Specifications that use this resource:

Subject specific vocabulary

The following subject specific vocabulary provides definitions of key terms used in our GCSE Religious Studies A specification (8062). Terms are grouped by religion and by theme.

Students should be familiar with and gain an understanding of these terms.




No fixed self, no soul; the Universal Truth that the soul is insubstantial; that people change in the course of their lives; denial of a real or permanent self.


Impermanence, instability, not permanent.


A perfected person. In Theravada Buddhism this is a term for a person who has attained nibbana.


A life free from worldly pleasures (especially sexual activity and consumption of alcohol), often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals.


A concept in Mahayana Buddhism. A being destined for enlightenment, who postpones final attainment of Buddhahood in order to help living beings.


  • Historically the Buddha - the enlightened one.
  • An awakened or enlightened person.




In Mahayana Buddhism this refers to the fundamental nature of all beings, which means that all beings can attain Buddhahood

Buddha rupa

An image of a being that has achieved Buddhahood.


Singing or intoning.


Karuna; pity; part of the spiritual path.


Focusing one’s attention.


The fifth of the Five Aggregates. Awareness of something without or before recognition (perception).

Dependent arising

Paticcasamupada. The belief that everything in existence is because other things are. The idea that everything is interconnected and that everyone affects everyone else.

Devotional ritual

Puja. A ceremony that involves meditation, prayer and offerings.


Universal law; ultimate truth; the teachings of Buddha. Spelt in Sanskrit as dharma.


A sacred text of the Pali tradition with 426 verses.

Dharma (in brackets)

The Sanskrit form of dhamma. Universal law; ultimate truth; the teachings of Buddha.


Suffering; ill; everything leads to suffering; unsatisfactoriness.

The Eightfold Path

The fourth Noble Truth. Magga. The Middle Way. The way to wisdom; mental training and the way of morality. Eight stages to be practised simultaneously.


One of the six perfections, it relates to making a courageous effort to attain enlightenment.


Wisdom or understanding enabling clarity of perception; this allows a Buddhist to be freed from the cycle of rebirth.


Sila. Moral conduct.

The Five Aggregates

The five skandhas of form, sensation, perception, mental formation, consciousness. The idea that one’s being is composed of these five factors.

The five moral precepts

To not kill any living being, refrain from stealing, refrain from wrongful sexual activity, refrain from lying, refrain from taking drugs and alcohol that cloud the mind.


The first of the Five Aggregates. It refers to matter, to the sense organs and the objects of their experience

The Four Noble Truths

Dukkha, Samudaya, Nirodha, Magga (suffering, the cause of suffering, the end of suffering, the path to the end of suffering).

The Four Sights

Gautama’s four encounters with illness, old age, death and a holy man.


One of the six perfections. The sincere and selfless desire to benefit others with no expectation of reward.


Tibetan monasteries associated with learning.


One of the Three Poisons, it is the attachment to material things, sensual desire.


One of the Three Poisons, it is about wishing others harm, anger, hostility etc.


One of the Three Poisons, it is the inability to see things as they really are.


Anicca. The idea of instability, nothing being permanent.


Substances that cloud the mind.


The Jataka Tales are stories about the previous lives of the Buddha.


Literally 'action'. Deliberate actions that affect the believer's circumstances in this and future lives; cause and effect.


The Sanskrit form of kamma. Literally 'action'. Deliberate actions that affect the believer's circumstances in this and future lives; cause and effect.


Compassion or pity. Part of the spiritual path.

Loving kindness

Metta. A pure love which is not possessive and which does not seek to gain.


The Eightfold Path. 'The Middle Way' which leads to freedom from suffering (The Fourth Noble Truth).

Mantra recitation

A short sequence of words or syllables chanted repetitively as a form of meditation.


A form of Buddhism which includes both the lay and monastic communities. Literally “Greater Vehicle”, it focuses on achieving enlightenment for the sake of all beings. It is the Buddhism of China, Tibet and Japan.


Strings of beads, used as a prayer aid.

Mental formations

The fourth of the Five Aggregates. They refer to mental activities which direct a person to good, bad or morally neutral actions. They produce good or bad kamma.


A spiritual experience that opens a person up to the highest state of consciousness. One of the six perfections


Loving kindness. A pure love, which is not possessive and which does not seek to gain.

Mindfulness of breathing

A form of meditation found in Theravada, Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. It entails focusing on breathing, both inhalation and exhalation.


Viharas. Buildings that house monks and nuns.


One of the six perfections. It entails following the five moral precepts


Literally ‘blowing’ out. To reach a state of perfect peace where the individual experiences liberation from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.


The Sanskrit form of nibbana

No fixed self

Anatta No self, no soul; the Universal Truth that the soul is insubstantial; that people change In the course of their lives; denial of a real or permanent self.


Insight into the true nature of reality.

Parinirvana Day

A festival in Mahayana Buddhism that celebrates the death of the Buddha and his attainment of final nibbana. It is most often celebrated on 15th February.


The concept of dependent arising. The belief that everything in existence is because other things are. The idea that everything is interconnected and that everyone affects everyone else


One of the six perfections. Tolerance, forbearance, endurance.


The third of the Five Aggregates. The ability to distinguish between different objects that we experience through our senses. It enables memory.


The name given to ceremonies that involve meditation, prayer and offerings. Devotional ritual.

Pure Land

This is the dominant form of Buddhism in Japan and focuses on chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha.


This refers to the belief that when a person dies he / she is reborn and that this process of death and rebirth continues until nibbana is attained.


Temporarily leaving one’s everyday life and going to special places to aid spiritual development.


Meditation, the spiritual experience leading to the highest form of consciousness.


Concentration and tranquility. A method of meditation; a state of calmness.


The causes of suffering (the Second Noble Truth).


The second of the Five Aggregates. It is about the feelings that arise from our sense organs making contact with their objects.


A room or part of a room which contains a statue of the Buddha (or Bodhissatva in Mahayana Buddhism), candles and an incense burner.

Sila (in brackets)

Ethics/moral conduct.

The six perfections

Guides in Mahayana Buddhism to lead one to enlightenment.


The Five Aggregates of form, sensation, perception, mental formation, consciousness. The idea that a person consists of these five factors.


Dukkha. Refers to the unsatisfactoriness of life. Suffering is physical and mental pain.


Literally ‘emptiness’. In Mahayana Buddhism, it refers to the absence of an intrinsic nature (or identity) in all phenomena.


Craving/desire, which causes suffering. The attempt to grasp at the things we enjoy.


A structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities, such as prayer.


The kind of Buddhism found in Sri Lanka and Thailand. It came before Mahayana.

The Threefold Way

A term that refers to three divisions of the Eightfold Path into ethics, meditation and wisdom.

The Three Marks of existence

Sometimes known as the Three Universal Truths: dukkha, anicca, anatta (unsatisfactoriness, impermanence, no self).

The Three Poisons

Ignorance, greed and hate.

The Three Refuges

Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha.

The Three Universal Truths

Dukkha, anicca, anatta (unsatisfactoriness, impermanence, no self). Also known as the Three Marks of Existence.


A state of peace and calm.

Unsatisfactoriness of life

Dukkha. The experience of suffering means that life is unsatisfactory.


Monasteries. Buildings that house monks and nuns.


Insight into the true nature of things; meditation.

Visualisation of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas

In Mahayana Buddhism, imagining an image of a Buddha or Bodhisattva, focusing on it, on the qualities of a Buddha and with the aim of becoming one to help others.


A Buddhist festival celebrating the Buddha's birth. For some Buddhists it also celebrates his enlightenment and death.


Insight into the true nature of reality. One of the six perfections and in Mahayana Buddhism, it is the realisation of sunyata, the ‘emptiness’ of all phenomena.


This is the main form of meditation in Zen Buddhism and is practised while sitting cross-legged.


A Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism. It focuses on the value of meditation and intuition rather than ritual worship and study of the scriptures.



The event 40 days after the Resurrection, when Jesus returned to God, the Father, in heaven, recorded in Luke 24 and Acts 1.


Literally ‘at-one-ment’, it refers to the reconciliation between God and humanity that was sealed by the sacrificial death of Jesus.


The sacrament through which people become members of the Church. Baptism involves the use of water as a symbol of the washing away of sin. It is a rite of initiation.

Believers' baptism

Initiation into the Church, by immersion in water, of people old enough to understand the ceremony/rite and willing to live a Christian life. Some denominations prefer this to infant baptism. This form of baptism contains many similarities to the baptism of Jesus.


Sacred book for Christians containing both the Old and New Testaments.


The tradition within the Christian Church which is led by the Pope.

Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD)

A Christian charity that provides emergency and long-term aid to the developing world.


The leader promised by God to the Jews. The word literally means 'Anointed One' in Greek; the Hebrew equivalent is Messiah. Christians believe Jesus to be the Christ.


Someone who believes in Jesus Christ and follows the religion based on his teachings.

Christian Aid

A Christian charity that provides emergency and long-term aid to the developing world.


The Feast Day commemorating the birth of Jesus (25 December in most Churches).


  • The Holy People of God, also called the Body of Christ, among whom Christ is present and active.
  • Members of a particular Christian denomination/tradition.
  • A building in which Christians worship.


Christians believe that the world is God’s loving creation.


  • Roman method of execution by which criminals were fixed to a cross.
  • The execution and death of Jesus on Good Friday.


The religious season celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It starts on Easter Day and finishes with the feast of Pentecost.


Literally 'thanksgiving'. Another name for Holy Communion and a service in which the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus are celebrated, using bread and wine. Thanks are given to God for his creation of the world, for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and for the bread and wine which many Christians refer to as Jesus' Body and Blood.


Preaching the gospel (the good news about God) to convert people to the Christian faith.


The opposite of good. A force that is seen in many traditions as destructive and against God.

The Father

The first Person of the Trinity, the creator and sustainer of the universe.

Food banks

This relates to Christian charities collecting donated food to distribute to the poor in Britain.


The unconditional and generous love that God shows to people who do not deserve it.


The state after death of being with and enjoying eternity with God


The place of eternal suffering or the state after death of separation from God for those who want no relationship with him.

Holy Communion

Another name for the Eucharist in which the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus are celebrated using bread and wine.

Holy Spirit

The third person of the Holy Trinity who descended like a dove on Jesus at his baptism. Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is present and inspires them.


Literally 'in flesh', or 'enfleshed', the doctrine that God took the human form as Jesus.

Infant baptism

Initiation of babies and young children into the Church, where promises are taken on their behalf by adults. The infant is freed from sin and introduced to the saving love of God and the support of the Christian community.

Informal prayer

This takes the form of extempore prayer, consisting of spontaneous prayers spoken from the heart as opposed to the use of set prayers.

Informal worship

Worship which has no set structure It is usually spontaneous and sometimes charismatic in nature.


An island of the west coast of Scotland founded by Columba in the 4th century. It is used by Christians today as a centre for pilgrimage and religious retreat.


First century Jewish teacher and holy man, believed by Christians to be the Son of God.


When God decides whether each person should receive eternal life or eternal punishment.


This refers to the nature of God as one who treats each individual human being fairly and equally.

Liturgical worship

A church service which follows a set structure or ritual.


This refers to the law of God, revealed in the Bible, which Christians are called to obey. St Paul made it clear, however, that salvation is not earned by obedience to the law but is God’s free gift.


A town in France, where the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette in a series of visions, and now a place of pilgrimage, where it is claimed that miraculous healings have taken place.

Lord's Prayer

The prayer taught to the disciples by Jesus; also known as the 'Our Father'.


Literally ‘sent out’. It refers to the duty of Christians to spread the gospel (the good news about Jesus).

Non-liturgical worship

A service which does not follow a set text or ritual. This type of worship is sometimes spontaneous or charismatic in nature.


The belief that God is ‘all powerful’.

The Oneness of God

The belief that God is ‘One’.

Original sin

The traditional belief that is still held by some Christians that human nature is basically flawed, and so humans have a tendency to go against God’s will. Christians who think that the Bible is literally true believe that it has been passed down from Adam and Eve.


The most popular Christian tradition in some parts of Eastern Europe. There are two main Orthodox Churches – Greek and Russian.


Throughout the centuries and still in some parts of the world, Christians face punishment and even death for adherence to their faith.


A journey by a Christian to a holy site, eg Lourdes, Iona. Pilgrimage is itself an act of worship and devotion.


Communicating with God through words of praise, thanksgiving or confession, or requests for his help or guidance. Listening to and speaking to God.

Private worship

A believer giving God praise and worship on his or her own.


The Churches that 'protested' against and broke away from the Catholic Church during the Reformation. Services are generally based more closely on the Bible than those of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.


  • The process of restoring harmony after relationships between people has broken down.
  • A sacrament in the Roman Catholic and some Anglican Churches.


  • The event celebrated on Easter Day of Jesus rising from the dead, an event recorded in all four gospels and the central belief of Christianity.
  • The form that many Christians believe the afterlife will take, referring to either physical or spiritual bodies.


The outward and visible sign of an invisible and spiritual grace. Baptism and the Eucharist are recognised as sacraments by most Christians.


Saving the soul and deliverance from sin and admission to heaven brought about by Jesus.

Set prayers

These are prayers written throughout the centuries by Christian holy men and women, which many Christians use. The Lord’s Prayer is an example of a set prayer.


Behaviour which is against God's laws and wishes/against principles of morality. A thought, word or action which is wrong, which people know is wrong and which people freely choose.

The Son

The second Person of the Trinity. This is Jesus, in whom God became incarnate.

Son of God

A title used for Jesus, the second person in the Trinity; denotes the special relationship between Jesus and God.

Sources of wisdom and authority

Christians believe that the Bible, religious leaders and statements of belief, eg the Apostles' Creed, should be respected as conveying deep religious truths.

Street pastors

A Christian organisation consisting of people who work mainly at night on city streets, caring for those who need help.


When people have to face and live with unpleasant events or conditions.


A Christian charity that provides emergency and long-term aid to the developing world.


The belief that there are three Persons in the One God. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are separate, but are also one being.


St John’s Gospel 1 describes God creating the world through his Word and links this to Jesus in the statement: ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us’.


Offering to God the praise that he is due. This may be done in public or in private worship.



Non-harming; guiding principle of Hinduism (with truthfulness and non-indulgence).


Immortal self, distinct from mind, body and personality.


Incarnation of the divine; incarnated for the purpose of protecting the good, destroying the wicked, and restoring the dharma.

Bhagavad Gita

Hindu holy book in which Krishna – avatar of Vishnu – discusses dharma.


One of Trimurti (with Vishnu and Shiva); seen as the creator.


Ultimate reality, all-pervading Pure Consciousness, the Divine.


Stories about the origins of the universe; Hinduism has many – including Purusha (a being from whom the world and all life was created).

Cow protection

The cow is a sacred animal so protected in India; seen as a gift to humans from God, as we get many benefits from them without killing them.

Cycle of four ages

‘Age’ is Yuga; currently we are in the Kali Yuga, which is the final (and most corrupt) of the four ages. The Cycle repeats itself endlessly.


The ethical and moral foundations of Hinduism; God’s divine law; has three guiding principles – non-harming, truthfulness, and non-indulgence.


Festival of lights.

Environment projects

Projects to protect/conserve/repair environment; ‘Mother Earth’ gives to us, so we should show respect for Mother Earth.

Four aims of life

Four goals that humans should pursue in life; dharma (ethical living), artha (seeking material prosperity), kama (seeking pleasure), and moksha (seeking liberation).

Free will

The way we choose to respond to whatever we experience; the choices we make.


Elephant-headed deity symbolising wisdom and success.


Teacher of Hinduism; these people usually have followers, since Hinduism recommends a person find themselves a guru for a better chance of spiritual development and enlightenment.


Monkey king; devotee of Rama.


Festival of colours, celebrating victory of good over evil; story of Rama and Sita.


Actions; these can be positive (punya) or negative (papa); accumulation of karma leads to rebirth; all actions are a consequence of free will.


Avatar of Vishnu; appeared on earth to restore the dharma.

Kumbh Mela

Pilgrimage that takes place over four sites every three years, culminating in the world's largest pilgrimage gathering at the meeting point of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, on a 12-yearly basis.


Deity of wealth, fortune and prosperity; wife/consort of Vishnu.

Many worlds

Multiverse; Hindu concept of many worlds and universes, with many diverse inhabitants; Tri-Loka is the belief that there are three levels of world – heavens, atmosphere, earth, or physical, astral and causal.


Illusion; the concept that what humans perceive to be real is actually an illusion, preventing each person from realising their true self.


Liberation from the cycle of rebirth (samsara). A jivanmukti is a person who has achieved moksha before death; sages and gurus are able to teach others because of this.


Consecrated statue of a diety; three kinds in temples – immovable (central murti with highest status), moveable (murti found in side shrines) and festival murti. Home shrines may or may not have murti. Made to precise, scriptural design.


Brahman without qualities; transcendent and beyond human understanding.

Personal virtues

Qualities a Hindu should develop in themselves; linked to the three guiding principles; include ahimsa (non-harming), respect, empathy, self-control, humility and love.


Journey to a sacred place; examples include Varanasi, Ganges, Mount Kailash.


Matter/physical material; all matter is made up of three qualities (Tri-guna) – darkness, activity and goodness.


Act of worship; there are many forms – bhajan (hymn singing), havan (fire ceremony), meditation (one-pointedness of mind), darshan (consuming sanctified food), circumambulation (walking around the deities), japa/mantra (reciting verses), arti (taking blessing).


Avatar of Vishnu; subject of the holy scripture – The Ramayana – with his consort, Sita.


Brahman with qualities; also called Ishwara (all-knowing, all-powerful, all-pervasive, source of the whole universe).


Cycle of birth and death which binds the atman to this physical, illusory existence.

Sanatana dharma

Eternal dharma; Hinduism.


Deity of music, arts, knowledge, wisdom and learning; wife/consort of Brahma.


Branch of Hinduism which looks to Shiva as the supreme manifestation of Brahman.


One of the Trimurti (with Brahma and Vishnu); seen as destroyer, bringing cycles of creation to an end; pure goodness, embodying peace and compassion.


Sacred space which is home to a murti and/or images of deities, plus aids to worship – found in home or in work place, and – in India – at roadsides.

Social inclusion

Projects to make society more equal.


Mandir; place of worship for Hindus.

Three features of the divine

Everywhere, as non-personal; within the heart; beyond, as a personal loving God.


Three qualities of all matter – darkness, activity and goodness.


Godhead in Hinduism; comprises Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.


Branch of Hinduism which looks to Vishnu as the supreme manifestation of Brahman.


Holiest city for Hindus; focus of pilgrimage (to bathe in river, distribute ashes, etc).

Varnashrama dharma

Dharma for specific stages in life; the idea that each stage (student, householder, etc) and each varna (social grouping) has particular duties to fulfil.


One of the Trimurti (with Brahma and Vishnu); seen as sustainer; incarnated as an avatar 12 times.


Four paths/practices which help a person unite with the inner divinity; karma yoga (through actions), jnana yoga (through study of scripture), raja yoga (through meditation), and bhakti yoga (through devotion to worship).



Ritual washing in Islam. The Arabic term is wudu.


The concept of justice in Shi’a Islam


One of the prophets of Allah. The father of humankind. He built the Ka’aba.


The Islamic name for God.


Belief in life after death.


They are spiritual beings created from elements of light. They gave Gods messages to the prophets and watch over humans.


A plain near to Makkah where pilgrims gather to worship, pray and ask for forgiveness. This takes place on the ninth day of the Islamic month, the day before Eid ul Adha.


A very important festival in Shi’a Islam, occurring on 10th Muharram. Shi’a Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein (Muhammad’s grandson). Ashura is observed by Sunni Muslims for a different reason, as a day of repentance for sins in the belief that they will be forgiven.


As the direct Word of Allah, the Qur’an has supreme authority. This means its truths must be believed and its commands obeyed.


Literally ‘doing good’. One of the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah, it refers to the generosity that Allah shows to humans.

Day of Judgement

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


This refers to Allah’s justice. He treats all humans equally and as they deserve.


Not eating or drinking. It refers especially to sawm, which is the 4th of the Five Pillars. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.

The Five Pillars

The Five Pillars observed by Sunni Muslims which support Islam by encouraging the development of good character, attitude and behaviour. These are shahadah, salah, zakah, sawm and hajj.

The five roots of Usul ad-Din

The foundations of the faith in Shi’a Islam. They consist of five key beliefs: Tawhid(the Oneness of Allah), Adalat (justice), prophethood (nubuwwah), imamate (leadership).

Friday prayer

Jummah. Friday prayers in the mosque, where a sermon (khutbah) is heard.

Giving alms

A key practice in Islam. Zakah is the 3rd of the Five Pillars. Giving alms means giving to those in need, e.g. money, food, time.

The Gospel

The term means ‘good news’ and it is the good news about Isa (Jesus), one of the prophets of Islam. It was written down by his disciples.

Greater jihad

This refers to the duty of every Muslim to live a good life, staying faithful to the beliefs and obeying the commands of Islam.


Annual pilgrimage to Makkah, which all Muslims must undertake at least once in their lives, unless prevented by problems over wealth or health. The 5th of the Five Pillars.


Referred to by Muslims as paradise. It is Allah’s reward after death to those who have been faithful to Allah 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 accountability

The belief that everyone must take responsibility for their actions and will be questioned about them on the Day of Judgement.

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 prophets of Allah. He rebuilt the Ka’aba.


Celebration of the Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son for Allah. It comes at the end of the period of hajj.


A celebration that comes at the end of Ramadan and marks the end of fasting.

The imamate

It means ‘leadership’ and refers in Shi’a Islam to the twelve imams who succeeded Muhammad as the leaders of Islam.


The belief that Allah is close to humanity ad involved in the world.


  • The name of the religion followed by Muslims.
  • To surrender to the will of God.
  • Peace.


The most important of the angels and spoke with many of the prophets of Allah. Jibril dictated the Qur’an to Muhammad. On Judgement Day he will assist with the weighing of a person’s deeds.


'To struggle’. It refers to the effort made to obey Allah.


Weekly communal salah performed after midday on a Friday.


Bringing about what is right, fair, according to the law or making up for a wrong that has been committed.

The Ka'aba

The black covered cube-shaped building in the centre of the grand mosque in Makkah. All Muslims face towards it when they pray.


This is a practice in Shi’a Islam. It is a 20% tax on annual surplus income and is given to the poor and to religious leaders.

Lesser jihad

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

Life after death

Akhirah. Muslims believe that death is not the end.


The city where Muhammad was born. The spiritual centre of Islam, it is in Saudi Arabia.


One of Allah’s 99 Beautiful Names. It refers to Allah’s willingness to forgive the sins of those who repent.


One of the most important angels. He gives spiritual and material help to humans. On Judgement Day he will assist with the weighing of a person’s deeds.


Place to be visited on hajj – stoning of pillars.


The Muslim place of worship.


One who has submitted to the will of Allah and has accepted Islam.


Place where pilgrims hold a night prayer and rest during hajj, after the Stand on Mount Arafat.


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

The Night of Power

The name for the night on which Muhammad received the first revelations of the Qur’an.


One of the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah. It refers to Allah’s ability to do anything.

The Oneness of God

Tawhid. It refers to the unity of Allah. Islam is a monotheistic religion.


A journey made for religious reasons.


This is the idea that everything that happens has been decided already by Allah.


Risalah. Channel of communication with God. Three prophets are set for study: Adam, Ibrahim and Muhammad.

The Psalms

Sacred prayers/poems written by King Dawud (David) who was himself a prophet of Allah.

The Qur’an

The Holy Book revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the angel Jibril. Allah’s final revelation to humankind.


Actions made during salah consisting of recitations, standing, bowing and prostration.


Month during which fasting from dawn to sunset is demanded (ninth month of the Islamic calendar).


Acts of reciting from memory texts from the Qur’an.


After death, all people will be raised from the dead to face Allah’s judgement. This is a physical resurrection.


Allah shows his nature and his will to believers through the words of the Qur’an.


Prophethood. The channel of communication between Allah and humanity. Three prophets are set for study: Adam, Ibrahim and Muhammad.


Prayer to and worship of Allah, performed under the conditions set by the Prophet Muhammad – five times a day. The 2nd of the Five Pillars.


Fasting from dawn to dusk during Ramadan; sex and smoking are banned when the believer is engaged in this. The 4th of the Five Pillars.

The Scrolls of Abraham

These were individual revelations to Ibrahim that were written on parchment but have perished. They were given on the first day of Ramadan and consisted of stories.

The Shahadah

Muslim declaration of faith. It is a statement of faith in Allah as the only God and in Muhammad as Allah’s prophet. The 1st of the Five Pillars for Sunni Muslims. In Shi’a Islam it is not a separate Pillar and it has two additional statements relating to Ali as beloved of Allah and the rightful trustee and successor of Muhammad.

Shi’a Islam

Muslims who believe in the Imamah, successorship of Ali.


A division (chapter) of the Qur an. There are 114 in all.

Sunni Islam

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


The oneness and unity of Allah. Islam is a monotheistic religion.

The Ten Obligatory Acts

These are requirements for Shi’a Muslims. They include salah, sawm, zakah, hajj and jihad (duties also for Sunni Muslims) but the final five are not part of the Sunni tradition.

The Torah

This was given by Allah to Musa (Moses), who was a prophet of Allah. It was given on Mt. Sinai.


Ablution. Ritual washing performed before salah and also when purification is needed.


The 3rd of the Five Pillars. It consists of the giving of alms to purify those who give it and the rest of their money.



The father of the Jewish people. God made a covenant with him, promising him land and descendants. This covenant was sealed by circumcision.

The Amidah

The ‘standing prayer’. It is recited at the three daily services in the synagogue and consists of three opening blessings, three closing blessings and thirteen intermediate blessings (one intermediate blessing on Shabbat and holy days).

Aron hakodesh

The Ark. It is the holiest part of the synagogue as it contains the Torah scrolls.

Bar Mitzvah

Celebration of a boy coming of age at 13. Literally "Son of the Commandment".

Bat Mitzvah

Celebration of a girl coming of age at 12. Literally "Daughter of Commandment".


The reading platform in a synagogue from which the Torah is read.

Brit Milah

The religious rite of circumcision performed eight days after birth (unless it has to be postponed for some very serious reason). The boy becomes a member of the Jewish People of God.


This refers to the requirement for Jews to give at least 10% of their income to charity. The Hebrew word (tzedakah) literally means ‘justice’ and Jews believe that it is unjust not to give to those in need.

The Covenant

God's agreement to look after the Jews as his chosen people, subject to Israel's obedience.


Refers to the belief that God created the world from nothing.

Dietary laws

The food laws that were given by God to the Jews. These rules relate to what may/may not be eaten and in what combination and to the preparation of the food.

Free will

God gave humans the gift of free will, which means that they are free to choose to do right or to do wrong. They bear responsibility for their actions.

God as one

This is the belief that there is only one God. Judaism is a monotheistic religion.

Healing the world

It is the Jewish concept (tikkun olam) that relates to making the world a better place.


The belief that God is fair. He recognises that humans are not perfect and so takes this into account. God’s justice incorporates both forgiveness and mercy.


The belief of many Jews in a Day of Judgement when God will judge the living and the dead, rewarding all good people, both Jews and non-Jews.


Fairness in the way people are treated


Food that is ‘clean’ and ‘fit and that meets the requirements of the Jewish laws.


Refers to God’s giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai.

Liberal Judaism

This is a form of progressive Judaism which seems to combine traditional beliefs and practices with modern interpretations.


Refers to the nature of God as compassionate.

The Messiah

Literally ‘the anointed one’. Orthodox Jews believe that the Messiah will be a human person sent by God to establish justice and peace on the earth. For Reform Jews, the Messiah is a symbolic figure.


Mitzvot (singular is ‘mitzvah’) are the 613 Jewish commandments/rules.


The person through whom God set free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, to whom God gave the Ten Commandments and through whom God made a covenant with Israel.

Mourning rituals

Refers to set practices that are carried out by Jews as a way of grieving for loved ones who have died.

Ner tamid

The ever-burning light. It is a light that is above and in front of the aron hakodesh. It burns continually as a symbol of God’s presence.

The oral law

The Talmud. Jews believe that this law was given by God to Moses and then eventually written down and explained by the rabbis. It consists of the Mishnah and the Gemara.

Orthodox Judaism

Jews who believe God gave the complete Torah to Moses and therefore live according to Jewish laws and traditions.


Festival (known by non-Jews as Passover) that celebrates the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. Celebrated in spring.

Pikuach Nefesh

The mitzvah of ‘saving a life’ which overrides all other religious laws.

Reform Judaism

Jews who believe the Torah was inspired by God and was developed through their history – therefore laws may be changed or adapted as modern life changes.


The belief of many Jews that in a future age the dead will rise from their graves to live again.

Rosh Hashanah

The Jewish New Year. It is the start of the ten day period of High Holy Days that culminates in Yom Kippur and marks the beginning of God’s judgement of his people.

Sanctity of human life

The belief that human life is a precious gift from God and is not to be taken without just cause.

‘Saving a life’

This principle (Pikuach Nefesh) overrides all other religious laws.


Holy day of the week; day of spiritual renewal beginning at sunset on Friday and continuing to nightfall on Saturday.


The divine presence. The term indicates that God is a Being beyond human understanding yet whose presence may be experienced.


The mountain where Moses received the Law from God and where the covenant between God and Israel was made.


Means ‘coming together’. A building for Jewish public worship, study and gathering.


The oral law, containing the law believed by Orthodox Jews to have been given to Moses that was not written down for many centuries and was then expanded with rabbinic explanation. It consists of the Mishnah and the Gemara.


The books that comprise the Jewish scriptures. It falls into three parts: Torah (Law), Nevi'im (prophets) and Ketuvim (writings). Many Jews believe that the Torah was given to Moses on Sinai.

The Ten Commandments

A list of religious and moral rules that were given by God to Moses.


Forbidden food – means 'torn'. It does not fulfil the Jewish dietary laws.

The written law

The Tenakh. It includes the Jewish scriptures and falls into three parts: Torah (Law), Nevi'im (prophets) and Ketuvim (writings). Many Jews believe that the Torah was given to Moses on Sinai.

Yom Kippur

The Day of Atonement – a day of penitence and fasting on the tenth day after Rosh Hashanah. The holiest day of the year for Jews.


Akhand Pah

48-hour non-stop reading of Guru Granth Sahib (from start to finish).

Amritdhari Sikh

A Sikh who has gone through the amrit ceremony, and taken the Khalsa vows, so lives by that code.

Amrit sanskar

The ceremony of initiation into the Khalsa.

Barriers to mukti

The characteristics that act as blockers to liberation – illusion, self-centredness, lust, anger, greed, worldly attachment and pride.

Birth and naming ceremonies

Earliest ceremonies that welcome a newborn into the faith.

Compassion (daya)

One of Sikh virtues; fundamental quality to develop to achieve mukti. Considering others and trying to help relieve their suffering.

Contentment (santokh)

One of Sikh virtues; fundamental quality to develop to achieve mukti. Not being greedy, being satisfied with one’s lot, maintaining detachment.


One of Sikh virtues; being brave.


Role of God to create the universe from nothing.


Sikh festival of lights.


Belief that all are equal in value and worth, regardless of status, gender, etc.

Five Ks

Five symbols worn by Sikhs – kesh, kara, kirpan, kaccha, and kanga.

Five Khands

Five stages of liberation – realm of righteous action; realm of knowledge; realm of spiritual endeavour; realm of grace; realm of truth.

Golden Temple of Amritsar

Holiest gurdwara in Sikhism; entrances on all four sides to show all are welcome; golden dome gives it its name.


Sikh place of worship.


God-centred; having focus always on God.


Celebration of the lives of the Gurus, eg Guru Nanak’s birthday.

Guru Gobind Singh

Tenth human Guru; established Khalsa.

Guru Granth Sahib

Holy book of Sikhism; never changed.

Guru Nanak

Founder of Sikhism and first Guru.


Pride, ego, self-centredness.

Humility (nimrata)

One of Sikh virtues; fundamental quality to develop to achieve mukti. To be humble, not proud.


Part of Sikh virtues of truthful living (sat); means working to make all things fair, or to bring equality.

Karah parshad

Sacred food.


Law of action and consequence; that each action has a corresponding consequence; belief that these actions create our future life experiences.


Devotional hymns sung individually or in groups.


Communal meal at gurdwara; act of sewa.


Man-centred; materialistic; self-centred.

Mool Mantra

Sikh declaration of faith, describing God.


Liberation from rebirth.

Nam Japna

Reciting/meditating on the name of God, thanking him for the gift of life. One of three key Sikh principles, with Wand Chakna and Kirat Karna.


Wooden, metal or stone structure with a raised seat on which the Guru Granth Sahib sits. Over this there is a dome which sits on four pillars.


One of Sikh virtues; means being able to accept/put up with delays/problems with a calm mind and attitude.

Prayer (ardas)

Saying devotions to God; making direct contact with God.


Belief that each soul is born into a new physical lifetime after the death of the old.

Rahit Maryada

Sikh code of conduct.

Sahajdhari Sikh

Sikh who has not been through the Amrit Khalsa ceremony, ie not initiated.


Sikh religious community.


Service; three types – physical (tan), mental (man), and material (dhan).


One of Sikh virtues; means being able to control one’s temper and behaviour.

Sikh names

Singh (for males), Kaur (for females). Singh means lion; kaur means princess.


One of five seats of power in Sikhism; gurdwaras where Sikh law/guidance is made based on scripture.


One of Sikh virtues; not partaking of alcohol or drugs.

Truthful living (sat)

One of Sikh virtues; fundamental quality to develop to achieve mukti. Honesty and justice, not discriminating.


Sikh festival; commemorates establishment of Khalsa.

Wand Chakna

The concept of sharing food with others, especially those less fortunate. One of three key Sikh principles, with Nam Japna and Kirat Karna.


One of Sikh virtues; means having experience, knowledge and good judgement.


Theme A: Relationships and families


A sexual relationship between a couple not married to each other, but married to/in relationship with others (affair).

Age of consent

According to the law, the age at which a person is considered old enough to give consent to have sex.


Cancellation of a marriage in Roman Catholic tradition, as if marriage never was.

Civil marriage

Non-religious marriage.

Civil partnership

Legal union of two people of same gender; now of equality with heterosexual marriage in all respects.


Making a promise or pledge, in this case, in marriage.


Not having sexual relations.


Sexual purity, eg not having sex before marriage.


Where a couple live together without being married/in civil partnership.


Precautions taken to prevent pregnancy and to protect against contracting/transmitting STIs (sexually transmitted infections).


A binding agreement between two sides.


An agreement based on promises between two sides, here in marriage where the agreement is made before God (as a witness) and with God (as a partner).


Legal ending of a marriage.

Extended family

Family unit comprising mother, father and children, but also grandparents, cousins etc.

Family planning

Planning when to have a family and how big a family to have by use of birth control practices and/or contraception.

Gender discrimination

Acting on prejudices against someone because of their gender.

Gender equality

Belief that both genders have equal status and value, so discrimination against either is wrong.

Gender prejudice

The belief that one gender is ‘better’ than the other.


Being physically/sexually attracted to persons of the opposite gender.


Being physically/sexually attracted to persons of the same gender.

Nuclear family

Family unit made up of mother, father and their child(ren).


The practice of one man having several wives; legal under Shariah law (up to four wives, given specific circumstances).


Having a child; seen as a duty in many religions.


Marriage for the second time, after divorce ending an earlier marriage.


Duties; what a person has to do as part of the agreement they have made, or role they have taken on.

Single parent family

Family unit in which child(ren) and one parent, either mum or dad, live together.


Promises made by bride and groom during marriage ceremony.

Theme B: Religion and life


Deliberate ending of a pregnancy, intended to prevent new life.


Beliefs about what happens to ‘us’ after our body has died.

Animal rights

Belief that animals should be treated with respect, so have rights to adequate food/water/shelter/rest/freedom.


Sense of wonderment, often linked to the feeling that God is involved/revealed.

Big Bang Theory

Scientific theory about the origins of the universe – that the universe was created in a huge explosion.

Charles Darwin

The man who proposed the theory of evolution (19th century).


Belief that God created the world/universe from nothing, eg Genesis creation story.


Point at which sperm fertilises an egg to begin pregnancy.


The practice of repairing/protecting the natural environment and/or animal species.


Belief that humans have been given control/charge of the world.


The world around us, can be natural or artificial.


Mercy killing; ending the life of a person who is terminally ill or has degenerative illness. Can be voluntary (person seeks this), or non-voluntary (person is on life support so family makes decision). Can be active (what is done kills directly), or passive (medical support removed to allow natural death).


Scientific theory of the development of species, which comprises natural selection and survival of the fittest.

Fossil fuels

Coal, oil, gas – fuels that developed over millions of years beneath the earth’s surface.


Place of medical care for the dying, but which also gives emotional support to the dying and their families.

Natural resources

Resources which are found in nature – fossil fuels, plants etc.


Chemicals used to kill pests, especially on farmed crops.


Stance of being anti-abortion and/or anti-euthanasia; many pressure groups exist with this view, eg SPUC.


Stance of being for a woman’s right to decide what happens to her own body, which extends to the right to have an abortion.

Quality of life

How good or comfortable a person’s life is.

Right to die

Belief that a human has the right to end their life, or seek it to be ended if they want that.

Sanctity of life

Belief that life is sacred/special, because it was created by God, or because we are each unique individuals.


Knowledge that comes from observed regularity in nature and experimentation.


Duty given by God to mankind to look after the created world, and all life within it.

Sustainable energy

Resources that are renewable and will not run out, eg solar, wind, etc.

Theme C: The existence of God and revelation


Belief that there is insufficient evidence to say whether God exists or not.


Characteristic of God; all-loving, omnibenevolent.


Characteristic of God; always forgiving and never vindictive.


Belief that there is no God.


Characteristic of God; all-loving.


Sense of right and wrong; seen as the voice of God within our mind by many religious believers.

Design argument

Also known as teleological argument. An argument purporting to prove God’s existence by focusing on evidence of design in the world, which therefore proves the existence of a designer – God. One version put forward by William Paley in the 18th century.

First cause argument

An argument purporting to prove God’s existence by logical argument that everything is caused by something else. This requires an uncaused cause, which must be God. One version put forward by Thomas Aquinas in 13th century.

General revelation

Indirect revelation; the idea of being able to see something of God through nature, for example.


Belief system which excludes God, but focuses on the morally good behaviour of human beings.


That something is not real, but a trick of the mind.


Characteristic of God; at work in the world, involved in the creation, eg miracles.


Characteristic of God; beyond human understanding.


An event that contradicts the laws of nature, so should be impossible, eg recovering from a terminal illness; usually attributed to God.


Characteristic of God; all-knowing.


Characteristic of God; all-powerful.


Characteristic of God; relatable, humans can build close relationships with this God.


Belief that there are many gods/deities.


What is real, actual or provable by science.


When God reveals Himself; can be special or general.


The collection of knowledge from observation and testing.


Characteristic of God; beyond space and time, controlled by neither.

Ultimate reality

Hindu concept of God.


Seeing something which is not physically real.

Theme D: Religion, peace and conflict


Attitude that (a) war is wrong and should be protested/worked against.

Civil war

Armed conflict between factions within the same country.


Dispute between sides, can be between individuals, groups or nations.

Conventional warfare

War fought using ‘ordinary’ weapons, ie those covered/sanctioned by the Geneva Conventions.


Letting go of blame against a person for wrongs they have done; moving on.


The killing of groups of/many people from a specific ethnic group, having targeted them for their ethnicity.

Guerrilla warfare

Form of warfare in which a small group fights in a non-regular manner against a Government and its forces.

Holy War

War sanctioned by God, used in Islam and Judaism; rules for such a war.

Humanitarian organisation

For example, Red Cross/Crescent; organisation which works to alleviate the suffering of those made victims by war (or natural disaster).


Bringing fairness back to a situation.

Just War

Set of rules for fighting a war in a way acceptable to God, used in Christianity and Sikhism.

Nuclear weapons/war

A weapon of mass destruction; war fought using such a weapon (none so far in world history).


Belief that all violence is wrong, which then affects all behaviours.


The opposite of war; harmony between all in society.


Making known one’s disagreement over something.


Making up between two groups/sides after disagreement.


To pay someone back for their actions that have caused harm.


Use of violence and threats to intimidate others, usually Government; used for political purposes to build fear in the ordinary population and so secure demands from Government.


Armed conflict between two or more sides.

Weapons of mass destruction

Weapons which are uncontrollable and cause indiscriminate damage, eg nuclear, chemical, biological.

Theme E: Religion, crime and punishment

Capital punishment

Death penalty; state sanctioned execution for a capital offence; not legal in UK.

Community service order

UK punishment involving the criminal doing a set number of hours of physical labour.


Sense of right and wrong; guilty voice in our head; seen as the voice of God by many religious believers.

Corporal punishment

Punishment in which physical pain is inflicted on the criminal; not legal in the UK.


Action which breaks the law; can be against the person (eg murder), against property (eg vandalism), or against the state (eg treason).


Aim of punishment to put a person off committing a crime by the level of punishment.


What we have a responsibility to do.


Something or someone considered morally very wrong or wicked; often linked to the idea of a devil or other malevolent being.


Letting go of blame against a person for wrongs they have done; moving on.


Reason for committing crime – wanting or desiring something or more of something.

Hate crime

A crime committed because of prejudice, eg assaulting a person because they are gay or Asian.


Locking someone up and taking away of civil liberties of a criminal.


The rules a country demands its citizens follow, the breaking of which leads to punishment.


Unlawfully killing another person.


The enforcement of rules, eg by a police force.


Release of a criminal from prison under the condition they will meet with a parole officer who can monitor their behaviour.


Additional aim of punishment; to keep people safe.


Aim of punishment; helping the criminal see how and why their behaviour was wrong, so that their mindset changes for the better.


Additional aim of punishment; where the criminal makes up for, or pays back for, their crimes.


Aim of punishment; getting the criminal back for their crimes.


Taking something without the owner’s consent.


Those who are directly affected by a crime, eg the person assaulted.


Additional aim of punishment; the punishment exists to justify the law.

Young offenders

Criminals under the age of 18.

Theme F: Religion, human rights and social justice


Discrimination against someone because of their age.


A group of people who share a characteristic, eg the place they live.


Loving kindness; attitude to help others simply because it is right to help.


Actions that come from prejudice.


Belief that everyone is equal in value and worth.

Fair pay

Payment that is appropriate for the work done.


Being male or female.


Living together in society without argument/conflict.

Human rights

The rights a person should be entitled to simply by being a human being, eg education, fair treatment etc.

Human Rights Act

UK law which protects the rights of individuals and allows a challenge when these are breached.


Money paid back on loans aside from the original amount loaned.


Getting fairness; getting redress for unfairness.


Amount of money borrowed from a lender, usually paid back in installments with interest. Where excessive, the interest charged on the loan is extremely high (even unfairly so).

People trafficking

Illegal trade of humans for slavery, eg for sex and/or work.


Having less than the basic needs of life, so that day-to-day living is a struggle.


Prejudging someone based on a characteristic they have, eg their ethnicity.


Prejudice against someone because of their ethnicity/skin colour.


Duty, eg the responsibility to work; to earn money for oneself.


What a person is entitled to, eg the right to education.


A person’s sexual orientation, ie whether they are straight, gay, bisexual.

Social justice

Bringing justice to society so that all within a society have the same opportunities, and can take advantage of them; includes projects to improve the life situation of those at the poorest end of society, eg by educational support.


Duty to look after the world given by God to humans, which extends to looking after all life, including other humans.


Acceptance of difference rather than seeing it as a problem.

UN Declaration of Human Rights

A statement adopted by the United Nations (and all their signatories, including the UK) to protect human beings in specific regards.


Money and possessions a person has, usually in such quantities as to give a very comfortable lifestyle.

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