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Study information

Introduction to Islam

Module titleIntroduction to Islam
Module codeARA1018
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Suha Taji-Farouki (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module will introduce you to Islam as both a textually based religious tradition and as a lived practice. It is an essential module that introduces you to themes and ideas that will be useful for your study of Islam and the Middle East in modules you may take in the future. As such, it is for the beginner with no prior knowledge and takes an inter-disciplinary approach using history, theology, law, literature, the arts and philosophy as a way to introduce the religious traditions of over 1.5 billion people worldwide. Starting from an introduction to the basic textual sources of the Qur’an and the practice of the Prophet Muhammad, we consistently ask what significance the history of the faith has for believers both in the past and in the future, and conclude with discussions on who speaks for Islam in the contemporary world and the difficulty of that very question.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The primary aim of this module is to introduce you (without needing prior background) to the basic sources and historical contexts for the origins of Islam (Qur'an, sira, hadith) and some of the basic spiritual principles expressed in those sources as well as the contexts and practices that exemplify the spiritual principles. An important secondary aim (which is indispensable for fulfilling the primary aim) is to help you become aware of and begin to abandon cultural stereotypes about what constitutes both "religion" and "Islam," and to begin to become aware of other disciplines and conceptual tools rooted in history and the social sciences which are more adequate for perceiving and conveying the actual phenomena related to cultural traditions, social practices and every-day lives among Muslim peoples. The module includes a component of library and information literacy designed for beginners in Arab and Islamic Studies.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Possess a conceptual awareness of the most basic vocabulary and sources of Islamic religious tradition; and a basic awareness of the diversities of Islamic traditions and practices.
  • 2. Acquire the necessary library and information literacy skills required for Islamic Studies.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Read critically and carefully and to contextualise in an appropriate, comprehensive manner both documents and visual (media) materials from an unfamiliar subject matter and cultural/historical setting.
  • 4. Recognize and contextualise all the relevant dimensions of religious life and tradition

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Develop analytical writing skills and the ability to sift and synthesise unfamiliar material from many sources.
  • 6. Relate broad methodological, philosophic, ethical and spiritual issues and religious traditions to the corresponding practical issues and challenges in relevant areas of contemporary life.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • General historical background: Near Eastern monotheisms, Muhammad in Mecca and Medina.
  • The Qur'anic revelation and formation of a community, creed and policy.
  • The Prophet, the hadith and the Sunna: historical contexts, lines of interpretation, the Prophetic example; devotion, covenant renewal, pilgrimage, visitation
  • Islamic art and architecture
  • The formation of the Islamic tradition: formation of a community, creed, theologies and policies
  • Islamic mysticism/Sufism
  • Ritual and devotion
  • Philosophy and theology
  • Fiqh, Shari'a, ethics and Islamic 'law'
  • Muslim responses to modernity
  • Who speaks for Islam? Religion and identity in the modern world

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activity 1111 x 1 hour lectures
Guided Independent study60 Reading for and reflecting on class discussions in seminars
Guided Independent study12Completion of formative on-line assignments in the Library Literacy component
Guided Independent study56Researching and completing summative assignments
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1111 x 1 hour seminars

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Reflection paper250 words1-4Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 1501,500 words1-6Written feedback
Essay 2501,500 words1-6Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 1 (2000 words)1,500 word essay 11-6August/September assessment period
Essay 2 (2000 words)1,500 word essay 21-6August/September assessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Selected translations of the above-mentioned primary religious sources including:

The Qur’an, tr. M. ‘Abdel Haleem, Oxford, 2004.

The Qur’an, tr. ‘Ali-quli Qara’I, London, 2005.

Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah [The Life of Muhammad], tr. A. Guillaume, Karachi, 1955.

John Renard (ed), Windows on the House of Islam, Berkeley, 1998.

Michael Sells (ed./tr.), Early Islamic Mysticism, New York, 1996.

We shall refer to this textbook: Daniel Brown, A New Introduction to Islam, Oxford, 2003.

Another useful introductory text is: Michael Cook, The Koran: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford, 1998

Key words search

Islam, Qur'an, sira, hadith

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date