Pre-Viewing Vocabulary Activity

Overview: The purpose of this activity is to acquaint students with the basic vocabulary they will hear in the film, Muhammad, Legacy of a Prophet. Students work with this vocabulary by categorizing names and terminology.


The student will be able to:

  • categorize and identify terms and proper names associated with beliefs, practices, groups and historical events related to the origin of Islam.
  • identify location names on a map.
  • define terms related to Islamic beliefs and practices.


  1. Cut the vocabulary words and definitions (Handout 1:1a) into strips. Form students into groups of three or four and give them the strips to sort into five categories and record the words on the chart (Handout 1:1b). The categories are as follows: "Place Names," "Individuals and Groups," "Events in Muslim History," "Beliefs," "Practices." The teacher may assist if necessary.
  2. Identify location names on the map (Handout 1:2b – map of Arabian Peninsula) from the vocabulary words provided and label the towns on the outline map, Handout 1:2b.
  3. Students who have already studied Islam prior to viewing the film may find the terms on beliefs and practices familiar. If not, it may be necessary for teachers to review the definitions of these basic terms in the glossary.
  4. ADAPTATION: For lower level or mixed ability students, have them cut out and use as definitions only the boldface words of the definitions and their pronunciation keys. Teachers may also select out the most basic terms, which are identified by an asterisk* before the word
  5. EXTENSION: Have students make a word search grid or crossword puzzle using the basic definitions in boldface.


[NOTE: Copy and cut out each vocabulary term separately. Have students arrange into categories. Group categories in this handout are answer key.]

A. Place Names (Setting)

*Makkah or Mecca [MACK-ah] – an ancient city in the Arabian Peninsula. Makkah was an important religious center that housed the Ka’bah. At the time of Muhammad’s birth, Makkah had become an important caravan city on the trade route from Yemen to Syria as well as a religious shrine.

Jabal al-Nur – Literally, "Mountain of Light" – a small mountain outside Makkah with a cave where Muhammad would often go to worship and meditate. Muhammad related that he received the first revelation of the Qur’an from God while in the cave of this mountain.

Yathrib [YUTH-rib] – the city in Arabia north of Makkah to which Muhammad and Muslims from Makkah migrated to escape religious persecution. Yathrib was renamed Madinat an-Nabi, or the "City of the Prophet."

*Madinah or Medina [ma-DEE-nah] – also Madinat al-Nabi, or "City of the Prophet" – a city north of Makkah, formerly known as Yathrib. The people of Madinah welcomed the persecuted Muslim refugees from Makkah and accepted Muhammad as their leader.

Hudaybiyyah the place where Muhammad made a peace treaty with the Makkans. Muhammad led his companions to Makkah to make the pilgrimage to the Ka’bah, but the Makkans prevented them from entering the city. The treaty with the Makkans allowed the Muslims to return the following year, and both agreed to peace for ten years. The Makkans eventually broke the treaty, leading to the Muslims’ peaceful takeover of Makkah.

*Ka’bah [KAA-bah] – a cube-shaped building in Makkah. The Qur’an states that the Ka’bah was the first house of worship dedicated to the One God. According to the Qur‘an, Abraham and his son Ishmael built the Ka’bah. Muslims all over the world face in the direction of the Ka’bah during prayer.

B. Individuals and Groups

*Quraysh [kur-AYSH] – the tribe into which Muhammad was born and which ruled Makkah. The Makkan Quraysh fought Muhammad until they were defeated in 630 C.E., but as Muslims, they continued to play important roles in Muslim history.

*Muhammad [moo-HUM-med] – according to the Qur’an, he was the last prophet, or God’s messenger to humankind. Prophets before Muhammad include Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Muhammad was born into the tribe of Quraysh at Makkah in about 570 CE.

*Khadijah [kha-DEE-jah] – first wife of Muhammad, a wealthy widow who was older than Muhammad. She was the first person to accept Islam after the revelation, and the wife who bore him four daughters.

Arbitratora person who settles a dispute between two or more persons or groups. Muhammad was invited to Yathrib as an arbitrator to bring peace to the warring tribes in Yathrib.

Ansar [an-SAR] – literally, "the Helpers" – they were Muslims of Yathrib who welcomed and aided the Muslim refugees from Makkah, who fled religious persecution.

Muhajirun [mu-ha-JIROON] – literally, "the Immigrants" Muslims who migrated to Yathrib to escape religious persecution by the Quraysh at Makkah.

*Sahabah [sa-HAA-bah] (implicit) – literally, "the Companions"a title given to Muslims who saw, heard or knew Muhammad. Because they shared in the development of the Muslim community, the Sahabah are considered models of piety and character for Muslims. Through their knowledge and love of the Prophet, they recorded his words and deeds (the hadith), and transmitted the Qur’an to later generations after Muhammad’s death.

Ahl al-Kitab [AHL al-kee-TAAB] – "People of the Book"a term used in the Qur’an to describe those who believe in One God and in the revealed scriptures from God, such as the Torah and the Bible.

*Tribe a group of people who share common ancestors, language and traditional claims to territory. At the time of Muhammad’s birth, Makkan society was organized according to relationships among clans and tribes.

*Clan – a family group that is a sub-group of a tribe, claiming descent from a single common ancestor. At the time of Muhammad’s birth, Makkan society was organized according to relationships among clans and tribes.


*Ummah [OOM-mah] – the worldwide community of Muslims. The total number of Muslims in the world today is over 1.2 billion.

C. Important Events in Early Muslim History

Isra’ and Mi’raj ("Night Journey and Ascension") [iss-RAA, me-RAAJ] – Muhammad’s night journey to Jerusalem and his ascension to the Heavens. According to the Qur’an and the recorded words of Muhammad (hadith), Angel Gabriel took Muhammad to Jerusalem during one night, through the Heavens and into the presence of God, and returned him to Makkah in the same night.

*Hijrah [HIJ-rah] – the migration of Muslim refugees from Makkah to Yathrib seeking religious freedom. This migration happened in 622 CE and marks the beginning of the Islamic, or hijriyah, dating system, abbreviated as A.H., meaning Anno Hijriya.

Constitution of Madinaha document Muhammad formed as arbitrator to unify the different warring groups in Yathrib under his leadership. The document states that each group in Yathrib must respect each other’s rights and share in the responsibility of defending the city.

*Pilgrimage, or Hajj [huj] – pilgrimage to Makkah is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and the duty of every Muslim believer. Pilgrims perform rites that reenact the life of Abraham, his wife Hajar, and their son Ishmael over 4,000 years ago. It is required of every Muslim who is able, to go at least once in a lifetime.

D. Islamic Beliefs

*Islam, [is-LAHM] – literally, "seeking a state of peace" – the religion of belief in One God, revealed through the prophets from Adam through Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, whose final prophet is Muhammad. Islam is the name given in the Qur’an, and refers to the state of peace achieved through submission to God. A Muslim is a follower of Islam.

*Allah [al-Lah]– literally, "the God" – this name means the one God, who is all-Powerful and who created everything in the universe. Allah is also called Rabb, the Lord of Abraham and all other prophets. In the Arabic language, Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews also use the term Allah for God. The Qur’an lists 99 attributes, or names of God.

Qur’an [kur-AAN] – the holy book of Islam, which Muslims believe is a divinely revealed scripture sent to Muhammad from God through the Angel Gabriel in the Arabic language. The Qur’an is the source of guidance in a Muslim’s daily life, and a source of knowledge about God and His creation. Muslims only consider the Qur’an authentic as read and recited in Arabic but translations may express its meaning as an aid to understanding, not as a substitute for the original scripture.

Akhirah [AA-khi-RA] – life after death. An important theme in the Qur’an is that after life in this world, every human will be judged by God for the good and bad they did on earth, and receive just reward or punishment for their deeds.

Resurrection – raising from the dead. The Qur’an teaches that every human being will be brought back to life after they die to be judged by God on the Day of Judgment.

*Monotheismthe belief that there is only one God. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are known as the three monotheistic faiths.

Jibreel [jib-REEL] – also known as "Gabriel" – the Angel who brought revelation to each of the prophets, or God’s messengers. Muslims believe that Gabriel brought revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad over a period of 23 years.

Hadith [hah-DEETH] – the recorded tradition of the words and deeds of Muhammad, transmitted by his companions and later compiled into authoritative collections during the 8th and 9th centuries CE.

E. Muslim Practices

Khutbah [KHUT-bah] – a public sermon or speech held every Friday in the masjid before the midday prayer.

*Salah [sa-LAAH] – the five daily prayers, second of the Five Pillars of Islam. These obligatory or required prayers are offered at dawn, at noon, in mid-afternoon, at sundown, and after twilight.

Hijab [hee-JAAB] – a term used for the head covering worn by Muslim women. Literally, "a condition of modesty," it also means the public appearance of women wearing loose-fitting clothing that reveals only her hands and face.

*Jihad [ji-HAAD] – literally, "making an effort," "striving," or "struggling" – Jihad can mean the effort to improve oneself and resist doing bad deeds, a struggle against injustice, or limited warfare for a just cause.

*Five Pillars – five basic acts of worship required of every able-bodied Muslim. They are (1) shahada, testifying to belief in one God and Muhammad’s prophethood, (2) salah, performing five daily prayers, (3) zakah, paying the poor due, (4) siyam, fasting in the month of Ramadan, (5) performing the hajj, or pilgrimage to Makkah once in a lifetime.


Handout 1:1b – VOCABULARY

Place Names

Individuals and Groups

Events in Muslim History