Specifications that use this resource:

Subject specific vocabulary – Component 1: the study of religions

The following subject specific vocabulary provides definitions of key terms used in our GCSE Religious Studies A specification (8062), Component 1: The study of religions: beliefs, teachings and practices – terms are grouped by religion. Students should be familiar with and gain understanding of these terms.

Buddhism

Anatta

Belief that there is no fixed self/no soul; one of the Three Marks of Existence.

Anicca

Impermanence. Belief that nothing is permanent; one of the Three Marks of Existence.

Arhat

A perfected person. In Theravada Buddhism this is a term for a person who has become enlightened.

Ascetic

A life free from worldly pleasures, and involves giving up of material possessions. An ascetic life often has the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals.

Bodhisattva

In Mahayana Buddhism this is a being destined for enlightenment, who postpones their final escape from samsara in order to help living beings.

Buddha

  • Historically the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama)
  • An awakened or enlightened person.

Buddhahood

Reaching enlightenment.

Buddha-nature

In Mahayana Buddhism this refers to the fundamental nature of all beings, which means that all beings can become enlightened/reach Buddhahood.

Buddha rupa

An image or statue of the historical Buddha or a being believed to have attained Buddhahood.

Chanting

Singing or rhythmic repetition of a word, prayer or sound.

Compassion (Karuna)

Sympathy and concern for the suffering of others; a key part of Buddhist ethics.

Concentration

Focusing one’s attention; an important part of meditation and mindfulness of breathing.

Consciousness

The fifth of the Five Aggregates; the state of being aware of something/your surroundings before or without perception.

Craving (tahna)

The ongoing state of desire which causes suffering; grasping at things we enjoy/want.

Dependent arising (Paticcasamupada)

The belief that everything exists because other things do; everything is interconnected and everyone affects everyone else.

Dhamma (Dharma)

The teachings of the Buddha; these are the ultimate truth. Can also refer to following the Buddhist path (following the dharma).

Dhammapada

A source of wisdom and authority; part of the Pali Canon that includes some of the most famous teachings of the Buddha, including the Eightfold Path.

Dukkha

Suffering. Belief that all life includes suffering and unsatisfactoriness; one of the Three Marks of Existence.

The Eightfold Path (magga)

The fourth Noble Truth. Known as ‘The Middle Way,’ it includes the way to wisdom; mental training and the way of morality. Eight stages to be practised simultaneously.

Energy

One of the Mahayanan six perfections; making a courageous effort to attain enlightenment.

Enlightenment

A state of wisdom that enables total clarity and understanding of the truths of existence; achieving Enlightenment (Buddhahood) allows a being to be freed from the cycle of rebirth.

Ethics (Sila)

Moral principles that inform behaviour and attitudes; part of the Eightfold Path.

The Five Aggregates (skandhas)

The belief that human beings are composed of five factors - form, sensation, perception, mental formation, consciousness.

The five moral precepts

An important part of Buddhist ethics; part of the Eightfold Path (right action). These include: not taking life, not taking things which aren’t freely given, not misusing the sense, not speaking falsehoods, not clouding the mind with intoxicants.

Form

The first of the Five Aggregates; matter, physical experiences through the sense organs.

The Four Noble Truths

An important part of the Buddha’s teachings found in the Pali Canon, explaining the truth about existence. These include: suffering, the cause of suffering, the end of suffering, the path to the end of suffering.

The Four Sights

Teaching from the Jataka Tales about Siddhartha Gautama’s experience of illness, old age, death and a holy man. These sights led him to give up his life of luxury, to follow an ascetic lifestyle, in search of the truth about suffering.

Generosity

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

Gompa

Tibetan monasteries associated with learning and studying the dharma.

Greed

One of the Three Poisons; the attachment to material things, and the ongoing selfish desire for more.

Hate

One of the Three Poisons; a feeling of intense dislike, anger, wishing others harm.

Ignorance

One of the Three Poisons; the inability to see things as they really are. It is like a veil that prevents us seeing/understanding the truth of dukkha, anicca and anatta.

Intoxicants

Substances that cloud the mind, eg alcohol, drugs. The five moral precepts teach against using these.

Kamma (Karma)

Literally 'action.’ The belief in cause and effect, intentions and actions will affect the future.

Loving kindness (metta)

A pure love which is selfless and not possessive; a key part of Buddhist ethics

Mantra recitation

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

Mahayana

Literally “Greater Vehicle”; this school of Buddhism focuses on achieving enlightenment for the sake of all beings (Bodhisattva). It is the main school of Buddhism in China, Tibet and Japan.

Malas

Strings of beads used as a prayer aid.

Mental formations

The fourth of the Five Aggregates; mental activities which lead a person to actions and produce kamma (karma).

Meditation

A spiritual experience that opens a person up to the highest state of consciousness; one of the Mahayanan six perfections, and part of the Eightfold Path (Samadhi).

Mindfulness of breathing

A form of meditation found in Theravada, Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. It focuses on the practice of breathing.

Monasteries (viharas)

Buildings that house monks and nuns. They may also have shrines, Buddha rupas, and spaces for study, as well as accommodation.

Morality

Principles or beliefs about what is right and wrong. One of the Mahayanan six perfections; includes following the Five Moral Precepts

Nibbana/Nirvana

Literally ‘blowing’ out. The belief that individuals can achieve a state of perfect peace where they experience liberation from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

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.

Patience

Being able to tolerate delay or problems without becoming agitated or anxious. One of the Mahayanan six perfections.

Perception

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

Puja/devotional ritual

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

Pure Land

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

Rebirth

This refers to the belief that when a being dies they are reborn. This process depends on kamma, and will continue until nibbana is attained.

Retreats

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

Samatha

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

Sensation

The second of the Five Aggregates; the feelings that arise from our sense organs making contact with objects.

Shrine

A room or part of a room which contains a Buddha rupa, candles, an incense burner and sometimes other offerings.

The six perfections

Ethical principles in Mahayana Buddhism to lead a being to enlightenment.

Sunyata

Literally ‘emptiness’. Mahayana belief about the absence of an intrinsic nature or self-identity.

Temple

A structure/building for religious or spiritual activities, such as meditation. Will usually contain a shrine(s).

Theravada

The school of Buddhism mainly found in Sri Lanka and Thailand; it is an older tradition than Mahayana.

The Threefold Way

The three divisions of the Eightfold Path: ethics, meditation and wisdom.

The Three Marks of Existence

The belief that all life involves/is marked by these three features; sometimes known as the Three Universal Truths. The three are: dukkha, anicca, anatta.

The Three Poisons

Causes of dukkha that affect all beings: ignorance, greed and hate.

Tranquility

A state of peace and calm.

Vipassana (insight)

A method of meditation focused on insight into the true nature of things.

Visualisation

Forming a mental image. A method of meditation in Mahayana Buddhism, imagining an image of a Buddha or Bodhisattva and focusing on their qualities.

Wesak

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

Wisdom (panna)

Insight into the true nature of reality. One of the Mahayanan six perfections, which includes the realisation of sunyata.

Zazen

The main form of meditation in Zen Buddhism, practiced cross-legged with the aim of gaining vipassana (insight).

Zen

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

Christianity

Ascension

Going or being taken up; the event forty days after the resurrection when Jesus returned to glory in heaven.

Atonement

Making amends or payment for a wrong. The belief that reconciliation between God and humanity that was brought about by the death of Jesus as a sacrifice.

Baptism

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

Believers' baptism

Initiation into the Church, by immersion in water, of people old enough to understand the ceremony/rite and who have made the decision to live a Christian life.

Bible

Source of wisdom and authority; a holy book containing both the Old and New Testaments.

Catholic

The tradition within the Christian Church which is led by the Pope; also called the Roman Catholic Church.  (Note: The term ‘catholic’ refers to the communion of all Christians, the universal Church, although it is not a term included on this specification).

Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD)

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

Christ

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

Christian Aid

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

Christmas

The festival/celebration to remember the birth of Jesus.

Church

  • The People of God/Body of Christ, among whom Christ is beloved to be present and active.
  • Members of a particular Christian denomination/tradition, eg Roman Catholic, Methodist.
  • A building in which Christians worship.

Creation

Bringing the world into existence; the belief that the world is God’s loving creation.

Crucifixion

The death of Jesus; a form of the death penalty used by the Romans.

Easter

Festival/celebration of the resurrection of Jesus; the Easter season ends with Pentecost (50 days after Easter Sunday) which remembers the coming of the Holy Spirit to earth following the ascension.

Eucharist/Holy Communion

Literally 'thanksgiving'; a sacrament in which the death and resurrection of Jesus are celebrated, using bread and wine.

Evangelism

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

Evil

The opposite of good; a cause of suffering and against the will of God.

The Father

The first Person of the Trinity, the belief in God as creator and sustainer of the universe.

Food banks

Places in local communities where people in need can go to collect food; often run/supported by local churches and religious charities.

Grace

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

Heaven

Belief that after death Christians can enter a state of being with God for eternity.

Hell

Belief in a place of eternal suffering, or a state after death of being in separation from God.

Holy Spirit

The third Person of the Trinity; believed to be present with believers since Pentecost and active on earth.

Incarnation

Literally 'in flesh', or 'enfleshed;' belief that God took on human form in the person of Jesus.

Infant baptism

Sacrament of initiation of babies and young children into the Church.

Informal prayer

Spontaneous prayers spoken from the heart which are personal and unique to the person/people at the time.

Iona

Place of pilgrimage founded by St Columba in the fourth century.

Jesus

Believed by Christians to be the Son of God, he was a first century Jewish teacher living and travelling in Palestine/Israel.

Judgement

The belief that God will decides whether each person should receive eternal life or eternal punishment based on their earthly life.

Just

Fair or equal treatment, a state of justice. Belief about the nature of God as treating all people justly.

Liturgical worship

A church service which follows a set structure or ritual.

Law

Rules or commands which must be followed; the law of God is revealed in the Bible.

Lourdes

Place of pilgrimage where the Virgin Mary appeared to St Bernadette in a series of visions and 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' and widely said by Christians in both church services and privately.

Mission

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

Non-liturgical worship/informal worship

A service which does not follow a set text or ritual; sometimes spontaneous or charismatic.

Omnipotent

The belief that God is ‘all powerful’.

The Oneness of God

The belief that God is one singular divine being (who can be manifest in the Three Persons of the Trinity).

Original sin

Belief human nature is flawed, and that we all have the tendency to sin; traditional belief held by some Christians that this came from Adam & Eve’s eating of the forbidden fruit as recorded in Genesis 3.

Orthodox

A denomination/tradition of the Church popular in some parts of Eastern Europe. There are two main Orthodox Churches – Greek and Russian.

Persecution

Facing hostility and ill-treatment; some Christians face punishment and death for practising their faith.

Pilgrimage

A religious journey to a holy site/sacred place, it is an act of worship and devotion.

Prayer

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 their own.

Protestant

Christian denominations in which authority is generally based on the Bible, rather than Church tradition/teaching. (eg Anglican, Methodist, Baptist).

Reconciliation

Making up and rebuilding relationships between two groups/sides after disagreement.

Resurrection

  • Being raised from the dead; the event three days after the crucifixion when it is believed that God raised Jesus from the dead.
  • The form that many Christians believe the afterlife will take, referring to either physical or spiritual bodies.

Sacrament

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

Salvation

Being saved; belief that through God’s grace, Jesus’ death and resurrection brought about salvation for humanity. Saving of the soul and being able to enter eternal life in heaven.

Set prayers

These are prayers written throughout the centuries which many Christians worldwide use (eg The Lord’s Prayer).

Sin

Behaviour which is against God's laws and wishes/against Christian principles of morality.

The Son

The second Person of the Trinity; Jesus believed to be God incarnate.

Son of God

A title used for Jesus; the second Person of the Trinity. Shows the special relationship between Jesus and God.

Street pastors

A Christian organisation involving people working, mainly at night, on city streets giving care to those who need it.

Suffering

An effect of evil; undergoing pain and hardship.

Tearfund

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

Trinity

The belief that God as One includes God also being manifest in three Persons: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Word

In the Bible, John 1 describes God creating the world through his eternal Word. This links the eternal Word to Jesus in the statement: ‘”The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

Worship

Showing adoration and reverence; offering praise to God.

Catholic Christianity

Anointing of the sick

One of the seven sacraments; a sacrament of healing that forms part of the last rites. A priest anoints the sick person with oil and blessing.

Ascension

Going or being taken up; the event forty days after the resurrection when Jesus returned to glory in heaven.

Baptism

One of the seven sacraments; sacrament of initiation through which people become members of the Church. It involves the use of water as a symbol of the washing away of sin.

Bible

Source of wisdom and authority; a holy book containing both the Old and New Testaments.

Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD)

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

Church

  • The People of God/Body of Christ, among whom Christ is beloved to be present and active.
  • Members of a particular Christian denomination/tradition, eg Roman Catholic, Methodist.
  • A building in which Christians worship.

Confirmation

One of the seven sacraments; the second sacrament of initiation involves the anointing with chrism, usually of young adults who are now aware of the significance of the event as a strengthening of the grace received through baptism.

Corrymeela community

An organization working for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

Creation

Bringing the world into existence; the belief that the world is God’s loving creation.

Dignity

Being worthy of respect and honour; belief that all human beings deserve to be treated with dignity because they are part of God’s creation in his image.

Duty

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

Eucharist

Literally 'thanksgiving'; one of the seven sacraments in which the death and resurrection of Jesus are celebrated, using bread and wine.

Evangelism

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

The Father

The first Person of the Trinity, the belief in God as creator and sustainer of the universe.

Formal prayers

These are prayers written throughout the centuries which many Christians worldwide use (eg The Lord’s Prayer).

Funeral rite

The religious ceremonies and ritual practices that take place when someone has died.

Grace

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

Heaven

Belief that after death Christians can enter a state of being with God for eternity.

Hell

Belief in a place of eternal suffering, or a state after death of being in separation from God.

Holy orders

One of the seven sacraments; the sacrament by which a man is made a priest or bishop.

Holy Spirit

The third Person of the Trinity; believed to be present with believers since Pentecost and active on earth.

Incarnation

Literally 'in flesh', or 'enfleshed;' belief that God took on human form in the person of Jesus.

Informal prayer

Spontaneous prayers spoken from the heart which are personal and unique to the person/people at the time.

Jesus

Believed by Christians to be the Son of God, he was a first century Jewish teacher living and travelling in Palestine/Israel.

Judgement

The belief that God will decides whether each person should receive eternal life or eternal punishment based on their earthly life.

Justice

Fairness in the way people are treated.

Lord's Prayer

The prayer taught to the disciples by Jesus; also known as the 'Our Father' and widely said by Christians in both church services and privately.

Matrimony

One of the seven sacraments; the sacrament of marriage which involves a lifelong covenant made between husband and wife.

Missio

The Catholic Church’s official charity for overseas mission, founded in 1922.

Mission

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

Nicene Creed/Council of Nicaea

Statement of Christian doctrine agreed by bishops at the Council of Nicaea in 325.

One God

The belief that God is one singular divine being (who can be manifest in the Three Persons of the Trinity).

Orthodox

A denomination/tradition of the Church popular in some parts of Eastern Europe. There are two main Orthodox Churches – Greek and Russian.

Pax Christi

Catholic charity working for peace.

Peace

The opposite of war; harmony between all in society.

Popular piety

Practices of worship and devotion that are not part of church liturgy, eg the Rosary and Stations of the Cross.

Pilgrimage

A religious journey to a holy site/sacred place, it is an act of worship and devotion.

Prayer

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

Protestant

Christian denominations in which authority is generally based on the Bible, rather than Church tradition/teaching. (eg Anglican, Methodist, Baptist).

Purgatory

A state of cleansing to remove the effects of sin.

Reconciliation

  • Making up and rebuilding relationships between two groups/sides after disagreement
  • One of the seven sacraments which involves penance for sins in order to be reconciled with God.

Redemption

Belief that through his atonement for our sins, Jesus secures our salvation; through Jesus humans are redeemed/saved.

Resurrection

  • Being raised from the dead; the event three days after the crucifixion when it is believed that God raised Jesus from the dead.
  • The form that many Christians believe the afterlife will take, referring to either physical or spiritual bodies.

Rosary

String of beads used in acts of worship and devotion to aid with counting/focus on recitation of set prayers; a form of popular piety.

Sacrament

The outward and visible sign of an invisible and spiritual grace. There are seven sacraments in the Catholic Church.

Salvation

Being saved; belief that through God’s grace, Jesus’ death and resurrection brought about salvation for humanity. Saving of the soul and being able to enter eternal life in heaven.

Society of St Vincent de Paul

Catholic charity founded in 1833 and currently working to help those in need worldwide.

The Son

The second Person of the Trinity; Jesus believed to be God incarnate.

Stations of the Cross

A series of 14 ‘stations’ (often images, carvings or statues) that depict the Passion of Jesus from his condemnation by Pilate to the tomb. This is an example of popular piety used for prayer and devotion.

Trinity

The belief that God as One includes God also being manifest in three Persons: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Trocaire

Irish Catholic charity working to overcome poverty and injustice.

Word

In the Bible, John 1 describes God creating the world through his eternal Word. This links the eternal Word to Jesus in the statement: ‘”The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

Worship

Showing adoration and reverence; offering praise to God.

Hinduism

Ahimsa

Non-harming; a personal virtue and guiding principle of Hinduism.

Arati

An important worship ceremony where an offering of light is made to the deity.

Artha

One of the four aims of human life; earning a lawful living.

Atman

The individual inner self, immortal soul; distinct from the material mind and body.

Avatar

Different forms/incarnations of the divine (eg Krishna and Rama who are avatars of Vishnu).

Bhajan/kirtan

Part of worship; devotional songs and hymns to God.

Brahma

One of Trimurti; the Creator.

Brahman

Ultimate reality, Supreme Being, divine consciousness that is the source of all life.

Cosmology

Understandings of the universe and how it began.

Cow protection

The cow is a sacred animal so protected in India; killing cows is forbidden in the Vedas.

Cycle of four ages

Time is a cycle made up of four ages (yugas), the cycle repeats itself endlessly.

Darshan

Part of worship; touching or greeting the image of a deity (murti) showing respect, receiving a blessing in return.

Deities

A way the divine presents; a form of god which can be male and female (eg Ganesha, Lakshmi).

Dharma

Hindu path in life; the moral foundations of Hinduism, divine law/duties.

Diwali

Festival of lights.

Environmental 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.

Ganesha

Elephant-headed deity symbolising wisdom and success.

Guru

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

Hanuman

Monkey deity; messenger of Rama.

Havan

Form of worship; the fire ceremony.

Holi

Festival of colours, spring celebration of the victory of good over evil and the story of Rama and Sita.

Illusion (maya)

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

Japa/mantra

Forms of worship; mantras are prayers or holy sounds/words that are repated. Japa is mantra chanting which often uses a string of beads to focus the mind.

Kama

One of the four aims of human life; enjoying the pleasures of life.

Karma

Moral action and reaction; all actions have consequences so the accumulation of positive/negative karma leads to rebirth.

Krishna

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

Kumbh Mela

Example of Hindu pilgrimage. A twelve-yearly gathering of Hindus at the meeting point of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers.

Lakshmi

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

Many worlds

Multiverse; Hindu concept of many worlds and universes, with many diverse inhabitants.

Matter (prakriti)

Physical material; belief that all matter is made up of three qualities (tri-guna) – darkness, activity and goodness.

Moksha

Liberation from the cycle of rebirth (samsara).

Murti

Consecrated statue of a deity used in worship.

Personal virtues

Qualities a Hindu should develop in themselves; include ahimsa, respect, empathy, self-control, humility and love.

Pilgrimage

A religious journey to a holy site/sacred place, it is an act of worship and devotion.

Puja

Act of worship which can take many forms in Hindu practice.

Rama

Avatar of Vishnu.

Samsara

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

Sanatana dharma

Eternal dharma, truth; another name for Hinduism.

Saraswati

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

Shaivism

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

Shiva

One of the Trimurti; the Destroyer.

Shrine

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 sometimes in public places.

Social inclusion

Projects to make society more equal.

Temple

Place of worship for Hindus (mandir).

Three features of the divine

Understandings of the nature of the divine as: everywhere (as non-personal, Brahman); within the heart; beyond, (as a personal God, approached through deities who live in the spiritual realm).

Three qualities (tri-guna)

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

Trimurti

Godhead in Hinduism; comprises Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

Vaishnavism

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

Varanasi

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 social grouping (varna) has particular duties to fulfil.

Vishnu

One of the Trimurti; the Sustainer.

Yoga

Four paths/practices which help a person unite with the inner divinity; action, knowledge, meditation, devotion.

Islam

Ablution (wudu)

Ritual washing before prayer.

Adalat/justice

Part of the nature of God in Shi’a Islam; the belief that God is fair.

Adam

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

Akhirah (life after death)

Belief in a new stage of life after death.

Angels

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

Arafat

Part of the Hajj pilgrimage. Place where Prophet Muhammad preached his last sermon and pilgrims gather to pray.

Ashura

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.

Authority

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

Beneficence

Literally ‘doing good’. One of the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah and belief about his nature, the generosity that Allah shows to humans.

Day of Judgement

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

Fairness

Belief about the nature of God; refers to Allah’s justice. He treats all humans equally and as they deserve.

Fasting

Not eating or drinking; one of the Five Pillars is Sawm during Ramadan.

The Five Pillars

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

The five roots of Usul ad-Din

The foundations of the faith in Shi’a Islam; five key beliefs: Tawhid (the Oneness of God), Adalat (justice), prophethood, imamate, resurrection.

Friday prayer/Jummah

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

Giving alms

Giving alms means giving to those in need, eg money, food, time. A key practice in Islam; one of the Five Pillars/Ten Obligatory Acts (Zakah).

The Gospel

Holy book /source of authority ; literally ‘good news’ and it is the good news about Isa (Jesus), who was a  prophet of Islam.

Greater jihad

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

Hajj

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

Heaven

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

Hell

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.

Ibrahim

One of the prophets of Allah. He rebuilt the Ka’aba.

Id-ul-Adha

Festival; celebration of the Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son for Allah.

Id-ul-Fitr

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

The imamate

One of the Five Roots of Usul-ad-Din, ‘Leadership.’ Shia belief in the twelve imams who succeeded Muhammad as the leaders of Islam.

Immanence

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

Jibril

Angel who dictated the Qur’an to Muhammad; on Judgement Day he will assist with the weighing of a person’s deeds.

Jihad

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

The Ka'aba

Part of the Hajj pilgrimage; cube-shaped building in the centre of the Grand Mosque in Makkah. All Muslims face towards it when they pray.

Khums

One of the Ten Obligatory Acts in Shi’a Islam; practice of alms giving.

Lesser jihad

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

Makkah

Place of pilgrimage during Hajj; the spiritual centre of Islam.

Mercy

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.

Mika’il

Angel who gives spiritual and material help to humans; on Judgement Day he will assist with the weighing of a person’s deeds.

Mina

Site of pilgrimage during Hajj; where pilgrims take part in the stoning of pillars.

Mosque

Muslim place of worship.

Movements (rak’ahs)

Actions and ritual movements made during salah (prayer) consisting of recitations, standing, bowing and prostration.

Muzdalifah

Site of pilgrimage during Hajj; where pilgrims hold a night prayer and rest after the Stand on Mount Arafat.

Muhammad

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

The Night of Power

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

Omnipotence

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

Pilgrimage

A religious journey to a holy site/sacred place, it is an act of worship and devotion.

Predestination

One of the Six Articles of Faith in Sunni Islam; the belief that everything that happens has been decided already by Allah.

The Psalms

Holy book/source of authority; sacred prayers  and poems written by King Dawud (David), a prophet of Allah.

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.

Ramadan

Month during which Muslims fast (sawm) from dawn to sunset.

Recitations

Part of the practice of salah (prayer); the reciting of verses from the Qur’an.

Resurrection

One of the Six Articles of Faith and Five Roots of Usul ad-Din; belief that after death, all people will be raised from the dead to face judgement.

Revelation

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

Risalah (Prophethood)

One of the Six Articles of Faith and Five Roots of Usul ad-Din; belief in the prophets as messengers sent by God to communicate to people.

Salah

Prayer; one of the Five Pillars/Ten Obligatory Acts.

Sawm

Fasting from dawn to dusk during Ramadan; one of the Five Pillars/Ten Obligatory Acts.

The Scrolls of Abraham

Holy book/source of authority; individual revelations to Ibrahim that were written on parchment but have perished.

The Shahadah

Muslim declaration of faith; one of the Five Pillars in Sunni Islam.

Shi’a Islam

Muslims who believe in the Imamate, successorship of Ali.

Six articles of faith

The foundations of the faith in Sunni Islam; six key beliefs: Tawhid (the Oneness of God), Angels, Holy Books, Prophethood, Akhirah, Predestination.

Sunni Islam

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

Tawhid (the Oneness of God)

One of the Six Articles of Faith and Five Roots of Usul ad-Din; the oneness and unity of Allah.

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 – khums, encouraging good, discouraging wrong, showing love for God and people, disassociation with enemies of God.

The Torah

Holy book/source of authority; given by God to the prophet Musa (Moses) on Mount Sinai.

Zakah

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

Judaism

Abraham

Known as the father of the Jewish people. God made a covenant with him, promising him land and descendants.

The Amidah

The ‘standing prayer’. Recited as part of public acts of worship in the synagogue.

Aron hakodesh (ark)

The holiest part of the synagogue containing the Torah scrolls.

Bar Mitzvah

Coming of age ceremony of boys aged 13. Literally "Son of the Commandment".

Bat Mitzvah

Coming of age ceremony for girls aged 12. Literally "Daughter of Commandment".

Bimah (reading platform)

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

Brit Milah

The religious rite of circumcision, usually performed eight days after a boy’s birth.

Charity

Key moral principle; giving to those in need. Hebrew term ‘tzedakah’ literally means ‘justice’ but used to refer to charity (because giving to those in need is part of promoting justice).

The Covenant

A binding promise/agreement; God's agreement to look after his chosen people.

Creator

Part of the understanding of the nature of God; the belief that God created the world from nothing.

Dietary laws

The food laws that were given by God, found in the Torah. These rules relate to what may/may not be eaten, combinations of foods, and the preparation of food.

Divine presence (Shekhinah)

Belief that God is beyond human understanding but his presence may be experienced/known.

Free will

Humans are free to choose to do right or to do wrong, this freedom is a gift from God but comes with responsibility.

God as one

Part of the understanding of the nature of God; belief that there is only one God, monotheism. Reflected in the 1st Commandment “You shall have no other Gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)

Healing the world

Key moral principle related to making the world a better place (Hebrew ‘tikkun olam’).

Judge

Part of the understanding of the nature of God; the belief that God is fair. God’s justice incorporates both forgiveness and mercy.

Judgement

Part of beliefs about life after death; a Day of Judgement when God will judge the living and the dead.

Justice

Key moral principle; fairness in the way people are treated.

Kosher

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

Law-Giver

Part of the understanding of the nature of God; 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.

Merciful

Part of the understanding of the nature of God; 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

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

Moses

The person through whom God set the Israelites free from slavery in Egypt, gave the Ten Commandments and 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 (ever-burning light)

A feature of the synagogue; a light that is above and in front of the aron hakodesh, which burns constantly as a symbol of God’s presence.

Orthodox Judaism

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

Pesach

Festival that celebrates the Jewish Exodus from Egypt, often called Passover.

Prayer

Communicating with God; listening to and speaking to God.

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.

Resurrection

Being raised from the dead; part of beliefs about life after death that in a future age the dead will rise and live again.

Rosh Hashanah

Festival celebrating the Jewish New Year. It is the start of the ten day period of High Holy Days that culminates in Yom Kippur.

Sanctity of human life

Belief that human life is a sacred/special because it is a precious gift from God.

‘Saving a life’ (Pikuach Nefesh)

This principle overrides all other religious laws because saving a human life should be of upmost importance in any situation.

Shabbat

The Sabbath/holy day of the week; beginning at sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday.

Sinai

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

Synagogue

The place of public worship, also used for study and gathering. Literally means ‘coming together’.

Talmud (oral law)

Source of authority; the law believed by Orthodox Jews to have been given to Moses but was not written down for many centuries, it was then expanded with rabbinic explanation/commentaries.

Tenakh (written law)

Holy book/source of authority; the Jewish scriptures. Includes into three parts: Torah (Law), Nevi'im (prophets) and Ketuvim (writings).

The Ten Commandments

Source of authority; religious and moral rules that were given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai.

Trefah

Forbidden food – literally means 'torn'. It does not fulfil the Jewish dietary laws/is not kosher.

Yom Kippur

The Day of Atonement – a day of repentance and fasting on the tenth day after Rosh Hashanah. The holiest day of the Jewish year.

Sikhism

Akhand Path

Continuous 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.

Barriers to mukti

The characteristics that block the achievement of liberation – illusion, self-centredness, lust, anger, greed, worldly attachment and pride.

Birth and naming ceremonies

Religious rites/ceremonies that welcome babies into the faith.

Contentment

One of the Sikh virtues; not being greedy, being satisfied with what you have, maintaining detachment from material things.

Courage

One of the Sikh virtues; being brave.

Creator

Understanding of God as creating the universe from nothing.

Divali

Festival of lights.

Ego (Haumai)

Pride, self-centredness.

Equality

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

Five Ks

Five symbols worn by Sikhs who have taken Amrit Sanskar.

Five stages of liberation (Five Khands)

The five stages of spiritual progress towards mukti. They include the realms of righteous action, knowledge, spiritual endeavor, grace, truth.

Golden Temple (Harimandir sahib) in Amritsar

Holiest gurdwara in Sikhism; place of pilgrimage.

Gurdwara

Sikh place of worship.

Gurmukh (God-centred)

Important part of Sikh life is to be God-centred, having focus always on God.

Gurpurbs

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

Guru Gobind Singh

Tenth human Guru; he established the Khalsa.

Guru Granth Sahib

Holy book/source of authority; believed to be a living Guru/the last and Eternal Guru.

Guru Nanak

Founder of Sikhism and the first human Guru.

Humility

One of Sikh virtues; to be humble, not proud.

Initiation ceremony (Amrit sanskar)

The ceremony of initiation into the Khalsa.

Justice

One of Sikh virtues; means working to make all things fair, or to bring equality.

Karma

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

Kaur

Name used by female Sikhs; Kaur literally means ‘princess.’

Langar

Communal meal at gurdwara; act of sewa.

Manmukh (man-centred)

Lifestyle to be avoided in Sikhism; to be materialistic, self-centred.

Meditating on the name of God (Nam Japna)

Part of worship; reciting and meditating on the name of God, thanking him for the gift of life.

Mool Mantra

Sikh declaration of faith contained in the Guru Granth Sahib; it describes the nature of God.

Mukti

Liberation from the cycle of rebirth.

Palki

Part of the features of the gurdwara; the canopy/dome which forms part of the structure above the takht where the Guru Granth Sahib sits.

Patience

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

Prayer

Communicating with God; listening to and speaking to God.

Rebirth

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

Sahajdhari Sikh

Sikh who has not been through the Amrit Sanskar ceremony, i.e. not initiated.

Sangat (religious community)

Sikh religious community.

Sewa

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

Self-control

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

Singh

Name used by male Sikhs. Singh literally means ‘lion.’

Takht

Feature of the gurdwara; a structure with a raised seat on which the Guru Granth Sahib sits under a canopy (palki).

Temperance

One of the Sikh virtues; exercising self-control and moderation, can include not partaking of alcohol or drugs.

Truthful living

One of the Sikh virtues; telling the truth, living an honest life. Includes promoting justice and not discriminating.

Vaisakhi

Festival celebrating the establishment of the Khalsa.

Wisdom

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

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