Material Culture of Religion: Glossary of (selected) Religious Terms, Concepts, People, Etc. A ad

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Material Culture of Religion: Glossary of (selected) Religious Terms, Concepts, People, Etc.


No longer politically correct term for Anno Domini (Latin: "Year of Our Lord"). See CE.

AH (=After Hijra)
(see also hijra)
Muslim: In the Islamic calendar, years are counted beginning in 622 CE, the year Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Medina.

Indian subcontinent: Fourth month of the (solar) year.

Indian subcontinent: The seventh month of the (solar) year.

Abbas Effendi (=Abdu'l-Baha, "Son of Baha'u'llah")
Baha'i: Born in 1844, he accompanied his father, Mirza Husayn-Ali on his exile to Palestine. The father appointed this son his successor, the exemplar of his teachings, and the interpreter of his revelation. Under Abdu'l-Baha the Baha'i faith spread beyond the Middle East, India and Burma to Europe, the Americas, southern Africa and Australasia. He died in 1921.

adalah (Arabic: "integrity")

Muslim: Uncle of Muhammad. Founder of Abbasid Dynasty.

Abbas I (=Shah Abbas I)
Muslim: Safavid ruler (1587-1629 CE).

Abbas II (=Khedive Abbas II)
Muslim: Viceroy of Egypt (1892-1914 CE).

Abbasid Caliphs, Reign of (=Abbasids, =Abbasid Dynasty)
Muslim: 132-656 AH (750-1258 CE). Centered in Baghdad (contemporary capital of Iraq). Arab family; descended from Abbas. The last Abbasid Caliph was killed by the Mongol chief, Hülegü, grandson of Ghengis Khan.

abd (Arabic)

  1. In ordinary usage, denotes a slave or servant

  2. Common usage: When used with another given name, the construct means "son of...".

  3. Muslim: When used with one of the names of Allah, the construct means "servant of God"; a common given name for Muslims.

Abd al-Ilah
Muslim: Regent of Iraq (1939-1953).

Abdallah (=Amir Abdallah)
Muslim: Son of Amir Husayn of Mecca, participant in the Arab Revolt and ruler of Transjordan (1921-1951).

Abdallah ibn al-Zubayr
Muslim: Challenger to the Umayyad dynasty (ca. 683-692).

Abd al-Malik
Muslim: Umayyad caliph (685-705) who ended the second fitna.

Muslim: Ottoman sultan (1861-1876).

Baha'i: A founder of the Baha'i faith; his given name was Abbas Effendi.

Abdhulhamid II
Muslim: Ottoman sultan (1876-1909), advocate of pan-Islam and opponent of constitutional government.

Abdulmejid I
Muslim: Ottoman sultan (1839-1861).


  1. [incomplete]

  2. Christian Identity: The son of Adam and Eve has a distinct role in Christian Identity.


  1. Hundu (ritual): Sprinkling of water (or other liquid, such as milk or rosewater) while meditating on the sun and the pole star.

  2. Hindu (ritual): A ritual bathing of the image of a God or other deity.

Scientologist: An acronym for Association for Better Living and Education International.

abu (Arabic: "father")
In ordinary usage, when placed in front of another given name, it means "father of...".

Abu al-Abbas (=al-Saffah)
Muslim: Abbasid caliph (750-754 CE).

Abu Bakr
Muslim: The first caliph; Caliphate 11-13 AH (632-634 CE). Suppressed tribal revolts and began conquests outside Arabian peninsula.

Abu-Ja'far al-Mansur
Muslim: Abbasid caliph (754-775 CE) who began construction of Baghdad.

Abu-Kir, Battle of
Common usage: British victory over Napoleon at Abu-Kir in 1798.

Muslim: Persian leader of the Abbasid revolt.

Muslim: Muhammad's uncle and protector (d. 619)

Common usage (U.K.): Debilitating world weariness, listlessness, inability to function in daily life due to spiritual sloth.

Muslim: Persian dynasty (550-330 BCE).

adab (Arabic)

  1. Common usage (Muslim): Good manners, politeness. Personal discipline.

  2. Muslim: Specific knowledge required for a given political or religious office, or social function.


  1. [xxxxx]

  2. Christian Identity: Father (with Eve) of Cain and Seth; see Christian Identity.

a'dat (Arabic)

  1. Common usage (Middle East): Cultural norm.

  2. Muslim: Customs prevailing in a region as distinguished from shari'a and/or hadith.

Place name: Port city between the Red and Arabian seas; once British (1839-1967), now in the Republic of Yemen.

adhan (=idhan, Arabic)
Muslim: The call to prayer by the mu'adhdhin, often from a minaret.

adl (Arabic: "social justice")

Adonai (Hebrew: "lord")

  1. Jewish: One of the indirect ways of referring to the ”unnamable God” without using the name of God.

  2. Jewish: Where the sacred name for God (YHWH) is written in the Bible, it is voiced as "Adonai".


  1. Christian: Liturgical season beginning on the Sunday nearest 30 November and continuing until 24 December.

  2. Christian: Time of preparation for observing the birth of Jesus.

  3. Christian: Implicit in the celebration of the liturgical season is anticipation of the Second Coming.


  1. New Age: The Gods who dwell at Asgard.

  2. Norse: Odin, Thor, Loki, Heimdall and Balder, along with an unspecified number of lesser Gods, considered as a group.

Aetherious Society
New Age: California-based sect centered on spiritual enlightenment.

Afdal al-khalq (Arabic: "most excellent one of the creation")
Muslim: A title given to Muhammad.

affinity-reality-communication triangle (=ARC)
Scientologist: A triangle which is a symbol of the fact that affinity, reality and communication act together to bring about understanding. No point of the triangle can be raised without also raising the other two points, and no point of it can be lowered without also lowering the other two points.

Christian: A method of baptism: a small quantity of water is poured over the head of the person being baptized by the person doing the baptizing.

Africano No Blass
New Age: One of the seven invisible doctors of the Central Spiritual Resurrection religious sect, this spectral being specialized in affairs of the heart.

Common usage: A view of the world using culture, beliefs and traditions of Africa as the norm.

ag ka matam
Muslim (Shi'ite; South Asia): Firewalking performed as an act of devotional mourning for Imam Husayn.

aga (=agha; Persian: "sir", "master", "gentleman")

  1. Common Usage (Ottoman Empire): Title used by medium-level and some high-level officers of the Janissary Corps as well as local officials.

  2. Islam (Shi'a/Ismaili): Title used by the Aga Khan.......

Aghlabid Dynasty
Muslim: Arab family ruling Tunisia 800-909 CE.

Christian Albanians.

Agni (Sanskrit: "fire")
Hindu: A major Vedic God associated with fire and the hearth.

Ahd (=Al Ahd)
Muslim: Nationalist secret society of Arab officers in the Ottoman army before and during World War I.

Hindu: A term connoting noninjury, nonviolence, and respect for the sacredness of life.

ahl (Arabic: "people")
In common usage, a family, household; clan, related group of people.

ahl al-bayt (=ahl al bait; Arabic: "people of the house")

  1. Common usage: Refers to the leading family of an Arabian tribe.

  2. Muslim: The family of Muhammad.

  3. Muslim: The family of Muhammad's son-in-law and cousin, Ali.

ahl al-dhimma (Arabic: "people of the contract")
Muslim: Used to denote Christians and Jews.

ahl al-hadith (Arabic: "people of the tradition")

  1. Muslim: Those who do not ascribe to any of the classic schools of Shari'a.

  2. Muslim: Used to describe people for whom hadith were supreme, even against Qur'anic injuction.

ahl al-kitab (Arabic: "people of the book")
Muslim: Used to denote Christians, Jews and others who have received revelation from God, including Zoroastrians.

ahl al-sunna (Arabic: "people of the ways and customs of Muhammad")
Muslim: An alternative term for the Sunni.

Muslim: A sect founded by Ghulam Ahmad Qadiyani; (usually considered heretical by Sunni and Shi'a).

Ahura Mazda ("wise lord"or "lord wisdom")
Zoroastrian: The Supreme God; God of Wisdom; the good half of the duality.

Jewish: American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group in the United States.

Muslim: Daughter of Abu-Bakr, wife of Muhammad, leader of the forces opposing Ali at the Battle of the Camel in 656.

ajam (Arabic)
Common usage: Denotes a person who is not an Arab.

ajami (Hausa)
Common usage: The script, a modified form of Arabic, in which the Hausa language is written.

Jain: Matter; physical reality.

akal purakh (Punjabi)
Sikh: The doctrine of God as stated at the beginning of the Guru Granth Sahib in words attributed to Guru Nanak.

akali (=nihang) (Punjabi)
Sikh: Devotees of akal purakh; warriors noted for their bravery and disdain for official authority. During the 18th century they commanded formidable respect as fierce wariors, a tradition which they still endeavor to keep alive as they roam the Punjab on horseback.

A large ethnic group in Africa centered on southern Ghana whose traditional monotheistic worship centered on Nyame.

See Akashic record

Akashic record
New Age: A spiritual realm holding a record of all events, actions, thoughts and feelings that have ever occurred or will ever occur. Clairvoyance, spiritual insight, prophecy, etc. are made possible by tapping into the Akasha.

Muslim (American black): The ceremony to give a baby its name seven days after birth; ritual involves cutting hair.

akhbar (Arabic)
Muslim (Shi'a): Denotes the hadith.

akhbari (Arabic)
Muslim (Shi'a): The minority Ithna Ashari Shi'ite legal tradition, which emphasizes reliance on the Qu'ran and hadith.

akhira (Arabic)
Muslim: The afterlife.

akhlaq (Arabic: "manners", "morals")

akhlund (Arabic)
Muslim: Popular preacher.

akhoff-al-dararayn (=akhoff-ud-dararayn) (Arabic)
Muslim: "The lesser evil."

Akkoyunlu (Turkish: "those of the white sheep")
Muslim (Ottoman Empire): A confederation of Turcoman tribes which established an empire in eastern Anatolia, Iran and Iraq in the 15th Century CE.

Traditional (African): Creator of the universe and of humankind who is the source of all power and directly accessible to all.

Al-Ansar (Arabic: "the helpers")
Muslim: Used to denote the residents of Medina who supported Muhammad.

Muslim: Theologian, d. 935 CE.

Alawi (=Nusayris, =Nusairis,= 'Alawi, =Alawite)

  1. Muslim (Shi'ite): Member of extremist Nusairi sect in northwest Syria which venerates Ali.

  2. Muslim (Shi'ite): Syrian sect that played a role in post-1945 Syrian politics.

Christian: The monk from Brittany who, at the request of Charlemagne, began schools for the public at major abbeys for instruction in Latin in basic subjects.

Aleister Crowley
See Crowley, Aleister.

New Age: One of the major branches of Wiccanism in the Neopagan Movement, it is an offshoot of Gardnerian ritual.

(See Hijra)

Ali (=Ali ibn al-Talib)
Muslim: The son-in-law (d. 40 AH/661 CE; assassinated by member of Khawarij) of the Prophet Muhammad, the fourth rightly-guided caliph of the Sunnis and the first imam of the Shi'a; caliphate 35-40 AH (656-661 CE).
Fourth Caliph (656-661); regarded by Shi'a as first imam after Muhammad.

Ali-Muhammad (=The Bab)
Baha'i: Born in southern Iran in 1819, in 1844 he announced that he was the promised one or Mahdi expected by Muslims. He wrote scriptures in which he promulgated a new calendar, new religious laws and new social norms. Opposed by Iran's Muslim clergy and ultimately by its government, thousands of the Bab's followers were killed; in 1850 the Bab himself was put to death.

Alice Bailey
See Bailey, Alice.

Muslim: Descendant or partisan of Ali.

alim (='alim; pl. ulema; Arabic)

  1. Muslim: Any learned man.

  2. Muslim: One learned in the Islamic sciences.

  3. Muslim: One learned in legal and religious studies; a scholar-jurist.

alim-e-din (=alim al din) (Arabic)
Muslim: Expert in religion.

al'ilm al shar'i (Arabic)
Muslim: The knowledge pertaining to Islamic law.

Muslim: A religious leader.

aliya (=aliyah; Arabic)
Muslim: Immigration of Jews to Palestine, especially the increased immigration beginning in 1882.

aliyah (Hebrew: "ascent")
Jewish: Being called up in the synagogue to recite the blessings for a section of reading of the Torah.

Al-Khulafa al-Rashidun (Arabic: "the rightly guided caliphs")
Muslim: Refers to the first four caliphs (622-661 CE): Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali.

All Hallow's Eve

  1. Christian: Celebrated 31 October; religious celebration held the evening before All Saint's Day.

  2. General Usage: =Halloween.

All Saints Day

  1. Christian: Celebrated 1 November; a day to honor saints, both known and unknown.

  2. Christian (Roman Catholic): A Holy Day of Obligation.

Allah (Arabic, al-ilah: "The God")
Muslim: The Arabic word for (the one) God.

God / there is no god but He, the / Living, the Everlasting. (Sura 2:256)

Allahu akbar (Arabic: ''God is great'')
Muslim: Commonplace statement, often used as an answer to a rhetorical question by a public speaker.


  1. A method of interpretation in which persons, events or other aspects of a narrative are read as symbols of a higher reality.

  2. Christian: A method of reading the Bible ”according to the spirit rather than the letter.”

Allen, Richard
B. Philadelphia 1760. Founder of Free African Society and African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Al-Murabitun (=Almoravids; Arabic: "frontier warriors")
Muslim: A sect of religious reformers.

Indian subcontinent: Day with a New Moon.

Muslim: Lebanese Shi'i revolutionary movement led by Nabih Berri.

Muslim (Shi'ite): A series of prescribed ritual actions performed on 'Ashura.

amanah (Arabic)
Muslim: Divine trust.

Amaterasu (=Amaterasu-Omikami) (Japanese)
Shinto: Sun Goddess; the chief Shinto deity and the divine ancestor of the emperor's family.

(See Amaterasu.)

American Testament
American Civil Religion: Refers to the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the United States Constitution and the Gettysburg Address by President Abraham Lincoln, taken as a trilogy of sacred documents.

amidah (Hebrew: “standing”)
Jewish: The central prayer of the liturgy; the prayer is said standing, facing toward Jerusalem. It is recited three times daily, and in a slightly different form on Sabbaths and festivals, when an extra amidah, called musaf, is added.

see emir

Amir al Mu'mineen (=Amir al-muminin; Arabic: 'commander of believers")
Muslim: The title used for the caliphs.

Buddhist: A heavenly Buddha, whose name means "unmeasured light".

Buddhist: Suddhartha Gautama’s personal attendant and one of his principal disciples.

Buddhist: The term for “no-self”, for not having or being a subsistent, independent entity.

Anatolia (place name)

  1. Asia Minor, the area roughly corresponding to modern Turkey.

  2. (=Anadolu) The Ottoman province in western Turkey with the Aegean and the Sea of Marmara forming its western border.

Ananda Marga
Buddhist: Founded in India in 1955 by Shrii Shrii Anadamurti, the movement spread in the West during the 1970s.

Hindu: A huge snake whose coils created Vishnu’s bed (when reclining in ocean as Narayan).

Buddhist: One of the three principal characteristics of everything in the universe. (the others are anicca and dukkha)

Andrak 4000 (="Andy")
New Age: The computer on the planet Cablell. See also Cult of Hiternia.

andarun (Persian)
Muslim (Shi'ite, esp. Iran): The inner or private quarter of a residence where women live, barred from contact with the outside world.

Andrea, Johann Valentin

  1. German cleric, b. 1586, Württemberg; d. after 1648.

  2. Priory of Sion: Grand Master.

anfal ("spoils of war")

  1. Muslim: The name of a chapter of the Qur'an.

  2. Muslim: The code name given by Saddam Hussein to his terror campaign against the Kurds in Iraq.

See Andrak 4000.


  1. Common usage: Transcendent being, often depicted with wings.

  2. Common usage: A messenger of God, as referred to commonly in Jewish, Christian and Islamic writing.

Christian (especially Roman Catholic): Church bell run at 6 a.m., noon and 6 p.m., mostly in rural Catholic areas (especially in Europe) calling the faithful to think of their salvation by reciting three Ave Marias.

Anglican: xxxx; emphasis on ritual.

Ango (Japanese)
Buddhist (Zen): A period of spiritual practice and training typically 1-3 months long.

Angra Mainyu
Zoroastrian: The source of all evil; the opposite of Ahura Mazda, the source of all good.

Buddhist: The first of the three general characteristics of existence (the others are anatta and dukkha).

The belief in impersonal spiritual power or live-force pervading all things.


  1. The belief that a spirit (or spirits) is active in aspects of the environment.

  2. The belief that inanimate objects have souls, life and personality, and can have interaction with humans.

Muslim (Shi'ite): A group formed to mourn Husayn.

anjuman-i-Islami (Arabic)
Muslim: Islamic society.
Hindu: The Goddess of abundance, one aspect of Devi.

ansar (Arabic: "helper")
[incomplete] Muslim: Muslim converts in Medina during Muhammad's time.
Muslim: Refers to helpers of Muhammad native to Medina, as distinct from the muhajirin who accompanied him from Mecca.

Annunciation (=Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): Celebration of Gabriel's announcement to Mary of her pregnancy with Jesus.

Christian: A choral composition, with or without organ accompaniment, usually based on a scriptural text and sung in the context of a church service.

Common usage: Human tendency to see humans as the center of all events and things, interpreting everything from the perspective of human experience.

anthropomorphism (Greek: “human” + “form”)

  1. (See anthropocentric)

  2. Jewish/ Christian: The tendency in the Bible, to portray God in ways that make him appear human (with human body parts and emotions, for example).

Muslim: Major antagonist of Christ who will fill the world with evil just before Christ's return.

Common usage: Prejudice against or persecution of Jews.

Scientologist: The abbreviation for Advanced Organization.

apatheia (Greek)
The rule of reason over passion.

Applewhite, Marshall Herff
New Age: Founder (early 1970s) of Heaven’s Gate religious sect.

Christian (Western): The Christological teaching of Apolinarius: in Jesus, the divine logos replaced the human soul.

Christian: Early church father xxx

Apophaticism (Greek: "negation" or "denial")
Christian (Eastern Christianity): To speak of God by saying what he is not rather than what he is.

Muslim: Marriage contract.

aqaid (Arabic)
Muslim: Religious belief.

'aqebat (Arabic)
Muslim: Life after death; life in the hereafter.

Muslim (ritual): Celebration of the birth of a baby including sacrifice of a lamb and announcement to the community.

aql (Arabic: "intellect", "systematic reasoning")
Muslim (Shi'a): A source of shariah.

See Thomas Aquinas.

Common usage: Native speaker of Arabic.
Person who identifies with Arab culture.
Inhabitant of Arabian peninsula.
Citizen of a country in which the predominant language and culture is Arabic.

Common usage: Semitic language spoken by Arabs.
Muslim: The language of the Qur'an and salat.
Common usage: Pertaining to the culture of Arabs.

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