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Subject specific vocabulary: Islam

This subject specific vocabulary defines the key terms in our A-level Religious Studies (7062) specification. Your students should be familiar with all these terms.

Abrahamic faiths

Usually refers to Islam, Judaism and Christianity as these three faiths all believe in the revelation of God to the prophet Abraham, and see him as a forefather. ‘Non-Abrahamic faiths’ are other religions and traditions who do not share this belief, e.g. Hinduism.

Akhirah (afterlife)

Belief in a new stage of life after death.


Literally ‘divine power;’ refers to the belief in divine destiny/control, predestination.


Descriptions of God which use human characteristics.


Important festival in Shi’a Islam, to commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein (Muhammad’s grandson). Sunni Muslims observe Ashura as a day of repentance for sins in the belief that they will be forgiven.


A disbelief, or lack of belief, in the existence of any form of God.


Having power and status. The Qur’an has supreme authority as the word of Allah, this means it must be believed and obeyed.


Shia Muslim belief in ‘revealing after concealing’ of the divine will; this does not mean the divine will changes but rather human knowledge of the will is changed from what we thought we knew/perceived of it.


From the Persian meaning ‘barrier, partition;’ belief in a place between heaven and hell, where the soul resides after death.

Big Bang theory

A scientific theory which offers an explanation for the origin of the universe. Suggests the universe began from a rapid expansion of a singularity, approximately 13.8 billion years ago.

Compassion (‘The Compassionate’)

Belief about the nature of God and one of Allah’s 99 Beautiful Names; compassion means to have and act with sympathy and concern for the suffering of others.

Darwin’s theory of evolution

The Theory of Evolution is English naturalist Charles Darwin’s explanation for the origin of life on Earth. He proposed that modern species evolved from simpler life forms.

Democracy/democratic process

System of government where citizens elect the leader by a free vote, therefore the overall power resides with ‘the people’ / majority.


Having a responsibility or obligation to act in a certain way.


Exclusivism is the belief that a faith is the only way to God; for example, belief Islam is the only true faith.


The action of people settling permanently to live in another country.


Belief that there is value and truth in many or all religions, not just Islam.


The day when Allah will decide about individual deeds and on reward or punishment.

The Five Pillars

Important duties for Muslims which support the main principles of Islam. Shahadah, salah, zakah, sawm and hajj.


Communal Friday prayers in the mosque.

Greater jihad

The personal struggle of every Muslim to live by the teachings of their faith.


One of the Five Pillars; pilgrimage to Makkah, which all Muslims must undertake at least once in their lives, unless prevented by problems over wealth or health.


Referred to as Paradise; Allah’s reward after death to those who have been faithful to him and who have repented of their sins.


It is a place of great suffering after death for those who have rejected the Qur’an’s teachings and have led a wicked life. For some it will last forever.

Human freedom

Humans have control over their thoughts, feelings and actions.

Human responsibility

Humans are responsible for most of what they do because they have free will and so will be accountable on the Day of Judgement.


One of the Five Roots of Usul-ad-Din in Shi’a Islam. Belief in the twelve imams who succeeded Muhammad as the leaders of Islam.


'To struggle’. The personal or collective struggle against evil.

Khatam an-Nabiyyin (seal of the Prophets)

Refers to the belief that Muhammad as ‘seal of the Prophets’ is the final prophet of Allah.

Lesser jihad

This refers to the military struggle to defend Islam. It is carried out according to strict and clear cut rules.

Mercy (‘The Merciful’)

Belief about the nature of God and one of Allah’s 99 Beautiful Names; God’s willingness to forgive the sins of those who repent.


The movement of people from one country to another with the intention of settling or relocating long-term.


Muslim place of worship.


The last and greatest of the prophets. He received the Qur’an and his Sunnah and Hadiths are also important sources of authority.


All-powerful; belief about the nature of God and one of the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah.


The existence of many belief systems within one society. Can also refer to the belief that all religions describe and worship the same God, usually linked to Inclusivism.

The Qur’an

Holy Book and most important source of authority in Islam. It was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad and is the final revelation of God to humankind.


Belief that after death, all people will be raised from the dead to face judgement.


When God is revealed to humans; belief that Allah shows his nature and will through the words of the Qur’an.


Prayer; one of the Five Pillars.


Fasting from dawn to dusk during Ramadan; one of the Five Pillars.


The declining influence and prevalence of religious belief, thought and practice within contemporary society.

The Shahadah

Muslim declaration of faith; one of the Five Pillars.

Shari’ah law

Islamic law; derived from the term ‘path’ or ‘way’ it usually refers to the legal code found in the Qur’an.

Shi’a Islam

Muslims who believe in the Imamate, successorship of Ali.


Stewardship is the belief that the world has been created by and belongs to God and that humans are its caretakers with a duty to look after it (Khalifah).


A follower of Islamic mysticism, Sufism.

Sunni Islam

Muslims who believe in the successorship of Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali.


The oneness and unity of Allah.


A characteristic of God that refers to him being separate from the world and humans in intellectual terms; he is beyond human comprehension and understanding.


Community; often refers to the worldwide Muslim community.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Weapons which cause widespread, indiscriminate damage (e.g. nuclear, chemical, biological).


One of the Five Pillars and Ten Obligatory Acts; giving alms.