3.1 Component 1: The study of religions: beliefs, teachings and practices

Students should study any two of the following:

  • Buddhism
  • Christianity
  • Catholic Christianity
  • Hinduism
  • Islam
  • Judaism
  • Sikhism.
Christianity and Catholic Christianity is a prohibited combination.

3.1.1 Buddhism

Students should be aware that Buddhism is one of the diverse religious traditions and beliefs in Great Britain today and that the main religious tradition in Great Britain is Christianity. This knowledge may be applied throughout the assessment of the specified content.

Students should study the beliefs, teachings and practices of Buddhism specified below and their basis in Buddhist sources of wisdom and authority. They should be able to refer to scripture and/or sacred texts where appropriate. Some texts are prescribed for study in the content set out below and questions may be set on them. Students may refer to any relevant text in their answers and AQA will publish a list of appropriate texts as part of the supporting material for this specification. These additional texts will not be required for study, alternatives may be used, and questions will not be set on them.

Students should study the influence of the beliefs, teachings and practices studied on individuals, communities and societies.

Common and divergent views within Buddhism in the way beliefs and teachings are understood and expressed should be included throughout. Students may refer to a range of Buddhist perspectives in their answers, for example, Theravada, Mahayana, Zen and Pure Land. They must study the specific differences identified below.

3.1.1.1 Key Beliefs

The Dhamma (Dharma)

  • The concept of Dhamma (Dharma).
  • The concept of dependent arising (paticcasamupada).
  • The Three Marks of Existence:
    • anicca (impermanence)
    • anatta (no fixed self)
    • dukkha (unsatisfactoriness of life, suffering).
  • The human personality, in the Theravada and Mahayana traditions:
    • Theravada: the Five Aggregates (skandhas) of form, sensation, perception, mental formations, consciousness
    • Mahayana: sunyata, the possibility of attaining Buddhahood and Buddha-nature.
  • Human destiny:
    • different ideals in Theravada and Mahayana traditions: Arhat (a ‘perfected person’) and Bodhisattva ideals
    • Buddhahood and the Pure Land.

The Buddha and the Four Noble Truths

  • The Buddha’s life and its significance:
    • the birth of the Buddha and his life of luxury
    • the Four Sights: illness, old age, death, holy man (Jataka 075)
    • the Buddha’s ascetic life
    • the Buddha’s Enlightenment.

  • The Four Noble Truths:
    • suffering (dukkha) including different types of suffering
    • the causes of suffering (samudaya); the Three Poisons, ignorance, greed and hate
    • the end of craving (tanha), interpretations of nibbana (nirvana) and Enlightenment
    • the Eightfold Path (magga) to nibbana/nirvana; the pathas the Threefold Way: ethics (sila), meditation (samadhi) and wisdom (panna). Dhammapada 190–191.

3.1.1.2 Practices

Worship and festivals

  • The nature, use and importance of Buddhist places of worship including temples, shrines, monasteries (viharas), halls for meditation or learning (gompas) and their key features including Buddha rupa, artefacts and offerings.
  • Puja, the significance and role of puja/devotional ritual in the home and in the temple, including chanting, both as a devotional practice and as an aid to mental concentration, mantra recitation, use of malas.
  • Meditation, the different aims, significance and methods of meditation:
    • Samatha (concentration and tranquillity) including mindfulness of breathing
    • Vipassana (insight) including zazen
    • the visualisation of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
  • The practice and significance of different ceremonies and rituals associated with death and mourning in Theravada communities and in Japan and Tibet.

  • Festivals and retreats and their importance to Buddhists in Great Britain today, including the celebrations, origins and significance of:
    • Wesak
    • Parinirvana Day.

Buddhist ethics

  • Ethical teaching:
    • kamma (karma) and rebirth
    • compassion (karuna)
    • loving kindness (metta).
  • The five moral precepts:
    • do not take life
    • do not take what is not given
    • do not misuse the senses
    • do not speak falsehoods
    • do not take intoxicants that cloud the mind.
  • The six perfections in the Mahayanan tradition:
    • generosity
    • morality
    • patience
    • energy
    • meditation
    • wisdom, including how the individual develops these perfections within themselves.

3.1.2 Christianity

Students should be aware that Christianity is one of the diverse religious traditions and beliefs in Great Britain today and that the main religious tradition in Great Britain is Christianity. This knowledge may be applied throughout the assessment of the specified content.

Students should study the beliefs, teachings and practices of Christianity specified below and their basis in Christian sources of wisdom and authority. They should be able to refer to scripture and/or sacred texts where appropriate. Some texts are prescribed for study in the content set out below and questions may be set on them. Students may refer to any relevant text in their answers and AQA will publish a list of appropriate texts as part of the supporting material for this specification. These additional texts will not be required for study, alternatives may be used, and questions will not be set on them.

Students should study the influence of the beliefs, teachings and practices studied on individuals, communities and societies.

Common and divergent views within Christianity in the way beliefs and teachings are understood and expressed should be included throughout. Students may refer to a range of different Christian perspectives in their answers including Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. They must study the specific differences identified below.

3.1.2.1 Beliefs and teachings

Key beliefs

  • The nature of God:
    • God as omnipotent, loving and just, and the problem of evil and suffering
    • the oneness of God and the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • Different Christian beliefs about creation including the role of Word and Spirit (John 1:1-3 and Genesis 1:1-3).
  • Different Christian beliefs about the afterlife and their importance, including: resurrection and life after death; judgement, heaven and hell.

Jesus Christ and salvation

  • Beliefs and teachings about:

    • the incarnation and Jesus as the Son of God
    • the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension
    • sin, including original sin
    • the means of salvation, including law, grace and Spirit
    • the role of Christ in salvation including the idea of atonement.

3.1.2.2 Practices

Worship and festivals

  • Different forms of worship and their significance:
    • liturgical, non-liturgical and informal, including the use of the Bible
    • private worship.
  • Prayer and its significance, including the Lord’s Prayer, set prayers and informal prayer.
  • The role and meaning of the sacraments:
    • the meaning of sacrament
    • the sacrament of baptism and its significance for Christians; infant and believers' baptism; different beliefs about infant baptism
    • the sacrament of Holy Communion/Eucharist and its significance for Christians, including different ways in which it is celebrated and different interpretations of its meaning.
  • The role and importance of pilgrimage and celebrations including:
    • two contrasting examples of Christian pilgrimage: Lourdes and Iona
    • the celebrations of Christmas and Easter, including their importance for Christians in Great Britain today.

The role of the church in the local and worldwide community

  • The role of the Church in the local community, including food banks and street pastors.
  • The place of mission, evangelism and Church growth.
  • The importance of the worldwide Church including:
    • working for reconciliation
    • how Christian churches respond to persecution
    • the work of one of the following: Catholic Agency For Overseas Development (CAFOD), Christian Aid, Tearfund.

3.1.3 Catholic Christianity

Students should be aware that Catholic Christianity is one of the diverse religious traditions and beliefs in Great Britain today and that the main religious tradition in Great Britain is Christianity. This knowledge may be applied throughout the assessment of the specified content.

Students should study the beliefs, teachings and practices of Catholic Christianity specified below and their basis in Catholic Christian sources of wisdom and authority. They should be able to refer to scripture and/or sacred texts where appropriate. Some texts are prescribed for study in the content set out below and questions may be set on them. Students may refer to any relevant text in their answers and AQA will publish a list of appropriate texts as part of the supporting material for this specification. These additional texts will not be required for study, alternatives may be used, and questions will not be set on them.

Students should study the influence of the beliefs, teachings and practices studied on individuals, communities and societies.

Common and divergent views within Christianity in the way beliefs and teachings are understood and expressed should be included throughout. Students may refer to a range of Christian perspectives in their answers including Orthodox and Protestant. They must study the specific differences identified below.

3.1.3.1 Beliefs and teachings

Key beliefs

  • One God as a Trinity of persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as expressed in the Nicene Creed; the scriptural origins of this belief and its development in the Council of Nicaea.
  • Creation: Biblical accounts of creation (Genesis 1 and 2) and their significance for an understanding of the nature of God, the dignity of human beings and of humanity’s relationship with creation. Different Christian beliefs about creation.
  • Incarnation: the belief in Jesus as incarnate Son, divine Word, both fully God and fully human and the scriptural origins of this belief.
  • Redemption: the significance of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus for Catholic beliefs about salvation and grace.
  • Beliefs about life after death: resurrection, judgement, heaven, hell and purgatory.

The seven sacraments

  • The meaning and significance of ‘sacrament’ and the importance of the sacramental nature of reality.
  • The names, meanings and effects of the seven sacraments:
    • baptism
    • confirmation
    • reconciliation
    • anointing of the sick
    • matrimony
    • holy orders
    • the eucharist: its status as 'the source and summit of Christian life'; different Christian views about its meaning and importance.

3.1.3.2 Practices

Worship

  • Prayer:
    • prayer as 'the raising of the mind and heart to God'
    • formal prayers and informal prayer, including different views about their relative importance
    • the meaning and importance of the Lord’s Prayer.
  • The role and importance of forms of popular piety including the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross.
  • The role and importance of pilgrimage, including a study of one place of Roman Catholic pilgrimage, and different Christian views about the importance of pilgrimage.
  • The funeral rite and its significance.

The work of the Church

  • Catholic beliefs about the essential duty to ‘love our neighbour’ in concrete ways locally, nationally and globally and how these beliefs are reflected in:
    • Catholic social teaching including Gaudium et Spes paragraph 26
    • Catholic teaching on justice, peace and reconciliation
    • The work of Catholic agencies including CAFOD, Trocaire, Missio.
  • The meaning and significance of mission and evangelism for Catholics today, globally and in Great Britain, both nationally and locally.
  • The aims and importance of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SVP).
  • The aims and importance of either the Corrymeela community or Pax Christi.

3.1.4 Hinduism

Students should be aware that Hinduism is one of the diverse religious traditions and beliefs in Great Britain today and that the main religious tradition in Great Britain is Christianity. This knowledge may be applied throughout the assessment of the specified content.

Students should study the beliefs, teachings and practices of Hinduism specified below and their basis in Hindu sources of wisdom and authority. They should be able to refer to scripture and/or sacred texts where appropriate. Some texts are prescribed for study in the content set out below and questions may be set on them. Students may refer to any relevant text in their answers and AQA will publish a list of appropriate texts as part of the supporting material for this specification. These additional texts will not be required for study, alternatives may be used, and questions will not be set on them.

Students should study the influence of the beliefs, teachings and practices studied on individuals, communities and societies.

Common and divergent views within Hinduism in the way beliefs and teachings are understood and expressed should be included throughout. Students may refer to a range of different Hindu perspectives in their answers, including Shaivism and Vaishnavism. They must study the specific differences identified below.

3.1.4.1 Beliefs and teachings

Ideas about the nature of God and existence

  • Brahman: different Hindu understandings of brahman; ultimate reality as divine consciousness (nirguna) and manifestation of God in form (saguna); spiritual worlds.
  • Different understandings of the three features of the divine:
    • everywhere, as non-personal (brahman)
    • within the heart
    • beyond, as a personal loving God
    • Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 391.
  • How the divine presents:
    • the Tri-murti: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva
    • male and female deities, including Ganesha, Lakshmi, Hanuman, Saraswati
    • the concept of avatara, including Krishna, Rama.
  • Matter (prakriti); the three qualities (tri-guna); illusion (maya); cosmology (Rig Veda 10.129.6-7); the cycle of four ages; many worlds and their diverse inhabitants.

Beliefs about the nature of human life

  • The concept of atman, as individual, eternal inner self, distinct from material mind and body.
  • Cycle of birth and death: samsara; moral action and reaction: the law of karma; types of liberation: moksha.
  • Individual free will and responses to suffering; knowledge and ignorance.
  • Personal virtues including ahimsa, respect, empathy, mind/sense control, humility, love.
  • The four aims of human life: dharma, artha, kama, moksha.
  • The meaning of dharma; sanatana dharma; varnashrama dharma.

3.1.4.2 Practices

Worship and festivals

  • Places of worship and their importance: home; temple; outdoors (such as shrines); the space of the heart
  • Different forms of worship/meditation and their significance: havan, puja, arati, darshan, bhajan/kirtan, japa/mantra; key differences in worship in Shaivism and Vaishnavism and different Hindu views about the importance of worship.
  • Focuses of worship and representations of the divine and their importance:
    • one God (personal or non-personal)
    • the many deities, guru and other elders
    • holy land, hills and rivers
    • sacred plants and animals
    • the murti as a representation of God.
  • Sacred festivals and their importance for Hindus in Great Britain today, including the origins and meaning of:
    • Diwali
    • Holi.

Lifestyle

  • The four paths towards yoga (union with the divine), their differences and their importance:
    • action (karma yoga)
    • knowledge (jnana yoga)
    • meditation (astanga yoga)
    • devotion (bhakti yoga).
  • Pilgrimage:
    • the role of pilgrimage
    • practices and purposes
    • sacred sites, including Varanasi
    • Kumbh Mela.
  • The work and significance of:
    • Hindu environmental projects including ‘cow protection’ and their significance.
    • Charities that promote well-being, social inclusion and women’s rights.

3.1.5 Islam

Students should be aware that Islam is one of the diverse religious traditions and beliefs in Great Britain today and that the main religious tradition in Great Britain is Christianity. This knowledge may be applied throughout the assessment of the specified content.

Students should study the beliefs, teachings and practices of Islam specified below and their basis in Islamic sources of wisdom and authority. They should be able to refer to scripture and other writings where appropriate. Some texts are prescribed for study in the content set out below and questions may be set on them. Students may refer to any relevant text in their answers and AQA will publish a list of appropriate texts as part of the supporting material for this specification. These additional texts will not be required for study, alternatives may be used, and questions will not be set on them.

Students should study the influence of the beliefs, teachings and practices studied on individuals, communities and societies.

Common and divergent views within Islam in the way beliefs and teachings are understood and expressed should be included throughout. Students may refer to a range of different Muslim perspectives in their answers, including those from Sunni and Shi’a Islam. They must study the specific differences identified below.

3.1.5.1 Beliefs and teachings

Key Beliefs

  • The six articles of faith in Sunni Islam and five roots of Usul ad-Din in Shi’a Islam, including key similarities and differences.
  • Tawhid (the Oneness of God), Qur’an Surah 112.
  • The nature of God: omnipotence, beneficence, mercy, fairness and justice/Adalat in Shi’a Islam, including different ideas about God’s relationship with the world: immanence and transcendence.
  • Angels, their nature and role, including Jibril and Mika’il.
  • Predestination and human freedom and its relationship to the Day of Judgement.
  • Akhirah (life after death), human responsibility and accountability, resurrection, heaven and hell.

Authority

  • Risalah (Prophethood) including the role and importance of Adam, Ibrahim and Muhammad.
  • The holy books:
    • Qur’an: revelation and authority
    • the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospel, the Scrolls of Abraham and their authority.
  • The imamate in Shi'a Islam: its role and significance.

3.1.5.2 Practices

Worship

  • Five Pillars of Sunni Islam and the Ten Obligatory Acts of Shi’a Islam (students should study the Five Pillars and jihad in both Sunni and Shi’a Islam and the additional duties of Shi’a Islam).
  • Shahadah: declaration of faith and its place in Muslim practice.
  • Salah and its significance: how and why Muslims pray including times, directions, ablution (wudu), movements (rak’ahs) and recitations; salah in the home and mosque and elsewhere; Friday prayer: Jummah; key differences in the practice of salah in Sunni and Shi’a Islam, and different Muslim views about the importance of prayer.

Duties and festivals

  • Sawm: the role and significance of fasting during the month of Ramadan including origins, duties, benefits of fasting, the exceptions and their reasons, and the Night of Power, Qur’an 96:1-5.
  • Zakah: the role and significance of giving alms including origins, how and why it is given, benefits of receipt, Khums in Shi’a Islam.
  • Hajj: the role and significance of the pilgrimage to Makkah including origins, how hajj is performed, the actions pilgrims perform at sites including the Ka’aba at Makkah, Mina, Arafat, Muzdalifah and their significance.
  • Jihad: different understandings of jihad: the meaning and significance of greater and lesser jihad; origins, influence and conditions for the declaration of lesser jihad.
  • Festivals and commemorations and their importance for Muslims in Great Britain today, including the origins and meanings of Id-ul-Adha, Id-ul-Fitr, Ashura.

3.1.6 Judaism

Students should be aware that Judaism is one of the diverse religious traditions and beliefs in Great Britain today and that the main religious tradition in Great Britain is Christianity. This knowledge may be applied throughout the assessment of the specified content.

Students should study the beliefs, teachings and practices of Judaism specified below and their basis in Jewish sources of wisdom and authority. They should be able to refer to scripture and/or sacred texts where appropriate. Some texts are prescribed for study in the content set out below and questions may be set on them. Students may refer to any relevant text in their answers and AQA will publish a list of appropriate texts as part of the supporting material for this specification. These additional texts will not be required for study, alternatives may be used, and questions will not be set on them.

Students should study the influence of the beliefs, teachings and practices studied on individuals, communities and societies.

Common and divergent views within Judaism in the way beliefs and teachings are understood and expressed should be included throughout. Students may refer to a range of different Jewish perspectives in their answers, for example, Orthodox, Reform and Liberal Judaism. They must study the specific differences identified below.

3.1.6.1 Beliefs and teachings

Key beliefs

  • The nature of God:
    • God as one
    • God as Creator
    • God as Law-Giver and Judge, loving and merciful.
  • The divine presence (Shekhinah).
  • Beliefs about life after death, including judgement and resurrection.
  • The nature and role of the Messiah, including different views on the role and importance of the Messiah.

The Covenant and the mitzvot

  • The promised land and the Covenant with Abraham, Genesis 12:1-3.
  • The Covenant at Sinai and its importance including the role of Moses and the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:1-17.
  • Key moral principles including justice, healing the world, charity and kindness to others.
  • The importance of the sanctity of human life, including the concept of ‘saving a life’ (Pikuach Nefesh).
  • The relationship between free will and the 613 mitzvot.
  • Mitzvot between man and God and mitzvot between man and man, including the difference between them and their importance.

3.1.6.2 Practices

The synagogue and worship

  • The synagogue and its importance.
  • The design and religious features of synagogues including bimah (reading platform), aron hakodesh (ark), ner tamid (ever burning light) and associated practices; differences between Orthodox and Reform synagogues.
  • Public acts of worship including:
    • synagogue services in both Orthodox and Reform synagogues
    • the significance of prayer, including the Amidah, the standing prayer.
  • Shabbat in the home and synagogue and its significance.
  • Worship in the home and private prayer.
  • Tenakh (the written law) and Talmud (the oral law), and their study, use and significance in daily life.

Family life and festivals

  • Rituals and their significance:
    • ceremonies associated with birth including Brit Milah.
    • Bar and Bat Mitzvah
    • the marriage ceremony
    • mourning rituals.
  • Dietary laws and their significance, including different Jewish views about their importance.
    • kosher and trefah
    • separation of milk and meat.
  • Festivals and their importance for Jews in Great Britain today, including the origins and meaning of:
    • Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
    • Pesach.

3.1.7 Sikhism

Students should be aware that Sikhism is one of the diverse religious traditions and beliefs in Great Britain today and that the main religious tradition in Great Britain is Christianity. This knowledge may be applied throughout the assessment of the specified content.

Students should study the beliefs, teachings and practices of Sikhism specified below and their basis in Sikh sources of wisdom and authority. They should be able to refer to scripture and/or sacred texts as appropriate. Some texts are prescribed for study in the content set out below and questions may be set on them. Students may refer to any relevant text in their answers and AQA will publish a list of appropriate texts as part of the supporting material for this specification. These additional texts will not be required for study, alternatives may be used, and questions will not be set on them.

Students should study the influence of the beliefs, teachings and practices studied on individuals, communities and societies.

Common and divergent views within Sikhism in the way beliefs and teachings are understood and expressed should be included throughout. Students may refer to a range of Sikh perspectives in their answers, for example to the perspective of sahajdhari and amritdhari Sikhs and the different emphases in different texts. They must study the specific differences identified below.

3.1.7.1 Beliefs and teachings

Key beliefs

  • The nature of God as expressed in the Mool Mantra: the content and significance of the Mool Mantra, Guru Granth Sahib (GGS) 1a.
  • God as Creator, including different aspects of God’s relationship with creation:
    • God shown in and through the universe
    • God as separate from the universe
  • The nature of human life as an opportunity to unite with God, including the development of Sikh virtues such as wisdom, truthful living, justice, temperance, self-control, patience, courage, humility, contentment.
  • Beliefs in karma and rebirth, and the aim of mukti; the meaning of mukti, including the different aspects of mukti – positive and negative.
  • The five stages of liberation (five khands) and barriers to mukti (illusion, self-centredness, lust, anger, greed, worldly attachment, pride).
  • The importance of being gurmukh (God-centred) rather than manmukh (man-centred) and the elimination of pride or ego (haumai).

Beliefs about the nature of human life

  • Belief in the oneness of humanity and in the equality of all, including complete equality of women with men.
  • The expression of the equality of all in:
    • the stories of the lives of Gurus, including Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh
    • the Guru Granth Sahib
    • in Sikhism today.
  • Sewa: the importance and priority of service to others, including physical (tan), mental (man) and material (dhan).
  • The role and importance of the sangat (religious community).

3.1.7.2 Practices

Worship and service

  • Religious features of the gurdwara: design, furniture, and artefacts; the practices associated with these features and their importance, including the palki and takht.
  • The role of the gurdwara within the Sikh community.
  • The role of prayer in the home, GGS 305:4.
  • The role and importance of the akhand path.
  • The meaning and significance of langar as an expression of sewa.
  • The significance of meditating on the name of God (nam japna) in daily life and in the gurdwara.

Festivals and lifestyle

  • Festivals and their importance for Sikhs in Great Britain today, including the origins and significance of the following:
    • Vaisakhi (Baisakhi)
    • Divali
    • Gurpurbs, including Guru Nanak’s birthday and differences in the way gurpurbs are celebrated in India and Great Britain.
  • The importance of visiting Sikh historical gurdwaras, including the Golden Temple (Harimandir Sahib) in Amritsar.
  • Birth and naming ceremonies including their meaning and significance.
  • The initiation ceremony (Amrit Sanskar), including the meaning and importance of the Khalsa and the five Ks, and the different perspectives of sahajdhari and amritdhari Sikhs.
  • The significance and use of the names Singh and Kaur.