Devotional texts

From medieval Christian Books of Hours to the Sikh empress Rani Jindan’s prayer book, explore how devotional texts have helped believers make a personal connection with their faith.

19th-century Qur'an from the East Coast of the Malay Peninsula, red and yellow decoration. Or 15227, folio 4r

Prayer in Islam

Article by:
Amjad M Hussain

Prayer is one of the five pillars of Islam. This article by Dr Amjad Hussain explains common features of Islamic prayer, such as the call to prayer, daily timings and the direction of prayer. He also explores the linguistic, geographic and sectarian diversity of prayer in Islam.

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A pair of hands holding a printed Hebrew prayer book.

Jewish prayer at home and in the synagogue

Article by:
Johnny Solomon

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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Abstract golden pattern on blue background

Sikh prayer and worship

Article by:
Eleanor Nesbitt

The Guru Granth Sahib plays an integral part in the lives of Sikhs. Eleanor Nesbitt describes the rituals that surround it and its role in the daily lives and life cycle rites of Sikhs, also exploring Sikh daily prayer, devotional songs and festivals.

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A close up image of the face of a Hindu Deity

Hindu deities

Article by:
Julius Lipner

The multiple gods and goddesses of Hinduism are a distinctive feature of the religion. However, Professor Julius Lipner explains that Hinduism cannot be considered polytheistic and discusses the way in which Hindu culture and sacred texts conceptualise the deities, as well as their role in devotional faith.

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Krishna and Arjuna approaching the Kurukshetra battlefield, from a Bhagavad Gīta manuscript. Or 13758 folio 12 recto

Bhakti

Article by:
Rishi Handa

Dr Rishi Handa looks at bhakti in Hinduism, exploring its common modes, the Hindu concept of enlightenment and how to achieve it, the importance of the Divine Name and the veneration of forms of the deities.

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images of Amitābha Buddha printed on paper

Buddhist meditation and chant

Article by:
Sarah Shaw

There are many kinds of Buddhist meditations; here Dr Sarah Shaw describes the ‘middle way’ of the Buddha and explores key aspects of Buddhist meditation and chant, such as the use of Buddha-images and visualisation.

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Brightly illustrated image of the the Annunciation

Medieval prayer-books

Article by:
Eleanor Jackson

Books of Hours were a popular feature of medieval Christianity in Europe. Dr Eleanor Jackson introduces their common features, uses and purposes, explaining features such as the Instruments of Christ’s Passion and the medieval veneration of saints.

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Discovering Sacred Texts: Buddhism

Discovering Sacred Texts: Buddhism

Find out how different Buddhist traditions practices their faith through the concept of the Three Jewels: the Buddha; Buddhist teachings (Dharma); and Sangha, the religious communities that practice Dharma.

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Discovering Sacred Texts: Christianity

Discovering Sacred Texts: Christianity

Explore the diverse ways in which five Christian denominations – Coptic Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Church of England, Methodist, and Pentecostal – worship in Britain today, and the texts that inspire them.

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Discovering Sacred Texts: Hinduism

Discovering Sacred Texts: Hinduism

Discover the diversity and richness of Hinduism, from the ancient oral tradition of the Vedic texts, the colourful stories of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, and the ways in which gods and goddesses are worshipped today.

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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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Discovering Sacred Texts: Judaism

Discovering Sacred Texts: Judaism

We explore what it means to be Jewish today through some of Judaism’s most important sacred texts including the Torah, the Talmud, and the Haggadah.

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Further themes

Buddhism

The Buddha lived over 2,500 years ago, yet his life and teachings continue to inform the lives of millions of Buddhists worldwide. Learn about the Buddha’s teachings, the different Buddhist traditions, and Buddhist meditation.

Christianity

From its origins on the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean to its expansion to every corner of the globe in modern times, discover how the production of biblical texts enabled Christianity to become the diverse faith it is today.

Devotional texts

From medieval Christian Books of Hours to the Sikh empress Rani Jindan’s prayer book, explore how devotional texts have helped believers make a personal connection with their faith.

Hinduism

From its origins as an oral tradition over 4,000 years ago, to contemporary retellings of its epic stories, Hinduism is characterised by seemingly limitless diversity. Discover more about Hinduism’s sacred texts and the colourful gods and goddesses that feature in them.

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.

Islam

As the unadulterated Word of God, the Qur’an is sacred to Muslims everywhere. Learn more about Qur’an and its content, and Islam’s other important sacred texts, such as the Hadith and Sunna.

Jainism

Characterised by principles of asceticism and non-violence, Jainism has its roots in India in the sixth century BCE. Discover more about Jainism’s sacred texts, its cosmology, and the religious views and practices of its adherents.

Judaism

Explore how the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud inform the lives of Jews today, and how prayer books such as the Haggadah, used in worship and religious festivals, have helped sustain Jewish identity over many centuries.

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.

Pilgrimage, text and place

Explore the connections between sacred spaces and sacred texts.

Sacred texts

All faiths have their origins in texts, be they the word of God as revealed to prophets, oral stories retold by one generation to another over centuries, or written down in books. Explore the origins and developments of the world’s major faiths.

Sikhism

Discover more about the origins of the Sikh faith, the role of the Sikh Gurus in the compilation of its sacred texts, and the importance of prayer to Sikhs.

The Baha’i Faith

Emerging in the mid-19th century, the Baha’i Faith has grown rapidly from its Middle Eastern origins, and now has around 8 million adherents worldwide. Learn more about the founders of the Baha’i faith, and how they disseminated their beliefs.

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.

Zoroastrianism

With its roots in central Asia 3,500 years ago, Zoroastrianism has a rich history of interaction with the Abrahamic faiths, and of migration around the world. Learn more about this ancient religion, and the sacred texts that inform its beliefs.