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October 9, 2015 | 26th Tishrei 5776

Lesson 4: The Umma: The People of the Muslim World

Big Ideas addressed in this lesson:

  • The political and religious aspects of life in Islamic society, up to and including the modern period, have been intertwined. 
  • Muslims, in the modern period in particular, struggle with the notion of authority: who decides what can and cannot be done in the name of Islam and who deserves to authority to interpret Islam’s sacred texts.


Questions addressed in this lesson:

  • Why do some Muslims choose to serve Allah through violence? 
  • What similarities exist between Islam and Judaism?
  • What is the relationship between Muslims and Jews (and people of other religions) according to Muslim thought?
  • Where does Islam see itself in relationship to Judaism and other religions?
  • How do the political roots of Islam affect the religious practice of Islam?
  • How do Muslims in countries that separate “religion” and “state” understand themselves as Muslims? (Or: What is their relationship to the country in which they live?)


Umma: people (as in the Hebrew Am)





Distribution of Muslims among world populations


Texts to be used:

Stories/poems by Jalalu’ddin Rumi

Two Web sites: map of Muslim populations:

Web Article: A Brief History of Islam by Ami Isseroff:

Special Materials:

  • An LCD projector and computer to display the map of the Islamic World


Overview of Session:

I. Introduction and response to questions remaining from the previous session

II. The World of Islam: Where are Muslims found today?

III. Perspectives of the Umma: Sunni, Shi’a, Sufi, Wahabi

IV. Wrap-Up

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