Discovering Sacred Texts provides access to the richness and diversity of the texts from some of the world’s greatest faiths. Discover more about the sacred texts from Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism and the Baha’i Faith, Jainism and Zoroastrianism.

Featured articles

  • Historical texts

    Henry VIII and the Reformation

    Professor Susan Doran discusses Henry VIII and the Reformation, looking at the Catholic devotional texts that were owned by the king, his break with the Catholic Church and the development of the English Bible following the Reformation.

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    Origins and development of Sikh faith: The Gurus

    Gurus are central to the Sikh faith. Eleanor Nesbitt looks at the founder of the Sikh faith – Guru Nanak, the concept of Guru in Sikhism, the central principles of the Gurus’ teachings and the sacred scripture – the Guru Granth Sahib.

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    Discovering Sacred Texts: Islam

    Discovering Sacred Texts: Islam

    Our film on Islam explores four of the five pillars of Islam – the Muslim profession of faith (shahada), prayer (salat), charity (zakat), and fasting during Ramadan (sawm) – and how Muslims in Britain follow them today.

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    A pair of hands holding a printed Hebrew prayer book.

    Jewish prayer at home and in the synagogue

    Rabbi Johnny Solomon explores the role of prayer within Jewish tradition, looking at its history, development and use within worship and rituals.

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  • Detail from the top of a lavishishy decorated marriage certificate.

    Women in Islamic sources

    Dr Raana B Shah explores the presentation of women in Islamic sources, including their role in the scripture and contribution to Islamic sources, both Sunni and Shi‘a. She finishes by reflecting on the role of women in modern Islamic societies and offers some modern interpretations of the role of women in Islam.

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    Women and Christianity

    Dr Christine Joynes discusses women in Christianity: both their presentation in the gospels and the apostolic letters, and the role of women in Christianity today, from the perspective of female leadership and their perceived role in society.

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    Detail from Folio 22 of a 19th-century gilt board manuscript featuring Bhikkhuni Patimokkha

    Women in Theravada Buddhism

    Writing from the perspective of the Theravāda tradition, Ajahn Sister Sundara explores the role of women in Buddhism, in particular the role of Buddhist nuns.

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    The finding of baby Moses. Illustration of three women gathered around a baby.

    Women and gender in the Hebrew Bible

    Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers takes a look at women within the Hebrew Bible, traditional and modern Jewish interpretation of the scripture and womens’ relationship with biblical education.

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    An introduction to the Jain faith

    Professor Nalini Balbir introduces the Jain religion, describing its key features, practices and expressions of faith.

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    An introduction to the Baha’i Faith

    Peter Smith looks at the central features of the Baha’i Faith, including its history, and the key beliefs, organisation and world-view of the Baha’i community.

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    An illustrated Videvdad Sadah, rspa 230, folios 151v-2r

    An introduction to Zoroastrianism

    Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest living world-religions. Professor Almut Hintze explores its history and some of the key components of the religion: its beliefs, sacred texts and rituals.

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    Adinkra cloth from Ghana

    African belief systems

    This article introduces a small number of examples of indigenous religious practices in Africa, through which people seek to communicate with ancestors, deities and nature spirits. As in other religions, texts play a central role, however in African belief systems they are primarily performed as oral traditions.

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Themes

Explore the sacred texts of the world’s great faiths by theme.

Living Texts

Whether retold from one generation to the next, or written down from one language into another, some sacred texts have evolved while others have remained the same throughout time, enriching and informing the lives of those that read them.

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Women and angels as depicted in the Holkham Bible Picture Book, Add MS 47682, f. 35r

Women, texts and faith

Explore the lives of women in the sacred texts of the world’s major faiths, and the changing ways in which women contribute to religious practice in contemporary society.

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The city of Acre depicted on a mid-13th-century pilgrimage map of Palestine. A camel is depicted outside the city wall. Royal MS 14 C VII, ff. 4r-5r

Pilgrimage, text and place

Explore the connections between sacred spaces and sacred texts.

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Illuminated texts

The British Library’s collection comprises some of the most beautiful, handwritten and illuminated sacred texts from many of the world’s religions.

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Collection items

Explore the sacred texts of the world’s great faiths.