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March 4, 2015 | 13th Adar 5775

Lesson 5: Issues for our time: Islamic traditionalism, modernism, liberalism and extremism


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 interpret our texts.


Questions addressed in this lesson:

  • Why do some Muslims choose to serve Allah through violence?
  • 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?)


Texts to be used:

  • Excerpted video: Three Faiths: One God
  • Excerpt from
  • Excerpt from Islam by Jamal J. Elias
  • Excerpt from Islam: The Straight Path by John L. Esposito


Overview of Session:

I. Introduction to the Modern Period: Meeting up with the West – 25 minutes

II. Viewing and discussion of Three Faiths One God excerpt– 45 minutes

III. excerpt and discussion – 20 minutes (optional)

IV. Wrap-up of the course: - 30 minutes

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