Vocabulary & Definitions
from Many Religions
BELIEFS OF OTHER WORLD RELIGIONS
Hinduism is a diverse body of religious beliefs, philosophical beliefs and cultural practices native to India, and practiced widely in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.
It is characterized by a belief in reincarnation that helps you move up (or down) through the traditional castes, by a belief in a Supreme Being of many forms and natures (see henotheism), by the view that opposing theories are aspects of one eternal truth, and by a desire for liberation from earthly evils through purification and elimination of personal identity. Modern India is attepting to make the caste system a social construct only, instead of part of the legal code.
This is a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion. People who follow this religion are called Muslims, which means "one who submits". Their holy book is the Qu'ran, which was revealed to a previously illiterate prophet named Muhammed in 610 to 632 CE.
The basic philosophy, or message, of Islam is submission to the will of God (Allah), which is what "islam" with a small i means. Muslims believe all prophets before Muhammed were also proclaiming islam, including Jesus. They believe that Islam is not a new religion, rather it is a restoration of the previously corrupted religion.
Muslims demonstrate their submission to Allah's will by avoiding polytheism, worshipping Him, and performing the Five Pillars. Angels are guardians, messengers and recorders, and belief in their existence is an important part of Islam.
The Five Pillars are: publicly declaring the shahadah or testament, performing specific prayers called salah five times daily, the sawm which is dawn-to-dusk fasting during the (also previously sacred) lunar month of Ramadan, giving the zakat donation and more if possible, and travelling once in a lifetime (the hajj) to the Kaaba Stone in Mecca and performing an elaborate, energetic, multi-day ritual.
Muslims believe simultaneously in human-only free will and predestination by an omnipotent, omniscient God. I have not quite wrapped my brain around that, and to try would be waaaay beyond the scope of this article.
Although the teachings of the Qu'ran were transmitted orally at first, they was written down by Muhammed's followers shortly after his death and have remained largely unchanged since. The religious leaders in Islam are called caliph, religio-political leader of the Muslim state also called amir, the ulema, scholars and judges of Islamic Shari'a law, or imam, meaning leader.
Beginning after his first revelations, Muhammed spent the rest of his life teaching about Islam, converting people, and occasionally taking up arms to have Islam be allowed to exist as a religion in his hometown, Mecca. He and his few followers fled the violence (and commercially devastating boycott of his clan) to nearby Medina in 622. This emigration is called the Hijra, and marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. Peace among the tribes was achieved by Muhammed's drafting of the Constitution of Medina. In 630, after many years of attacks and truces, Muhammed responded to the Meccan rejection of the latest truce by attacking. His religious movement had grown from a few dozen outsiders to a reported ten thousand believers who stormed the city. It was a nearly bloodless coup.
By his death in 632, Muhammed was the political leader of both Medina and Mecca. He was also the religious leader of most of the Arabian peninsula. Muslims do not differentiate between matters of "church and state", and live by sets of laws called Sharia and Fiqh.
Soon after his death, however, his followers disagreed over who should succeed him in the new Muslim polity. The two primary candidates were his friend and collaborator, Abu Bakr (the first caliph of the Sunni Muslims), and his cousin/son-in-law Ali ibn Abi Talib (the first imam of the Shi'a muslims). Despite this rift, the Muslim nation conquered the already dissatisfied and war-weary regions of Mesopotamia and Persia, as well as the Roman colonies of Syria and Egypt. This was the advent of the Rashidun Empire of the first four Caliphates.
"Islam consists of a number of religious denominations that are essentially similar in belief but which have significant theological and legal differences. The primary division is between the Sunni and the Shi'a, with Sufism generally considered to be a mystical inflection of Islam rather than a distinct school. According to most sources, [as of 2007] approximately 85% of the world's Muslims are Sunni, 14% are Shi'a with the 1% being other various small minorities and Islamic sects."
Karaites reject the Rabbinical tradition of scholarly interpretation. They are the fundamentalists of Judaism.
The Sanhedrin was essentially the parliament and supreme court of the Jewish and Palestinian people from before the rise of the Roman empire until the early centuries of the Common Era. They settled disputes within the Jewish world, collected taxes, and acted as the civil court of Jerusalem.
A modern religious tradition that requires adherents to seek only self-service. It is a response to Christianity. There is a modern Church of Satan, guided by the works of author Anton Lavey. The basic theology expresses a paleo-Gnostic worldview, where Satan (also known as Lucifer the Light Bringer) is actually trying to free mankind from the Creator.
Some Satanists still include forms of violence and aggression such as killing animals and using the symbols of other religions in negative ways. Others are peaceful and not easily recognized. A good overview is at http://altreligion.about.com/library/faqs/bl_satanism.htm
Taoists believe that the Tao a formless, unchanging and self-sufficient form of energy, which was present before the universe existed, and continues to be present in all things. This is immanence.