Article: Jainism and Islam

Contributed by Audrey Truschke

Glossary

Akbar the Great

Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, third Mughal Emperor of India from 1556 to 1605. Akbar's long reign is often thought of as beginning the peak of the Mughal Empire, as it grew and became rich and powerful, witnessing a cultural and intellectual flowering, and degrees of religious tolerance.

Ascetic

Someone who withdraws from ordinary life to meditate and practise physical hardships in order to advance spiritually. Jain ascetics or mendicants beg for food from devout lay followers and wander the land.

Also used as an adjective to describe the practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition.

Aurangzeb

The sixth Mughal ruler extended the empire to its largest, controlling most of the Indian subcontinent at one point. He took the title of Alamgir – ‘Conqueror of the World’ – and reigned from 1658 to 1707.

Bhaṭṭāraka

Sankrit term meaning 'pontiff'. This title is given to a type of Digambara clergy who are not mendicants. Instead of practising the 'wandering life' – vihāra – of Jain monks and nuns, a bhaṭṭāraka stays in one place, living in a kind of monastery called a maṭha. There are several bhaṭṭārakas in south India, who lead the local Jain community.

Clergy

Formally recognised leaders within a religion. The clergy often perform rituals, lead worship and instruct believers in religious principles. Lay men and women usually complete formal study before being initiated into the clergy. Clerics are active among lay believers, often living in society. They may have specific roles or ranks and may progress through a hierarchy to become top leaders of the religious organisation.

Delhi Sultanate

Series of Muslim dynasties that ruled portions of northern and central India from 1206 to 1526.

Digambara

'Sky-clad' in Sanskrit, used for one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which monks are naked. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.

Ghaznavid

Turkish dynasty based in Central Asia from 977 to 1186, which periodically controlled parts of the Indian subcontinent.

Ghurid

Central Asian dynasty that established the Delhi Sultanate in 1206.

Gujarāt

The westernmost state in India, which is a stronghold of Śvetāmbara Jainism.

Hindu

Follower of the majority faith in India and an adjective describing something belonging to Hinduism. Hindus have numerous gods and diverse beliefs and practices, though many believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Roughly a billion Hindus comprise the third largest religion in the world.

Iconoclasm

From the Greek for 'image-breaking', iconoclasm is hostility towards items of religious or political importance, which may lead to their destruction. Iconoclasts hold iconoclastic beliefs.

Idol

An image of a deity or concept that is worshipped either as a god or as a representation of the deity.

Islam

The monotheistic religion founded by the Prophet Muhammad in the sixth century CE. A believer in Islam, which means ‘peace’, is a Muslim, ‘one who submits to God’ in Arabic. Islamic practices and beliefs are based on the Qu’ran and the hadiths or stories about the Prophet Muhammad. A diverse faith, most Muslim sects accept the Five Pillars of Islam:

  • stating that Allah is the only god and Muhammad his prophet
  • praying five times daily at fixed times
  • giving to the poor and needy
  • fasting
  • making a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.

Islamicate

Term for cultural patterns and practices that are common in Muslim societies but are not overtly religious in nature. In contrast, the adjective 'Islamic' often refers to things directly connected with the religion of Islam.

Jahangir

Nur-ud-din Salim Jahangir, Mughal ruler of India from 1605 to 1627. A great patron of the arts, Emperor Jahangir was also tolerant of the many faiths of his subjects.

Jain

Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.

Kharatara-gaccha

Subsect of the Śvetāmbaras, chiefly found in Rajasthan and Mumbai and established in the 11th century. 

Mughal

The Mughal Empire lasted from 1526 to 1858, a period noted for its wealth, overall religious tolerance, and cultural and intellectual achievements, particularly in art and architecture. Originally Muslims who swept down from Central Asia, the Mughals' best-known ruler is probably Akbar the Great (1556–1605).

Muhammad

Generally considered founder of the religion of Islam (approximately 570–632), who converted the Arabian peninsula into a Muslim region. Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad is the last and greatest in a line of prophets, who reformed a corrupt tradition. The complete word of Allah or God was revealed to Muhammad and set down in the Arabic Qur’an or ‘recitation’.

Murad Bakhsh

Youngest son of Shah Jahan, Murad Bakhsh lost the Mughal throne to his brother, Aurangzeb, and was executed in 1661.

Mūrti-pūjaka

Jains who venerate and worship images of Jinas in temples.

Muslim

A Muslim, or ‘one who submits to God’ in Arabic, follows the religion of Islam, which means ‘peace’. Muslims believe that Muhammad is the last in a line of prophets. The complete word of Allah or God was revealed to Muhammad in the sixth century CE and set down in the Arabic Qur’an or ‘recitation’. Nearly all Muslims belong to either the Shia or Sunni sects, with Sunni Muslims comprising around 90% of Islamic believers.

Nudity

The Digambara mendicants are 'sky-clad' because they believe that all the Jinas and their male ascetic followers went nude as part of their vow of renunciation. This vow entails renouncing all possessions, including clothing. Female Digambara ascetics wear white saris and are thus technically spiritually advanced celibate laywomen. Śvetāmbara mendicants of both sexes, however, wear white clothing. The difference of opinion over whether the vow of non-possession includes clothing was one reason for the Jain community's split into these two major sects early in the Common Era.

Pre-modern

Term for the period before the 'modern' age, which began around the 1500s in Western Europe. The pre-modern era was characterised by general belief in the divine and a strong sense of tradition and social order. In contrast, the modern period witnessed the spread of:

  • scientific knowledge and method
  • mechanisation and technologies such as the printing press
  • capitalism
  • individualism
  • increasing lack of belief in organised religions.

Sanskrit

A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.

Somanatha

City in western Gujarat famous for its temples. It is one of the primary pilgrimage destinations for many Śvetāmbaras.

Subcontinent

The Indian or South Asian subcontinent is a term for the geographical area roughly covering modern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Tapā-gaccha

A Śvetāmbara mūrti-pūjaka sect, first established in the 13th century and reformed from the 19th century. Today nearly all mūrti-pūjak mendicants belong to this sect.

Temple

A building reserved for public worship or prayer, usually dedicated to one religion and run by members of that religion's clergy.

Tughlaq

One of the dynasties of the Delhi Sultanate, the Tughlaqs ruled much of India from 1320 to 1414.

Valabhī

The wealthy city of Valabhī – now Vallabhi – in Gujarat was a major centre of Jain intellectual life in the early medieval period. The final version of the Śvetāmbara canon was written down there under the supervision of the religious teacher Devarddhi-gaṇi Kṣamāśramaṇa in the fifth century CE.

Vernacular

The everyday or common language spoken by people in a particular country or region, often contrasting with the literary form or the national or official language. Similarly, vernacular architecture reflects local conditions and conventions more than other considerations, such as national or international design trends, and may be built by non-professional architects.

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