Module 1, Lesson 1: Basic Beliefs of Islam



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United States HistoryWorld History, Unit 23

Module 1, Lesson 1: Basic Beliefs of Islam

Document A: Overview of the History and Teachings of Islam

Islam is the third of the major monotheistic faiths, meaning those whose followers believe in One God. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all trace their origins to the teachings of prophets, or messengers, who received revelations passed down as holy scriptures. Followers believe that these scriptures are the word of God, or inspired by God.


Based on the teachings of the Qur’an, the holy scripture of Islam, Muslims trace the origins of their faith to the first prophet, Adam, to whom God revealed Himself. The Qur’an teaches that God repeatedly sent prophets to humankind with the same basic message of belief in One God and of the necessity to worship and act according to strong moral standards. The prophets and their scriptures are recognized by Muslims as having the same divine source, so the major biblical prophets Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, as well as lesser known prophets, are honored in Islam. This religion teaches that earlier scriptures were sometimes lost or altered, or were superseded by later revelation.
Therefore, Muhammad, the final prophet, completed God’s message to humankind.
The word Islam means “peace through submission to God.” A Muslim is “one who seeks peace through submission to God,” that is, a follower of Islam. The Qur’an teaches that all prophets were Muslim in the sense that they were models of submission to God and seekers of truth. Muslim practice is defined by the Qur’an and also by the Sunna, which is the example of thinking and living set by the Prophet Muhammad and transmitted through the Hadith, his recorded words and deeds. The Islamic requirements of worship are set down in the Five Pillars. These are:

  • To testify to belief in One God and the prophethood of Muhammad.

  • To pray five obligatory prayers each day.

  • To fast from dawn to sunset annually during the month of Ramadan,

  • To pay annual obligatory charity,

  • To make the pilgrimage to the city of Mecca (Makkah) at least once in a lifetime.

Islamic teachings also lay out a way of life based on moral values and commandments for just relations among human beings in the community and the world. Islamic law, or shari’a, is a system of interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunna based on scholars’ study of the Islamic sources and related disciplines, including logic and Arabic grammar.


Historically, the origin of Islam is the revelation received by Prophet Muhammad, a man born about 570 CE in the city of Mecca, a caravan stop on a trade route that ran along the western side of the Arabian Peninsula between Yemen and the Mediterranean region. Mecca was also the site of an important house of worship called the Ka’bah, which the Arabs associated with the Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) and his son Ishmael (Ismail).

Muhammad was born into the ruling tribe of Mecca. The tribe was the caretaker of the Ka’bah and leaders in the regional caravan trade. Orphaned at an early age, Muhammad spent his youth in the care of his socially prominent grandfather and uncle. He worked as a caravan trader, which led to his marriage to the wealthy widow Khadijah. He was known for wisdom and honesty. At about the age of forty, after years of spiritual searching and meditation, he reported receiving a revelation through the Angel Gabriel in a mountain cave outside the city. These revelations continued for the following twenty-three years, between about 610 and 622 CE.


The revelations were transmitted by Muhammad to his followers in Arabic, and they were memorized and committed to writing during his lifetime. These words were known as the Qur’an. Muslims believe this text to be the direct word of God, whose name in Arabic is Allah.
Soon after Muhammad’s special revelations started, he began to carry out the duties of

prophethood, preaching first to members of his family, then to members of his tribe, and finally beyond Mecca. While a few members of his immediate family and others in Mecca accepted his prophethood and its teachings, the leaders of his tribe rejected it. They tried to turn him away from preaching by persuasion and coercion. Finally, with the number of Muslims growing, and the message reaching beyond Mecca, Muhammad and his followers fled to the city of Yathrib which is north of Mecca, where the residents offered them protection. The people of Yathrib agreed to Muhammad’s leadership of the city, and renamed it Madina “City of the Prophet”. Muhammad’s migration to Madina is called the Hijrah, and marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. The Hijrah of year one occurred in 622 CE (Common Era).


Following Muhammad’s death in 632 CE, the Muslim community became well established in the Arabian Peninsula. Muslims represented a growing political, military, and religious force in the region. During the centuries following the rise of Islam and the expansion of the Muslim state, the religion spread among the populations of Muslim-ruled territories in Afroeurasia. The growth of cities was both a cause and an effect of the spread of Islam and of economic growth in Muslim-ruled areas. Cultural developments in literature, arts, sciences, manufacturing, and trade accompanied the spread of Islam and its influence on religious, intellectual, economic, and political life in a large part of Afroeurasia. By 1500, Islam had spread to West and East Africa, to western and coastal China, and to India and parts of Southeast Asia. It was also advancing in southeastern Europe and experiencing permanent loss of territory only in the Iberian Peninsula owing to the conquests of Christian Spanish and Portuguese.
Adapted from Cohen, Sharon and Susan Douglas. Big Ear 5: Panorama Unit, Patterns of Interregional Unity. World History for Us All. 18-20.

NAME: ______________________________ PERIOD: ________ DATE: _______________


Module 1, Lesson 1: Basic Beliefs of Islam

Student Handout #1: Overview of the History and Teachings of Islam





  1. What are the major beliefs of Islam?


  1. Why might these beliefs (or pillars) of Islam be important to Muslims? Provide an example.


  1. What is the origin of Islam?


  1. Describe the geographic spread of Islam.


  1. Describe the cultural impact of Islam.

Module 1, Lesson 1: Basic Beliefs of Islam

Teacher’s Copy Student Handout #1: Overview of the History and Teachings of Islam




  1. What are the major beliefs of Islam?

Islamic faith requirements are set down in the Five Pillars –

Belief in one God and Muhammad is his prophet

Say five prayers each day

Fast during the month of Ramadan

Give to charity

Make a pilgrimage to Mecca

Islamic teachings lay out a way of life based on certain moral values

Islamic law is based on the interpretation of the Qur’an


  1. Why might these beliefs (or pillars) of Islam be important to Muslims? Provide an example.

There are a number of possible answers to this question. An overarching answer that is true for all is to remind followers of their devotion to God and his prophet Mohammad.


  1. What is the origin of Islam?

The origin of Islam is the revelation received by the prophet Muhammad in the city of Mecca on the Arabian Peninsula in 570 CE


  1. Describe the geographic spread of Islam.

Muhammad began his preaching in Mecca and surrounding areas in Arabia. After Muhammad’s death, his teachings spread across the region from North Africa to Inner Eurasia.
By 1500 Islam had spread to West and East Africa, to western and coastal China, and to India and parts of Southeast Asia. It also made it to southeastern Europe and Spain and Portugal on the Iberian Peninsula.


  1. Describe the cultural impact of Islam.

Cultural developments in literature, arts, sciences, manufacturing, and trade accompanied the spread of Islam and it influenced religion, intellectual, economic, and political life in a large part of the Afroeurasia.


Module 1: DETAILED LESSON PLANS



Lesson 2: The Rise of Early Modern Muslim Empires



Warm Up:

  1. Begin by finding out what students know or assume about empires. Ask them: What are some features of an empire? Chart students’ answers.

  2. Follow up with the following question: In your opinion which of these features is absolutely necessary to maintain the empire? Why?

  3. Refer to the map on p. A26-A27 (Ottoman, Safavid, and Mudhal Empires in the 16th and 17th centuries) of Modern World History. Using the map as a point of discussion ask the following:

  • Where did the Ottoman Empire begin? Why do you think it began there?

  • Based on the information on this map, what aspect of geography helped the Ottoman Empire expand during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries? (NOTE: Teacher’s may wish to compare this map to the physical map on p. A4-A5 or other physical map of the region.)

  • Based on the map, what factors may have prevented the Ottoman Empire from getting even larger?

Teacher Model:

  1. Explain to students that over the next couple of days they will be exploring three modern empires, all of which were Muslim empires that began and flourished in Western and Southern Asia.

  2. Begin this exploration by distributing Student Handout #1 (Map of Afroeurasia). Let students know that throughout this unit they will be creating a map/timeline that plots out the different empires they will be studying.

  • For this map, the students will need the following materials:

    • Color pencils

  • The map should show the following:

  • Key of the empires (i.e. green=East Asian empires or green=Ming Dynasty, Orange=Qing Dynasty)

  • Dates of rise and fall of the empire

  • Geographic boundaries at the height of the empire

  • NOTE: The goal of this exercise is to provide context to the students that there were several empires that either were in existence at the start of the early modern period or came into being during the first couple of hundred years of the early modern period. Make a point of asking students where these empires are located to reinforce geography skills.

  1. Distribute Student Handout #2 and ask students to open their textbook to p.73. Have students read the first few paragraphs and model for students how they should respond to the guided questions on the graphic organizer. Chart students’ answers as you go along.

  • For struggling readers, consider reading the passages aloud. Have students create a list of terms/phrases that are not clear. Work as a large group to define these items so students are more confident in responding to the questions.

  • For more advanced readers, have them read the passage on their own and then responding to the guided questions. You may also choose to allow them to work on these passages on their own and then reconvene as a large group to discuss the answers to the guided questions.

Group/Individual Work:

  1. Break students up into pairs to work on the section on the Safavid Empire (the second column on the graphic organizer).

  • For struggling readers consider placing them in groups of three to work on this section. Use the same method as previously for identifying unclear terms to assist students in comprehension.

  1. Students should complete the final column on the Mughal Empire for homework.

  2. Review students’ answers for the Safiavid and Mughal Empires.

Summing Up:

  1. Using the final two questions on the graphic organizers, have students do a quick write in answering the two questions. Have students share out their answers.

NAME: ______________________________ PERIOD: ________ DATE: _______________


Unit 2: Map of Afroeurasian Empires

Student Handout #1



afroeurasia map

NAME: ______________________________ PERIOD: ________ DATE: _______________ p. 1 of 4


Module 1, Lessons 2: The Rise of Early Modern Muslim Empires

Student Handout #2: Guided Questions





The Ottoman Empire

(1300-1918)

pp. 73 – 77

The Safavid Empire in Persia (1499-1747)

pp. 79 – 81

The Mughal Empire in India

(1494-1661)

pp. 82 – 87

Who were some of the early leaders of this empire and what were they known for?










How did they expand their empire? What technology and methods did they use?










What was the center (geographically, politically) of the empire and why?










How did they treat the people they conquered/ absorbed into their empire?










What evidence is there of cultural blending, or cultural diffusion?










How did they finance their empire? What role did trade play in the rise of this empire?










Who did they fight in war? What were they fighting over and why?










What led to the decline and/or fall of this empire?










Of all the leaders of this empire, who do you think was the greatest leader? List three to five (3-5) achievements. Why you think they were achievements?











Summing Up:

What features did these empires share? Provide at least three similarities



How were these empires different from one another?




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