Glossary Terms

A B C D F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z
Kaba

In pre–Islamic times, a temple for worship of traditional gods. After the conquest of and re–entry into Mecca by the Prophet Muhammad, he re–dedicated the place to the worship of Allah and established it as a focal point for the pilgrimage (hajj). It also represents the direction to which Muslims turn for ritual prayer.

Kabylia

A province in present–day Algeria.

Kairouan

A Tunisian city, often transliterated in English as Kairouan, which became the capital city of the Aghlabids and later of the Fatimids .

kalam

From Arabic, lit. ‘Speech, discussion, argument’, translated as philosophical theology, refers to theological reflection using rational philosophical argumentation to study and express the content of the faith in a coherent manner. It has become a discipline among other religious sciences of Islam and extends beyond theology in the narrow sense to include subjects like free will vs. determinism and theories proper to physics.

kalima

Lit. ‘word.’ Used in the Qur’an with several meanings, chief among which is the ‘Divine Word‘. It also refers to the formula for the declaration of faith amongst Muslims (also shahada). In Shi‘i and Ismaili esotericism, the concept is linked to the act of creation by various thinkers such as the Ismaili Abu Ya‘qub al–Sijistani (d. after 971), the Twelver Mulla Sadra (d. 1640) and the Sufi Ibn al–‘Arabi (638/1240).

Karbala’

A city southeast of Baghdad, it is the site of the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn ibn Ali, grandson of Prophet Muhammad, in 61 AH/ 680 CE. Hence, the city is referred to as Mashhad al-Husayn. Karbala’ houses the tomb of Imam al-Husayn, which is visited by thousands of pilgrims, particularly during the month of Muharram, on the tenth day of which (known as ‘Ashura, q.v.), Imam al-Husayn and his followers were massacred by the Umayyad army. The shrine at Karbala’ is well known for its architectural features, its gold and silver ornamentation, and its ornate chandeliers. The soil from Karbala’ is fashioned into small tablets upon which some Shi‘a, especially among the Twelver Shi‘a communities, prostrate during their prayers. Historically, the maintenance of the shrine came not only from the Shi‘i rulers of Iran and India but also from some of the Sunni Ottoman leaders. Nowadays the shrine at Karbala’ is under the protection of the Shi‘a of Iraq and Iran.

Kaysanis

Adherents of an early Shi‘i group originally led by al-Mukhtar (d. 687) who recognised Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya (d. 322/934) as their Imam and mahdi.

Kaysaniyya

Adherents of an early Shi‘i group originally led by al-Mukhtar (d. 687) who recognised Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya (d. 322/934) as their Imam and mahdi.

Ka‘ba

In pre–Islamic times, a temple for worship of traditional gods. After the conquest of and re–entry into Mecca by the Prophet Muhammad, he re–dedicated the place to the worship of Allah and established it as a focal point for the pilgrimage (hajj). It also represents the direction to which Muslims turn for ritual prayer.

Khalafiyya

A sub–sect of the Ibadiyya branch of the Kharijis , founded at the beginning of 9th century CE by Khalaf b. al–Sarub (Khalaf al–Hallaj).

Khaniqa/khaniqah

(pl. Khaniqahha) from Persian, lit. ‘residence’. Khaniqa is a term for a Sufi meetinghouse which serves as a residential teaching centre for Sufi disciples. It seems to have first been used as a term to designate this function in Persia in the 9th CE century; a famous khaniqa was established by Muhammad ibn Karram (d. 839 CE) the founder of the Karramiyya tariqah. Khaniqahha are usually designed to house Sufis, provide places for communal worship, and feed the residents, guests and travellers. Like zawaya, khaniqahha are also used as burial-sites of Sufi masters. As the institution spread, its architectural form developed according to local needs and customs. Khaniqahha today are spread over many parts of the Islamic world, especially the Persian-influenced regions (Iran, Central Asia and South Asia).

kharaj

Land tax established by Caliph Umar II to be paid by the dhimmis on the earliest conquered lands by the Muslims. As more and more Muslims acquired kharaj–paying lands and kharaj–paying dhimmi, land–owners gradually became Muslim. The kharaj situation varied from region to region and from time to time.

Kharijis

An early Muslim community, meaning ‘seceders’, who withdrew their allegiance from ‘Ali b. Abi Talib .

Khawarij

An early Muslim community, meaning ‘seceders’, who withdrew their allegiance from ‘Ali b. Abi Talib .

khawass

The intellectual ‘elite’ or ‘elect,’ often contrasted in classical philosophical literature with the ‘masses’ (awamm).

khilafa

The Muslim political institution or state centred around the caliph, which came to an end, historically, in 1924 with the disappearance of the Ottoman Empire.

khilafat

The Muslim political institution or state centred around the caliph, which came to an end, historically, in 1924 with the disappearance of the Ottoman Empire.

Khojas

A term probably derived from the Persian khwaja (lord, master). The Khojas are one of the Ismaili communities originating from the Indian subcontinent and now living in many countries of the world.

Khojki

A script historically developed among the Khojas of the Indian subcontinent to record their literature.

Khorosan

The northeastern region of early Islamic Persia, immediately south of Transoxania and west of Badakhshan.

khudavand-i qiyamat

Lord of the resurrection. Epithet of the Nizari Imam Hasan (d. 1166), after whose name his followers added the formula ‘ala dhikrihi’l-salam (on his mention be peace). Hasan was the first Imam in the Alamut period to declare himself openly as Imam in 1164. He proclaimed the qiyamat, i.e. resurrection, which as understood by its critics as a rejection of the external forms of religious practice. However, a prevailing tradition amongst the Ismailis interprets the term to mean a spiritual revelation of the truth. See qa’im al-qiyama.

khudawand-i qiyamat

Lord of the resurrection. Epithet of the Nizari Imam Hasan (d. 1166), after whose name his followers added the formula ‘ala dhikrihi’l-salam (on his mention be peace). Hasan was the first Imam in the Alamut period to declare himself openly as Imam in 1164. He proclaimed the qiyamat, i.e. resurrection, which as understood by its critics as a rejection of the external forms of religious practice. However, a prevailing tradition amongst the Ismailis interprets the term to mean a spiritual revelation of the truth. See qa’im al-qiyama.

Khurasan

The northeastern region of early Islamic Persia, immediately south of Transoxania and west of Badakhshan.

Khurramiyya

A collective term for several early Shi‘i groups in Persia and Transoxania, also known as the Khurramdiniyya.

khutba

A sermon delivered in a mosque at Friday prayers.

Khuzistan

A province in southwestern mediaeval Persia and Iraq bordering the Persian Gulf in the south.

Kirman

A city and province in central Iran.

kun

In the Qur’aninfo-icon, the divine imperative (amr), meaning ‘Be,’ (as in Q 2:117: ‘when He decrees a thing, He but says to it: ‘be’ and it is’). Ismaili Neoplatonist authors understood the term in a way consistent with their overall doctrine, in relation to God’s will and creation. See amr and kalimainfo-icon.

kuni-qadar

Key terms in early Ismaili cosmology derived from the Qur’anic creative imperative ‘ kun ’ meaning ‘Be’, and ‘qadar’, which means ‘determinations’.

Kutamas

A Berber tribe in North Africa who became key supporters of the Fatimids in the tenth century.

kutb

Lit. ‘pole’ or ‘pivot’. In mystical literature, such as the writings of al–Tirmidhi, Abd al–Razzaq and Ibn al–‘Arabi (d. 1240), it refers to the most perfect human being (al–insan al–kamil) who is thought to be the universal leader of all saints, to mediate between the divine and the human and whose presence is deemed necessary for the existence of the world. For some Shi‘i authors, such as Haydar Amuli (14th c.) the qutb is the Shi‘i imam.