Glossary of Terms



The caliph headed the worldwide community of Islam, the ummah. The caliph traced his leadership role from Abu Bakr, the father-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. During WWI, Mehmed V was sultan of the Ottoman Empire and caliph.


A political organizational structure where a single sovereign authority or metropolis exercises control over a large territory, a number of territories or peoples through various forms of military, economic or cultural means.


A ruling on a point of Islamic law, written by an Islamic legal scholar called a mufti

Holy war

War fought for a religious purpose or on the belief of divine command.


A major world religion, founded on the life, work and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad in Arabia in the 7th century CE. The Arabic term "islam" translates to "surrender": the believer actively accepts surrender to the will of Allah (God).


Often translated as "holy war". In Arabic, jihad means “striving.” Jihad can be understood as an internal struggle to honor divine expectations (greater jihad) or as external, violent warfare against non-Muslims (lesser jihad). Jihad also can transcend these definitions to mean struggle itself – an all-out mustering of effort in the face of a great challenge.


A language derivative of the Latin "Caesar": The German Emperor, the Emperor of Austria, or the Holy Roman Empire.


An Islamic legal scholar, empowered to give rulings on religious matters.


From the active particle of "Islam" in Arabic: a follower of the religion of Islam.

Ottoman Empire

An empire created by Turkish tribes in the peninsula where Asia and Europe meet (Anatolia or Asia Minor). The Ottoman Empire spanned more than 600 years and grew to be one of the most powerful states in the world during the 15th and 16th centuries. At its height, the empire encompassed most of southeastern Europe to Vienna, including present-day Hungary, the Balkan region, Greece, parts of Ukraine, portions of the Middle East (now Iraq, Syria, Israel and Egypt), North Africa as far west as Algeria and large parts of the Arabian Peninsula.

Pan-Islamism or United Islam

A movement advancing the unity of all Muslims under one Islamic country, state or leader – often a caliphate. The term "Pan-Islam" or "Pan-Islamism" was most likely to be used by Europeans, whereas "United Islam" was the term preferred by Muslim political elites.


Information, ideas or images that often only present one part of an argument, spread with the intention of influencing people's opinions. Originally a religious term for missionary activities in the 17th century, the mass-produced military, humanitarian and political messaging from governments and other groups in WWI gave birth to the modern term.


The global Islam community: in Arabic, "community" or "nation." Often used to reference the collective community of Muslim people, cutting across status, tribe, nation or ancestry.

Sykes-Picot Agreement

A secret treaty in 1916 between Great Britain and France, with agreement from Russia and Italy, to define their spheres of influence and control the geographic division of the Ottoman Empire following World War I.

Young Turks

Known also as the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), the Young Turks was a coalition of reform groups that led a revolutionary movement against the regime of Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II, culminating in the establishment of a constitutional government for the Ottoman Empire. The Young Turks promoted the modernization of the Ottoman Empire with a progressive agenda and a goal of Turkish national unity. The Young Turks' handling of affairs within the empire, however, resulted in the dissolution of the Ottoman state.