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The key vocabulary you need to learn for your AQA GCSE Religious Studies Christianity and Islam paper. Find all the terms and definitions you need to understand, from ‘ablution (wudu)‘ to ‘zinah‘.

A (ablution (wudu) to awe)
ablution (wudu)
In Islam, ablution (or wudu in Arabic) is the term for the ritual washing of hands, mouth, nostrils, arms, face, ears, hair, and feet before prayer.

An abortion is the removal of a foetus from the womb to end a pregnancy before the child is born.

In Shi’a Islam, Adalat is divine justice; the idea that God is just and fair and judges human actions, rewarding the good and punishing the bad.

Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were the first humans according to the Qur’an and Genesis 3 in the Bible.

The term afterlife refers to the belief that there is life in some form after the death of the physical body.

Agape is a word used in the Bible that describes selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love.

In Islam, Akhirah is everlasting life after death. Akhirah involves barzakh, the Day of Judgement, and Jannah (Heaven) or Jahannam (Hell).

Allah is the Arabic name for God.

Almsgiving is the term used to refer to giving money to the poor. In Islam, Zakah is a form of almsgiving.

Al-Qadr is Arabic for predestination, the idea that God knows or determines everything that will happen in the universe.

animal experimentation
The term animal experimentation refers to testing new products or medicines on animals to check they are safe to be used by humans.

Ascension is the event, 40 days after the resurrection, when Jesus returned to God, the Father, in heaven.

Ashura is a festival/commemoration that is important for Shi’a Muslims in particular, who remember the battle of Karbala and death of Husayn on this day. For Sunni Muslims, the Ashura festival celebrates when Moses saved the Israelites from slavery and when Noah left the ark for the first time after the flood.

An atheist is a person who does not believe in God or gods.

Atonement refers to the restoring of the relationship between people and God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Awe refers to a feeling of respect mixed with fear and wonder.

B - C (Baptism to crucifixion)
Baptism is an initiation ceremony using water through which people become members of the Christian Church.

Barzakh is an Arabic word meaning ‘obstacle’, ‘hindrance’, ‘separation’, or ‘barrier’. In Islam, barzakh refers to the barrier between life and afterlife, the state of waiting until the Day of Judgement.

believer’s baptism
Believer’s baptism refers to the initiation into the Christian Church by immersion in water of an adult, who is old enough to understand the ceremony and is willing to live a Christian life.

The term beneficence refers to the kind and loving qualities of God.

Big Bang
The Big Bang was a massive expansion of space that set in motion the creation of the universe.

biological weapon
A biological weapon contains living organisms or infective material, such as a virus, that can lead to disease or death.

CAFOD is the short form of the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, which is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

To be chaste is to not have sex.

chemical weapon
A chemical weapon uses chemicals to poison, burn, or paralyse humans, or destroy the natural environment.

Christian Aid
Christian Aid is a Christian charity aiming to eradicate poverty around the world.

Christmas is the day celebrating the incarnation, or the birth of Jesus (25 December in most churches).

A building in which Christians worship is called a church. The term Church refers to the body or organisation of religious believers, such as the whole body of Christians. The term also refers to the clergy, such as priests or vicars, of that religious body.

civil marriage
A civil marriage is a non-religious, legal marriage.

The term cohabitation refers to a couple living together and having a sexual relationship without being married to one another.

community service
Community service is a way of punishing offenders by making them do unpaid work in the community.

Conception occurs when a male sperm fertilises (fuses with) a female ovum (egg).

Confirmation is a Christian sacrament in which a person renews (confirms) the vows made at baptism.

The term contraception refers to methods used to prevent a pregnancy from taking place.

corporal punishment
Corporal punishment refers to the punishing of offenders by causing them physical pain.

The term creation refers to the act by which God brought the universe into being.

Crucifixion refers to the Roman method of execution by which criminals were nailed or bound to a cross; the term refers to the execution and death of Jesus on Good Friday.

D (Day of Judgement to duty)
Day of Judgement
In Islam, the Day of Judgement is a time in the future when the world ends and every soul is judged by God and is either rewarded by being sent to Jannah (Heaven) or punished by being sent to Jahannam (Hell).

death penalty
The death penalty is a form of capital punishment in which an offender is put to death for crimes committed.

A denomination is a distinct self-governing group within the Christian faith, with its own organisation and traditions. The Church of England is a denomination of Christianity.

Design argument
The Design argument is the belief that God designed the universe because everything is so intricately made in its detail that creation could not have happened by chance.

The term deterrence refers to the discouragement of an action or event by instilling fear or doubt of the consequences. Deterrence is an aim of punishment – to put people off committing crimes. Nuclear deterrence is the military doctrine that possession of nuclear weapons deters enemies from attacking.

A disciple is a follower of Jesus, especially during his lifetime.

Discrimination refers to treating someone differently and negatively based on, for example, their race, religion, gender, disability, or sexual orientation.

A divorce is the legal ending of a marriage.

The term dominion refers to having dominance or power over something.

A duty is something that someone must do; a duty is a responsibility.

E (Easter to extended family )
Easter is the religious season celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. On Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus following his crucifixion on Good Friday.

The term enlightenment refers to the gaining of true knowledge about God or self, usually through meditation and self-discipline; in Buddhist and Hindu traditions, enlightenment means gaining freedom from the cycle of rebirth.

The term ensoulment refers to the period from when Muslims believe the foetus is given a soul; ensoulment occurs 120 days after conception.

Equality refers to the state of being equal, especially in terms of status, rights, and opportunities.

Eternity is a state of timelessness that never ends, including endless life (immorality) after death.

Eucharist is a Christian sacrament involving a service of thanksgiving in which the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus are celebrated, using bread and wine.

The term euthanasia refers to the painless killing of a patient who is in an irreversible coma or who is suffering from an incurable and painful disease.

Evangelism is the spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness.

Evil is the term that describes and refers to the opposite of good, a force or the personification of an immoral or wicked power that is seen in many traditions as sinful and against God.

evil and suffering
Evil is the term that describes and refers to the opposite of good, and suffering is when people experience unpleasant events or conditions. Examples of evil and suffering include painful illnesses or people fighting and killing each other. The existence of evil and suffering can be used as an argument that God does not exist.

The term evolution refers to the natural process by which living organisms develop and diversify from earlier forms of life during the history of Earth.

extended family
The term extended family refers to a family that extends beyond parents and their children by including grandparents and other relatives as well.

F - G (Fair pay to Greater Jihad)
fair pay
Fair pay is the term that refers to giving someone the appropriate amount of money they deserve for the value of their work.

First Cause argument
Also called the Cosmological argument, the First Cause argument refers to the belief that there must be an uncaused cause that made everything else happen.

five roots of Usul ad-Din
The five roots of Usul ad-Din are core beliefs for Shi’a Muslims. These roots are the foundations for a Muslim to be a Muslim, without which their faith could be weakened.

A foetus is a developing baby inside the womb before it is born.

food bank
A food bank is a place where people can get free food, usually due to poverty.

free will
Free will is the belief that God gives people the opportunity to make decisions for themselves.

gender prejudice
Gender prejudice refers to the thought that men and women should only do certain things and have certain jobs.

general (or indirect) revelation
A general (or indirect) revelation refers to God making himself known through ordinary, common human experiences.

The Genesis (meaning beginning) is the first book of the Bible. The book of Genesis in the Old Testament of the Bible describes seven days of creation.

The term good describes something that is morally right or positively approved of; the opposite of evil.

Gospels (Injil)
The Gospels are the first four books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) of the New Testament, which tell the story of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. Muslims believe that the Gospels (Injil) in the Christian Bible are not the exact revelations made to Jesus because they have been changed over time.

Greater Jihad
The Greater Jihad is the personal inward struggle of all Muslims to live in line with the teachings of their faith, to be a good Muslim on a daily basis.

H (Hadith to human rights)
The Hadith is a collection of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Along with the Qur’an and the Sunna, the Hadith is an important source of guidance for Muslims.

The Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca) that every Muslim should try to make at least once in their life.

In Islam, halal means ‘allowed’ and is often used to refer to food from animals that have been killed in the correct way according to Muslim beliefs.

Haram is a word used in Islamic teachings to refer to any act that is forbidden by God.

hate crime
A hate crime is an offence, often including violence, that is usually targeted at a person because of their race, religion, sexuality, disability, or gender.

heaven (Jannah)
For Christians, heaven is a state of eternal happiness in the presence of God; the place of eternal peace ruled over by God. In Islam, heaven is Jannah. The Qur’an describes Jannah as a paradise and an eternal beautiful garden of physical and spiritual pleasures and delights.

hell (Jahannam)
For Christians, hell is the place of eternal suffering or the state of being without God; eternal separation from God. In Islam, hell is Jahannam. The Qur’an describes Jahannam as a blazing fire where there will be pain and suffering.

To be heterosexual is to be sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex.

Holy Communion
A sacrament; a service of thanksgiving in which the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus are celebrated, using bread and wine.

holy war
A holy war is a war that is fought ‘for God’, in the name of a religion. A holy war in Islam is often linked to the concept of the Lesser Jihad.

A homosexual is a person who is sexually attracted to members of the same sex.

human rights
Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms to which all human beings should be entitled.

I (Ibrahim to Iona)

Ibrahim (Abraham) was a prophet in Islam. For Christians, Abraham appears in the Old Testament and is seen as the ‘father of the faith’; he is honoured for his obedience to God.

Id-ul-Adha (festival of sacrifice) is a Muslim festival that celebrates the prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son for God.

Id-ul-Fitr (festival of the breaking of the fast) is a Muslim festival that celebrates the end of Ramadan.

In Islam, an imam is a religious leader who leads communal prayers. In Shi’a Islam, the title Imam is given to Ali and his successors.

In Shi’a Islam, the Imamate is the divine appointment of the Imams, who are leaders of Shi’a communities and perceived as descendants of the prophet Muhammad.

In Islam, immanence is the idea that God is present in and involved with life on Earth and in the universe; immanence is a quality of God.

In religious use, the term impersonal refers to the idea that God has no ‘human’ characteristics, is unknowable and mysterious, more like an idea or force than a person.

infant baptism
In Christianity, infant baptism is the sacrament through which babies and young children become members of 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
Informal prayer is made up by an individual using his or her own words.

informal worship
informal worship is a type of non-liturgical worship, sometimes ‘spontaneous’ or ‘charismatic’ in nature.

intention (niyyah)
Intention is the plan that someone makes before they act.

Iona is an island in Scotland and a place of pilgrimage for Christians.

J - L (Jahannam to Lourdes)
In Islam, hell is Jahannam. The Qur’an describes Jahannam as a blazing fire where there will be pain and suffering.

In Islam, heaven is Jannah. The Qur’an describes Jannah as a paradise and an eternal beautiful garden of physical and spiritual pleasures and delights.

Jibril is the Arabic name for Gabriel, the archangel who brought God’s message to the prophets, particularly to Muhammad. Jibril is the angel of revelation, who revealed the words of the Qur’an to Muhammad.

A Jihad is a struggle against evil; this may be an inward, personal struggle to be a better Muslim on a daily basis (the Greater Jihad) or an outward, collective struggle in defence of Islam, family, or country (the Lesser Jihad).

A Jummah is a weekly communal prayer, promoting the idea of Muslim community (Ummah), that is performed after midday on Friday and includes a sermon.

To be just means that God is fair and treats humans fairly, with justice.

just war
A just war is one that meets internationally accepted criteria for fairness; follows traditional Christian rules for a just war, and is now accepted by all other religions. In Islam, the criteria for a just war are very similar to those for Lesser Jihad.

In Islam, the Ka’aba is the black, cube-shaped building in the centre of the Grand Mosque in Makkah; the holiest place in Islam. Muhammad performed the Lesser Jihad when he fought in Makkah to restore the Ka’aba to the worship of God. Muslims pray facing the direction of the Ka’aba.

In Islam, khalifah (Arabic for ‘steward’) is a person that God has appointed to look after his creation.

Khums is the 20 per cent tax on their excess income paid to help those in need by Shi’a Muslims. Khums is usually paid to a Shi’a religious authority or to a charitable cause.

Last Supper
The Last Supper was the final meal that Jesus ate with his disciples before his crucifixion. He told them to remember his body with bread, and his blood with wine.

Lesser Jihad
In Islam, the Lesser Jihad is the outward struggle, including physical defence if needed, to defend one’s faith, family, and country from threat.

literal creation
Literal creation is the belief that God created the universe exactly as the account in Genesis 1 of the Bible describes.

The term liturgical describes a church service that follows a formal set of practices or ritual that remains the same.

Lord’s prayer
The Lord’s prayer was taught to the disciples by Jesus; also known as the ‘Our Father’.

Lourdes is a town in France and a Christian place of pilgrimage.

M - O (Makkah to origins of the universe)
Makkah is a city in Saudi Arabia where Muhammad lived and Muslims visit today on pilgrimage, or Hajj.

Marriage is a legal union between a man and a woman (or in some countries, including the UK, two people of the same sex) as partners in a relationship.

Mika’il is the Arabic name for Michael, the archangel of mercy who rewards good deeds and provides nourishment to people.

A miracle is a seemingly impossible event, usually good, that cannot be explained by natural or scientific laws, and is thought to be the action of God. The supreme miracle within Islam is the revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad.

In Christianity, a mission is the vocation or calling of a religious organisation or individual to go out into the world and spread the faith.

natural law
The term natural law refers to the moral principles that are part of human nature.

natural resource
A natural resource is a material found in nature, such as oil and trees, that can be used by people.

nature of God
The nature of god is what God is like, how he can be described. Some Muslims look to the 99 names of God, many of which come from the Qur’an or Hadith, to help them understand the nature of God.

Night of Power
The Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr) is when the first revelation of the Qur’an was made to Muhammad by Jibril; also, the Night of Power is the festival that marks the start of God’s revelation to Muhammad.

The term non-liturgical describes worship that is informal and does not follow a set text or ritual; this type of worship is sometimes ‘spontaneous’ or ‘charismatic’ in nature.

nuclear deterrent
The term nuclear deterrent refers to a country having nuclear weapons as a way of stopping enemies from attacking.

nuclear family
A nuclear family is a couple of parents and their dependent children regarded as a basic social unit.

nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon works by a nuclear reaction, devastates huge areas, and kills large numbers of people.

The term occultation means hidden from human sight. Shi’a Muslims believe Imam Mahdi didn’t die but is hidden from human sight (he is in occultation).

Omnibenevolent means all-loving, having perfect or unlimited goodness; it is a quality of God.

Omnipotent means almighty, having unlimited power; it is a quality of God.

Omnipresent means present everywhere at the same time; it is a quality of God.

Omniscient means knowing everything; it is a quality of God.

origins of life
The term origins of life refers to how human life began on Earth.

origins of the universe
The term origins of the universe refers to how the universe began.

P (Pacifism to Psalms (Zabur))
The term pacifism refers to the belief of people who refuse to take part in war and any other form of violence.

A parable is a story with a meaning or teaching, often about how to be a better person; Jesus told parables in the Bible.

The term peace-making describes the action of trying to establish peace.

people trafficking
The term people trafficking refers to the illegal smuggling of people from country to country, typically for the purposes of forced labour or commercial sexual exploitation, and using force or trickery on the victims.

Persecution is hostility and ill treatment of someone or a group especially because of race, or political or religious beliefs.

In a religious sense, personal describes the idea that God is an individual or person with whom people are able to feel close to or have a relationship with.

A pilgrimage is a journey by a believer to a holy site for religious reasons; an act of worship and devotion.

The term pollution refers to making something dirty and contaminated, especially the environment.

Polygamy is the practice or custom of having more than one wife or husband at the same time.

positive discrimination
The term positive discrimination refers to treating people more favourably because they have been discriminated against in the past or have disabilities.

Poverty refers to being without money, food, or other basic needs of life (being poor).

Prayer is a way of communicating with God, either silently or through words of praise, thanksgiving, or confession, or requests for God’s help or guidance.

predestination (al-Qadr)
The term predestination refers to the idea that God knows or determines everything that will happen in the universe.

Prejudice is unfairly judging someone before the facts are known, or holding biased opinions about an individual or group of people.

principle of utility
The principle of utility is a philosophical principle that an action is right if it promotes maximum happiness for the maximum number of people affected by the action.

In terms of abortion, the term pro-choice refers to the belief that every woman has the right to decide whether she wants to have a baby.

Procreation is the bringing of babies into the world; is reproduction, or the production of offspring.

In terms of abortion, the term pro-life refers to the belief that the life of the unborn baby (foetus) takes priority over other concerns, including those of the mother.

A prophet is a person chosen by God to proclaim his message.

Psalms (Zabur)
In Islam, the Psalms (Zabur) are the revelations given to Dawud (David) by God.

Q - R (Quality of life to Risalah)
quality of life
The term quality of life refers to the general well-being of a person, in relation to their health and happiness; also, the theory that the value of life depends upon how good or how satisfying life is.

In Islam, the Qur’an is the holy book that contains the revelations given to Prophet Muhammad by archangel Jibril.

racial prejudice
The term racial prejudice refers to showing prejudice against someone because of their ethnic group, race, or nationality.

In Islam, rak’ah is a sequence of movements in ritual prayer.

A recitation is a repeat of a passage of text from memory.

A reconciliation is a sacrament in the Catholic Church; also, the restoring of harmony after relationships have broken down.

Reformation is an aim of punishment; to reform or improve someone’s behaviour.

Repentance is admitting you’ve done something wrong and being sorry about it (repenting).

Remarriage happens when someone marries again, after a previous marriage or marriages have come to an end.

A responsibility is a duty to care for, or have control over, something or someone.

Resurrection is rising from the dead; Jesus arose from the dead (was resurrected) on Easter Sunday; an event recorded in all four gospels and the central belief of Christianity.

Retribution is an aim of punishment, to make the criminal pay for what they have done wrong; to get your own back, as in ‘an eye for an eye’.

A revelation is God showing himself to believers; that is the only way anybody can really know anything about God.

Risalah is the belief that prophets are an important channel of communication between God and humans.

S (Sacrament to Shi’a)
A sacrament is a rite or ritual through which a believer receives a special gift of grace; for Catholics, Anglicans, and many Protestants, sacraments are ‘outward signs’ of ‘inward grace’.

Sadaqah are good actions or voluntary payments that are undertaken for charitable reasons.

In Islam, salah is prayer with and in worship of God, performed under conditions set by the prophet Muhammad.

Salvation is the saving of the soul, deliverance from sin, and admission to heaven brought about by Jesus.

same-sex parent family
A same-sex parent family is people of the same sex who are raising children together.

sanctity of life
Sanctity of life is the belief that all life is holy because it is created and loved by God; since life is holy and given by God, therefore only God can take it away. Christians believe human life should not be misused or abused.

sanctity of marriage vows
The sanctity of marriage vows is the belief that the promises said during a wedding ceremony are special and holy, and should not be broken.

In Islam, sawm is fasting in the month of Ramadan. Sawm is one of the five pillars of Sunni Islam and the ten obligatory acts of Shi’a Islam.

Scripture is the sacred writings of a religion.

Scrolls of Abraham (Sahifah/Suhuf)
The Scrolls of Abraham (Sahifah/Suhuf) are the revelations given to Ibrahim (Abraham), the first holy book in Islam.

set prayer
A set prayer has been written down and said more than once by more than one person, for example the Lord’s Prayer.

The Shahadah is the Muslim declaration of faith. It means ‘to witness’ and is used at certain times in life to show core Muslim beliefs.

Shari’ah law
Shari’ah law is Islamic law based on the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sunnah.

Shi’a are Muslims who believe that Ali ibn Abi Talib was the divinely appointed leader of Islam after Muhammad died.

S (Sin to symbolic)
Sin is any action or thought that separates humans from God; a behaviour that is against God’s laws and wishes and against principles of morality.

situation ethics
The term situation ethics refers to taking into account the specific situation when deciding if something is right or wrong.

six articles of faith
The six articles of faith are the core beliefs of Sunni Islam.

social justice
The term social justice refers to ensuring that society treats people fairly whether they are poor or wealthy and protects people’s human rights.

Son of God
The Son of God is a title used for Jesus, the second person of the Trinity; denotes the special relationship between Jesus and God the Father.

special revelation
A special revelation is God making himself known through direct personal experience or an unusual specific event.

A step-family is created when a divorced or widowed person, who has a child/children, remarries.

street pastors
Street pastors are Christian volunteers who patrol the streets in towns/cities looking to help those in need.

Suffering is when people experience unpleasant events or conditions and undergo pain, distress, or hardship.

In Islam, Sunnah are the teachings and deeds of Muhammad.

Sunni are Muslims who believe that Abu Bakr, who was elected by the people, was the rightful leader of Islam after Muhammad died.

Supernatural describes something outside of nature or science.

Symbolic describes something representing something important, having a meaning beyond the immediate idea/image/words.

T - Z (Tawhid to zinah)
In Islam, Tawhid is the Oneness and unity of God.

Tearfund (The Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund) is a Christian charity that helps people in poverty through promoting sustainable development.

Terrorism is the unlawful use of violence, usually against innocent civilians, to achieve a political goal.

A theist is a person who believes in God.

theistic evolution
Theistic evolution is the belief that God is responsible for evolution (following the Big Bang).

A tithe is one tenth of annual produce or earnings.

Transcendent describes something that is beyond and outside life on Earth and the universe; a quality of God.

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

Torah (Tawrat)
In Islam, the Torah (Tawrat) contains the revelations given to Musa (Moses).

Violence is using actions that threaten or harm others.

Vision is seeing something, especially in a dream or trance, that shows something about the nature of God or the afterlife.

A vow is a formal promise (made during a wedding ceremony, for example).

Wealth is the money/possessions that someone has.

weapon of mass destruction
A weapon of mass destruction (WMD) can kill large numbers of people and/or cause great damage.

Wonder is marvelling at the complexity and beauty of something.

the Word
The Word is the term used at the beginning of John’s gospel to refer to God the Son (Jesus).

Zakah (charity) is the purification of wealth by giving 2.5 per cent of savings each year to the poor.

Zinah is an Islamic law concerning unlawful sexual relations between Muslims who are not married to one another.