Ahrar al-Sham: a militant rebel group rumored to have ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Alawites or Alawi: members of a religious sect of Shia Islam, based in Syria and believed to have been founded during the 9th century AD. It has its own secretive teachings and recognizes twelve Imams (legendary successors of the Prophet Mohammed). The Alawites have suffered a difficult history of persecution and displacement, because some orthodox Sunnis regard them as infidels and heretics. Sunni Muslims recognize only four Imams: the leaders of the four official schools of Sunni Islam that emerged after the death of the Prophet. The Alawites follow the Imam Ali bin Abi Talib, a cousin of the Prophet, and don’t accept the authority of Sunni Islamic traditions.
Bilad al-sham: greater Syria, which includes Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, and Syria.
Caliph: leader of the Muslim community regarded as a successor to the Prophet Mohammed.
Caliphate: territory ruled by the caliph.
Druze: a monotheistic religion incorporating Gnosticism, Neo-platonism, and various philosophies, evolving out of Ismailism, an offshoot of Shia Islam.
Islamism/Islamist: According to Wikipedia, Islamism can mean advocating the Islamization of society through the exercise of state power or via grass-roots social and political activism.” Graham Fuller, an American political analyst, specializing in Islamic extremism, has argued for “a broader notion of Islamism as a form of identity politics, involving ‘support for Muslim identity, authenticity, broader regionalism, revivalism, and the revitalization of the community.’
Central and prominent figures of modern Islamism include Hasan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood; Islamist theorist Sayyid Qutb, executed in 1966 in Egypt on a charge of plotting the assassination of Nasser; Abul Ala Maududi, founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a political party whose objective is to make Pakistan an Islamic state, governed by sharia law, through a gradual, legal, and political process; and Ruhollah Khomeini, known in the Western world as Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian Shia Muslim religious leader who led the 1979 Iranian revolution that founded the theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Maududi believed that secularism, nationalism, socialism, and women’s emancipation were the results of Western colonial imperialism and that the Islamic world needed to be intellectually independent of Western ideas. Nationalism was wrong for the Islamic world, he said, because it divided it.
According to Wikipedia, “There is much debate to as whether Khomeini’s ideas are compatible with democracy and whether he intended the Islamic Republic to be a democratic republic. According to the state-run Aftab News, both ultraconservative and reformist opponents of the regime believe he did not, while regime officials and supporters like Ali Khamenei Mohammad Khatami, and Mortaza Motahhari believe Khomeini intended the Islamic republic to be democratic and that it is so. Khomeini himself made statements at different times indicating both support and opposition to democracy.”
I personally don’t see how a theocracy like Iran – or Israel – that doesn’t give all its citizens equal rights regardless of ethnic origins or belief (or lack of it) can be a democracy.
Ismailism: Tracing its earliest theology to the lifetime of Muhammad, Ismailism rose at one point to become the largest branch of Shi’ism, climaxing as a political power: the Fatimid Caliphate (10th through 12th centuries). Ismailis believe in the oneness of God, as well as the closing of divine revelation with Muhammad, whom they see as the final Prophet and Messenger of God to humanity.
Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra): a militant rebel group allied to al-Qaeda and designated as a terrorist organization by various bodies, including the United Nations.
Shabiha: armed militant supporters of the Ba’ath Party and Assad’s regime
Sharia: Islamic law, derived from the religious precepts of Islam, particularly the Quran and the Hadith. In Arabic, the term refers to God’s immutable divine law, in contrast with fiqh, which refers to its human scholarly interpretations. The manner of its application in modern times has been a subject of dispute between Muslim traditionalists and reformists.
Shia: the second largest denomination of Islam, who regard Ali, the fourth caliph, as Mohammed’s true successor.
Takfir: In Islamic law, takfir refers to the practice of excommunication, one Muslim declaring another Muslim as kafir (non-believer). Orthodox Islamic law normally requires stringent evidence for such accusations, in many cases requiring an Islamic court or a religious leader to pronounce a fatwa (legal judgment) of takfir against an individual or group.