The following text is from Irivng Hexham's Concise Dictionary of Religion, first published by InterVarsity Press, Carol Stream, USA, 1994, second edition, Regent College Press, Vancouver, 1999.

To order contact REGENT BOOKSTORE Copyright Irving Hexham 1994, 1998. For further information about the AUTHOR. For further information about the book and the sources used to compile this text see the PREFACE. For a Religious Studies READING LIST.

Cross-references are indicated by the use of CAPITAL LETTERS.


'IBDAT: ISLAMIC term meaning religious observance and the ordinances of divine WORSHIP.


I CHING: one of the five CONFUCIAN classics known as "The Book of Changes." The core text dates from about 1000 B.C. The philosophy of the book is based on the notion that the whole UNIVERSE is in a constant state of FLUX. The book itself is a means of divination to assist the individual in making meaningful choices.


II'JZ: the quality of matchless eloquence which is attached to the QUR'N which is believed to be a literary MIRACLE by the faithful who say its poetic FORM is evidence of its divine origin.


I-THOU: the JEWISH philosopher Martin BUBER in his poem-book I and Thou, (1937) distinguished between two basic attitudes men assume towards BEINGS and things in the world. These attitudes are openness, receptivity, and engagement, or of OBJECTIVITY and detachment. The two postures are represented SYMBOLICALLY by two primary words, "I-Thou" and "I-It." "I-Thou" implies openness and a personal relationship while "I-It" suggests a cold objectivity and detachment.


IAMBLICUS (250-330): Syrian NEO-PLATONIST philosopher who developed the teachings of PLOTINUS and taught a FORM of POLYTHEISM. He is the author of On the Egyptian Mysteries which surveys various PAGAN BELIEFS of his time.


IBN al-'ARABI (1165-1240): famous Islamic MYSTIC whose DOCTRINES tended to PANTHEISM and whose poetry was criticized for its eroticism.


IBN AZM (993-1064): an influential Spanish CONVERT to ISLAM and who insisted on the literal interpolation of the QUR'N and ADTH and strongly attacked CHRISTIAN and JEWISH SCRIPTURES.


IBN ISHQ (704-768): biographer of MUHAMMAD and noted authority on the events of Muhammad's life.


IBN MJA, Muhammad (824-886): a collector and compiler of MUSLIM TRADITIONS whose work is recognized by the SUNNIS as a Sixth CANONICAL collection.


IBN MAS'D (died 652/3): one of the earliest MUSLIM CONVERTS who settled in Kufa where he kept his own version of the QUR'N which contained variant readings and fewer Suras than the official version.


IBN TMART, Muhammad (died 1130): Islamic REFORMER who opposed literalistic interpretations of the QUR'N and all FORMS of ANTHROPOMORPHISM. He declared himself MAHDI in the Maghreb and with ABD al-MU'MIN led a JIHD against infidels and other MUSLIMS he considered heretical. The dynasty they established lasted for over a hundred years in Spain and the Maghreb.


ICON [IKON]: flat images of CHRIST, the VIRGIN MARY or the SAINTS which are used in the WORSHIP of EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCHES. Their use goes back to the fifth century and are believed to be the channel through which divine BLESSING and HEALING comes to the faithful.


ICONOCLASTIC CONTROVERSY: from 717-843 a bitter dispute raged in EASTERN ORTHODOXY about the use of ICONS in CHURCHES. Opponents of Icons destroyed them as IDOLATROUS images forbidden in the BIBLE, but eventually the supporters of Icons won the day.


IDEAL TYPES: used by Max WEBER, to denote social arrangements peopled by ideally RATIONAL BEINGS. It is used to describe theoretical models of institutions, social relations, and political systems which are "ideal" in the sense of being construed entirely according to theoretical laws that explain them and not according to observation of the actual world.


IDEALISM: the speculative PHILOSOPHY which considers the similarities and differences, identities, and opposites which make up REALITY as composed and always looks to the UNIVERSAL, or what is common, behind the apparent diversity. An ANALOGY with slight idealism interprets the universal as FORM or the basic pattern which underlies REALITY. It looks for the permanent aspect which goes beyond the sensible world. Idealism is based on the supposition that sight and insight, conceptual and vision, thought and form, are identical because BEING itself is spiritual. Idealism is one of the basic forms of Western METAPHYSICS.


IDEOLOGY: a set of BELIEFS which consciously or unconsciously shape a person's outlook. In MARXISM ideology is viewed as ABSTRACT and false thought, illusion, false consciousness, unreality, upside-down REALITY.


IDOLATRY: the making of IMAGES to represent GOD or the GODS. Critics of idolatry say that people who use such things believe that they either are in some way indwelt by the God. Most worshipers of such images argue that they simply represent the God and act as aids to WORSHIP. Although popular in many religions such as in ancient Egypt, Greece, HINDUISM, and other religions of Indian origin, the making of such images was condemned in the HEBREW BIBLE and subsequently by CHRISTIANITY, ISLAM and RABBINIC JUDAISM. Ancient CHINESE and JAPANESE RELIGIONS seem to have been free from the use of images to represent the Gods until the introduction of BUDDHISM when they quickly accepted this new art form.


IGNATIUS (356-107): early CHRISTIAN CONVERT and BISHOP of Antioch who was MARTYRED in Rome. His letters provide important insights into the development of CHRISTIANITY.


IHSN: ISLAMIC term for virtue and morality.


IJM: communal agreement or consensus whereby the MUSLIM community in SUNNI Islam identifies authentic developments in ISLAMIC law and usage.


IJTIHD: the individual initiative and work of experts whereby valid IJM is created within the community or, as in SHI'A, mediated to it.


ILHM: inspiration in ISLAM. The way GOD reveals Himself to individual men in contrast to Way, or REVELATION which refers to the work of the PROPHETS, for example, and also to the QUR'N.


ILM al-KALAM: the term means THEOLOGY in ISLAM.


IMAGE OF GOD: according to Genesis 1.26 mankind is created in the "Image of God." Exactly what this means has been a matter of dispute. In general CHRISTIANS agree that the BIBLE places a high value on the human being. The issue is complicated by the doctrine of the FALL. ROMAN CATHOLICS maintain that the Fall caused humans to lose certain SUPERNATURAL endowments and gifts but that the essential human nature remained intact. The PROTESTANT REFORMERS rejected this view and argued that through the Fall SIN goes to the root of human existence and distorts all our relationships including our ability to REASON correctly.


IMAM: the person who leads WORSHIP in ISLAM. This office must not be confused with that of a PRIEST because anyone of sound mind and good character may lead worship. Among the SHI'A, however, an Imam must be a descendent of MUHAMMAD through his daughter FATIMA, while in India and Pakistan Imams are expected to be great scholars.


IMN: an ISLAMIC term for FAITH the correlative of DN, or practice, in Islam which is distinguished from ISLAM as submission, allegiance or obedience.


IMMACULATE CONCEPTION: the ROMAN CATHOLIC dogma, declared in 1854, that the Mother of JESUS, the VIRGIN MARY, was born without SIN.


IMMANENCE: the nearness, presence or indwelling of GOD in CREATION. When God is regarded as IMMANENT He is believed to be active in sustaining and preserving creation as well as being concerned about the affairs of individuals. The term is usually contrasted with TRANSCENDENCE which means that God's activity and power are apart from the world. CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY has always asserted both the immanence and transcendence of God thus rejecting both DEISM and PANTHEISM.


IMMANENT: means dwelling within as GOD is present in His creation.


IMMORTALITY: some FORM of EXISTENCE of the human personality after physical death.


IMPERIALISM: a term which until the nineteenth century meant adherence to an Emperor or imperial form of government. The modern usage developed in England after 1870. Today it generally means rule by a foreign and more powerful power and is closely associated with COLONIALISM.


IMPLICIT: involved in or capable of being construed from; e.g. as the oak is implicit in the acorn.


INARI: SHINT GOD of rice, FOOD and fertility.


INCA RELIGION: much of what is known of Inca religion comes from Spanish sources and archaeological evidence. The Inca appear to have WORSHIPED a CREATOR GOD who had no name but was given a series of titles. Numerous other DEITIES also existed and were worshiped. Ceremonies were held in large areas in the open air and TEMPLES were used to store RITUAL paraphernalia. Many PRIESTS and attendants served the religion which involved large public ceremonies and constant SACRIFICE. Human victims--mainly women and children--appear to have been sacrificed in times of crisis. In general, the Spanish regarded Inca worship with horror as a bloodthirsty CULT: even allowing for their own lust for gold and conquest, their account of Inca religion seems essentially true and chilling.


INCARNATION: the taking on of HUMAN FORM; to make real or to provide with a body. In RELIGION the term refers to the appearance of a DEITY or some other SPIRITUAL entity in either the flesh or some other MATERIAL form. CHRISTIANS believe in the INCARNATION OF CHRIST while HINDUS speak about the incarnations of various DEITIES. In ISLAM the QUR'N is often referred to as the incarnation of GOD'S word.


INCARNATION OF CHRIST: one of the key and unique BELIEFS of CHRISTIANITY which teaches that JESUS CHRIST, the SON OF GOD, was both fully God and fully human. This is quite different from other ancient religious MYTHOLOGIES where a God either takes on human form or has human offspring who are part God and part human. In Christian THEOLOGY the CREATOR GOD took on human form to become fully human while, at the same time, remaining fully DIVINE. Early Christian CREEDS went to great lengths to explain what this meant while at the same time distinguishing Christian teaching from similar sounding PAGAN notions of God-men. The NICENE CREED, for example, says "I one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, Begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God; Light of Light; Very God of Very God; Begotten, not made...who...was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man...." Elaborating on this, the CREED attributed to ATHANASIUS says "He is God, of the Substance of the Father...and he is Man, of the Substance of his Mother...Perfect God; Perfect Man...Who although he be God and Man, yet he is not two, but is one Christ. One altogether; not by conversion of Godhead into flesh, but by taking Manhood into God; One altogether; not by confusion of Substance but by unity of Person..." For CHRISTIANS this is a crucial DOCTRINE because they believe that it enables Jesus Christ to act as MEDIATOR between God and man. See 1 Timothy 2:5.


INCENSE: burning of an aromatic as an aid to WORSHIP and a symbol of PRAYER.




INDIVIDUAL: the self-conscious person acting on their own volition and for their own ends.


INDIVIDUALISM: a term which became popular with the rise of liberal political and economic thought to express a BELIEF that the individual is the basic unit of SOCIETY and that individual rights and freedoms take precedence over GROUP rights.


INDRA: the greatest of the VEDIC GODS to whom over 250 Vedic HYMNS are addressed. In classical HINDUISM the role of Indra was greatly reduced and in many ways replaced by KRISHNA. He was the GOD of war and was depicted as a hard drinking warrior riding in a chariot.


INDUCE: to REASON inferentially from the particular to the general.


INDUCTION: that branch of LOGIC which covers all cases of non-demonstrative argument; i.e. arguments not based on DEDUCTION.


INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION: an ancient urban civilization which flourished in the Indus valley of India from the third millennia B.C. to around 1500 B.C. when it suddenly declined. We know very little about the civilization except that it was highly organized and left behind artifacts which appear similar to later HINDU DEITIES. Some archaeologists speculate that it was a society organized by PRIESTS but this is uncertain.


INEFFABLE: incapable of being expressed in words. A term often used in association with MYSTICAL experiences.


INFINITE: without limits or external boundaries. In ABRAMIC religions this truly applies to GOD alone.


INGE, William Ralph, "Dean" (1860-1954): ANGLICAN writer whose sympathies with PLATONISM led him to publish a long series of DEVOTIONAL and THEOLOGICAL writings dealing with MYSTICAL subjects. He is best known for his Christian Mysticism (1899).


INQUISITION: an organization established by the PAPACY in the thirteenth century to search out an eradicate HERESY.


INSPIRATION: in religious terms to be inspired means to be under the influence of the HOLY SPIRIT or the Spirit of God or even some other spirit, such as an ANCESTOR. In PROTESTANTISM, inspiration came to be identified with the writings of the BIBLE and any other "inspiration" was judged in terms of consistency with SCRIPTURE. In ROMAN CATHOLICISM it is the CHURCH that judges what is to be considered inspired. Other religious systems have their own ways of determining what is and what is not genuinely inspired in terms of the BELIEFS of the particular FAITH involved. In ISLAM, the ADTH is inspired while the QUR'N is REVELATION.


INSPIRATION OF THE BIBLE: both CHRISTIANS and JEWS believe that the HEBREW BIBLE was written under the influence of the SPIRIT OF GOD and possess AUTHORITY for faith and practice. This concept was extended to the writings of the NEW TESTAMENT by Christians. BIBLICAL CRITICISM practically destroyed belief in verbal inspiration and put an unbearable intellectual strain on belief in plenary (full but not word-by-word) inspiration. Nevertheless, verbal and plenary inspiration is maintained by FUNDAMENTALIST and most EVANGELICAL Christians today.

INTELLECTUAL: until the middle of the twentieth century intellectuals, intellectualism and intelligentsia had unfavorable connotations in English implying theorists lacking common sense. This usage has changed somewhat to a more neutral usage describing what people do. Sometimes, however, intellectuals are identified with generalists who tend to identify with causes as opposed to specialists who know an issue in depth.


IPSE DIXIT: literally "He said it to himself." It refers to a DOGMATIC utterance unsupported by evidence.


IQBAL, Muhammad (1873-1938): Indian MUSLIM thinker, and poet who formulated the political theory that led to the founding of Pakistan in 1947. He sought to adapt ISLAM to contemporary society and challenged western ideas of MODERNIZATION. His chief work was The Reconstruction of Islamic Thought in Islam (1934).


IRANIAN RELIGION: the ancient religion of Iran before ZOROASTER can only be deduced from ZOROASTRIAN and Indian sources. It appears to have been POLYTHEISTIC and probably worshiped a sky GOD. RITUAL SACRIFICES involving bulls and a form of DUALISM may have also been involved.


IRENAEUS (130-200): BISHOP of Lyons and early CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST who strongly opposed GNOSTICISM by insisting on the importance of the INCARNATION of CHRIST. His two surviving works are The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching which is an Armenian translation and Against Heresies a Latin translation.




IRRATIONALISM: a BELIEF system which sets aside REASON to promote beliefs based on emotion and other SUBJECTIVE criteria.


IRVING, Edward (1792-1834): Scottish PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER whose encouragement of speaking in tongues and CHARISMATIC gifts, arguments against political reform, CATHOLIC emancipation, and the University of London--which he called "the SYNAGOGUE of SATAN"--led to a CHURCH SCHISM. His followers formed the CATHOLIC APOSTOLIC CHURCH. His writings include: For the Oracles of God (1832); The Orthodox and Catholic Doctrine of Our Lord's Human Nature (1830).




ISAIAH (8th century): BIBLICAL PROPHET and traditional author of the highly influential Book of Isaiah found in the HEBREW BIBLE.


ISHMAEL: son of ABRAHAM by Hagar who is regarded as the progenitor of the Arabs and is described as a PROPHET in Sura XIX, verse 55, of the QUR'N.


ISHO'DAD OF MERV (9th century): NESTORIAN BIBLICAL scholar whose Syriac COMMENTARIES on the BIBLE are important in terms of the insight they give into Biblical interpretation.


ISIDORE (560-636): Spanish ARCHBISHOP of Saville who fostered education and promoted learning. He edited an ENCYCLOPEDIA and wrote various books summarizing the knowledge of his age.


ISIS: ancient Egyptian GODDESS and wife of Osiris, Mother of Horus, who was often depicted as a woman suckling her child. Her CULT was popular throughout the Graeco-Roman world and resembles that of the VIRGIN MARY.


ISLAM: the FAITH, obedience and practice of the followers of MUHAMMAD believed by them to be the final and perfected RELIGION revealed by GOD. When the word is written "islam" it denotes surrender to God, but when written "Islam" it denotes the religion established by Muhammad in the seventh century A.D. Fundamentally it means submitting oneself to God and renouncing any other object of WORSHIP. It is sometimes said that the word "islam" means peace, but this does not seem correct linguistically. The first MIRACLE of Islam is the poetry of its HOLY BOOK--the QUR'N. The second miracle is the early conquests of Muslim armies. During Muhammad's lifetime his followers were confined to Arabia. After his death, Syria was quickly conquered, Damascus being taken in 635 and Jerusalem in 636, Mada'in the Persian capital fell in 637. Within a century Muslim armies reached the borders of China and spread Westward to conquer North Africa. In 711 Spain was invaded and the Muslims were defeated at Tours, France in 732: this battle ended Islam's first major thrust into Europe. Today there are over 200,000,000 Muslims in the world. Islam is a MONOTHEISTIC religion based on the CREED "There is no God but God and Muhammad is His PROPHET." ABRAHAM, MOSES and JESUS and other Biblical figures are also recognized as Prophets but their REVELATIONS are said to have been distorted by their followers. Muhammad was the last of the prophets to whom God revealed His Holy Word the QUR'N. The test of ORTHODOXY in Islam is not assent to a BELIEF, but attendance at WORSHIP. Muslims are expected to observe five basic religious duties involving: weekly communal worship; daily devotions; fasting during the month of Ramadan; the payment of religious tax; and pilgrimage to MECCA at least once in their lifetime. To these duties JIHD--religious war--or the defence of Islam by military force, is also added. The duties are not inflexible but may be modified according to circumstances and in theory at least, depend upon the individual's conscience for their performance. In addition to this, Islam makes no distinction between religious and civil law, the secular and the sacred, Church and State. As a result the whole of life is governed by religious law which is ultimately based upon the QUR'N. The interpretation of law is therefore one of the great concerns of Islam about which scholars argue it is also one of the major issues today when Islamic societies face MODERNITY and the challenge of SECULARISM. Islamic APOLOGISTS argue that the women in Islam have always been able to own property and have enjoyed a much higher status than women in the West. This claim appears true, in terms of the formal documents, but is highly questionable in terms of actual practice which tends to make women subordinate to their nearest male relative.


ISMAILIS: a dynamic and essentially LIBERAL SECTARIAN ISLAMIC movement developing from the SHI'A which teaches that the QUR'N has an internal as well as external meaning. They claim to derive their teachings from a hidden source which must receive absolute obedience. There are various grades of members and associates who received teaching only according to their capacity. The lowest grades receive external instruction in keeping with normal Islamic practice, other grades develop to more ESOTERIC teaching. Their leader claims descent from MUHAMMAD and is known as the AGA KHAN. In recent times the movement has proved to be highly adaptable MODERNIZING its ancient beliefs and adapting to modern society.


ISND: the evidence and attestation of a genuine TRADITION of MUSLIM thought and interpretation which can be traced back through a chain of authorities which vouch for its reliability to the COMPANIONS OF THE PROPHET. It is what the tradition uses to legitimate its claims as opposed to what it teaches.




ISRAEL ben Eliezer Ba'al Shem Tov (1700-1760): founder of HASIDISM in Eastern Europe. In the mid-1730s he revealed himself as a HEALER and LEADER of a movement which grew rapidly. Folk-tales about his life and teachings show his personal charm, and magnetism, and ecstatic personality. He advocated DEVOTIONAL JOY and contributed greatly to the revitalization of JUDAISM.


IS'VARA: SANSKRIT word meaning LORD which is used to refer to GOD as the SUPREME personal BEING and is frequently used in BHAKTI. Usually the Lord is identified with VISHNU, iva or BRAHMAN or even all three together. The Lord is thought of as the creator of the world and often as its destroyer.