Lesson Plan - Get It!
Islam began as a small tribal religion, and has now become known all over the world. Most people believe they can spot a follower of Islam, but do you know what are the most important beliefs in the religion of Islam?
There are many ways to belong to a group of people.
You can belong to a group of people because of something you already are, as when you belong to a country or an ethnic group. You can belong to a group of people because of skills you acquire over time, or membership dues you pay. Very often, the entry into a group is marked by some kind of important ritual, like baptism or a graduation ceremony.
The religion of Islam is often associated with Arabs. In reality, while most Arabs are Muslim — a person who belongs to the religion of Islam — most Muslims are not Arab.
- Can you guess the nation in the world with the most Muslims in it?
The answer is … Indonesia.
- Can you find Indonesia on a map?
This is a group of Muslim girls from Indonesia.
Image by Henrik Hansson, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Belonging to a nationality or ethnicity is not a requirement for belonging to the Islamic faith. Belief is the important factor, and there is no special ritual when people choose to become Muslim other than reciting two simple phrases: La ilahailaa Allah wa Muhammed rasul Allah — “There is no god but God and Muhammed is the messenger of God.” These two phrases together are known in Arabic as the Shahadah (/sha ha’ da/), or the testimony of faith.
Read more about the Shahadah in the short passage below. As you read, write down the answers to the following questions in your notebook or journal:
- Why was the statement La ilahaila Allah — There is no god but God — considered so radical to the people of Mecca?
- What did Muhammed do when he returned to the city of Mecca?
- How can one find out about the life and sayings of Muhammed?
Now, read the following passage about the Shahadah and collect your information:
The Shahadah is the testimony of Islamic faith. It is very short, just two simple phrases. The first part of the Shahadah is La ilahaila Allah — There is no god but God. This was a bold statement 1,400 years ago when Muhammed first began to preach in Mecca, which is located in modern-day Saudi Arabia. Muhammed believed in the God of Abraham and the biblical prophets. He lived amongst and discussed religion with Jews, Christians, and others, and found inspiration in their traditions. The tribesmen of Mecca made their living from the visits to the cube-shaped shrine in Mecca known as the Kaaba. In those days, the Kaaba housed 360 idols, or statues, to many different gods. For an upstart like Muhammed to start talking about only one god, the chief of all those other gods known as Allah, sounded like an attack on the entire community. How would they make their money without the pilgrimage trade? The tribal elders persecuted Muhammed and his small group of followers bitterly, and eventually drove the tiny band of Muslims out of Mecca altogether. Muhammed would return a few years later in triumph. The first thing he did was march to the Kaaba and destroy all 360 idols and images, except for a single image of Jesus and Mary, which he is said to have revered.
The second part of the Shahadah is Muhammed rasul Allah — Muhammed is the messenger of Allah. This means that Muhammed is believed to be a prophet who was sent by God with God's direct message to humanity, a book known as the Qur'an (/kor an'/). Muslims are supposed to follow the words and actions of the prophet in detail. People can learn about those words and actions through hadiths (/ha deeths/), which are the narratives about the life and sayings of Muhammed and other important religious figures. There are countless books of hadiths, and differences of opinion about these books led to some of the different Islamic sects, or groups, we see today.
Once you have finished your reading, reflect on the following questions and record your responses in your notebook or journal:
- What difference do people’s beliefs make?
- How do the words and deeds of other major world figures affect the behavior of their communities?
- Can you think of any examples of other religions that have an important book or books?
The words of the Shahadah represent the most basic summary of Islamic beliefs.
In the Got It? section, unpack the two simple phrases of the testimony of faith and explore other important Islamic beliefs.