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Caliphate An Islamic state led by a supreme religious as well as political leader known as a caliph . Ummah Arabic word meaning ‘nation’ or ‘community.’ A supranational (multinational) community with a common history .

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CaliphateAn Islamic state led by a supreme religious as well as political leader known as a caliph.

UmmahArabic word meaning ‘nation’ or ‘community.’ A supranational (multinational) community with a common history.

Sharia The moral code and religious law of Islam. Sometimes considered the infallible law of God.

FiqhIslamic jurisprudence. Deals with the observance of rituals, morals, and social legislation in Islam. It is the human interpretation of the laws.

DhimmīHistorical term referring to non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state.


ShahadaThe profession of faith by which the Muslim acknowledges his allegiance to God and His prophet.

SalatPrayer – A basic duty performed both individually and publically.

ZakatObligatory Charity – Personal property must be ‘purified’ by payment of one’s dues to the community, for the upkeep of its weaker members.

SawmThe annual fast of Ramadan – All food, drink, and sexual activity are forbidden between dawn and dusk.

HajjPilgrimage required by every able-bodied Muslim. It must be performed at least once in his or her lifetime.


“There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.”

لَا إِلٰهَ إِلَّا الله مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ الله


Religious & SecularDivisionsSharia Law –Islam developed a system of religious law more or less independently of the political sphere.

Failed Islamic Political VisionThe caliphate failed to realize the Islamic vision of a politically unified ummah extending throughout the known world.

Politics were placed outside of religion’s influence.

Distinct Political and Religious InstitutionsSociety functions more or less independently of the state.


Nature of ReligionReligions are bound to the social, spiritual, and cultural milieux in which they arose and in which they developed.

Muhammad’s MessageQuran 42:13: Muhammad attempted to reform existing religious beliefs and cultural practices of pre-Islamic Arabia so as to bring the God of the Jews and Christians to the Arab peoples.

The Prophet’s SuccessorsIt has often become the responsibility of the Prophet’s successors to fashion the Prophet’s words and deeds into a unified, easily comprehensible religious system.

The Islamic MovementThe origins of the Islamic movement are linked to the multi-ethnic, multi-religious society in which Muhammad grew up.

Quran 42:13

“He has ordained for you of religion what He enjoined upon Noah and which We have revealed to you…and what We enjoined upon Abraham and Moses and Jesus – to establish the religion and not be divided therein…”


OriginsThe Muslim community was born in Medina (Yathrib). It was here where Muhammad’s Arab social reform transformed into a universal religious ideology.

  • “Medinan Ideal”
    • 18th/19thC.: Islamic revivalist movements sought to return to the original values of Muhammad’s unadulterated community as a means to wrest Muslim lands from colonial rule.
    • 20th C.:The memory of Medina during the demise of colonialism launched the Islamic state.
  • Contemporary Medina
    • Archetype for Islamic democracy
    • Impetus for Islamic militancy

Death of MuhammadAt the time of Muhammad’s death in 632 C.E., the Middle East was divided between the Byzantine and Sasanian Empires.

An Islamic Empire50 years after Muhammad’s death, the Islamic ummah spread out of the Arabian Peninsula and engulfed the Sasanian Empire of Iran.

Continued Expansion100 years after Muhammad’s death, the empire secured most of northwest India, all of North Africa, and reduced the Byzantine Empire into a regional power.

World’s Largest EmpireMuhammad’s community of Arab followers swelled into the largest empire in the world…


Early RevelationsThe Quran was never collected in a single volume during Muhammad’s lifetime. Individual recitations from Muhammad were memorized by the Qurra and only the most important recitations were ever written down.

Death of MuhammadAfter the Prophet’s death, the Qurra dispersed throughout the as authorized teachers of the Quran.

Growing DiscrepanciesDue to the rapid growth of the ummahin additon to the passing of the first generation of Qurra, deviations began to appear in various recitations.

The QuranThe Medinan established became increasingly alarmed at the discrepancies and set out to create the single, codified, uniformed text known as the Quran.

Quran 15:9

“Indeed, it is We who send down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.”


8th and 9th centuriesMuslim armies that spread out of the Arabian Peninsula quickly dominated the existing tensions between the Byzantines and Sasanians who were in a permanent state of territorial expansion.

ConversionConversion to Islam was neither forced nor encouraged by the Muslim conquerors.

Advantages to ConvertingThere existed financial and social advantages of being an Arab Muslim in that Islam became an élite clique.

Religion as CitizenshipDuring this era, religion and the state were one unified entity. Religion was tied to your ethnicity, your culture, and your social identity while also defining your politics, your economics, and your ethics.

In the Near East:

Territorial expansion was identical to religious proselytization.


Rapid ExpansionAs Islam expanded so rapidly and into impregnable Sasanian and Byzantine empires, most Muslims believed that this was proof of God’s divine favor.

AdaptationEncountering foreign peoples and governments, Muslims were forced to reexamine ideals that governed the political structure of the community.

Sphere of InfluenceUnder the Umayyad (and later the Abbasid) caliphate, easy travel throughout western Eurasia enabled merchants and scholars to spread goods and knowledge both through the caliphate and to less advanced regions on the periphery.


DivisionsAs the religion grew out of the Arabian Peninsula to eventually become the second-largest belief-system in the world, aspects were adapted to fit in with various regions’ social and cultural milieux. This is most proximately seen today in the divisions of:

    • Sunni
    • Shi’a
  • ConcentrationMuslim countries are concentrated at the point of Islam’s origin: the Middle East as well as in North Africa and the Far East regions.
  • Similarities to NeighborsMuslim countries are more often than not neighbors. This is seen in the idea of Dar al-Islam (House of Islam), countries where Muslims are able to enjoy peace and security.
    • All Dar al-Islam countries share common borders with other Muslim countries.

Aslan, R. (2005). No god but God: The origins, evolution, and future of Islam. New York, NY: Random House.

Riddell, P.G., & Cotterell, P. (2003). Islam in context: Past, present, and future. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Ruthven, M. (2000). Islam in the world (2nded.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.