Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
Across the Centuries

Learning About Islam

Objective: Students research the religion of Islam and write a paragraph describing Islam.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
2 hours over 2 days

Building Background:
Ask students to share what they know about the religion Islam. Review how it was founded by Muhammad, a trader from Mecca who claimed to have received God's word in A.D. 610. Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, was founded on the belief of one God, known as Allah in Arabic. Allah's revelations to Muhammad were recorded in a holy book known as the Qur'an. In addition, Muhammad's words, actions, and deeds, known as the hadith, were noted and combined with the Qur'an. Together, they formed the Sunna, the foundation of Islamic beliefs and practices. Despite initial setbacks, Muhammad was able to convert many of the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula to Islam by his death in A.D. 632. Under the leadership of Muhammad's successors, the Muslims expanded their territory by conquering much of the Middle East, Persia, North Africa, Spain, and India. Today, Islam is practiced around the world. The majority of Muslims live in the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

What To Do:

1. Encourage students to learn about Islam by visiting your local library or using the Internet. As students conduct their research, encourage them to focus on the rise of Islam, its similarities to Judaism and Christianity, and any features that might make it appealing to non-Muslims. Suggest that students keep detailed notes of the information they uncover. Here is one Internet site to help students research:

Mr. Dowling's Virtual Classroom: Western Religions

This site provides detailed information about Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

2. When students complete their research, distribute the Islam: A Concept Map worksheet . Have them focus on the missing parts of the concept map and complete each blank box using their research notes. If students experience difficulty with the chart, advise them to return to their sources or research additional information.

3. Begin the second class period by discussing the idea that many people were initially distrustful of Islam. Continue on to report how Christians, Jews, and non-Muslims were treated during the early years of Islamic expansion. Conclude the discussion by conveying how Christians and Jews were allowed to practice their religion, but were forced to pay special taxes.

4. Have students write a paragraph explaining what they have learned about Islam. Refer students back to their research notes and worksheets for information. Encourage students to include historical information as well as details about Islam today.

5. Ask for volunteers to share their descriptions with the class.

Discuss the similarities between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism that students may have discovered in their research. Have the class discuss any common origins between these religions and brainstorm a concept map that displays their shared features.


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