The Emergence of Islam

Course Description:

            The religion of Islam has caught the attention of the whole world through a number of well-publicized events and upheavals during the past 20-30 years, but especially since September 11, 2001. Meanwhile the Muslim communities of South Asia have continued to grow and influence the dynamics of the region. And yet, in spite of much public talk about Islam, the religion remains relatively unknown. What’s more, many non-Muslims are at a loss as to how to respond to Muslims and their faith.

This course explores the origins of Islam through an approach rarely taken. Rather than starting with the traditional Muslim literature about Islamic origins and fitting the words of the Qur’an into that story, this course asks what the Qur’an itself might suggest to us about the emergence of Islam. The course therefore brings to Christians a measure of confidence about the beliefs and practices of Muslims, and the story they tell about their messenger. However, reasonable academic critical perspectives on the Islamic source materials are also brought into the discussion.

Students will be encouraged to respect Muslims as fellow humans created by God in His image. They will also be given useful suggestions for how to befriend and converse with Muslims in appropriate and helpful ways. Students will gain a straightforward and accurate knowledge of how Muslims speak about their faith and practices, and will become familiar with scholarly studies that lend perspective to Muslim tradition.  

Textbook for the course
Course Objectives:

     At the conclusion of this course, the student should be able to:

  1. Tell the story of the origins and development of Islam as Muslims understand it.

  2. Demonstrate the application of a scholarly perspective to the Muslim tradition.

  3. Become familiar with the best scholarly studies of Islamic history and theology, etc.

  4. Write up their own research in a smooth flow of description, analysis and evaluation.

  5. Identify key truth claims of Islam and articulate helpful avenues of personal response.

  6. Meet Muslims and learn how to develop meaningful on-going relationships with them.

  7. Converse with Muslims in a relaxed and natural way while speaking about faith issues.

Excerpts from a sample lecture
Lesson 1:  Introductions, explanations, “Before Islam” 
Lesson 2:   Story of Muhammad – Mecca 
Lesson 3:   Medina 
Lesson 4:   Contents of the Qur’an 
Lesson 5:   Historical context of Qur’an 
Lesson 6:   Story of Muhammad and history
Lesson 7:    The Arab conquests  
Lesson 8:   Politics  
Lesson 9:  Islamic Law 
Lesson 10:  Theology 
Lesson 11:   The Qur’an and the Bible 
Lesson 12:  the Shiah and other sects 
Lesson 13:   Ritual practices 
Lesson 14:   Sufi mysticism and folk Islam 
Lesson 15:   The struggle for Islam today