Introducing World Religions:
The eBook

Introducing World Religions Online:
Comprehensive Glossary of Terms

Term Definition

Ibn al-'Arabī

Spanish-born Muslim philosopher (1165-1240) who spoke of the "unity of existence," and the creative imagination that sees things in the barzakhi realm as though in a mirror.

Ibn Rushd

(1126-1198), Spanish-born Arab Islamic philosopher known to the West as Averroës, who translated many of Aristotle's works into Latin from Arabic and Hebrew.

Ibn Sīnā

(980-1037) Persian Islamic philosopher known to the West as Avicenna; perhaps the first scholastic philosopher; wrote Neoplatonic allegories that impacted Ṣūfī thought.


Image; a two-dimensional visual representation of a saintly figure that introduces the viewer to that figure in the imaginal realm; widely used in Orthodox Christianity.

iconoclastic controversy

Arguments over whether or not icons should be used. The debate first occupied the Christian world (especially Byzantium) for over a century starting in 730 CE.


A system of divination that originated among the Yoruba peoples of West Africa.

Ignatius Loyola

(1491-1556) Founder of the Roman Catholic Jesuit order during the Catholic Counter-Reformation.


A state of ritual purity adopted by Muslim pilgrims before entering Mecca and circling the Ka'bah.

Ilme-e Khshnum

Term meaning "knowledge of joy," used as the name of a modern esoteric Zoroastrian movement that bears kinship with Hindu spirituality.

imaginal realm

The a-historical realm of "reality" where immaterial beings abide.


Honorific title for a Muslim who leads the daily prayers; refers to divinely sanctioned spiritual-political leaders in Shī'ī Islam.


A physical body through which an immaterial body of another being comes into this world; most Christians use this term with reference to Jesus because he is considered to be God born into the flesh; based on a Latin word meaning "made flesh."

indigenous peoples

Early inhabitants of a place who have a longstanding cultural association to their geographical region prior to its colonization or annexation as a modern nation-state


Certificates representing acts of penance sold through the Roman Catholic Church; Martin Luther criticized these for representing transactions with God, and diverting funds to Rome.


Term in the Qur'ān for the Gospel of the Christians.

insider-outsider challenge

The challenge for people to adopt both inside and outside positions in their study of religions. This means to empathize with a religious worldview while maintaining a critical (analytic, not hostile) perspective.

Iqbāl, Muḥammad

(1876-1938) Pakistan's national poet who wrote the groundbreaking work, Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam to reconcile traditional Islamic and Western-educated thinkers.


A term for someone related to Zoroastrians who remained in Persia after the Arab conquest around 636 CE; also called Zardushti.


(700s BCE) Hebrew prophet who preached against social inequalities in the southern kingdom of Judah following the fall of Israel in the north, and predicted a peaceful time on earth when the lion and lamb would dwell together.


Name collectively used for Jews as a people; name of modern nation-state established in May 1948; name of the northern kingdom taken from the Hebrews by Assyrians in 722 BCE.


People of Jewish tradition named after an alternative name for the patriarch Jacob.


The "chosen deity" of a Hindu who focuses worship on one among many gods and goddesses; worship can include village, family, and personal chosen deities. 

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