar also the fasting month) i.e. the end of fasting.

2. Eidu'l-Adha or Eidu'l-Kabir is celebrated on the 10th of the month of Dhu'l-Hijja (the 12th month of the Islamic calendar) and commemorates the end of the Hajj season.It commemorates the sacrifice of Ismael by Abraham. Thus it is the Festival of Sacrifice.


Faqeer

Lit. 'a poor man'. A Sufi term for the member of a Tariqa, a Sufi way or spiritualist path.

Fard

An obligatory act, like the Prayer (Salat) or the Annual Fast (Ramadan).

Fardi ayn is obligatory on every individual provided adult, sane and capable.

Fardi kifaya where the obligation is to be provided within the community; it should take place/be implemented in the community before some people.

Fatiha

The first Surah (Chapter) of the Qur'an, recited in every rak'at (unit) of Salat. Lit. 'Opening', It opens the Qur'an and also opens up the human heart in that the meaning of the whole of the Qur'an is contained within it.

Fatwa
A legal ruling given by a Mufti (q.v.).

Fiqh

'Islamic jurisprudence; the science of correct public and private life'. The study and codification of the Divine Law (Shari'a q.v.). The main sources of these codes are the Qur'an and Sunnah, but also Ijma (consensus), Qiyas (analogical reasoning) and Ijtihad (applied knowledge to arrive at a judgement). By this study a number of codes or Schools of Law (Madhhab) came into existence named after their founders.

Fitna

Discord, temptation.

Fitra

'Instinct, natural inclinations. Islam is the Deenu'l fitra, or the religio naturalis, for its provisions are in complete harmony with man's natural disposition.


al-Ghazali

(1058-1111) Abu Hamid al-Ghazali is usually considered one of Islam's greatest theologians. His greatest work the Ihya Ulumi'd din, (Revival of the Religious Sciences), served to demonstrate the inseparable and mutually dependent nature of the Shari'ah and Sufism.

Ghusl

The major ritual ablution, effected by the washing of every part of the body with clean running water. Recommended before taking Shahada; declaration of Faith, Jum'a; congregational Friday Prayer only obligatory for men, and Eid Prayer performed on the occasion of the two Eid's.


H

Hadith

A report verifying how the Holy Prophet performed an action, dealt with an incident or reacted to a situation together with any dialogue which took place at the time.

Hafiz

A person who has memorised the entire Qur'an.

Hajj

The annual pilgrimage to the holy places in and around Makkah. It is obligatory on every Muslim to make the trip once in a lifetime if one is financially able.

Hakeem

In Urdu, Persian etc one skilled in the traditional science of Islamic medicine or homoeopathy.

Halal

Anything lawful in the sight of God. Everything which is not expressly forbidden (Haram) is lawful. The Qur'an says that the pure food of the Ahlu'l-Kitab (ie Christians and Jews) is Lawful (Halal). [There are some differences of interpretation of this verse between the different Madhhabs].

Hanafi

It is the largest Sunni school of law in the world in term of followers. The Hanafis are mainly found in South Asia (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, etc.), in Western Asia and the Middle-East (Turkey, 1/2 up to 2/3 in Egypt, etc.), and in the United Kingdom. 

Haqiqa

Sufi term for reality, the authentic essence behind forms and attributes. Distinct from Haqq which refers to the essence of God alone.

Haqq

Absolute Reality, Truth, Justice. One of the names of Allah.

Haram

The sacred precincts of Makkah, Medina and Jerusalem.

Haram

Anything forbidden by God.

Hidaya/Huda

Divine Guidance, given to individuals or communities.

Hijab

Islamic dress for women.

Hijra

The migration of the Holy Prophet and his companions from Makkahto Medina in 622 AD. It is the base year of the Muslim calendar. (AH meaning After Hijra).

Hilal

The crescent moon, the observation of which proclaims the start of a month.


I

Ibada

Principally used in the sense of 'worship' i.e. prayer, fasting etc., but includes any act that confirms man's status of 'abd, servant of Allah.

Iblis

The personal name of the Devil.

Iftar

The time at which the fast may be broken, i.e. sunset (Maghrib).

Ihram

The sacred state entered into by Muslims embarking upon the Pilgrimage. It includes performing ghusl and dressing (for men) in two seamless garments. Women in Ihram wear the usual hijab ensuring to cover completely except the hands and face.

Ihsan

Lit. doing good 'par excellence' but bears a wider meaning denoting a spiritual state; the Holy Prophet defined it as Worshipping God as though you could see Him.

Ijtihad

The use of reasoning to arrive at a ruling of the Shari'a where no specific reference to the issue exists in the Qur'an or Hadith. (Done only by those with sufficient knowledge)

Ikhlas

Purity of intention, sincerity.

Ikhwan

(Derived from the Arabic word Ukhuwwa) Brethren. The Prophet (PBUH) emphasised the brotherhood of believers, hence the fashion for calling Muslims brother or sister.

Ilm

Knowledge, especially of something outward, as opposed to ma'rifa (q.v.). The Prophet (PBUH) ordered the seeking of knowledge as compulsory upon every Muslim man and woman.

Imam

Lit. The one in front. (leader) A leader with religious authority having political responsibilities. Also any person who leads the congregational prayer.There is no formal priesthood in Islam, an Imam is chosen according to the individual's character and knowledge of Islam.

Iman

Faith. It is subject to strengthening or weakening according to how we live.

Imsak

For the fasting person, that time at which food and drink may no longer be taken so that preparation can be made to resume fasting. It's time is a few minutes before first light (Fajr).

Injeel

The Gospel.

Iqama

The second call to prayers, an abbreviated and modified version of the Adhan. Its function is to assemble those present in the Mosque so that the Prayer can commence.

Isa

Prophet Jesus, Peace Be Upon Him.

Islam

Lit. submission. Used to refer to man's formal submission to the will of God as mediated through His final Messenger.

Isra wa'l Miraj

Al-Isra. The Holy Prophet's miraculous "night journey" from Makkah to Jerusalem. (Qur'an 18:1). Al-Mi'raj is his ascent with Gabriel through the seven heavens to the presence of God.

Istighfar

Seeking forgiveness. 'Astagfir-Allah' I seek forgiveness from Allah.

Istinja

The practice of cleaning with water ones private area having used the toilet.


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Common Phrases

J

Jahannam

Hell, the punishment appointed for evil.

Jahiliya

'Ignorance' as in Arabia before the advent of Islam. Also used to refer to the state of mind characterised by ignorance and pride.

Jama'a(t)

A group of Muslims united under the authority of a leader or Amir.

Janaba

The state of impurity, brought about by the sexual act, or any other cause of seminal emission. The person in this state may not perform Salat; prayer. It is also preferable not enter a Mosque, or touch a copy of the Qur'an. The state is lifted by the act of Ghusl (q.v.)

Janaza

The Islamic funeral rites. The body is washed, placed in a linen shroud, and buried without unnecessary delay. The Janaza or funeral prayer is offered collectively; four Takbirs (q.v.) interspaced with prayers said silently in the standing position, with no bowing or prostration of Ruku or Sujud.(q.v.)

Janna

The Garden of Bliss promised for the righteous.

Jihad

'Effort', also military effort in the services of Islam.

Jihad'l Akbar

'The Greater Jihad' - The struggle in oneself between the base desires and the natural inclination towards a higher spiritual ideal.

Jinn

Intelligent beings created with smokeless fire (Q. 55:15) not normally perceptible to humans.

Jum'a

The Friday congregational worship, required of all adult males not on a journey. It replaces the Zuhr (midday prayer) on Friday with a public address called a Khutba (q.v.) followed by two Rak'at (units) of the collective salat.


Ka'ba

The Temple of Abraham in Mecca, directional focus of Salat; prayer, and centre for the circumbulation rites (Tawaf) of the Hajj; pilgrimage.

Kafir

Lit.'one who conceals', usually refers to those people who conceal from themselves the will of God. Often, rather generally applied to all non-believers.

Kalifah/Caliph

1. Political successor to the authority of the Holy Prophet over all Muslims.

2. Man in his role as God's representative on earth.

Khalifatu'l - rashida (the rightly guided caliphs) refers to the first 4 successors to the Prophet i.e. Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali.

Khamr

'Wine'. Defined by the Prophet as any intoxicant.

Khatib

The man (usually the Imam) who delivers the Khutba address or sermon on Friday and on the two Eid festivals.

Khutba

The address delivered before the Jum'a prayer and after the prayer of Eid.

Kufr

The state of being a Kafir (q.v.)


Madhhab

The name for a school of Islamic Law. Four of those recognised as orthodox among Sunnis are the Shafi'i, the Maliki, the Hanafi, and the Hanbali (q.v.) Differences between them are generally minor and are due to different interpretations of the the Sunnah.(q.v.)

Madrasa

An Islamic School.

Mahdi

In Islamic eschatology, the 'man of absolute guidance' expected near the end of time to deliver the Muslim nation from political and moral decline.

Makruh

'Disliked', an action not expressly forbidden, but preferably avoided if possible.

Ma'lak

'An Angel', a creature of light, obedient to God (pl. Mala'ika)

Maliki

A follower of the school of Imam Malik ibn Anas of Medina (c. 720-795). The Maliki's live mainly in Northern and West Africa and France.

Ma'rifa

'Knowledge', more specifically inner illumination granted by God.

Masjid

'Mosque'. A large Mosque is often referred to as a 'Jamih' as well.

Mawlana

'Our master'. Common honorific title of religious person in the subcontinent.

Mawlud/Mawlid

A festival commemorating the birth of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), fixed as the 12th of Rabi ul Aw'wal.

Mihrab

Niche let into the Qibla (q.v.) wall of many Mosques to indicate the direction of prayer.

Minbar

Pulpit in a Mosque.

Miswak

Toothbrush made from a twig of arak wood. It is recommended dental hygiene and breath freshner to be used before Salat; prayer, as part of Wudu; purification, or at any other time.

Mubah

The very wide area of action which, in Islamic law, is neither made compulsory nor prohibited.

Muezzin/Mu'adhdhin

The man who delivers the call to prayer.

Mufti

A person qualified to give a legal ruling (fatwa q.v.).

Muhajirun

The Makkan companions of the Holy Prophet who accompanied him during the Hijra; migration to Medina.

Mujaddid

A 'Reformer', specifically one whose work and actions leads to substantial change in the society.

Mujahid

One who engages in Jihad.

Mu'min

A believer. A person possessed of Iman; faith.

Munafiq

A hypocrite.

Murid

One who has submitted to the personal direction of a Sufi teacher in order to further his spiritual growth.

Murshid

A guide. In Sufi terminology, a saint qualified to communicate his inward knowledge to pupils.

Musafir

A traveller. People travelling are in certain circumstances entitled to shorten and combine the obligatory prayers.

Mushrik

One who follows Shirk, the conscious or unconscious ascription of ultimate authority to anything other than God.

Muslim

A follower of Islam; a person submitting to the will of God.

Mut'a

Marriage contract with a specified expiry date. Prohibited in the 4 Sunni schools.


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Common Phrases

Nabi

A Prophet. Several are listed in the Qur'an. Not always a Rasul.

Nafl

An optional act of Ibadah: worship usually carried out before and/or after a Fard: obligatory act of worship.

Nafs

'Self', The Qur'an tells of 3 principal types of nafs:

1. An-nafs al-ammara (12:53), the lowest, animal self, "commanding to evil".

2. An-nafs al-lawwama (75:2), the self which feels torn between right and wrong, the "reproachful self".

3. An-nafs al-mutma'inna (84:27), the "tranquil self" which has overcome it's lower aspects.

Najis

impure', opposite of Tahir (q.v.).

Namaz

Turkish, Persian and Urdu for salat.

Nifaq

Hypocrisy, dissimulation.

Nikah

The legal institution of marriage. An Islamic marriage is contracted between the bridegroom and the bride, or her guardian. The Mahr, or bridal gift is given by the groom to the wife and becomes her property. The ceremony is simple, requiring only the presence of an officiating party and two witnesses.

Niyya

Conscious intention. It is the part of an action which affects the heart and is counted by Allah. Without sincere intention no act, and particularly no act of worship, has any value.

Nur

Divine light.


Qabar

The grave. Between death and the moment of resurrection there exists an intermediate stage in the tomb, where the dead have a foretaste of what is to come.

Qadi

A judge in an Islamic court of law.

Qadar

God's decree, which limits human freedom of action.

Qalb

The heart, the centre of religious inspiration and illumination.

Qalbun Salim

A heart made pure, whole and perfect. Our hearts must be transformed into this condition for our admittance into the Divine presence.

Qard Hasan

Interest free loan with unstipulated due date.

Qasr

The practice of shortening Zuhr, Asr and Isha prayers to two rak'at each in place of four, allowed to those who have left their town of residence on a journey exceeding a certain distance (usually 56 km).

Qibla

The direction of the Ka'ba in Makkah, towards which Muslims turn to pray.

Qiyama

Resurrection. Yawmi'l Qiyama is the day when we shall be raised up from death to receive judgement.

Qur'an

Lit. Recitation, lecture. The Holy Book of Islam, the uncreated word of God, the final scripture as presented to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) through the Angel Gabriel.

Quraysh

The Arab clan to which the Holy Prophet belonged. It was the dominant clan in Makkah.


Rabb

One of the names of Allah most commonly used, meaning the One to whom we owe allegiance and service and who supports and nourishes all.

Rahma

Usually translated as 'mercy' but is much wider, including compassion, love and beneficence. It emanates from God and fills the whole of creation.

Raka'a

One prayer cycle or unit in the salat, including one Ruku and two Sujud (q.v.).

Ramadan

The blessed month of fasting.

Rasul

'Messenger','Apostle'. Such people of whom Muhammad was the last, that have been sent to every nation in history. Belief in them, and in their freedom from mortal sin, is an indispensable article of faith.

Riba

'Usury'. God has forbidden the usurious lending of money.

Rizq

Provision, sustenance.

Roza

The Urdu word for fasting (sawm).

Ruh

1. Man's soul.

2. The angel Gabriel i.e. Ruhu'l Qudus - the Holy Spirit.

Ruku

The act of bowing in the prayer.


Sawm/Siyam

Fasting. God has made fasting obligatory during the month of Ramadan, but many Muslims, following the Sunna or example of the Holy Prophet fast at other times as well.

Sabha

A set of prayer beads.

Sabr

This word is usually translated as 'patience' but it has a much wider meaning; to accept with contentment and without complaint everything that comes to us from our Lord, to await the coming of events in their due time, and to persevere in working towards our aim despite difficulties that are put in our path.

Sadaqa

Giving to the poor etc over and above the obligatory Zakat (q.v.)

Sahaba

The companions of the Holy Prophet.(Sahabi : sing.)

Sahih

(Lit: right) Term given to certain Hadith (q.v.) which pass the most rigorous tests of authentication, particularly the collection of the Imams Bukhari and Muslim.

Sajda

cf. Sujud

Sajjada

A prayer mat.

 

Salat

The canonical prayer. The means given by Allah for mankind to make contact with him. It is a worship of the whole person; heart, mind, tongue and body. It is the second of the five pillars of Islam.

Salawat

An invocation to Allah for peace and blessings upon the Prophet. Used during the prayers (salat) or an etiquette when the Prophet's name is mentioned or as a repeated invocation etc.

Samawat

The Heavens (pl. of sama - sky) There are usually said to be seven.

Satr

The parts of the human body which should remain covered for decency.

Shafi'i

Today the Shafi`is are mainly found in Western Asia and the Middle-East (Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, 1/3 up to 1/2 in Egypt, etc.), in Central Asia (Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, etc.), in South-East Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, etc.), East Africa (Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, etc.). It is the second biggest Sunni school of law in the world in term of followers, but the most widely expanded school all around the world.

Shahada

The confession of faith, consisting to two formulae:

1. Ashhadu Anlaa Ilah Illa'llah - I witness that there is no god except Allah.

2. Wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan Rasoolu'llah - And I witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.

Shaytan

The devil, or one of his followers.

Shari'/Shar

Lit. road sometimes translated as Divine Law. The formal principles of the Islamic Way of Life, which includes guidance on questions of worship, behaviour, personal law, criminal law and the conduct of state.

Sharif

A descendent of the Holy Prophet.

Shaykh/Sheikh

As an Islamic term, one qualified to teach religion and or sufism.

Shi'a

Loyalists of the cause of Ali - an historical dispute over the early succession to the Prophet, and not a difference about the fundamentals of Islam. Shi'ites comprise about 8% of Muslims, being the majority in Iran.

Shirk

The conscious or unconscious ascription of ultimate authority to someone or something other than Allah.

Shura

The principle and act of mutual consultation.

Sidq

The attribute of honesty and truthfulness.

Seerah
The life of the Holy Prophet.

Sufi

An exponent of Tasawwuf. According to themselves the term is not applied to the followers but only to those who have achieved and have authority to teach.

Sujud/Sajda

The act of prostration in the prayer cycle.

Sunnah

The example of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in character and behaviour. As what he did was not from his own will but from his Lord he is both the exponent of the Qur'an in practical human life and the model of perfect humanity. When Muslims follow the example of the Prophet, even in one simple act they are making a link not only with the Prophet but also with Allah.
It is the second source of the Shariah, after the Qur'an.

Surah

A Chapter in the Qur'an.


Tabligh

A synonym for Dawah, it means to convey the message.

Tafsir

A commentary on the Qur'an.

Tahajjud

An optional salat during the later part of the night. Particularly recommended during Ramadan and before the two festivals.

Tajwid

The traditional art of Qur'an recitation. Tajwid today is most commonly heard in the Ottoman Imperial style, which is a slow melodious cantillation. Other progressively faster styles are Tahqiq, Tartil, Tadwir and Hadr.

Takbir

The act of saying Allahu Akbar - Allah is most great.

Talaq

Divorce.

Taqwa

A state in which one is conscious of being in the presence of Allah and therefore fearing to do wrong or what is harmful to oneself or others.

Tarawih

Optional prayers during Ramadan held after the Isha (night) prayers. Very often held in congregation. The practice of the Prophet PBUH was to pray eight Rak'at. According to the practice of the Companions it can extend to 20 Rak'at.

Tariqa

Lit.'Way'.A word generally used to indicate the spiritual or Inner Way, which goes beyond the requirements of the outer application of the Shari'a.

Tasawwuf

The methods and teachings of Sufis.

Tasbih

The act of saying Subhan Allah -Glory to Allah or hymning the merits of Allah. The Qur'an says that everything in the heavens and the earth does this.

Tawba

Lit. Turn Back (to Allah). The recognition of wrong action and the resolution to set it right.

Tawhid

The doctrine of the absolute unity and indivisibility of Allah.

Tawaf

Ritual act of walking round the Ka'ba 7 times.

Tawrat

The Torah, The Old Testament, the scripture given to Moses. It is one of the fundamentals of faith to believe in the scriptures of Allah.

Tayammum

The practice of symbolic ablution. Used when unable to find water or because of health reasons.

Tayyib

Good, Wholesome. We are commanded in the Qur'an to eat not only what is lawful but also what is wholesome.

Thawab

Reward in the next world for good actions.


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Common Phrases

Uluma

Scholars versed in religious sciences. (Pl. of Alim)

Ummah

The Community of Believers. Its basis is common faith in Allah the Almighty and allegiance to His Messenger Muhammad (PBUH).

Umrah

The lesser Pilgrimage, which may be undertaken at any time of year.


 

Wajib

A necessary action.

Wali

The legal guardian of a minor or marriage partner.

Wali

A "Friend of Allah", a saint.

Walima

A party to celebrate and make public a happy occasion - usually marriage.

Witr

An optional prayer after the Isha or night prayer, having an odd number of rak'at (usually three).

Wudu

Ritual ablution. Before the prayer it is necessary to perform wudu.


Yathrib

Pre-Islamic name for Madinah.


Zaboor

The Psalms - the Scripture given to David.

Zakat

The obligatory annual alms given from property and wealth. This becomes due only when a person has kept wealth above a certain limit for one year. The proportion (nisaab) for cash and highly liquid assets is usually set at 2.5%

Zamzam

The sacred well which provided water for the baby Ishmael, son of Prophet Ibrahim and his wife Hajar who ran between the hills of Safa and Marwa in search of water to quench her child's thirst. The well is located near the Haram in Makkah.

Zawiya

A centre of Sufi activities.

Zina

Adultery or fornication.


Common Phrases

La illaaha Illalah

There is no god but Allah

Bismillah

In the name of Allah

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

In the name of Allah the Compassionate the Merciful

Allah Akbar

Allah is Great

Masha Allah

Allah has enjoined this to be so

Subhan Allah

Exhalted is Allah.

Alhmadlillah

All Praise is due to Allah

Astaghfir Allah

I seek forgiveness from Allah.

Insha Allah

If Allah wills

Assalamu Alaikum

Peace be upon you

Wa alaikum as-salaam

And Peace also with you

Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah wa Barrakatuhu

May the Peace, Mercy and Blessings of Allah be with you

Wa Alaikum mus-Salam wa Rahmatullah wa Barrakatuhu

And may the Peace, Mercy and Blessings of Allah be with you also