Given the Islamic vision of the ideal human community, how much room for dialogue is there between the Muslim world and western civilization?

PHL 2350, Philosophies of World Religions 1

Course Learning Outcomes for Unit VII

Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

2. Discuss factors which have caused potential for conflict within and between religious groups.
2.1 Evaluate how the major branches of Islam, Sunni, and Shia create conflict.
2.2 Discuss the moral issues modernism may pose for Muslims.

3. Evaluate the impact values have on the goals and functions of a religious body.

3.1 Articulate key terminology and religious practices.
3.2 Summarize how Sharia law influences Muslims’ everyday life.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Activity

Unit Lesson
Chapter 9, pp. 389–445
Unit VII Assessment

Unit Lesson
Chapter 9, pp. 389–445
Unit VII Assessment


Unit Lesson
Chapter 9, pp. 389–445
Video: Islam (Segment 7 of 9)
Video: Islam (Segment 4 of 5)
Unit VII Assessment

Unit Lesson
Chapter 9, pp. 389–445
Unit VII Assessment

Reading Assignment

Chapter 9: Islam, pp. 389–445

In order to access the following resources, click the links below:

The transcripts for each video can be found by clicking the “Transcript” tab beside each video in the Films on
Demand database.

ClickView Pty Limited (Producer). (2015). Islam (Segment 7 of 9) [Video]. In The Birth of World Religions:

Civilizations and Ideas. Films on Demand.

ClickView Pty Limited (Producer). (2016). Islam (Segment 4 of 5) [Video]. In The Environment: Let’s Talk

About Religion. Films on Demand.



PHL 2350, Philosophies of World Religions 2



Unit Lesson

Unit VII Overview

Islam evolved as a religion in 622 CE (Deming, 397). As with Judaism and Christianity, Islam is a
monotheistic faith. The primary scripture is called the Qur’an, and it is also an Abrahamic religion. However,
where Judaism and Christianity followed the line of Isaac, Islam followed the line of Ismael. As you read about
Islam in Chapter 9 of your textbook, think about how the media has portrayed Islam recently. Why do some
call it a religion of violence, while others say it is a religion of peace? Compared to the other religions you
have studied, how has Islam responded to modernism? Are the core tenets of Islam similar to or different
from those of Judaism and Christianity?

Introduction to Islam

Of the world’s major religions, Islam is the youngest, having emerged onto the world scene in 622 CE with
Muhammad as its prophet. Islam arrived in an area of the world rife with paganism, tribal wars, and harsh
environmental conditions. The Arab people at that time had no centralized government, and Arabic society
consisted of many tribes. Socially speaking, Arabic society was arranged according to clan and tribe.
Belonging to a tribe was one’s only protection. At that time, most Arabs were pagans, worshipping many
gods. As you will read in your textbook, Mecca was the primary commercial and religious center. People from
all over came to trade goods and services. Ka’bah, where Muslims make their pilgrimage today in Saudi
Arabia, was once a temple filled with over 300 idols before the arrival of Muhammad. He destroyed the idols
and converted it into one of the most revered sites in Islam.

As you have learned by now, all the world’s religions have sacred areas set aside for pilgrimages. For
Christians, there is the Holy Land and Rome. Hindus have many sacred sites, but perhaps the most famous
of these is Varanasi, a city on the banks of the holy river Ganges about 500 miles south of Delhi. For
Buddhists, Buddha’s birthplace, Lumbini (in present-day Nepal), is the equivalent to Mecca for Muslims.

Muhammad was born around 570 CE after his father’s death. Shortly thereafter, his mother died. His
grandfather and uncle cared for him until he became of age. When Muhammad turned 25, he married his
wife, Khadijah. Around 610 CE, when Muhammad was 40, he had his first prophetic experience. The angel
Gabriel revealed himself to Muhammad and ordered him to recite and memorize the Qur’an. You can read
more about Muhammad’s conversion beginning on page 396 in your textbook. After his revelation, the
rampant paganism increasingly disturbed Muhammad, who now knew that this form of worship was forbidden
(haram) in the eyes of God. Armed with his message from the angel Gabriel and the assurance of the
existence of one true God (Allah), Muhammad set out to convert pagan Arabia to the monotheistic faith that
we call Islam. Recall that in other religions that you have studied, revelation played an important role in
establishing the authenticity of a religion. Revelation always comes before scripture and is only received by a
prophet. You should now have a better understanding of how revelation, scripture, and prophecy inform
worship, liturgy, prayer, moral codes, and doctrine in the world’s major religions.

During Muhammad’s life, various battles were fought to establish a firm Islamic presence in the Middle East.
After Muhammad’s death in 632 CE, the line of succession posed a problem for generations to come because
Muhammad never selected a successor to carry on his vision of a unified and monotheistic Arabia. To
minimize chaos and political strife after the Prophet’s death, Calif Abu Bakr, the Prophet’s father-in-law, was
selected as immediate successor. You will learn that this decision had political and social ramifications that
still plague the area today—especially in the rivalry between the Sunnis and the Shias.

Three more caliphs followed Bark: Umar, Uthman, and Ali. These were known as the Rightly Guided Caliphs,
and some say heralded in the Golden Age of Islam. From the seventh century to the thirteenth, the Near East
experienced the Umayyad dynasty (661-750) and the Abbasid dynasty (750-1258) that shaped Islam as a
state religion, a reformer of culture, and a military force rivaling that of Europe. The Arabs soon led the world
in areas of science, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy.

Introduction to Islam: Cosmology and Theology

Islam belongs to the family of Abrahamic monotheistic faiths. As with Judaism and Christianity, Islam
recognized only one true God—the same for all three religions. Three fundamental concepts play an
important role in understanding Islam’s cosmological understanding of the relationship between God, the

PHL 2350, Philosophies of World Religions 3



universe, and humanity. The name Islam itself means submission to God and His will. Humanity is required to
submit to God’s will to preserve the oneness in creation because people stray and thereby disturb this
balance, thereby risking their own salvation. Muslim theology refers to God’s oneness as tawhid. All creation,
in fact, reflects God’s oneness. Note that tawhid contravenes the theological concept of the Trinity in
Christianity. Muslims consider Trinitarian theology as pagan because it sounds as though Christians are really
talking about three Gods. The term jihad refers to struggle. This is a struggle to discipline ourselves to
conform to God’s will. In short, a good Muslim submits to God’s will (Islam) and must then undergo a struggle
(jihad) to come into harmony with the oneness of God (tawhid), a oneness reflected throughout all creation
(Deming, 417).

Sharia is Islamic religious law that that guides people in the proper way of life. Think of Sharia as a legal
moral code that is enforced. Under Sharia law, Muslims live by a moral code that guides five principle areas of
their lives. The point of Sharia is to provide guidance for right actions. Right actions in this life will guarantee
paradise in the next. You can read in more detail about these actions on pages 417–418 of your textbook:

1. obligatory,
2. recommended,
3. permitted,
4. reprehensible, and
5. prohibited.

As Deming points out in Chapter 9 of your textbook, an example of an obligatory action includes daily prayers.
Daily prayers teach one discipline, mindfulness of God, obedience, and the importance of community.
Whether praying in private or in a mosque, all Muslims pray their obligatory daily prayers in unison. These
daily prayers help the worshipper to maintain a relationship with God while still submitting to God’s will.
Secondly, examples of recommended actions include reading the Qur’an daily, especially during the month of
Ramadan. Muslims read the Qur’an for the same reasons that Christians read the Bible, namely wisdom and
inspiration. Thirdly, permissible actions are those actions that are morally neutral—selecting which school to
go to or buying a car. Morally neutral actions, then, do not really have any bearing on one’s reclamation. At
worst, one must live with the consequences of whatever happens with a morally neutral action. Reprehensible
actions, most simply, are those actions that disappoint God. For example, your textbook cites divorce and
stealing. A prohibited action would include certain sexual behaviors such as sex before marriage or adultery,
for example. Under Islamic law, the jurists take the circumstance and context into consideration. There is no
central judiciary in Arabic countries as in the United States. Various schools of thought in Islamic countries
interpret Sharia and recommend punishments for different offenses. So depending in which Arab country you
happen to be, the same offense in one area might carry a lighter punishment than if you were in a more
conservative area under the control of a more conservative jurist school that interpreted your offense more
strictly under Sharia law.

Your study of Islam would not be complete if you do not know the Five Pillars of Islam. These are obligatory
actions that all Muslims must perform:

1. public testimony,
2. daily prayer,
3. charity for the needy,
4. fasting during the month of Ramadan, and
5. pilgrimage to Mecca.

Your textbook will discuss each of these five obligatory actions in more detail.

Islam: Communal and Social Aspects

Islam is no different from the other major religions that you have studied up to this point regarding rituals and
ceremonies to express beliefs. That is, Islam has its fair share of rituals and ceremonies designed to worship
God, to purify the individual, and to bring the community together as a whole. For instance, all Muslims are
required to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at some point in their lives. This pilgrimage not only strengthens and
purifies the individual spiritually, but it also brings the Muslim into community with other Muslims. Another
example of ritual and ceremony is fasting during the month of Ramadan. All those who are able are obliged to
fast with their fellow Muslims around the world. Ramadan occurs during the ninth month of the Islamic. Note
the role that fasting has played in other religions that you have studied. What do you see as the point of

PHL 2350, Philosophies of World Religions 4



fasting? Are the objectives the same for these religions? That is, are they required or encouraged? Finally,
Islam is one of the few major religions today in which the religion itself is woven tightly into the fabric of
society; it is almost as though society and Islam are one. Read “Talking about Religion” in Chapter 9 of your
textbook where the author explains the relationship between culture and religion in Islam (Deming, 428–429).
In other religions, religion seems peripheral to society. How would you explain the relationship between
culture and religion in Judaism? How is it different from Islam?

Transfer of Learning

After reading Chapter 9, you should be able to outline the worldview of Islam. How did the life of the Prophet
Muhammad shape Islam into the religion it is today? Discuss the Five Pillars of Islam and why they are
relevant theologically to Islam’s doctrine of tawhid (God’s oneness). Compare the Muslim spiritual experience
with that of Jews and Christians. How has Islam responded to Modernism? How does its response differ from
that of Judaism or Christianity? Finally, you should be able to discuss the differing interpretations of religious
tenets between Sunnis and Shias.


You now know that Islam is a monotheistic faith that worships the same God as Jews and Christians. Muslims
refer to God as Allah. Remember that Islam is an Abrahamic faith but follows the line of Ishmael as opposed
to Isaac (as with Jews and Christians). Even though it is a young religion (622 CE), Islam has developed a
complicated, yet sophisticated cosmology and theology that preserves God’s oneness and uniqueness. Islam
is more than just a religion, it is a way of life (Sharia). It is a way of life that is spiritually and physically
demanding to assure submission to God’s will (Islam) through persistent and properly motivated discipline
(jihad). At the base of Islam is peace. In fact, the root “slam” in Islam is the word for peace—salam. Every
religion, as you have learned, has its extremists on both ends. However, we judge a religion by its theology,
its moral code, and its cosmology. Recall that in each unit study guide, in the “Transfer of Learning” sections,
you were asked to think about the worldview of each major religion. Notice what they all share. Everyone
wants peace and harmony to preserve the balance of the universe. All the religions you have studied so far
have something in common. They all recognize the delicate balance that preserves the earth, the universe,
and the heavens.


Deming, W. (Ed.). (2015). Understanding the religions of the world: An introduction. Wiley-Blackwell.

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