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Al-Aqsa Literally translated as “The Far Edge” in Arabic. Over time the term has become synonymous with Jerusalem.

Al-Haj The pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims are required to make. It happens once a year.

Al Islam Huwa al-Hal “Islam is the Solution”—a central slogan of the Muslim Brotherhood

Al-muqawama al-Masullah The Armed Resistance

Al-Muqawama w’al Muman’aah “The Resistance and Defiance.” It is an idea and a concept that spread within the Muslim world’s intellectual, political, and cultural discourse following World War II. Initially, it was primarily in the context of the North African struggle to end Western control. The original idea was that the way Arabs and Muslims—as communities and as individuals—can enhance their lives is through the creation of a cultural and political life that emphasizes the enlightened moral values of Islam, the noble tradition of Arab culture, combined with the modern concepts of emancipation and statehood. In the last generation, al-Muqawama has become ‘the code word’ for the rejection of Western power, the destruction of the State of Israel, and liberating Palestine. Under this concept, Iran embraces and finances a set of execution agents such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other proxies in the region.

Allah The One God

Arab Spring/Arab Awakening A wave of protests in the Arab world that began in Tunisia in 2010 and spread quickly to many Arab countries—including Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, and Syria. At the core of the protest were demands for real answers to the profound economic and social challenges and demands for political reforms, enhancement of individual and political rights, etc.

Ash-Sham For centuries, the Arabic name referred to a geographic area consisting of today’s Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

Alliance of Moderation “Mihwar al E’itidal,” an informal alliance of central Arab states—Egypt, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, UAE—Jordan, and Israel. The alliance reflects its members’ joint strategic interests—blocking the Iranian and Turkish threats and fostering economic and technological cooperation to address current and expected needs.

The Axis of Resistance and Defiance “Mihwar al Muqawama.” Under the banner of Al-Muqawama w(al) Mumanna’ah (the Resistance and Defiance), Iran cultivates and finances a powerful network of allies, agents, and proxies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, Iraqi Shi’ite militias, Afghan Shi’ite militias, Pakistani Shi’ite militia, the Houthi tribes in Yemen and other proxies in the region. Their role—among other things—is to help Iran in its aspiration to become the dominant superpower

Ayatollah Two words in Arabic that mean “Sign of God.” It is pronounced as one word; however, it is made of two words, aya (sign, flag, verse) and Allah (The God). A senior cleric status within Shi’ite theological order.

Caliph Caliph is part of the Arabic term “Caliphat Rasul Allah”—“the replacer of Allah’s Messenger (Prophet Muhammad).” The first four Caliphs in Islam are known as the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs—who were either nominated by their predecessor or elected by a religious council.

Caliphate A global Islamic cultural, political, and religious entity run by shariah law in which no other independent or sovereign state exists.

Caliphat Rasul Allah Translated as “the replacer of Allah’s “God’s” messenger (Prophet Muhammad).” The first four caliphs in Islam are known as the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs— who were either nominated by their predecessor or elected by a religious advisory council. The fourth caliph was ‘Ali Bin Abi Talib. He was a cousin and the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. He ruled from 656 until he was assassinated in 661

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Also known as the “One Road, One Belt Project” or the New Silk Road. It is a massive infrastructure project that would stretch from East Asia to Europe. The plan has two pillars: the overland Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road Economic, Commercial, and Trade Belt, designed to create a vast network of railways, energy pipelines, highways, harbors, etc., connecting China with different areas globally.

Exporting the Islamic Revolution A strategy aimed to position the Islamic Republic of Iran as the hegemonic power in the Middle East and pave the way for the Mahdi’s return (the Messiah in Shi’ite Islam).

Intifada Literally translated as “recovering from an illness.” The name of the Palestinian uprisings of 1987 to 1993 and 2000 to 2007. The first intifada occurred in 1987-1993, characterized by mass protests by Palestinians (demonstrations, strikes, riots, etc.) in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, and terrorist attacks such as Molotov Cocktails and stabbing attacks. The second uprising occurred during 2000-2007 and was characterized mainly by lethal terrorist activities, including suicide bombings attacks. Both waves of violence changed the lives of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis.

Iranian-backed Shi’ite Militia Proxies Examples: Afghani Al-Fatemiyoun, the Iraqi ‘Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Harakat al-Nujaba, Kataib Hezbollah, Imam’ Ali brigades, the Lebanese Hezbollah; Pakistani Liwa Zainebiyoun; and the Palestinian Harakat as-Sabireen Nasran li-Filastin in the Gaza Strip

Iranian Land Corridor A land bridge that begins in Iran and travels west: it crosses through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon and ends in the Mediterranean Sea. The corridor is critical for Iran’s hegemonic vision.

Islam A dedication to the complete and absolute acceptance of the idea of one god—Allah.

Islamic Fundamentalism and Militant Islam Islamic fundamentalism shares the same ultimate vision of political Islam. Muslim fundamentalists want to create a Caliphate ruled by the strictest interpretation of the sharīʿah. Islamic fundamentalists entirely reject Western values and call for returning to the early years of Islam’s pure ideals and laws. Islamic fundamentalists that want to implement sharīʿah law according to the most puritan dogmatic interpretation are known as Salafists. The ideology they ascribe to is known as Salafi. The word salaf means “what has been previously.” Salafism’s core ideology is that Islam will thrive and flourish again once Muslims return to the roots, to the origin of Islam, and adopt and apply the Islamic codes, law, norms, and values as they were in the time of the Prophet Muhammad and his first four successors. Contemporary Islamic fundamentalism (called in Arabic Usuliyah, which means “going back to the origin or lexicon 553 the roots”) has two branches. One branch is the non-militant Salafi Islamist fundamentalist camp. Non-militant Salafi Islamists are called Usuliyun. Usuliyun follow a strict interpretation of sharīʿah law. But they do not try to impose it on others forcefully. Instead, they use preaching, education, and political actions to try to gain followers, grow the movement, and fulfill their religious objectives. Some choose to isolate themselves and minimize their interaction with the surrounding society, state authorities, and institutions. The other branch of contemporary Islamic fundamentalism is the militant camp—Militant Islam. Fundamental militant Islam adheres to the SalafiJihadi ideology. Militant Islamists are often called Usuliyun Mutashaddidun or al-Mutashaddidun al-Islamiyyun. As we said earlier, the word usilyun or usuliyah means “the origin or the roots.” The word Mutashaddidun means “extremist.”Militant Islamists are what is often referred to in Western media as “extreme fundamentalists” or “extreme Islamic fundamentalists” or “radical fundamentalists.” The West is most familiar with the following militant Islam Salafi-jihadi ideology groups Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab “The Youth” in Somalia, African-based Boko Haram “Western Values are Forbidden,” Global Jihad, ISIS, Islamic Jihad, and the Taliban. A core value of all Salafi-jihadists is the concept of Talb a-Shahada—”the quest for martyrdom for the glory of Islam and Allah’s rule.” To summarize their value system: It is good, necessary, and noble to kill and be killed for the sake of Allah. For militant Islamist groups, violence is an essential tool that they must use to bring about the caliphate.

Iranian Agents Examples of Iranian agents are the Palestinian Sunni Islamist groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine (IJIP) in the Gaza Strip (though both are Sunni, not Shi’ite), and Ansar Allah, the military force of the Shi’ite Houthi tribes in Yemen.

Iranian Proxies Examples of Iranian proxy Shi’ite militias Iran has created are the Afghani Al-Fatemiyoun, the Iraqi ‘Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Harakat al-Nujaba, Kataib Hezbollah, Imam’ Ali brigades, the Lebanese Hezbollah; Pakistani Liwa Zainebiyoun; and the Palestinian Harakat as-Sabireen Nasran li-Filastin in the Gaza Strip

Islamic Revolution In a series of events called the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and his followers seized power from Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who had ruled Iran since 1941. The Pahlavi dynasty had ruled Iran since 1925.

Islamist A Muslim that is committed to proactively spreading and implementing Islam through political, cultural, or militant action. It can be different versions of Islam, according to their orthodoxy and ideology

Jerusalemite Palestinian Jerusalem is the capitol of Israel. The city’s population is about 940,000 people. About 563,000 are Jews, and 360,000 are Arabs, of whom 345,000 are Muslims. Most of the Arabs in the city are also known as Jerusalemite Palestinians. Most of the Jerusalemite Palestinians are permanent residents of Israel

Jihad The word Jihad in Arabic literally means “an effort.” It comes from the widely known Arabic concept Jihad fi Sabil Allah, “an effort to implement Allah’s way.” In the very early days, Islam was on the run. Operating in a hostile environment, the prophet Muhammad and his first disciples had to exercise jihad—an intensive spiritual journey to reach a higher degree of inner purity in their beliefs and to try to be a purer worshiper of Allah. Throughout the evolution and expansion of Islam, jihad has become much more associated with the Muslim’s willingness to sacrifice materially—including sacrificing their lives—for the glory of Islam and Allah. Salafi-jihadi ideology’s core belief is that Islam will thrive again once it adopts the codes, laws, and values as they were in the time of the Prophet Muhammad and his first four successors. However, to achieve this goal, Salafi-jihadists violently impose their ideology and rules. Jihad fi Sabil Alla

Militant Islam An ideology committed to creating a global Caliphate through force and violence. The Caliphate they seek should be ruled by the strictest translation and application of the Islamic religious codex – the shari’ah law

Mullah Iran is an Islamic Theocracy. Therefore, though there is a parliament and a president, the mullahs hold the power. A mullah is a Shi’ite clerical rank. Islam ranks its clerics—similar to the ranks in the Church or an army. The highest position is the ‘Ayatollah Uzma’ (The Grand Ayatollah). The highest spiritual center of the Shi’ites is located in Najaf and Karbala—cities in southern Iraq. Other major spiritual and theological centers of the Shi’a are located in Qom and Mashhad—cities in Iran. The Iraqi and Iranian Shi’ite theological centers have generated different, sometimes opposing, theological outlooks, resulting in a long history of rivalry over influence and prestige.

Mujahedeen Muslims who fight (jihad) on behalf of the faith or the Muslim community (ummah)

Normalization In the vernacular of the Middle East, the concept of ‘Normalization’ is a term that means recognizing Israel’s existence in any manner or cooperating with Israel in any shape or form. The word describing ‘Normalization’ in Arabic is Tatb’ie. It is a word that can be translated as “making things natural,” but also can be translated as “to stain,” or to create something artificial.

Particularism An exclusive attachment to one’s own group, party, or nation. The principle of leaving each state in an empire or federation free to govern itself and promote its own interests, without reference to those of the whole.

Particularistic Nationalism The desire for national autonomy and sovereignty based on national characteristics and a distinct particular culture that evolves into the demand for political sovereignty. In Particularistic Nationalism, patriotism is linked to maintaining cultural integrity. It is patriotism based on cultural needs, which aims to secure and maintain a people’s right to its own territory.

Statehood Model based on Particularism A model of statehood that centers around the concept of “Watan” (the Homeland). In the “Watan” model, there is a sense of solidarity with all Arab states, and “Arab” as an ethnicity is a central (though not the only) component of the identity of the state. However, each state is independent and sovereign. The “Watan” model also emphasizes the state’s unique characteristics (local history, traditions, societal fabric, etc.) and independence and sovereignty

The Persian Civilization The Persians are not Arabs. They do not come from the Arabian Peninsula. They come from Persia. They do not speak Arabic; they speak Farsi. Persians were pagans. As Islam rapidly spread, the Persian civilization adopted Sunni Islam. But in the Middle Ages, the Persian ruling dynasty adopted the Shi’ite orthodoxy, which has been the primary religion of Persia ever since.

Operation Northern Shield The Israel Defense Forces launched Operation Northern Shield (December 2018–January 2019) to expose and neutralize cross-border attack tunnels that Hezbollah dug from Lebanon into Israel.

Political Islam A general name for Islamic political parties, movements, and organizations that participate in their countries’ political domestic system. Political Islam wishes to advance an Islamist ideology centered around the vision of a global, pan-Islamist entity—the Caliphate through its political action. In the Caliphate, no other independent or sovereign state exists. The Caliphate should be governed & ruled by the sharīʿah. Islamist theologists believe the sharīʿah is the master plan given to humankind by Allah (God). Therefore, it is perfect and flawless. Any other political philosophy or political system—communism, democracy, socialism, etc.—is unacceptable to political Islam because it is human-made. And therefore, it is imperfect, unjust, and doomed to fail. Moreover, adopting any of these systems defies Allah’s will

Qaum/Pan-Arabism Pan-Arabism is committed to the creation of an entity with no physical borders that brings together all Arabs as one nation—a “Qaum.” The Qaum model rejects the concept of a “particularistic” national statehood (Watan and Wataniya). Instead, it promotes a framework that there should be one united political entity for all Arabs as one nation

Ramadan The ninth month of the Islamic (lunar) calendar. A month of prayer and fasting during the day and eating and celebrating at night. The holiday commemorates Muhammad’s first revelation.

Salafi/Salafism Islamic ideology advocates for Muslims to live according to early Islamic core moral values.

Salafi-Jihadi A militant Islamic ideology whose goal is to establish the Islamic Caliphate through violence. The Caliphate will be ruled according to the strict translation of the sharīʿah—the Islamic religious codex.

Saudi Peace Initiative/Arab Peace Initiative Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia announced the Arab Peace Initiative (API) at the Beirut Arab League Summit in March 2002. The Saudi Plan calls for Israel to withdraw from all the territories it controlled following the 1967 War, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, Gaza. It also calls for a solution to the Palestinian refugee situation, according to UNGA Resolution 194. And it calls for establishing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capitol.  If Israel respects these parameters, the Arab League promises to “consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended” and enter into “normal relations” with Israel in a regional peace providing security for all states.

Sharīʿah Literally translated “a path.” The sharīʿah is a codex of laws developed based on a combination of the ‘Urfa (the Code of Laws of Tribes), the interpretation of the Qur’an (the Holy book of Islam), the Hadith (the oral book of Islam), and the interpretation of Islamic theologians. The Sunnis believe the Sharīʿah codex was completed and sealed in the eleventh century. The Shi’ites believe the Sharīʿah is dynamic and open to interpretation.

Shi’a/Shi’ite/Shi’at ‘Ali “The (Political) Faction of ‘Ali.” Shi’ites constitute approximately 15 percent of all Muslims in the world. Shi’ites believe that the leadership of the Islamic is a matter of inheritance. Sunnis believe it should be the most appropriate leader based on his skills. Shi’a was founded in the seventh century AD after the assassination of Hussein Bin ‘Ali Bin Abi Talib (‘Ali was the fourth Caliph of Islam) in the battle of Karbala (now a city in southern Iraq) in 680. Shi’ites claim that the leader of Islam should be a male descendant of ‘Ali bin Abi Talib.

The Shi’ite Crescent / The Iranian Crescent In December 2004, King Abdullah II of Jordan warned that Iran was developing a Shi’ite Crescent—Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Yemen, to become the regional superpower. He warned that Iran would foment instability to achieve its objective and that it would be disastrous for the region if the Shi’ite Crescent were realized. As Iranian aggression has escalated, the king has used international forums, including the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, as a platform to express his concern. And in a January 2020 interview with France24, he changed the term “Shi’ite Crescent” to the “Iranian Crescent.”

Sufism A mystical form of Islam, a school of practice that emphasizes the inward search for God and shuns materialism

Sunnah / Sunni “Sunnat al-Nabi” (The Prophet’s (Muhammad) Path/Way). About 85 percent of Muslims are Sunni. Sunnis believe that the leadership of the Islamic world is not a matter of inheritance but a choice of the most appropriate leader based on his skills. He does not rule alone. He rules side by side with and is advised by an advisory council called the “Shura”—whose role is to assist him in fulfilling his duties as a leader and in accordance with Islamic law

Takfir Roofed in the Arabic word ‘kafer’ meaning infidel. Takfir is a school of thought that has evolved within Salafi-jihadi militant Islam ideology. Takfir ideology argues that there are Muslims who do not fulfill the commandments of Islam in “the true and correct” manner. Therefore, they should not be considered Muslims. Instead, they should be viewed as enemies of Islam whose danger is even greater than those of the non-Muslim infidels. According to takfir ideology—the Muslim “infidels” are “corrupting” and “contaminating” Islam and its values from within. And as long as Islam is not “pure” from within, the ultimate vision of establishing Allah’s dominion on earth cannot be realized. Therefore, takfir ideology believes that Islam must be “purified” of “Muslim impersonators.”

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Avi Melamed
Avi Melamed
Avi Melamed is an expert on current affairs in the Arab & Muslim World and their impact on Israel & the Middle East. A former Israeli Intelligence Official & Senior Official on Arab Affairs, Fluent in Arabic, English, and Hebrew, he has held high-risk Government, Senior Advisory, Intelligence & Counter-Terrorist intelligence positions in Arab cities & communities - often in very sensitive times - on behalf of Israeli Government agencies. He is the Founder & CEO of Inside the Middle East | Intelligence Perspectives - an apolitical non-partisan curriculum using intelligence methodology to examine the Middle East. As an Author, Educator, Expert, and Strategic Intelligence Analyst, Avi provides Intelligence Analysis, Briefings, and Geopolitical Tours to diplomats, Israeli and foreign policymakers, global media outlets, and a wide variety of international businesses, organizations, and private clients on a range of Israel and Middle East Affairs.

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