A – Z of religions

Adi Granth First Book.  The first scriptures were compiled by Guru Arjan Dev (the 5th Sikh Guru).  The 10th Sikh Guru (Guru Gobind Singh) conferred Guruship to it thus becoming Guru Granth Sahib.
Advent Means Coming. The period including four Sundays before Christmas.  This is the time that Christians prepare for Christmas celebrations of the birth of Jesus.
Afterlife The explanation of what happens to people when they die.  The basic premise is that each individual has a soul, which lives beyond the body.  In some beliefs, the soul moves on to another place (heaven);  while for others there is a belief that the soul enters into another body.
Agnostic A person who thinks that it is impossible to know for certain that any God exists because there is no proof.
Ahimsa Not killing or hurting any living creature.  This is one of the important ideas of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.
Akaal Takht Throne of the Immortal.  Built by Guru Hargobind (6th Sikh Guru) as a seat of temporal authority for the Sikhs.
Akhand Paath Continuous, uninterrupted reading of the Guru Granth Sahib.
‘Akka The Bahá’i community remember this prison city near Haifa (Israel) where the Bah’u’lláh was imprisoned from 1868 to 1877.
Allah The Islamic name for God.
Amen It is true or So be it.  Muslims, Jews, and Christians say “Amen” or “Ameen” at the end of prayers.
Amrit Nectar.  A special mixture of sugar and water used at Sikh ceremonies.
Amrit Sanskar Sikh initiation ceremony.
Angel Heavenly being.  Chritianity, Islam, and Judaism believe that these beings carry messages between God and the people on earth.  Gabriel is one Angel that is named in the Scriptures of all three religions.
Apostle A Christian who is sent out to spread the message of Jesus.  The first Apostles were Jesus’s disciples.
Aqiqah A Muslim ceremony that is held when a Baby is seven days old.  Prayers are made for the Baby’s future.  The Baby is named and has its head shaved.  The hair is weighed, then the family calculate the cost of the same weight of silver;  then give that value to the poor.
Arabic The language in which the Qur’an (the Muslim holy book) is written.  The Qur’an came from Allah and was conveyed to the Prophet Mohammad in this language.  Muslims believe that the words should never be changed – regardless of the country of origin of a practicing Muslim, recital of verses and prayers are said in Arabic.
Arc Referred to as The Arc by the Bahá’i community.  It is the collection of administrative buildings at the Bahá’i World Centre on Mt. Carmel, Israel.  The buildings on the Arc include the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, the International Teaching Centre, the International Archives, and the Centre for the Study of the Sacred Texts.
Ardas A Sikh prayer said after Sikh services, remembering God, the teachings of Sikh Gurus, those who have died for Sikhism and asks Gods blessing for all humanity.
Arti A part of Hindu worship.  Five arti lamps are waved in circular movements in front of an image of a God or Goddess.  The worshipers hold their hands over the lamps and touch their faces to feel the warmth of the God or Goddess’s blessing.
Ascension Going up.  The Ascension of Jesus is celebrated by Christians forty days after Easter.  It is said in the Christian Scriptures that Jesus remained on earth for forty days after he had risen from the dead.  Then he was lifted up into heaven to be with God.
Ash Wednesday The first day of Lent, a period in the Christian year.  Some churches “ash” the congregation on their forehead (using a paste of ashes to make a cross).
AshRama A stage in life.  There are four Hindu stages (AshRama).  The first stage is the “student” stage, where Hindus learn about Hinduism.  In the second stage, the “householder” stage they work for a living, get married and have children.  In the third stage they have retirement.  The fourth stage is to become a wandering holy man (most Hindus do not follow this stage).
Atheist Someone who does not believe that God exists.
Aum A sound in Hindu chanting at the beginning and end of prayers and hymns. The written form of “Aum” is an important Hindu symbol.
Avalokiteshvara A Bodhisattva.  As a sign of being ready to help anyone, Avalokiteshvara is often shown with a thousand arms, each with an eye and holding an object.
Avatar The body or shape a God or Goddess takes to visit the earth in Hindism.
Ayatollah It literally means “a sign of Allah”.  A Shi’a Muslim leader who has studied Islamic theology and law to a high degree is known by this title
Bab Referred to as The Bab by the Bahá’i community.  It literally means “the gate”.  He is the Prophet-Founder of the Bábi Faith and the “Herald” of the Bahá’i Faith.
Bahá’i The Baha’i religioun began in Persia (Iran) in the 19th century.  The first preachers of the religion were a holy man called the Bab and his follower, Bah’u’llah.  The religion believes that all people and all religions are equal.  There are approximately 3.5 million followers of the Baha’i faith.
Bahá’u’lláh The Glory of God.  This man was the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’i Faith.  He spent his 40 year ministry in prison and exile.  He offered a message of unity, authored the equivalent of 100 volumes of text (which form the core of the Bahá’i Holy Writings), and called upon the world’s leaders to reconcile their differences and to establish true justice in the world.
Baisakhi Sikh festival which coincides with the Indian calendar new year, on the international calendar the festival takes place in mid-April.  One of the celebration’s traditions is to take down the Nishan Sahib, the flag outside all Gurdwaras, clean the flagpole and hoist a new flag.  Street processions take place.
BandiChhor Sikh festival which coincides with Diwali.  It remembers the release of Guru Hargobind (on his release, he also secured release of 52 Hindu princes).  Sikhs light up the Golden Temple.
Baptism A ceremony that takes place in many Christian churches.  The person being baptised has water sprinkled or poured, or is dipped in water, as a symbol of washing away his or her “old life” without Jesus.
Bar Mitzvah Son of the Commandment”  The Bar Mitzvah is given to a Jewish boy when he is 13 years old and starts his adult life.  He must from this point forward obey all the Jewish laws.  The ceremony is held in a Synagogue, the boy recites a prayer and reads from the Torah.  He is blessed and may be reminded of his new duties.  After the ceremony, there is a meal to celebrate.
Bat Hayil “Daughter of Valour”  For Orthodox Jews, this is a name  sometimes given to girls when they start their adult lives at 12.
Bat Mitzvah Daughter of the commandment”  Progressive Jews celebrate this female equivalent of a Bar Mitzvah.  A girl’s coming of age is 12.
BC “Before Christ”  It is used in dates, for example 100 BC (100 years before Jesus Christ was born).  Now, BC is often replaced with BCE.
BCE “Before the Common Era”  It is often used to replace BC.  BC is acceptable to Christians, but not for people of other faiths and traditions.
Bethlehem A town in Israel where Jesus was born.
BhagavadGita Song of the Lord”.  It is a part of the Mahabharata.  The story tells of a quarrel and war between two royal families.  Prince Arjuna is not willing to begin fighting because the enemy army is lead by his cousins.  The God Krishna appears and reminds Arjuna that he must do his duty as a soldier, without thinking of himself.
Bhikkhu / bhikkhuni A Buddhist monk is called a Bhikkhu.  A Buddhist nun is called a Bhikkhuni.Zen monks wear black.  Tibetan monks wear maroon and Theravada monks wear saffron.
Bible The name of the Christian Scriptures.  It consists of the Old TestAment (Jewish Scriptures) and the New Testament (which contains the story of the life of Jesus).
Bimah In a Jewish Synagogue, the Bimah is a table of desk from which the Torah scrolls are read.
Bishop Senior ministers in the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christian and some other churches are called Bishops.
Bodh Gaya A town in north-east India where the Buddha attained enlightenement.
Bodhisattva In Mahayana Buddishm, Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who could enter Nirvana.
Brahma One of the three most important Hindu Gods.  He is the creator of the world and the God of wisdom.
Brahmin A member of the highest Hindu Caste.  Hindu priests come from this Caste.
Buddha “Enlightened One”  This is the name given to Siddhartha Gautama (an Indian prince born in 480 BCE) by followers of Buddhism.
Buddhist Someone who follows the Buddha’s teachings.
Caste The English word for the societal divisions in Hinduism.  There are four main groups in the Caste system – they are:  Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (soldiers), Vaishyas (merchants) and Shudras (labourers).  There are subdivisions of these groups which are called “jatis”.
Cathedral The main Christian church in an area (called a diocese).
CE Common Era  Used to replace the Christian dating of AD.
Challah A Jewish bread made for Shabbat (day of rest) and festivals.
ChauriSahib A whisk made of yak  hair, horse hair or nylon and attached with a silver or wooden handle.  During worship, it is waved over the Guru Granth Sahib as a show of respect.
Christian A Christian is someone who follows the teachings of Jesus.  There are over 20,000 different groups or denominations of Christianity.
Christmas The festival for Christians when they remember the birth of Jesus.
Confucius A Chinese philosopher born in 551 BCE.  He taught that people should follow the five virtues:  kindness, goodness, modesty, wisdom, and trustworthiness.  There are approximately 5 million followers of Confucius today.
Covenant A two-way promise between God and a person or people.
Cow Cows are holy animals in Hinduism.  Hindus would never hurt or kill cows and do not eat beef.
Creation Muslims, Jews and Christians interpret Creation as the making of the world by God.  Stories of the Creation are told in these three faiths’ holy Scriptures.


Dalai Lama The chief Tibetan monk (lama).  Tibetan Buddhists believe that the Dalai Lama is the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in human form.
Dassehra A September festival for Hindus.
Day of Judgement Muslims and Christians believe that there will be a Day of Judgement when God will bring the dead back to life to judge each person.
Deity God or Goddess or other sacred being.
Dhammapada A part of the Theravada Buddhist Scriptures, it contains many of the Buddha’s sayings.
Dharma Law or Teaching.  In Buddhism the Dharma is the Buddha’s teaching.  In Hinduism Dharma is the inherent duty to look after family and friends and to be honest and work hard.
Diwali A festival of lights.  Hindus and Sikhs celebrate Diwali in October or November.  The Hindu festival incorporates many lights, fireworks, feasting, singing and dancing.   Gift-giving is also a part of the celebration.  It is a celebration from the Scriptures of Rama who was banished to the forest when he should have become King.  Rama eventually triumphantly returned and to celebrate his return homes and Temples are covered in lights.  Diwali marks the start of the new business year.The Sikh festival remembers the releasee of Guru Hargobind (when being released, he made sure that 52 Hindu princes were also released).  Sikhs light up the Golden Temple and light lamps and candles in other places.
Diwaan Sikh act of public worship.
Dome of the Rock The Dome of the Rock is a building in Jerusalem.  It is near the Masjid-al-Aqsa from where Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad continued his Night Journey of Makkah to the heavens via Jerusalem known as Al-Israa wal-Mi’raaj. 
Dukkha Suffering A Buddhist word for suffering.
Easter A Christian festival in MArch or April.  It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus.
Ecumenical movement In the Christian Church the movement is to bring together different denominations of Christians to worship and get together.
Eid-ul-Adha Festival of Sacrifice.  This major festival takes place during the Muslim month of pilgrimage.  It is celebrated the world over around the time when Muslim Pilgrims are performing hajj rituals in the valleys of Mina near Makkah on the 10th day of Zil-Hijjah(month of pilgrimage).
Eid-ul-Fitr Major Muslim festival marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Enlightenment The experience of realising and understanding the truth.  Enlightenment is the aim of all Buddhists.
Etz Hayim Tree of Life  It is the wooden roller at each end of the Jewish Torah scroll.
Eucharist Mass, Lord’s Supper, and Holy Communion.  A Christian ceremony where bread and wine are blessed and shared.
Exodus The Jewish people’s escape from slavery in Egypt led by Moses.
Five Ks Sikh uniform consisting of five items worn by Baptized Sikhs (uncut hair, wooden comb, small sword, steel wristband, undershorts).
Four Noble Truths Taught by the Buddha to be: Life is full of suffering;  Suffering happens because people are greedy and selfish and never happy with what they have;  People can leave suffering behind;  and the way to leave suffering behind is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path.
Gabriel An important Angel for Christians, Muslims and Jews.
Ganesha Hindu God with an elephant’s head.  Prayers are often said to Ganesha to  ask for help in solving a problem or travelling.
God Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and Jews believe in one great and all knowing power.  This God has created the world and cares for it.  The Hindu Brahman is also sometimes referred to as God.
God, Goddess Gods (male), Goddess (female) are sacred beings or spirits.
Good Friday Remembered by Christians as the day when Jesus was crucified.
Golden Temple The Harimandir (Golden Temple) in Amritsar is important centre to Sikhs.  The building is marble and covered with copper and gold.  It is decorated with verses from the Guru Granth Sahib.
Gospels The first four books of the New Testament in which the life and sayings of Jesus Christ are described.
Granthi The Sikh appointed by Gurdwara to read from the Guru Granth Sahib at services and to perform ceremonies.
Gurdwara A Sikh place of worship.
Gurmukhi From the Gurus Mouth.  The script developed by the Sikh Guru Arjan (5th Sikh Guru) for writing Punjabi, the language of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Gurpurb A Sikh festival remembering the birth, martyrdom or event of one of the Sikh Gurus.
Guru For Sikhs a Guru is an enlightened spiritual teacher, there were ten Sikh Gurus who taught Sikhism between 1469 and 1708.  Guru Granth Sahib (scripture) is the eternal Guru for the Sikhs.For Hindus a Guru is a religious teacher.
Hadith Sayings of the Prophet Mohammad.
Hafiz The title given to Muslims who have learned the whole of the Qur’an by heart.
Haji The Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah that all Muslims must try to make during their lifetime.  A person who has completed the pilgrimage is known by the title of Al-Hajj (male) or Al Hajjah (female).
Halal Allowed  The food and drink that Muslims are permitted to eat.  Fish, fruit, vegetables, and meat that has been killed in a particular way is Halal.  Pork and alcohol are not Halal.
HanaMatsuri A Japanese Buddhist flower festival celebrating the Buddha’s birthday.
Hand of the Cause of God A Bahá’i appointed administrative position.  Hands of the Cause are appointed based on their spiritual knowledge and wisdom.  They act as advisors and emissaries for the Guardian and the Universal House of Justice.
Hanukkah An eight day Jewish festival in December.  The festival is in rememberance of when the Jews won back the Temple in Jerusalem in ancient times.
Hanuman A Hindu God with the body of a monkey.
Haraam Forbidden.  Things that Muslims are not allowed to do.
Haram The areas around the Ka’bah in the Grand Mosque in Makkah and surrounding areas deemed of great sanctity.
Hebrew The language of the Jewish Scriptures.
Hijab A large scarf worn by some Muslim women which covers their head, neck and chest.
Hijrah Departure or Migration.  The name Muslims have for the Prophet Mohammad’s move from Makkah to Madinah in 622 CE.  The prophet’s migration journey also marks the starting of the Islamic calendar.
Hindu Follower of Hinduism – Hindus call their religion “sanatana dharma” which means eternal law.
Holi A two-day Hindu festival marking the coming of Spring (held in February or MArch).
Holy Spirit The Holy Spirit for Christians is the mysterious power of God at work in the people and the world around us.
Holy Week For Christians it is the week that leads up to Easter.
House of Justice A Bahá’i elected administrative body consisting of 9 members with jurisdiction over a specified region.
House of Worship A Bahá’i Temple of worship.
Huppah The canopy under which a Jewish wedding ceremony takes place.
Id ul Adha Festival of Sacrifice.  This festival marks the end of the Muslim month of pilgrimage (Hajj).
Id ul Fitr Muslim festival at the end of Ramadan.
Ibrahim See Abraham
Imam Literally means “a leader”.  A Muslim who leads the congregational prayers in the Mosque.


Jatakatale A certain type of story that is used to teach Buddhist about the ideas and guidance of the Buddha.
Jerusalem A city that is sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians.  It is associated with the glory of the Jewish nation, the life and death of Jesus Christ and for Muslims it is believed to be a holy city with a special religious and historical status.
Jesus Jesus Christ, believed by the Christians to be the Son of God, lived probably from BCE4 until CE29.  According to the New Testament, he was born in Bethlehem of the Virgin May.  He taught from approximately CE26 to CE29, when he was crucified in Jerusalem.  His followers believed that he rose from the dead after three days, and that he subsequently ascended into heaven.
Jew Someone who belongs to the Jewish people.  Different groups practice in different ways.  The Progressive Jews believe that Judaism needs to change with modern times.  Orthodox Jews strictly follow the laws of the Torah and do not believe in modifying to meet modern times.
Jihad Effort or Challenge.  The Muslim description for personal struggle against evil or temptation.
John the Baptist Christians believe he was a cousin of Jesus.  He preached to people and baptized them in the River Jordan (symbolic of washing away their sins).
Jumu’ah Friday.  A holy day of the week for Muslims.  Jumu’ah begins after sunset on Thursday and ends at sunset on Friday.  The midday prayers on Friday preceded by a sermon from the Iman is also known as the Jumu’ah.
Ka’aba A cube-shaped building (believed to have been built by Ibrahim and his son Isma’il) in the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
Kachera Cotton undergarment worn by Sikhs to maintain modesty and as a symbol of purity.  One of the Five Ks.
Kanga A wooden comb worn by Sikhs to keep the hair neat and as a symbol of cleanliness.  One of the Five Ks.
Kara A steel wristband..  Worn to remind Sikhs to maintain self-control.  One of the Five Ks.
KarahParshad Sweet pudding shared at the end of a Sikh service to show that everyone is equal.
Karma Karma is an idea important to Buddhist, Hindus and Janist.  It is the idea that all of a person’s actions have an effect on their present life and will also affect their rebirth.
Kashrut Kosher.  Set of Jewish food laws.
Kathina A Theravada Buddhist festival in November.  Gifts are given to monks in the local Vihara (monastery).
Kaur Princess, Name given to Baptized Sikh females, though it may also be used freely.
Kes Uncut Hair.  Worn by Sikhs to maintain natural form.  One of the Five Ks.
Khalsa The pure.  Baptised members of the Sikh community,  started by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
Khanda A double-edged sword used by Sikhsin preparing Amrit, also a Sikh weapon.
Khutbah An Arabic sermon given by the Imam at congregational prayers at midday on Fridays and the two major festivals of Eid-ul-fitr and Eid-ul-Adha..
Kirpan A small sword worn by Baptised Sikhs only and used as a last means of defence.  It is legal for Sikhs to carry Kirpan on their person.  One of the Five Ks.
Kosher See Kashrut
Krishna A popular Hindu God, usually represented with dark blue or black skin and playing a flute.
Lama Teacher.  A monk in Tibetian Buddhism.
Langar The Sikh community kitchen or dining hall of a Gurdwara.  After a Sikh service everyone shares a meal (called a langar)
Laylatul-Qadr See Night of Power.
Lent For Christians it is the 40 day period from Ash Wednesday to the day before Easter.  More time is usually spent in prayer and some Christians go without something they enjoy for the 40 day period.
Losar A Tibetan Buddhist festival marking the start of the new year.
Madinah The second most holy city of Islam after makkah.
Madrasah A class held in a Mosque to educate Muslim young people and children about the Qur’an and Haddith and to teach them recitation of religious texts in the Arabic language.
Mahabharata Part of the Hindu Scriptures.  It is home to the world’s longest poem (100,000 verses)
Mahayana Buddhism One of the two main types of Buddhism.  It includes Tibetan, Pure Land, Zen and other types that have developed from the first century CE.
Makkah Located in Saudi Arabia it is the most holy city of Islam.  It is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad and is where he received the words of the Qur’an.
Madala A circular picture which Tibetan Buddhists use to help them meditate.
Madinah The City where Prophet Muhammad migrated and chose as his final resting place.  After Makkah the City of Madinah is the most frequently visited place by Muslims as a mark of respect.
Mandir A place where Hindus worship.  Also called a Temple.
Manji Sahib A raised platform with a set of three cushions and a quilt onto which Guru Granth Sahib is placed and opened.
Mary Christians believe that Mary was the women chosen by God to be the mother of His son, Jesus.  Mary is pArticularly important to Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians.
Masjid The Muslim name for the place of worship commonly known as Mosque.
Mecca See Makkah
Medina See Madinah
Menorah A candlestick with seven branches which has become the symbol of Judaism.
Messiah The Old Testament tells of the Messiah as a promised leader.  Christians believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah.  Jews believe that the Messiah is still to come.
Metta The Buddhist word for loving kindness.
Metta Sutta The Buddha’s teachings about Metta.  It begins with “May all beings be happy, whoever they are”.
Mezuzah A small box that Jews attach to the doorpost of their homes which contains a Jewish prayer.
Middle Way Another name for the Buddhist Eightfold Path.
Mihrab The Mihrab is a niche or alcove in a Mosque.  If facing the Mihrab when praying, Muslims face the direction of the Ka’aba.
Mitzvah For Jews it is a commandment from God.  Sometimes the term is used to mean a good deed.
Moksha For Hindus it means freedom from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
Mool Mantra The opening verse of the Guru Granth Sahib, which is recited by Sikhs as a part of their worship.
Moses A Jewish leader whose story is told in Christian and Jewish Scriptures.  He is also mentioned in the Muslim Qur’an as one of the Prophets.
Mosque A building where Muslims worship and meet.  The Muslim name for the building is Masjid.
Muezzin A Muslim who makes the call to prayer from a Mosque.
Muhammad the Prophet Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad was the last Prophet sent by Allah (God) to teach people how to live.  Allah gave the Prophet Mohammad his message to tell others through the Angel Jibril (Gabriel).  The words Jibril conveyed to Prophet Mohammad were written down by scibes in the prophet’s time and constitute the Qu’ran.
Murti An image or statue of a Hindu deity.
Muslim Someone who follows the religion of Islam.
Nativity For Christians it means the birth of Jesus.
Navaratri Nine Nights.   A Hindu festival when the mother Goddess Durga is worshipped.
Ner Tamid Eternal Light.  A light that hangs above the ark in a Jewish Synagogue.
New Testament See Bible.
Night Journey Laylat ul-Israa wal-Miraj..  A miraculous event in the Prophet Muhammad’s life when he was taken by the Angel Jibril (Gabriel).  He was taken from Makkah to Jerusalem and from there travelled through the heavens to the thron of Allah.
Night of Power Laylat al-Qadar.  For Muslims, it is a special night eagerly sought in Ramadan.  It is the night when the Prphet Muhammad received the first revelation of Qur’an from the Angel Jibril (Gabriel).
Nirvana For Buddhists, a state of perfect peace and happiness reached by people who gain Enlightenment and are free from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
NishanSahib The Sikh flag which is flown over all Gurdwaras.
Orthodox Correct or Proper.  Used to describe people who follow their religion very strictly.
Orthodox Church One of four main Christian Church groupings.  It was created in the 11th century after the Christian church split into Eastern and Western parts.  The Orthodox Church is the Eastern part.


Pagoda A Japanese or Chinese style of Buddhist Shrine.
Pali The ancient Indian language which was used to write the teachings of Theravada Buddhism.
Parochet The Parochet is the curtain which hangs in front of the ark in a Jewish Synagogue.
Pentecost The English name for the Jewish festival of Shavuot.There is also a Christian festival called Pentecost 7 weeks after Easter, which commemorates the day when, according to the New Testament, the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples of Jesus.
Pesach A Jewish festival in MArch or April to remember the Exodus of the ancient Jews from Egypt.
Pope The head of the Roman Catholic Church.  Roman Catholics believe that there has been an unbroken succession of Popes beginning with Jesus’s disciple Peter.
Poya Recognized by Buddhists as the days which should be used to make a special effort to go to the Vihara and to meditate.  These days fall on full-moon days.
Progressive Moving Forward.  Progressive Jews believe that Judaism should adapt to modern times and should always try to move forward and improve.
Progressive Revelation A Bahá’i belief that God has sent successive revelations in order to uplift and educate humanity.
Prophet Christian, Jewish, and Islamic Scriptures all believe that a Prophet is someone who was chosen by God to speak to people in the world about His wishes.
Protestant Witness to the Truth.  A type of Christian. Protestants believe that they witness to the truth of the Bible.  It was founded in the 16th century by people who wanted to change the Roman Catholic Church but could not, so they formed the Protestant church. It is now one of the four main Christian churches.
Psalm For Jews and Christians it is a song of praise to God.
Puja Worship in Buddhism and Hinduism.
Purim A Jewish Festival in February or MArch to celebrate the story of Ester the Jewish wife of a Persian King who saved Jews from death.
Qiblah Qiblah is the direction of the Ka’bah which Muslims face when engaged in ritual prayers.  In the UK this direction is south-east.
Qur’an The Islamic Holy Book.  Muslims believe that the words of the Qur’an are the words of Allah containing timeless principles and guidance on how to live.
Rabbi A Jewish religious teacher who may also lead worship in a Synagogue.
Rak’ah The set of movements that must be made during Muslim ritual prayer.
RakshaBandha A Hindu festival in July or August which comes from a story about the God Indra.
Rama A Hindu God who is worshipped all over India for his goodness and courage.
Ramadan The name of a month in the Islamic calendar.  It is the month of Muslim fasting.  Muslims go without food, drink and intimacy from dawn until sunset every day throughout Ramadan.
Ramayana A long Hindu poem about Rama and his wife Sita.
Reincarnation Being born again.  Sikhs, Buddhists, and Hindus believe that after they die, they are reborn – and that their behaviour in this life will affect their next life.
Roman Catholic A Christian from the largest of the four main branches of the Christian church, headed by the Pope.
Rosh Hashanah The Jewish New Year which occurs in September or October.  The festival celebrates how God created and judges the world.
Rumala An ornate cloth which Sikhs use to cover the Guru Granth Sahib.
Sabbath A holy day of rest and worship for Christians and Jews which occurs each week.  The Jewish Shabbat (Sabbath) begins at sunset on Friday and lasts 25 hours.  The Christians have made Sunday their Sabbath.
Sacred thread ceremony A Hindu rite of passage for a boy about 10 years old.   It takes place only with boys in the top three Castes, during the ceremony the boy is looped with cotton on his left shoulder and under his right arm.  The boy promises to do his duty as a Hindu and to read the Scriptures.   He will wear the thread for the rest of his life.
Sadhu A Hindu holy man.
Saint For Christians it is someone who has lead an especially holy life and perhaps suffered for their beliefs.
Sajjadah A Muslim prayer mat.
Salah The Muslim practice of praying 5 times each day.
Samsara The cycle of birth, death and rebirth for Buddhists and Hindus.
Samskara One of 16 Hindu ceremonies which mark important times in a Hindus life (for example their wedding).
Sangat Gurdwara congregation.
Sangha The Buddhist community.
Sanskrit Ancient Indian language which is used in most of the Hindu Scriptures.  Considered to be a sacred language by the Hindus.
Sant-Sipahi Saint-Soldier.  What a Khalsa Sikh should aspire to be.
Sat Sri Akaal Sikh greeting: “Truth is eternal”
Sawm For Muslims, it is the obligatory fasting during the month of Ramadan and other optional fasts during the rest of the year.
Scriptures Holy books.
Secular To do with worldly matters and not with religion.
Shabbat The Hebrew name that Jews use for the seventh day of the week, which is regarded as a holy day.
Shari’ah The Shari’ah is a Muslim code of behaviour or law based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
Shavout The Jewish festival remembering the story of God giving Moses the Torah.
Shema The Shema is a Jewish prayer.
Shi’a Short for Shi’at Ali.   Means followers of Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad.  These Muslims believe that the true leaders of Islam are descended from Ali.  Shi’a Muslims are concentrated in Iran and Iraq and are also found in large numbers in India and Pakistan.
shiva The seven days of Jewish mourning after a person has died.
Shiva One of the three main Hindu Gods.  He is the destroyer of evil and is often shown holding a trident as a symbol of destruction.
Shrine A place considered holy because it is linked to a religious leader, Saint or Deity.
Shrove Tuesday The Christians recognize Shrove Tuesday as the day before Lent.
Siddhartha Gautama The Indian prince who became the Buddha.
Sikh Disciple.  Someone who follows Sikhism.  The religion started by the Guru Nanak in Punjab in 1469.  There are approximately 25 million Sikhs worldwide.
Singh Lion.  The name given to all Baptized Sikh males since 1699, though it may be used freely, inspiring Sikhs to be fearless and brave.
Stupa A Buddhist Shrine.
Sufi Mystical Muslims who live simple lives of abstinence from worldly matters.  Some Sufi use special methods of Dhikr (remembrance of Allah) through chanting, rhythm and music etc.  to help them feel closer to God.
Sukkot A week-long Jewish autumn harvest festival.
Sunnah Everything known about the Prophet Muhammad’s sayings, teachings, thoughts and actions.
Sunni Literally it means one who is guided by the Sunnah in their daily lives.  The largest numbers of adherents to Islam are Sunni.  Approximately 4/5 Muslims today are Sunni.
Sutra Thread.  In Buddhism and Hinduism it is used to describe a verse or longer piece of writing.
Synagogue A place for Jewish worship.  It is also the place where Jews can go to attend classes about their religion and attend social functions.


Takht In a Gurdwara, a Takht is a throne (platform with a canopy) on which the Guru Grantha Sahib is placed.
Talmud A collection of Jewish writings from approximately 200-500 CE.
Taoism Followed by approximately 5 million people, it was begun by Lao-tzu, a Chinese philosopher in the 6th century.  He taught about a great power in the world called the Tao (the way).  Taoist try to live good lives so that they can become a part of the Tao.
Temple A place used for worship.
Tenakh The name of the Jewish scripture.  It has three parts:  Torah, the Nevi’im, and the Ketuvim.
Theravada Buddhism One of two main types of Buddhism.  One of the main beliefs is that the only way to reach Enlightenment is to follow the teachings of the Buddha.  The monks and nuns of this type of Buddhism rely on the lay Buddhists to give them food and other things they need.
Torah For many Jews, this is the most important part of their Scriptures.  It includes stories about the first Jews and has more than 600 laws.
Tripitaka Three Baskets.  The Theravada Buddhist Scriptures.


Upanishads Hindu Scriptures written in Sanskrit from approximately 2,500 years ago.  Given in the form of lessons by Gurus to their pupils, they talk about the relationship between people and Brahman.
Varanasi A Hindu holy city on the banks of the Ganges in Northern India.  Hindus believe that the river is sacred and bathe in it as well as visit the hundreds of Temples located there (the majority of which are dedicated to the God Shiva).
Vatican City A tiny country inside the city of Rome, Italy.  It is the centre of the Roman Catholic Church and the home of its leader the Pope.
Vedas Hindu Scriptures dating back 3,500 years ago.  It contains over 1,000 hymns in praise of Gods and Goddesses.
Vihara A place where Buddhist monks and nuns live.
Vishnu One of the three main Hindu Gods.  He protects the world and is the God of goodness and mercy.  He is often shown with four hands holding a conch shell, a lotus flower, and two weapons, a discus and a club.


Wesak A Theravada Buddhist festival in May which marks the birth, Enlightenment and death of the Buddha.
Western Wall The only remaining part of the ancient Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
Wudhu A Muslim ritual of washing before they pray.  They wash their face, hands, arms and feet three times each in water and then wipe their hair with their damp hands or palms.
Yad The pointer used by Jews to keep the place when reading from a Sefer Torah.
Yoga A technique practiced by Hindus who believe that it can help to break free from the cycle of birth, death, rebirth (Samsara).
Yom Kippur Yom Kippur is the last day of the “Ten Days of Repentance” which begin at Rosh Hashanah for Jews.  Many Jews go to Synagogue to pray for forgiveness for their wrongs over the past year.
Zamzam The name of a well in Makkah.  Muslims on Hajj in Makkah drink Zamzam water, and take some home to their friends and family.
Zen A type of Buddhism followed in Japan and China.  For Zen Buddhists, meditation is the way to attain Enlightenment.
Zion Jews have three interpretations of this term.  It is the hill on which Jerusalem was built.  It is used in Jewish prayer for Jerusalem or the land of Israel.  It is also used to define what is hoped for (the Jews’ return to the land of Israel or a perfect life for all people).
Zoroastrianism A religion which was started in Persia (Iran) more than 3,000 years ago.  It taught that there was only one God who made the world to destroy an evil spirit.  Zoroastrians believe that life is a battle between good and bad.