These documents contain additional bibliography and further clarifications of points that arise in each chapter of the book. The document provides relevant material for each sub-heading of the chapter.

Chapter 1


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Chapter 2

The Qurʾān

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Chapter 3


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Chapter 4

Political action and theory

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Chapter 5

Theological exposition

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Chapter 6

Legal developments

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Chapter 7

Ritual practice

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Chapter 8

The Shīʿa

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Chapter 9

Ṣūfī devotion

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Chapter 10

Intellectual culture

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Chapter 11

Medieval visions of Islam

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Chapter 12

Describing modernity

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Chapter 13

Muḥammad and modernity

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Chapter 14

The Qurʾān and modernity

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Chapter 15

Issues of identity: ritual and politics

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Chapter 16

Women, intellectuals, and other challenges

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Chapter 17

Perceptions of Muslims in the twenty-first century

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Browse through the list or click on a letter to jump straight to that section.

By clicking on the term you can listen to how it is pronounced. Many thanks to Mona Sedky Goode for her assistance with this audio guide.

You can also test your knowledge of these terms with our glossary flashcards.


dynasty of caliphs ruling from 750, through the era of the flowering of Islam, and coming to a final end in 1258, although it had lost any meaningful power several centuries earlier with the rise of the Buwayhids.


“morals” or “courtesy”; the habitual way of acting in accordance with social standards.


the call to prayer.


Arabic for God.


commander or prince, frequently used in reference to the person who leads the community.


verse of the Qurʾān; also used in a general meaning of “sign” from God.


Ṣūfī term for the mystic’s “continuance” of existence with God.


the statement at the beginning of each sūra of the Qur'an (except sūra 9), “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate,” also used by Muslims as an invocation.


the winged creature which carried Muḥammad on his “night journey” (isrāʾ) from Mecca to Jerusalem.


dynasty of Shīʿī Persian military rulers who took over rule in 945 and lasted until the takeover by the Sunnī Seljuq rulers in 1055 (also spelled Būyids).


“mentioning” or “remembrance”; term used for the chant in Ṣūfī meditations.


a member of a protected community, especially referring to the Jews and Christians who live under Muslim rule. The right to practise their own religion was guaranteed by their payment of a special poll tax, the jizya.


religion; the word is used in the Qurʾān to refer to the specific beliefs and practices of people.


“calling” upon God, used for informal prayer and supplication, as compared to ṣalāt.


Ṣūfī term for the “passing away” or absorption of the individual into God.


“opening,” the first sūra of the Qurʾān, used especially in prayer.


a legal decision rendered by a muftī, who is a jurist qualified to make decisions of a general religious nature.


jurisprudence, the science of religious law, as described by the jurists known as the fuqahāʾ (of which the singular is faqīh).


“occultation” of the last Imām in the Shīʿī tradition.


major ablution, requiring a full washing.


the restrictive ordinances of God as stated in the Qurʾān, all of which have a specific penalty involved for their violation.


a tradition or written report, being the source material for the sunna of Muḥammad, gathered together in the six books of authoritative traditions in Sunnī Islam.


pilgrimage to Mecca performed in the month of Dhūʾl-ḥijja, one of the “Five Pillars” of Islam; a requirement for all Muslims, if they are able, once in a lifetime.


the Sunnī school of law (the “Ḥanbalī school”) named after Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal (d. 855).


the Sunnī school of law named after Abū Ḥanīfa (d. 767), the “Ḥanafī school.”


the attribute, especially ascribed to Abraham in the Qurʾān, of being a sincere believer in God.


the veil or partition which prevents men from gazing at the “charms of women.” A variety of styles exist but most emphasize covering the hair and hiding the shape of the body.


region in the west of central Arabia, the birthplace of Muḥammad.


Muḥammad’s emigration from Mecca to Medina in the year 622 CE, understood as the date for the beginning of the Muslim hijrī calendar.


the state of consecration into which the pilgrim enters (thus becoming a muḥrim) in order to perform the ḥajj or the ʿumra.


doctrine which states that the Qurʾān cannot be imitated; the “inimitability” of the Qurʾān.


“consensus,” one of the four sources of law in Sunnī Islam, the others being Qurʾān, sunna, and qiyās.


the use of one’s “personal effort” in order to make a decision on a point of law not explicitly covered by the Qurʾān or the sunna; the person with the authority to do this is called a mujtahid.


literally the “model,” here generally referring to the prayer leader in the ṣalāt who stands in front of the rows of worshipers, keeping their actions in unison during the prayer. The word is also used in other contexts. It is a title of the revered early leaders of the Shīʿa who are the source of authority in that community; these Imāms are ʿAlī ibn abī Ṭālib and certain of his descendants who were designated as holding the position. The word is also commonly used as a title of the founders of the Sunnī schools of law – Abū Ḥanīfa, Mālik ibn Anas, al-Shāfiʿī and Ibn Ḥanbal – and similarly for other significant religious figures.


generic name given to the largest group of the Shīʿa, the Ithnā ʿAshariyya.


faith; one who has faith is a muʾmin.


“reformism,” especially in the nineteenth-century Arab world as proposed by people such as Muḥammad ʿAbduh.


the name of the religion preached by Muḥammad, so named in the Qurʾān, literally meaning “submission”; those who adhere to Islam are called Muslims.


a doctrine which states that the prophets, and especially Muḥammad, were protected from sin (maʿṣūm) during their lifetimes. It is also applied to the Shīʿī Imāms.


the chain of authorities through whom a ḥadīth report has passed; the list of these people forms the first part of the ḥadīth report, the text which comes after it being called the matn.


Muḥammad’s “night journey” to Jerusalem, connected to the heavenly ascension, miʿrāj.


the “Age of Ignorance,” historically seen to be before Muḥammad but in a general religious sense referring to ignoring, or ignorance of, Islam; especially used with moral overtones.


“striving for the faith” or “holy war,” sometimes seen as a “sixth pillar” of Islam.


genies, another dimension of animate creation on earth.


in reference to prayer, ṣalāt; it is the Friday noon gathering of the community which is enjoined in the Qurʾān and which takes place in the jāmiʿ or congregational mosque.


the sacred black cube building in the middle of the mosque in Mecca; Muslims face in the direction of the Kaʿba when they perform the ritual prayer (ṣalāt) and circumambulate it when they perform the pilgrimage (ḥajj or ʿumra).


literally, “speech”; refers to a mode of theological discussion framed in terms of an argument and thence to speculative theology as a whole.


Caliph, the leader of the Sunnī community, the “successor” to Muḥammad.


the person at the Friday noon prayer who delivers the address, the khuṭba.


group in early Islam who believed in absolute devotion as the mark of a true Muslim, all others being unbelievers (singular: Khārijī; also known as the Kharijites)


the address given at the Friday noon prayer by the khaṭīb.


a school of law formed around one of the four early figures significant in juristic discussions (Abū Ḥanīfa, Mālik ibn Anas, al-Shāfiʿī, Ibn Ḥanbal); plural: madhāhib.


followers of the legal school named after Mālik ibn Anas (d. 795).


mystical knowledge


“general good” and “public interest,” used as a basis for legal decisions.


the text of a ḥadīth report, as compared to the isnād, the chain of transmission.


birthday; specifically the celebration of the birthday of Muḥammad.


the “inquisition,” primarily under the Abbasid caliph al-Maʾmūn (ruled 813-33), which demanded that government officials and religious leaders adhere to the doctrine of the “created Qurʾān.”


the niche in the wall of a mosque marking the qibla, or direction of prayer towards Mecca.


the “pulpit” on which the khaṭīb gives the address (khuṭba).


the “heavenly ascension” of Muḥammad, reported to have taken place around the year 6 of the hijra, in which he met with the prophets of the past, was given visions of heaven and hell, gazed upon God and was given the command of five prayers a day for all Muslims.


a jurist who is authorized to give a fatwā or legal decision on a religious matter.


a renewer or the faith, stated in a ḥadīth report to appear in the Muslim community every 100 years, in order to revive the true spirit of Islam through the process of tajdīd, “renewal.”


a jurist who is qualified to exercise ijtihād or personal effort in making legal decisions on matters where there is no explicit text of the Qurʾān or the sunna to be followed.


group in early Islam who held the “status quo” position in the debates over faith, generally connected to Abū Ḥanīfa (d. 767)


a person who follows the Islamic religion.


a theological school of thought which blossomed in the eighth and ninth centuries; it stressed human free will and the unity and justice of God, and embraced Greek rationalist modes of argumentation. In modern times, certain thinkers (e.g., Muḥammad ʿAbduh) are sometimes considered “neo-Muʿtazilī” because of their reintroduction of some of these ideas.


the renaissance of the Muslim world in general that was pictured by reformers as resulting from the cultural renewal which would take place in modern times.


a term from India referring to seclusion and veiling of women; the same as ḥijāb.


preordination of events by God.


group in early Islam who argued for free will in the theological debates, precursors of the Muʿtazila.


a judge who makes decisions on the basis of the religious law.


the direction in which one faces in prayer (Mecca), marked by the miḥrāb in the mosque.


“analogy,” one of the four sources of law in Sunnī Islam, the others being Qurʾān, sunna, and ijmāʿ.



cycle of postures through which a person goes in performing the ṣalāt: standing, bowing, prostrating, sitting.


charity, often used interchangeably with zakāt, but also with the sense of free-will offering rather than a required donation.


the “pious ancestors,” the first three generations of Muslims, who some modern Islamists (also known as Salafīs) hold up as embodying the ideal manifestation of Islam.


the prescribed five prayers a day, one the “Five Pillars” required of all Muslims.


fasting performed in the month of Ramaḍān, one of the “Five Pillars” required of all Muslims (also called ṣiyām).


followers of the school of law named after al-Shāfiʿī (d. 820).


“witness to faith”; saying (in Arabic), “There is no god but God and Muḥammad is His messenger”; one of the “Five Pillars” required of all Muslims, indicating conversion to Islam but also a part of the ritual prayer (ṣalāt).


the religious law derived from the four sources of law in Sunnī Islam (Qurʾān, sunna, qiyās, and ijmāʿ).


literally, “an old man” and used as a term of respect for a religious teacher; used especially of a Ṣūfī master.


the religio-political party championing the claims of ʿAlī ibn abī Ṭālib and his heirs to the rightful leadership of the community and to their status as Imāms; since the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Shīʿī position has been the official state religion of Iran and most of its followers live there. They comprise about 10 percent of the world population of Muslims.


“consultation,” a concept to which Islamists frequently appeal when speaking of Islamic ways of structuring governments.


the Ṣūfī “chain” of authority which traces spiritual lineage.


the biography of Muḥammad as found in written form.


an adherent to the mystical way of Islam, Sufism, taṣawwuf.


“custom”; the way Muḥammad acted which is then emulated by Muslims. The source material for the sunna is found in the ḥadīth reports. The sunna is one of the four sources of law for Sunnī Islam, along with Qurʾān, qiyās, and ijmāʿ.


the majority form of Islam, those who follow the sunna (thus being called the ahl al-sunna), who do not recognize the authority of the Shīʿī Imāms.


a chapter of the Qurʾān.


interpretation of the Qurʾān, especially as found in written form. Such books generally follow the order of the Quranic text and pay attention to the meaning of each word or sentence.




the reliance upon decisions made in the past in matters of religious law; the word is set in opposition to ijtihād, “personal effort,” and frequently has a negative sense in the modern context.


“the way” of Sufism; a Ṣūfī order or brotherhood.


Sufism, the mystical way in Islam.


the ritual of the circumambulation of the Kaʿba during the pilgrimage.


“trust” in God, especially among the Ṣūfīs.


doctrine holding to the proclamation of the unity of God.


the learned class, especially those learned in religious matters (singular: ʿālim)


the first dynasty of caliphs, ruling from 661 until the takeover of the ʿAbbāsids in 750.


the community; the body of Muslims.


the “visitation” of the holy places in Mecca, the lesser pilgrimage; it can be performed at any time of the year but is also joined with the ḥajj.


the followers of Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb (d. 1787); a revivalist-purificatory movement in Arabia which became (and continues to be) the official religious policy of Saudi Arabia, now often called the Salafiyya.


position of ʿAlī as the “friend” (walī) of God.


minor ablution required prior to some ritual performances.

Useful web resources

The Internet teems with material on Islam, both good and bad. It is especially a very suitable resource for acquiring images and maps. Many classical and modern texts may also be found in translation. Note that films found on the Internet are treated in the section “Film, Video and Audio Material” on this website.

The material in this section is organized under the following headings:

General Information and Link Collections A great starting point for information on the web - a teaching website with articles, online lectures, good bibliographies, all written by scholars. site, maintained by Professor A. Godlas at the University of Georgia, is a good academically oriented site and the place to begin most searches for information. It gives links to many different issues, from Islamophobia, to Shi‘ism, and women’s rights. A wide ranging, although somewhat spotty, list of links that includes material under the following headings: Digital Library, General Links, Islamic Law, Women in Islam, Islam in China, Islam in America, Middle East & North Africa Studies, Arabic Language Study, and Taliban/al-Qaeda/Bin Laden. The Encyclopaedia of Islam is an excellent resource for all kinds of topics on Islam. Written by specialists, it is a great starting point for any student essay, as it is continuously expanded to include the latest research. An excellent online resource covering topics on Islam, with excellent links to primary sources, timelines, and topic overviews. Free access is available to this excellent scholarly reference, the Encyclopaedia Iranica. This site is part of the heated discussion on the approaches to studying Islamic history, but it provides an excellent overview of sources for Islamic history (manuscripts, inscriptions, coins) with up-to-date references. The index islamicus is the largest international bibliography of publications on Islam.

Date converters are available at and

Pre-Islamic Times

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History covers the background to and the rise of Islam extensively. See the sections Arabian Peninsula, 500–1000 A.D. and The Eastern Mediterranean, 500–1000 A.D. and the entries there under “related content.” Also see the section Trade between Europe and Asia in Antiquity  for a broad sense of ancient trade routes.

The website contains much of the published epigraphic corpus (Pre-Islamic and early Islamic). You will have to register but it's otherwise a free data bank. 

Maps of the Arabian Peninsula are available at showing elevation. showing vegetation.
Also: for elevation and vegetation.

And for seeing ancient place names.

The Qurʾān

The Qurʾān is available online in many forms, with translations and recitations abounding. The following sites are worth investigating: A site that is easily navigated and searchable. The Arabic text can be played out loud. allows the Arabic text to be downloaded and many translations and recitations consulted (through the link to (requires Adobe Flash) very functional with clear “book” metaphor for the presentation. also provides word-by-word analysis and various linguistic approaches. sophisticated “Online Quran Project.”

A useful comparison between the narratives and themes of the Bible and the Qurʾān is available at

Qurʾān manuscripts are illustrated on many sites also: for the Sanʿa manuscripts. Sultan Baybar’s Qurʾān; a presentation of a fourteenth century Qurʾān in the British Library. The King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an provides access to a large collection of sample manuscript pages as well as other resources.
For the Berlin project on documenting the history of the text of the Qurʾān (“Corpus Coranicum”), see
The Internet has become an arena for a good deal of Muslim–Christian polemic especially regarding the Qurʾān and Muḥammad. Much scholarly information is available at these sites, but frequently it is presented in context that makes it difficult to assess the objectivity of the material: The major Muslim site which declares its purpose to be “to educate Muslims about the questions and issues frequently raised by the Christian missionaries and Orientalists.” It has an excellent section on Qurʾān manuscripts. Although this is called “A Christian–Muslim dialogue” this is the main Christian site dedicated to countering claims about Islam and promoting the truth of Christianity.


Books of ḥadīth, translated into English, may be searched Works available here include al-Bukhārī, Muslim, Abū Dāwūd (partial), and Mālik ibn Anas’ Muwaṭṭaʾ.

The same books are at and may be browsed through, chapter by chapter. adds al-Tirmidhī and is in the process (October 2010) of adding additional texts.

The books can be downloaded (as well as searched) at

On exegesis, the following site has some of the main works digitized:

History Fordham University Internet History project has a significant collection of original and secondary source material in their Medieval Sourcebook. It actually covers topics from the pre-Islamic to the contemporary period. with a special interest in the history of science. This site has collected some of the most important primary sources particularly for the early history of Islam. An excellent blog on Islamic and medieval history and art.

Theology and Philosophy An excellent resource on topics in Islamic Theology and Philosophy, this podcast by Professor Peter Adamson (LMU/King’s College) also gives good guidance on further reading. An extensive collection of books, sources, and bibliography on theology and philosophy. This website provides regular updates on publications in Medieval Islamic Philosophy and Theology.

Ritual has an interesting collection of Muslim links, especially for finding details on rituals and current issues. A 3-D visit to the Kaʿba along with other mosques.

Press releases from the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Washington, DC, USA, are the best way to get up-to-date statistics on the ḥajj and news of further developments in the facilities:

Art and Architecture An enormous resource “for architects, planners, urban designers, landscape architects, conservationists, and scholars, with a focus on Muslim cultures and civilisations.”

Many museums make some of their Islamic collections available online. Extensive collections are found at: Housing among the most impressive collections of Islamic Art in the world, the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in Doha, Qatar, was designed by the famous architect I.M. Pei and opened in 2008.
The Metropolitan Museum website also has a good timeline of Islamic Art: (“Museum with no Frontiers”).

Women Muslim Women’s Homepage with a focus on women’s issues.

FITNA, The Female Troublemakers of North America, regularly posts on issues and links related to Muslim women:

The website by Amina Wadud, an activist and foremost scholar of Islamic feminism, has a great section on resources (and great bibliography) relating to women and Islam:

Modern issues Gary Bunt’s research on Islam and Muslims in cyberspace, “Virtually Islamic: Research and News about Islam in the Digital Age.” Insight on Islam and the Middle East from academic commentators with a special interest in gender issues, terrorism, and expressions of intolerance.


Several web sites are dedicated to tracing Islamophobia in the media: and are among them.

Both educational documentaries and fictional feature films can be useful for learning about Islam in its many forms. They are organized here under the following headings:

Pre-Islamic Times

A film such as PBS’s Islam: Empire of Faith can provide a good orientation to the Arabian context of the rise of Islam as it is relevant to the life of Muḥammad (this covers about the first 50 minutes of the film). Somewhat romanticized, the film’s emphasis on idol worship and constant battles conveys an important part of the way that pre-history plays its role in Muslim identity by providing the contrast to the state of affairs under Islam. The accompanying website is also valuable: The film is available on

On the place of South Arabia, the film Yemen: Land of the Queen of Sheba is valuable. Alaine Jomier (Director) and Elisabeth Kiledjian (Producer). 1997 (in French, Yémen, pays de la reine de Saba), 54 minutes. Production by Institut du monde arabe, Paris. The film presents archaeological evidence from Saba, Qataban, Ma'in, and Hadhramawt, and combines contemporary views and culture with evidence of former kingdoms. Sequential presentation highlights the main sites and uses animations to reconstruct those that are incomplete. Distributor: Films for the Humanities and Sciences (

The Qurʾān

Films are available although some try to tackle the subject as one of “controversy” while others are apologetics. Among the titles that can be found through YouTube and other resources are: Decoding the Past – Secrets of the Koran and The Qur’an – Channel 4 (as well as refutations and clarifications of points in them).

On manuscripts of the Qurʾān and various controversies surrounding establishing the meaning of the text, YouTube videos “The Oldest Quranic Manuscripts” (4:45 minutes) and “The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Qur’an” (10:01 minutes) are helpful, if somewhat polemical extracts from other films (both of these versions are posted by AtheistMediaDotCom).


Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet,Director Omar al-Qattan, 2002, is available on
YouTube and more details about the film are available at and The film includes pieces from Karen Armstrong and  John Voll and while the history is simplistic it does have some focus on Islam in United States, which adds another dimension to the meaning of Muḥammad to Muslims through the interspersed personal narratives.

The Message, 1976, in English, starring Anthony Quinn, can also be found by searching on the Internet.


BBC Radio 4: In Our Times: The Abbasid Caliphate is an excellent presentation of Islamic history form the eighth through the tenth century in a stimulating discussion between Melvyn Bragg and three academics.


Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet,Director Omar al-Qattan, 2002 contains a brief “Special Feature” on the “Virtual Hajj” which is also posted at the PBS website:

National Geographic’s Inside Mecca on the pilgrimage is an excellent overview:

Also of value because it fits in a broader narrative context is Journey to Mecca: In the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta, Director Bruce Neibaur, 2009).

The feature film Le Grande Voyage (2004), directed by Ismaël Ferroukhi (in French, Bulgarian, Arabic, Italian, and Turkish with English subtitles), is a powerful portrayal of one man’s journey to fulfillment by accomplishing the ḥajj.


“Soheil Star” the story of the early convert to Islam from the Yemen, Owais-e-Qarni, told from a Shīʿī perspective: and (in Persian with English sub-titles). This film is also available at, which is a significant resource of documentary and independent feature films, many of which have relevant context to the study of Islam.


A list of films on Ṣūfīs and Sufism is available at While the list is composed of the films available at the University of North Carolina, some searching on the Internet will uncover a number of them.

The feature film Takva: Man’s Fear of God (2006) in Turkish with English subtitles, is the story of a man who joins a contemporary Ṣūfī order and is forced to confront the sin, hypocrisy and blasphemy of the modern world. The film contains some excellent scenes of whirling dervishes.

Art and Architecture

Paradise Found: A Documentary on Islamic Architecture is available on YouTube and many other sites is a highly praised survey.

Modern Debates and Controversies

The BBC’s documentary from 2004, The Power of Nightmares, is a three-part series that traces links between figures such as Sayyid Quṭb, al-Ẓawāhirā, ʿAzzām, and Bin Laden and examines this in the context of American neo-conservatism and Christian neo-fundamentalism, leading to a conclusion that suggests a clash of fundamentalisms rather than a clash of civilizations. The films are available on YouTube.

Sharia in Canada: La Charia au Canada, directed by Dominque Cardona, and produced by the National Film Board of Canada, is available in two parts: “Something to Fear?” and “The Pitfalls of Diversity.” and In this film see William Anselmi and Sheena Wilson, “From Inch’Allah Dimancheto Sharia in Canada: Empire Management, Gender Representations, and Communication Strategies in the Twenty-First Century,” in Cara Cilano (ed.), From Solidarity to Schisms: 9/11 and After in Fiction and Film from Outside the US, Amsterdan: Rodopi, 2009, pp. 237–74.

The theme of suicide bombers has stimulated several independent films found at, including 2009’s Lesh Sabreen?, a twenty-minute shortfrom Palestine; It a One Long Life, a fourteen-minute short from Pakistan (2009); and A Step into Darkness, a two-hour feature film from Turkey (2009).

The feature film Ali Zaoua, Prince of the Streets, directed by Nabil Ayouch, in Arabic with English subtitles (2006), takes place in Casablanca with a group of young street children whose names have resonances with the formative period of Islam and whose development of family bonds and rivalries both reflects the modern world and echoes Islamic history.


My Name is Khan is a feature film which conveys some sense of the Muslim feeling of oppression: is exceptionally rich; also see

The BBC’s Islam in America, is on the Park 51 controversy with Daniel Pipes, an outspoken foe of current politicized Islamic movements, as well as Pamela Geller, a rabid anti-Muslim blogger, along with Robert Salaam, a former US Marine who converted to Islam and is now the editor of The American Muslim, and Dr. Hussein Rashid, Lecturer at Hofstra University in New York and associate editor of the website Religion Dispatches.

The political situation of Muslims in America becomes plain by watching a short news feature such as with Pamela Geller.

Some of the following questions and ideas stem from other academic sources, including the NEH Summer Seminar for researchers “Islamic Origins” held at the University of Chicago in 2000, and from the discussion list ISLAMAAR. They are organized here under the following headings:

Issues in the History of the Origins of Islam

  • Why is it so difficult to obtain a clear view of “what actually happened” at the origins of Islam?
  • What are the strengths and limitations of the various literary-historical sources that purport to tell us about Islam’s origins (Arabic–Islamic, Syriac, Greek, Coptic, Armenian, etc.)?
  • Given the fact that these literary sources are often of much later date than the period of Islam’s origins, why did Western scholars favour their testimony for so long?
  • What can be learned from contemporary epigraphic, papyrological, numismatic, and archaeological evidence, and how can that evidence be coordinated with information from literary sources to best advantage?

Issues in the Formation of Islamic Identity

  • What was the nature of the early community of Believers?
  • How clear-cut were the community’s boundaries in the beginning (i.e., in the time of the prophet Muḥammad himself)?
  • How did the early Believers define themselves in relation to other religious communities, particularly Christians and Jews?
  • What role did ideology, ritual, and social practices play in this self-identification?
  • If the early community’s identity was “porous” to some extent, when and how did it harden to become the clear-cut Muslim identity that is visible toward the end of the first century A.H. (seventh century C.E.)?
  • In what measure were the teachings of Muḥammad a natural outgrowth of religious trends discernable in the late antique Near East?
  • What role, if any, did such concepts as gnosis, apocalypticism and messianism play in the movement’s dynamic?
  • How (if at all) did the core beliefs of the new community evolve between the time of Muhammad and the crystallization of “classical Islam” a century and more later?
  • How did religious polemics and inter-confessional relations affect the articulation of religious identities?
  • How did the notion of an Arab–Muslim identity develop during the Umayyad period and how was it contested by the Abbasid movement and revolution?

Issues in the Emergence of the Islamic Empire

  • What was the relationship of the communal identity of the early Believers to an ethnic (“Arab”) identity?
  • How should the question of ethnic identity (“Arabs”) as opposed to religious identity (“Believers/Muslims”) be viewed in the context of state-formation?
  • Can we identify the key institutions that permit us to describe the community of Believers as a state, and when did they appear?
  • How was the early expansion of the Believers organized?
  • To what degree were the conquests the product of centralized planning, and to what degree were they the product of independent initiatives undertaken by free-wheeling raid leaders?
  • Should the rise of the Islamic state be viewed as the culmination of processes of religio-political integration that had begun with the Byzantines’ and Sasanians’ conflation of imperial and monotheistic traditions?
  • What was the nature of the frontiers of the dar al-Islām like? What were the laws of just wars? How and why did certain ideologies of war develop and how were these mobilized for the legitimation of regimes?

Issues in the Cultural Manifestations of the Early Empire

  • What impact did the rise of the new regime have on the economic, social, and cultural life of the conquered territories?
  • How are changes in patterns of urbanism in the Near East during the seventh century C.E. related to the rise of Islam?
  • In what ways did the rise of Islam affect the traditional balance between Near Eastern village agriculturalists, urbanites, and pastoral nomads?
  • What role did various vernacular and written languages of the Near East (particularly Arabic) play in the interaction of religious and political communities in this period?
  • What cultures did Arabs and Muslims encounter as they expanded? How did they react to such encounters? How did they adapt? And how were they affected by the diverse cultures and institutions of their expanding world?
  • How did the movement of populations within the Islamic world affect the development of Islamic identities and cultures?
  • How were the identities and boundaries of religious minorities maintained and negotiated?

Issues in the Expression of Islamic Identity

All of the following topics can be framed to answer the basic question of what makes this “Islamic”? For example, if the investigation is of some aspect of material culture or ritual, then the analysis would try to say what characteristics reflect an Islamic impulse, and/or what differentiates it from the manifestations of other cultures. Why are these acts/objects “Muslim” and why are they appropriate for Muslims? Some possible topics include:

  • Celebration of Muḥammad’s birthday
  • Purity in Islam
  • Islamic calendar and ritual
  • Nature and function of the qāḍī  (judge)
  • Idea of and history of jihād (“holy war”)
  • Relations with other religious communities
  • Freewill and predetermination in Islamic theology
  • Problem of theodicy in Islam
  • “Faith and belief” and the definition of a Muslim
  • Role of music in mysticism
  • Role of dance in mysticism
  • Concept of saintship
  • The Minaret and its symbolism
  • Representational art in Islam
  • The Islamic city
  • The Kaʿba
  • Al-Ghazālī (mystic, theologian)
  • Ibn Khaldūn (historian)
  • Al-Ṭabarī (historian)
  • ʿĀʾisha (wife of Muḥammad)
  • Rabīʿa (mystic)
  • Caliph Hārūn al-Rashīd
  • Caliph ʿAbd al-Malik

Issues in Modern Times

  • How did the colonial encounter affect Arab–Islamic cultural and religious identities?
  • What were the key factors and influences in the development of Arab national identities?

Analysis of Primary and Secondary Sources

Analysis of material available on the web is an essential skill. Many guides are available for such exercises that encourage critical consideration of aspects related to point of view and bias. This is also a useful approach in the analysis of topics related to the media presentation of modern Islam.  Suggested aspects of critical consideration include the following factors:

  • Who are the pages written by?
  • Who are the pages written for? What is the motivation of the author to place this information on the Web?
  • What is the character of the sources which the pages cite? (If none are cited, can you make any other observations?)
  • Does the site acknowledge opposing views or exhibit any biases?
  • How do the pages relate to the material we have covered in class? Do they add anything to your knowledge of the subject?
  • What is your assessment of the site overall?

For further help on the criteria for assessment of a web site (or media presentation) review (many libraries have such sites).