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Great World Religions: Islam

Great World Religions: Islam

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Great World Religions: Islam

Great World Religions: Islam

Professor John L. Esposito Ph.D.
Georgetown University
Course No.  6102
Course No.  6102
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Course Overview

About This Course

12 lectures  |  30 minutes per lecture

University professor and international government and media consultant John L. Esposito guides you through the facts and myths surrounding Islam and its more than 1.2 billion adherents. How familiar are you with the world's second largest and fastest-growing religion? Many in the West know little about the faith and are familiar only with the actions of a minority of radical extremists.

This course will help you better understand Islam's role as both a religion and a way of life, and its deep impact on world affairs both historically and today. It is important to understand what Muslims believe, and also how their beliefs are carried out privately and publicly as individuals as well as members of a larger community.

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University professor and international government and media consultant John L. Esposito guides you through the facts and myths surrounding Islam and its more than 1.2 billion adherents. How familiar are you with the world's second largest and fastest-growing religion? Many in the West know little about the faith and are familiar only with the actions of a minority of radical extremists.

This course will help you better understand Islam's role as both a religion and a way of life, and its deep impact on world affairs both historically and today. It is important to understand what Muslims believe, and also how their beliefs are carried out privately and publicly as individuals as well as members of a larger community.

Learning about Islam: What Does the Future Hold?

What does the future hold for Islam and the West in the new century? How will it change under the influence of conservatives, reformers, and extremists?

"The focus of this course will be to better understand Islam's role as a religion and as a way of life," says Professor Esposito. "In 12 lectures, moving from Muhammad to the present, from the 7th to the 21st centuries, we will explore Muslim beliefs, practices, and history in the context of its significance and impact on Muslim life and society through the ages, as well as world events today."

You will learn about:

  • Muhammad
  • Jihad
  • Muslim beliefs about other faiths
  • Whether the Quran condones terrorism and what it says about God
  • The contributions to mathematics, science, and art made by a flourishing Islamic civilization
  • The role of women in Islam
  • Whether Islam is compatible with modernization, capitalism, and democracy.

Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam is one of the great monotheistic faiths that traces its ancestry to Abraham. Professor Esposito discusses the similarities and differences in the three great Abrahamic faiths and explores more closely the core beliefs that serve as the common denominators that unite all Muslims throughout the world.

"We will see that Islam is not monolithic," says Professor Esposito. "Although Muslims share certain core beliefs, the practices, interpretations, images, and realities of Islam vary across time and space."

The Stunning Growth of the Muslim Community and Its Golden Age

Within 100 years of Muhammad's death, the Muslim community became a vast, dynamic, and creative Islamic empire that stretched from North Africa to India.

Islamic civilization flourished under the Umayyad and Abbasid empires. Under Abbasid rule (750–1258 C.E.), the Islamic community became an empire of wealth, political power, and cultural accomplishments.

Muslims made original creative contributions in law, theology, philosophy, literature, medicine, algebra, geometry, science, art, and architecture.

Arabic became the language of literature and public discourse. Centers were created for the translation of manuscripts from Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and Persian into Arabic.

Europeans, emerging from the Dark Ages, turned to Muslim centers of learning to regain their lost heritage and to learn from Muslim advances. Through Islamic philosophy, Greek philosophy was retransmitted to Europe.

Examining the history of Islamic civilization helps us appreciate the remarkable achievements of its Golden Age and to understand the sources of sectarianism, religious extremism, and the conflict between Islam and Christianity, epitomized by the Crusades.

Understand the Development of Islamic Law

Professor Esposito takes a closer look at the historical development of two great Islamic institutions: Islamic law, (the Shariah) and Islamic mysticism (Sufism).

Islamic law has been seen as the ideal blueprint guiding Muslims' correct action, that is, what to do in their public and private lives in order to realize God's will.

Sufism resulted from efforts to experience a more direct and personal sense of God. Both law, the exterior path to God, and mysticism, the interior path, developed as responses to what was perceived as the abuse of the enormous wealth and power in Islamic empires.

The historical tradition of Islamic renewal and reform was developed to fight internal disintegration and upheaval in the Muslim world caused by outside forces from the 17th to the 20th centuries.

Professor Esposito examines the variety of religious sociopolitical movements that struggled to address weakness and decline in diverse Muslim societies through the ages, and discusses how and why these efforts continue to inspire Islamic modernists and contemporary movements in our time.

Discuss the "Struggle for the Soul of Islam"

The lectures examine the worldwide "struggle for the soul of Islam" occurring today between conservatives and reformers, mainstream Muslims and extremists. Among these issues, few are more fraught with controversy than the debates about women and Islam.

Professor Esposito discusses women and their changing roles. Issues include diversity of dress, social status, education, and roles for women in the family throughout the world.

Professor Esposito expands this human dimension to spotlight the ever-increasing reality of Muslims as our neighbors and colleagues in Europe and America, examining how and why Muslims came to Europe and America, and the issues of faith and identity, integration and assimilation, that face them in their new homelands and how they are grappling with these challenges.

Harold McFarland, editor of Midwest Book Review, writes about this course: "This is easily the most accurate, even-handed, and thorough survey of Islam that I have seen to date. The extent of coverage, breadth, and depth of Professor Esposito's knowledge, recognition of the various groups and beliefs within Islam, and scholarly treatment of the subject makes this a very highly recommended lecture series and the only one on the subject that I could recommend to date."

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12 Lectures
  • 1
    Islam Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
    The diversity of cultural and religious practices of Islam is reflected by the geographic expanse of the Muslim world. Islam's more than 1 billion followers live in 56 countries around the world, yet many in the West know little about it and are familiar only with the actions of a minority of radical extremists. This lecture outlines the second-largest and fastest-growing of the world's religions, which is part of the religious landscape of America and Europe, and has had a significant impact on world affairs. x
  • 2
    The Five Pillars of Islam
    All Muslims accept and follow the Five Pillars of Islam, the core beliefs that unite all Muslims across time and space and are the hallmarks that distinguish Islam from other faiths. This lecture describes them. x
  • 3
    Muhammad—Prophet and Statesman
    Muhammad's significance is the result of his dual roles as God's messenger and as the perfect living model of the Quran's teachings. After 10 years of persecution and resistance in Mecca, Muhammad and the early Muslims moved to Medina, where Muhammad served as prophet, political ruler, military commander, chief judge, and lawgiver. x
  • 4
    God's Word—the Quranic Worldview
    Muslims believe that the Quran represents both the original and final revelation of God to humankind, making Islam the oldest, rather than the newest, of the monotheistic faiths. The Quran reveals the compassion and justice of God, the role and responsibilities of human beings, and relations between men and women. x
  • 5
    The Muslim Community—Faith and Politics
    The development of Islam and Muslim history enables us to appreciate the remarkable political and cultural achievements of the Golden Age of Islamic civilization and to understand the sources of sectarianism, religious extremism, and conflict between Islam and Christianity, epitomized by the Crusades. x
  • 6
    Paths to God—Islamic Law and Mysticism
    Piety and the desire for reform resulted in the development of Islamic law (the Shariah) and Islamic mysticism (Sufism). Islamic law reflects Islam's emphasis on orthopraxy (correct practice), rather than orthodoxy (correct belief). Sufism emphasizes personal spirituality and devotion and has aided the spread of Islam through missionary activities. x
  • 7
    Islamic Revivalism—Renewal and Reform
    From the 17th to the 20th centuries, the Muslim world experienced both internal disintegration and upheaval and the external aggression of the European colonial era. Muslim responses to these challenges varied from jihad against European colonialism to acceptance and blind adoption of the West. Islamic modernists called for a synthesis of Islam and Western thought in order to achieve legal, educational, and social reforms. x
  • 8
    The Contemporary Resurgence of Islam
    In the last decades of the 20th century, a series of political events and economic realities led to the desire of many Muslims to achieve greater authenticity and self-definition through a revival of Islam. Reformist movements have worked within mainstream society for change, but extremists have resorted to violence and terrorism to achieve their goals. x
  • 9
    Islam at the Crossroads
    Like members of other faith communities, contemporary Muslims face the challenge of defining the role, meaning, and relevance of Islam. At the heart of the "struggle for the soul of Islam" between conservatives and reformers, mainstream Muslims and extremists, is the question of who should interpret Islam and how reform should be achieved. Major issues include the relationship of religion to state and society, the role of Islamic law, the status of women and non-Muslims, the compatibility of Islam and democracy, and relations with the West. x
  • 10
    Women and Change in Islam
    The status of women in Islam is a hotly contested issue, both in the Muslim world and in the West. Muslim women are often viewed through Western stereotypes or the policies of extremists, such as the Taliban. Although some critics claim that Islam oppresses women, others view Islam as a source of women's empowerment. Even the wearing of the veil has diverse meanings for wearers and observers. x
  • 11
    Islam in the West
    Islam is now the third largest religion in the United States and the second largest in Europe. Muslims in Europe and America represent a cross-section of national, ethnic, and racial backgrounds and socioeconomic classes. They, like religious minorities before them, face issues of faith and identity, integration and assimilation. x
  • 12
    The Future of Islam
    At the close of the 20th century, it appeared that the future of Islam could be one of new opportunities for peace, democracy, expanded human and women's rights; political, social, and economic empowerment; and an increasing acceptance in Western societies of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. The September 11, 2001, hijacking of Islam by militant extremists shattered the hopes and dreams of many Muslims throughout the world. Thus, for Muslims, the 21st century requires educating, engaging in dialogue with, and finding new ways in which to work with and within the West and global civilization. x

Lecture Titles

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John L. Esposito
Ph.D. John L. Esposito
Georgetown University
Dr. John L. Esposito is University Professor, Professor of Religion and International Affairs, and Professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University. He earned his B.A. at St. Anthony College, his M.A. at St. John's University, and his Ph.D. at Temple University. Professor Esposito is Founding Director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding: History and International Affairs in the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. He has served as President of the Middle East Studies Association of North America, and the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies. A specialist in Islam, political Islam, and the impact of Islamic movements from North Africa to Southeast Asia, Dr. Esposito serves as a consultant to the Department of State as well as multinational corporations, governments, universities, and the media worldwide. In 2005, Professor Esposito won the American Academy of Religion's prestigious Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion. This award honors a scholar who has been exemplary in promoting the public understanding of religion. A prolific writer, Professor Esposito is the author of over 25 books, including What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?, and Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, The Oxford History of Islam, and The Oxford Dictionary of Islam.
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Reviews

Rated 3.1 out of 5 by 56 reviewers.
Rated 2 out of 5 by Incomplete and Appeared Biased This course was presented with an apparent bias in favor of Islam. For instance, there were many verses n the Quran with which he did not even deal on the issue of the manner in which Muslims should treat non-Muslims. I understood that the course could not deal with all of them. But, what troubled me more was the incomplete presentation of some of the verses which were discussed. An example may be best. A principle woudl be asserted (e.g. Islam is accomodating of other beliefs). A Scripture passage would be presented in support of the principle, But, when the Scripture passage was fully presented, the attention to detail was lacking. So, if the Scripture said that tolerance was required of Muslims so long as the non-beliver submitted or paid a tax, there was no follow up discussion of what happened if that payment or submission did not occur. It thus was an incomplete study of the Scripture, and left me wondering what happened in those circumstances. it did not justify therefore the principle for which it was used. Further study will be warranted if you realy want to understand these topics. The incomplete discussion left a feeling that the Scripture was being misused to support the principle, but I have yet to reach a conclusion on this point. December 3, 2014
Rated 4 out of 5 by Interesting presentation I had mixed feelings regarding this presentation. I felt the lessons were well organized and that a good overview of Islam was presented. It certainly increased my knowledge of this important subject in today's world. On the negative side, I did not feel inspired in any way by the presenter and I did not feel connected to him. Connection to the audience is found in many other courses. I also felt that this could have been a longer course with more details given regarding Islam. November 30, 2014
Rated 4 out of 5 by Know your professor !! I read a number of negative reviews prior to engaging this course and agree with many of the comments that were made. Prof. Esposito condensed a lot of information into a 12 lecture course and raised many issues that have encouraged me to seek further study which is the reason for the 4 star rating. In the 11th lecture he listed current organizations that are involved with Islam in the West. One of these is the Center For the Study of Islam & Democracy. The following refers to that organization. "The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) was founded in 1998 in what appears to have been a cooperative effort among the US Muslim Brotherhood, the US State Department and Georgetown University academic Dr. John Esposito who served during the 1990’s as a State Department “foreign affairs analyst” and who has at least a dozen past or present affiliations with global Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas organizations." http://www.globalmbwatch.com/center-for-the-study-of-islam-and-democracy. Knowing this information helps to explain a number of his positions throughout the course. Full disclosure of these affiliations would enable the viewer to appreciate the course through the lens of the Professor's personal sentiments. November 28, 2014
Rated 2 out of 5 by Average presentation on very important subject Historical perspective fairly done. Problem is age of course. With the rapid changes in the middle east this is very very dated. Presentor is reading his lecture with little emotion . Not up to GC standards November 24, 2014
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