12: Islam


  • Major populations: Middle East, North Africa, Asia 
  • Designated as a world “religion” in 1614
  • Adherents: 1.5 billion (2nd largest)
  • Key Texts: Qur’an, Hadiths
  • Place of Worship: Mosque (Arabic: Masjid)
    • The Grand Mosque, Mecca, Saudi Arabia (2m clip)
    • The Prophet’s Mosque, Medina, Saudi Arabia (2m clip)
    • Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem, Israel (pic)

  • Do They Proselytize? Yes.
  • Dogmatic? Yes.
  • Theistic? Yes.

American Muslims
Ft. Jackson, South Carolina

Key Terms

  • Muhammad 
  • Ummah
  • Din
  • Islam
  • Allah
  • Tahrif
  • Qur’an
  • Isa 
  • Hadith
  • Mahdi
  • Salafi
  • Five Pillars

Qur’an 2:136

We believe in God and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes of Israel, and that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and to all the prophets of the Lord. We make no distinction between them, for to God we have surrendered


لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله
There is only one God, and Muhammad is His Prophet.

I. The Prophet Muhammad 
() in Brief

  • 570: born in Mecca, orphan raised by uncle, works as a merchant
  • 610: Meditating in a cave, Muhammad is visited by the angel Gabriel
    • He’s commanded to recite the Word of God to the Meccans
  • 613: He begins preaching publicly about the Qur’an
    • He denounces polytheism and is persecuted by Meccans
  • 615: Muhammad’s followers flee to Christian kingdom in Abyssinia (Ethiopia)
  • 622: After assassination attempts, he leads his followers to Medina (1 A.H.)
  • 630: He marches on Mecca and the Muslims take control of the city and of the Ka’ba
  • 630-632: Muhammad is the spiritual and political leader of Mecca and Medina
  • 632: Abu Bakr, father-in-law to Muhammad, assumes political control
  • In the Qur’an, Muhammad is the last prophet of God

Qur’an 5:3

This day I have perfected your
din (دين) for you.

II. A Non-Exclusive Monotheism

  • 613: the Prophet Muhammad wants to end Tribalism and unite everyone!
    • He envisions a shared Believers’ Movement of Jews, Christians, and Arabs
    • Believers (Mu’minun المؤمنون): followers of the One God
      • Jews: welcomed as Believers
      • Christians (Non-Trinitarian): welcomed as Believers
      • Arabs, Africans, etc., who submit to God also Believers
        • Submitters (Arabic: Muslimun)
  • Jews have the Torah and Christians have the Gospel
  • Muhammad establishes the “din” (دين) for non-Jewish/Christian Believers
    • Din is originally a Hebrew word (דין), meaning legal judgement
  • Together all the Believers made up the Ummah, a community under One God

III. Religion, Din, & Islam

  • Throughout the Medieval period (500s-1500s), Islamic identity takes shape
    • Christians thought of “Mohammadans” as Christians who worship Muhammad
    • While the Qur’an calls Christians, “those who were led astray
      • Muslims claim Jesus ≠ God (cf. Nicene Creed)
  • Modern Europe: Islam as a World Religion
    • 1529: Earliest use of “Mahometan” in English, from Latin Mahometus
    • 1614: Earliest mention of “Mohammadan” as a co-religion alongside Christianity
    • 1647: Earliest English translation of Qur’an – din (دين) is “law”
    • 1900s: Arabic “din” (دينtranslated “religion,” though the modern concept is problematic
    • 1900s: “Mohammadan” replaced with “Muslim” in Western literature
      • “Mohammadan” is now considered a pejorative word for Muslims

IV. So what does Islam mean?

  • A. Greek Languages vs. Semitic Languages
    • Western languages combine prefixes and suffixes to create meaning (pic: table2)
      • astro (star) + logos (study) = astrology: the study of stars
      • bio (life) + logos (study) = biology: the study of life
    • Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, and Arabic are Semitic languages — use 3-letter roots (pic: table)
  • B. The Semitic Root S-L-M
    • S-L-M is the root of Islam and Muslim
      • Salaam - Arabic for peace (cf. Shalom, Hebrew for peace)
      • Salamah - Arabic for refuge/safety
      • Salim - Arabic for unbroken/perfect
      • Muslim - Arabic for one who submits to “SLM”
    • This renders Islam as taking refuge in God’s perfection
      • More simply, Islam means submission to God

Al–Fatiha (The Opening)
The Qur’an: Sura 1

In the Name of Allah,
the Compassionate, the Merciful

Praise be to Allah,
the Lord of the Worlds,
The Compassionate, the Merciful,
Master of the Day of Judgment,
Only You do we worship, and only 
You do we implore for help.
Lead us to the right path, 
the path of those You have favored
Not those who have incurred
Your wrath or have gone astray.


I. Pre-Quranic Scriptures (corrupted)
Islamic theology: the scriptures before the Qur’an have been altered (tahrif),
and the originals lost

II. The Qur'an

3 Religions Comparison Chart

Jesus Speaks from the Cradle

I am indeed a slave of God. He has given me the Book and made me a Prophet, and He has made me blessed wherever I may be. And He has enjoined upon me prayers, and to pay the alms, as long as I live and He has made me kind to my mother, and He has not made me insolent, unblessed. And may peace be upon me the day I was born, and the day I die, and on the day I shall be raised to life.

Qur’an 19:30-33

  • The Qur’an as Clarification
    • The Qur’an literally means the Recitation in Arabic
    • Muhammad visited by the angel Gabriel and told to recite God’s words
    • Qur’an conceived of as a final correction of God’s teachings to humanity
  • The Preservation of the Qur’an
    • The Qur’an preserved in its original language — Classical Arabic
    • Christian Bible has gone from Aramaic to Greek, to Latin, to KJV English
  • The Uniqueness of the Qur'an
    • Defies normal textual conventions
      • No beginning, middle, or narrative end
      • No chronological or thematic order
      • No continuity between parts
    • Divided into 114 suras, grouped by where it was written (Medina or Mecca)
    • Longer suras are at the beginning and smaller suras are at the end
    • Approximately the length of the New Testament
  • 20 years after Muhammad’s death, Uthman compiles the definitive Qur’an
  • Jesus (Isa) in the Qur’an
    • He is born of the Virgin Mary
    • He feeds the disciples from a table from heaven (Cf. Gospel of Mark)
    • He speaks from the cradle (Cf. Syriac Infancy Gospel)
    • He creates birds from clay (Cf. Infancy Gospel of Thomas)
    • He heals the blind (Cf. Gospel of John)
    • He is the Messiah, with twelve (unnamed) disciples
    • He will return when the Mahdi is fighting in the Last Days
      • He will descend east of Damascus, and kill the Anti-Christ
        • This will cause the Jews & Christians to accept Islam

The Black Flag of the Mahdi

If you see the black banners coming from Khorasan
Go to them immediately even if you must crawl over ice because indeed among them is the Caliph, the Mahdi.

Hadith: Sunnah Ibn Majah
Article in Atlantic Magazine


  • 2nd to Qur’an in importance
  • Collection of sayings and traditions of Muhammad
  • Various interpretations and degrees of honor held for Hadith
    • Not universally accepted or interpreted the same way
  • The Mahdi (“Rightly Guided One”) in the Hadith
    • Not explicitly talked about in the Qur’an, but very important
    • Will rid the world of evil in the years just before the Day of Judgment
    • Will lead all Muslims, fighting next to Jesus Christ against the Anti-Christ
    • Sunni Islam: The Mahdi is the prophesied leader of the Islam
    • Shia Islam: The Mahdi already lives among us; will reveal himself at the right time
    • Several have claimed to be the Mahdi, sometimes starting a religious movement
      • 1844: The Báb – forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá'í Faith
      • 1956: Wallace Fard Muhammad, co-founder of the Nation of Islam
        • Malcolm X was famously in the Nation of Islam,
          before becoming a Sunni Muslim

IV. Exegesis: Major Traditions of Muslim Interpretation

  • A. Sunni Muslim: 85% of Muslims are Sunni
    • Originally, the followers of the Caliph after Muhammad’s death
    • Interpretive Power: no centralized scriptural authority
    • Political Power: Social and political authority invested in political rulers
    • Interpretive power belongs to the community
    • Four major schools of Sunni jurisprudence (all of which agree on the major tenants of Islam)
      • Hanafi: First. Most liberal. Most popular. From Baghdad, the city of learning.
      • Maliki: Centrist, sourced from stories of Muhammad in Medina
      • Shafi’i: Conservative, compares all Ahadith and discards those with weak attribution
      • Hanbali: Less conservative, considers all Ahadith, including the weakly attributed
    • Modern school of Sunni jurisprudence (exported out of Saudi Arabia)
  • B. Shia Muslim: 15% of Muslims are Shia, mostly in Iran & southern Iraq
    • Originally, the followers of Ali, Muhammad’s closest male heir
    • Interpretive Power: led by a Supreme Leader who provides authoritative interpretation
      • The Imam is a direct descendent of Muhammad who is sinless and infallible
      • Current Supreme Leader of Iran is Ali Khamenei
    • Political Power: Social and political authority invested in the Supreme Leader
    • Several branches of Shia Islam exist
      • like Twelver Shiism and Ismaili Shiism

Socrates in Arabic


Translated into Arabic

I. The Golden Age of Islam

  • A. Knowledge in the Golden Age of Islam
    • As the Medieval Christian world entered the Dark Ages, Islam embraced
      philosophy and ancient scholarship
    • Muslims study Greco–Roman scholars throughout the Islamicate world
    • Muslims adopt numbers, paper, and astronomy from Asia
    • As a trading center, information is shared freely across the known world

  • B. The Ornament of the World
    • In Islamic Spain, non–Muslims and their property are protected
      by Sharia law as long as they paid a special tax
    • Islamic Spain is called “the ornament of the world” by a visiting German nun who is amazed with streetlight, libraries, hospitals, fountains, and clean streets
    • Civil wars, the Crusades, and a growing conservativism within Islam
      led to the end of the Golden Age

II. The Ottomans & the Modern Middle East

  • A. The Ottoman Empire
    • First Islamic Empire not ruled by Arabs
    • Turkish empire ruling Asia Minor and Middle East till the end of WWI
    • Took Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) in 1453
    • Gave a home to disenfranchised Jews and Muslims as they fled Spain
    • Fell behind with the advent of Modernity

  • B. The Middle East in the 1800s
    • Ottoman Empire in decline in the 1800s
    • Ottomans attempted to compete with Britain and France, but borrowed money to do so
    • Instead became dependent on and indebted to the West

  • C. World War I
    • Ottoman Empire allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary
    • Britain, France, Russia, and United States oppose them
    • Allied forces are victorious and dismantle the Ottoman Empire

  • D. Oil & the Sykes-Picot Agreement
    • Crude oil is needed by Modern nations and the Middle East has lots
    • 80% of the world’s oil comes from the Middle East
    • Allied powers plan how to best utilize these oil reserves
    • Promises are made to Arabs to gain their support against the Ottomans, but these promises are later broken
    • Instead a secret agreement in 1916 called the Sykes-Picot Agreement divides the spoils between Britain and France
    • No attention is given to population during this map–making; only oil fields

  • E. Oil & the Case of Iran
    • 1909 Anglo–Persian Oil Company developed
      • British government holds majority shares and majority of product goes to Britain
    • 1950 Iran holds democratic elections and a reformer takes office and redirects oil profits
    • 1953 American and British operatives overthrow the government to send profits back to Britain (Operation Ajax)
    • The Western–friendly king (Shah) installed is reportedly a brutal leader
    • 1979 the Shah is overthrown by a Shia leader, Ayatollah Khomeini
    • All diplomatic ties are cut with the West and an anti–modern Islamic government is installed
    • Iran’s current President is comparatively moderate with a Twitter account


Nawawi Hadith #3

Islam has been built upon five things
on testifying that there is 
no god save Allah,
and that Muhammad is His Messenger;
on performing Salat;
on giving the Zakat;
on Hajj to the House;
and on fasting during Ramadan.

I. The Five Pillars of Islam

  • A. Shahadah (Declaration of Faith)
    • From the verb: to testify, confess
    • Declaration of Faith before two Muslim witnesses
    • Belief in the oneness of God
    • Belief in the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad

  • B. Zakat (Alms)
    • Yearly payment on profits, typically 2.5%
    • Giving alms is required, though there are rules to ensure justice
    • “Charity” is a different concept; Additional charity is wonderful, but not a requirement
    • Promotes solidarity with the community because hardships are shared by all
    • Traditionally collected by the state; more unregulated today

  • C. Sawm (Fasting)
    • Fasting, a form of asceticism
    • Abstain from food, drink, smoking, and worldly pleasures
    • During the entire lunar month of Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight hours and reflect on the bounty of God
    • Those exempt from fasting: pregnant women, those who have not reached puberty, those who are infirm

  • D. Hajj (Pilgrimage)
    • Holy pilgrimage to Mecca in present–day Saudi Arabia
    • Takes place from the 8th to 13th month of the Islamic calendar
    • Should be performed once if one is physically and financially capable
    • Everyone on Hajj must wear simple white garments with no mark of national or financial identity in a ‘castless’ atmosphere
    • Mecca has become a synonym, the world over, for a state of peace

  • E. Salat (Prayer)
    • The “tent pole” of Islam
    • Ritualized daily prayer performed five times a day featuring Qur’anic recitation and bodily movements indicating submission to God
    • Sets the tone for the day and divides the day into intervals
    • Prayers are a microcosm and daily reminder of the five pillars: Shahadah-one recites the declaration of faith; Salat is performed; Sawm-one refrains from engaging in the world during prayer; Hajj-one turns attention to Mecca; Zakat-a portion of the day is given to Allah

II. Becoming a Muslim

  • Recite the Shahadah, which declares Muhammad as God’s prophet
  • Live according to the Qur’an
  • Practice the Five Pillars of Islam

III. Protecting Islam

  • A. Against Idols
    • Refusing to portray God is in reverence to God’s greatness
    • Traditional for Muhammad not to be depicted also
      • Because it may encourage idol–worship
    • Most Westerners are aware of this sensitivity
    • Depictions of Muhammad have occurred in some Muslim communities 

  • B. Jihad
    • Two versions of jihad (Arabic: struggle) mentioned in the Qur’an
      • “Greater jihad” - internal struggle for piety
      • “Lesser jihad” - armed struggle to defend Islam

  • C. The Veil
    • Typically legally mandatory in conservative Islamicate countries
    • Not mentioned in the Qur’an
      • Text only says to dress modestly (Qur’an 24:30)
      • In contrast, Christian women are instructed to “cover their heads” (I Cor. 11:5-7)
    • Reason Christian women do not follow this command? Modern life

IV. General Guidelines for visiting a Mosque (Masjid)

  • Q. How should I be dressed?
    • Men should wear a casual shirt and slacks.
    • Women dress modestly with arms covered, skirts below the knee, and a scarf to cover one’s hair

  • Q. What are the totems used in the service?
    • Prayers are recited from memory and no ritual objects are used
    • The congregation will face toward Mecca during prayers

  • Q. Will contributions to the mosque be collected?
    • Asking for contributions would violate guest-rights in most mosques
    • A box for contributions may be positioned on the wall near the entrance

  • Q. How should I behave in a mosque?
    • Remove shoes at the entrance
    • Men will be directed to sit apart from the other men during prayer
    • Women may sit with the other women in the area toward the back of the mosque
      • This area is usually separated by one–way glass and has speakers to hear the imam’s message and prayers

  • Q. What are the death and mourning rituals for Muslims?
    • Muslims are buried within 2-3 days of death. They are never cremated and there will not be an open casket.
    • Graveside services feature readings from the Qur’an and Janazah prayers.
    • A family will receive consolation visits at any point for up to forty days of mourning