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
nafs

Used in the Qur’an more than 300 times, where its primary meaning is the human self or person. In post–Qur’anic religious literature it came to mean the human ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ in a metaphysical sense. The conception of the human soul by Muslim philosophers was strongly influenced by Aristotle’s theories.

nafs-i kull

A term used in medieval Ismaili and other cosmological doctrines for the Universal Soul. See aql–i kull .

Nahj al-Balagha

Lit. ‘the way of eloquence’. A well-known collection of letters, sermons and sayings attributed to Imam ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib (d. 661 CE), compiled in its present form by al-Sharif al-Radi (d. 1016 CE), a renowned Imami Shi‘i writer and poet of the Abbasid period (750-1258 CE). Many commentators, such as Ibn Abi al-Hadid (d. 1258 CE), consider this work as an example of the most eloquent Arabic and have highlighted its importance for theological and philosophical discourse in the Muslim world. The first sermon of the Nahj al-Balagha has been regarded by Shi‘i and Sunni Muslims alike as being among the most important discourses of Imam ‘Ali concerning the essence of faith and the nature of God. His letter to Malik al-Ashtar, appointing him as governor of Egypt, is likewise deemed by innumerable Muslim authorities to be a profound description of just governance according to Muslim principles.

najwa

A Qur’anic term referring to a voluntary contribution to Prophet Muhammad. Among Ismailis, it was a due offered by converts to Ismailism to the Fatimid Imam who used it for the society’s well being. It was abolished by the Imam-Caliph al-Hakim in AH 400/1009-1010 CE.

naqib (pl. naqaba)

Lit. chief, leader. In the Fatimid Ismaili da‘wa, the person in charge of each jazira. Also called hujja, lahiq or yad.

nass

Lit. ‘text.’ In Shi‘ism , it refers to Muhammad’s declaration of ‘Ali as his successor, and by extension, to the requirement that each imam should explicitly appoint the following Imam. The concept of nass was developed in the early decades of Shi‘ism, when several people claimed the imamat for themselves, especially in the times of imams Muhammad al–Baqir and Ja‘far al–Sadiq.

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nisba

Arabic word for ‘adjective,’ which can also mean link, relationship, ancestry, lineage or origin.

Nizam al-Mulk (d. 1092 CE)

Persian vizier (1059/ 63- 1092) of the Seljuk Empire who served under Sultans Alp Arsalan and Malik Shah I. After the assassination of Alp Arsalan (1072), Nizam al-Mulk enjoyed full authority in the Seljuk Empire dominating the then eighteen years old Malik Shah. For the next twenty years, Nizam al-Mulk was the real ruler of the Seljuk Empire. Aside from his extraordinary influence as vizier, he is also well-known for institutionalisation of Sunni Muslim education through the establishment of the famous Nizamiyyah schools of higher education in Iraq, al-Jazira and Persia, which were named after him. The most famed and celebrated of all was al-Madrasa al-Nizamiyya of Baghdad (founded in 1067 CE), where Nizam al-Mulk appointed noted scholars such as al-Juwayni and al-Ghazzali to professorships. He himself wrote a book called Siyasatnama (The Book of Government).

Nizaris

Adherents of a branch of the Ismailis who gave allegiance to Nizar, the eldest son of the Fatimid Imam-caliph al-Mustansir (d. 1094) as his successor.

Nizariyya

Adherents of a branch of the Ismailis who gave allegiance to Nizar, the eldest son of the Fatimid Imam-caliph al-Mustansir (d. 1094) as his successor.

Ni‘mat Allahiyya

A Sufi order named after its founder Shah Ni‘matullah Wali (d. 1431 CE), which gained popularity in Iran and India.

Ni‘matu’llahiyya

A Sufi order named after its founder Shah Ni‘matullah Wali (d. 1431 CE), which gained popularity in Iran and India.

noor

Lit. ‘light,’ a term used for God, defined as light in the Qur’an in the so–called verse of light (ayat al–nur) Q 24:35: ‘God is the light of the heavens and the earth…’). In Shi‘ism, the term is taken to mean the light that is believed to have emanated through Adam, via Muhammad into the family of ‘Ali and his successors, the Imams.

Nubuwwa

(Arabic, derived from the root na-ba-’a meaning ‘to utter’ or ‘to inform’), also ta-na-ba-’a to claim for oneself the gift of prophecy or office of a prophet. Hence, nubuwwa means prophethood. It is a definitive aspect of Muslim religious belief, being the primary means by which God communicates to humankind. Nubuwwa is a rich and central topic in the Qur'an which refers to a continuous chain of revelation-bearers who were related genealogically. According to the Quran, this chain starts with Adam, and ends with the khatam al-anbiya’ (the seal of Prophets), that is, Prophet Muhammad. Theologians developed a theory of the distinctive signs of prophethood (dala’il, ‘alamat, or imarat al-nubuwwa). These included receiving the revelation (wahy), that the Prophet is of a noble descent, having a mark between his shoulders, having miraculous powers, and being supported with marvels which prove his status. By the 13th century, theologians went on to develop the doctrine of ‘isma (infallibility/impeccability) as a fundamental sign of nubuwwa and this was applied broadly to Prophet Muhammad.

Nuqtawis

A group which split off from the Huruffiyya in 1397–98 CE.

Nuqtawiyya

A group which split off from the Huruffiyya in 1397–98 CE.

nur

Lit. ‘light,’ a term used for God, defined as light in the Qur’an in the so–called verse of light (ayat al–nur) Q 24:35: ‘God is the light of the heavens and the earth…’). In Shi‘ism, the term is taken to mean the light that is believed to have emanated through Adam, via Muhammad into the family of ‘Ali and his successors, the Imams.

Nurbakhshiyya

A Sufi order founded by Muhammad b. ‘Abd Allah known as Nurbakhsh (d. 1464 CE).

Nurbakshi

A Sufi order founded by Muhammad b. ‘Abd Allah known as Nurbakhsh (d. 1464 CE).

neeti

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