Good Essay Titles About Religion Muslim

Research and Essay Topics

Some of the following questions and ideas stem from other academic sources, including the NEH Summer Seminar for researchers “Islamic Origins” held at the University of Chicago in 2000, and from the discussion list ISLAMAAR. They are organized here under the following headings:

Issues in the History of the Origins of Islam
Issues in the Formation of Islamic Identity
Issues in the Emergence of the Islamic Empire
Issues in the Cultural Manifestation of the Early Empire
Issues in the Expression of Islamic Identity
Islam in Modern Times
Analysis of Primary and Secondary Sources


Issues in the History of the Origins of Islam

  • Why is it so difficult to obtain a clear view of “what actually happened” at the origins of Islam?
  • What are the strengths and limitations of the various literary–historical sources that purport to tell us about Islam’s origins (Arabic-Islamic, Syriac, Greek, Coptic, Armenian, etc.)?
  • Given the fact that these literary sources are often of much later date than the period of Islam’s origins, why did Western scholars favour their testimony for so long?
  • What can be learned from contemporary epigraphic, papyrological, numismatic, and archaeological evidence, and how can that evidence be coordinated with information from literary sources to best advantage?


Issues in the Formation of Islamic Identity

  • What was the nature of the early community of Believers?
  • How clear-cut were the community’s boundaries in the beginning (i.e., in the time of the prophet Muhammad himself)?
  • How did the early Believers define themselves in relation to other religious communities, particularly Christians and Jews?
  • What role did ideology, ritual, and social practices play in this self-identification?
  • If the early community’s identity was “porous” to some extent, when and how did it harden to become the clear-cut Muslim identity that is visible toward the end of the first century A.H. (seventh century C.E.)?
  • In what measure were the teachings of Muhammad a natural outgrowth of religious trends discernable in the late antique Near East?
  • What role, if any, did such concepts as gnosis, apocalypticism and messianism play in the movement’s dynamic?
  • How (if at all) did the core beliefs of the new community evolve between the time of Muhammad and the crystallization of “classical Islam” a century and more later?
  • How did religious polemics and inter-confessional relations affect the articulation of religious identities?
  • How did the notion of an Arab-Muslim identity develop during the Umayyad period and how was it contested by the Abbasid movement and revolution?


Issues in the Emergence of the Islamic Empire

  • What was the relationship of the communal identity of the early Believers to an ethnic (“Arab”) identity?
  • How should the question of ethnic identity (“Arabs”) as opposed to religious identity (“Believers/Muslims”) be viewed in the context of state-formation?
  • Can we identify the key institutions that permit us to describe the community of Believers as a state, and when did they appear?
  • How was the early expansion of the Believers organized?
  • To what degree were the conquests the product of centralized planning, and to what degree were they the product of independent initiatives undertaken by free-wheeling raid leaders?
  • Should the rise of the Islamic state be viewed as the culmination of processes of religio–political integration that had begun with the Byzantines’ and Sasanians’ conflation of imperial and monotheistic traditions?
  • What was the nature of the frontiers of the dar al-Islām like? What were the laws of just wars? How and why did certain ideologies of war develop and how were these mobilized for the legitimation of regimes?


Issues in the Cultural Manifestation of the Early Empire

  • What impact did the rise of the new regime have on the economic, social, and cultural life of the conquered territories?
  • How are changes in patterns of urbanism in the Near East during the seventh century C.E. related to the rise of Islam?
  • In what ways did the rise of Islam affect the traditional balance between Near Eastern village agriculturalists, urbanites, and pastoral nomads?
  • What role did various vernacular and written languages of the Near East (particularly Arabic) play in the interaction of religious and political communities in this period?
  • What cultures did Arabs and Muslims encounter as they expanded? How did they react to such encounters? How did they adapt? And how were they affected by the diverse cultures and institutions of their expanding world?
  • How did the movement of populations within the Islamic world affect the development of Islamic identities and cultures?
  • How were the identities and boundaries of religious minorities maintained and negotiated?


Issues in the Expression of Islamic Identity

All of the following topics can be framed to answer the basic question of: What makes this “Islamic”? For example, if the investigation is of some aspect of material culture or ritual, then the analysis would try to say what characteristics reflect an Islamic impulse, and/or what differentiates it from the manifestations of other cultures. Why are these acts/objects “Muslim” and why are they appropriate for Muslims? Some possible topics include:

  • Celebration of Muḥammad’s birthday
  • Purity in Islam
  • Islamic calendar and ritual
  • Nature and function of the qāḍī  (judge)
  • Idea of and history of jihād (“holy war”)
  • Relations with other religious communities
  • Freewill and predetermination in Islamic theology
  • Problem of theodicy in Islam
  • “Faith and belief” and the definition of a Muslim
  • Role of music in mysticism
  • Role of dance in mysticism
  • Concept of saintship
  • The Minaret and its symbolism
  • Representational art in Islam
  • The Islamic city
  • The Kaʿba
  • Al-Ghazālī (mystic, theologian
  • Ibn Khaldūn (historian)
  • Al-Ṭabarī (historian)
  • ʿĀʾisha (wife of Muḥammad)
  • Rabīʿa (mystic)
  • Caliph Hārūn al-Rashīd
  • Caliph ʿAbd al-Malik.


Islam in Modern Times

  • How did the colonial encounter affect Arab-Islamic cultural and religious identities?
  • What were the key factors and influences in the development of Arab national identities?


Analysis of Primary and Secondary Sources

Analysis of material available on the web is an essential skill. Many guides are available for such exercises that encourage critical consideration of aspects related to point of view and bias. This is also a useful approach in the analysis of topics related to the media presentation of modern Islam.  Suggested aspects of critical consideration include the following factors:

  • Who are the pages written by?
  • Who are the pages written for? What is the motivation of the author to place this information on the Web?
  • What is the character of the sources which the pages cite? (If none are cited, can you make any other observations?)
  • Does the site acknowledge opposing views or exhibit any biases?
  • How do the pages relate to the material we have covered in class? Do they add anything to your knowledge of the subject?
  • What is your assessment of the site overall?

For further help on the criteria for assessment of a web site (or media presentation) review http://www.library.ucla.edu/libraries/college/help/critical/index.htm (many libraries have such sites).


World religions

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Islam: The second largest
world religion...and growing.

About Islam:

  • Islam is the second most popular religion in the world. There were about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world in 2010, according to Pew Research. Muslims constituted about 23% of all people on Earth. The religion is currently in a period of rapid growth, and is expected to reach 2.8 billion by 2050, when the number of Muslims will probably approximately equal the number of Christians in the world. 1

  • Estimates of the number of Muslim adults in the U.S. have ranged from about 1 to 7 million. The former estimate is based on public opinion polls and assume that almost all adults who consider themselves Muslims are willing to respond openly to public opinion pollsters. Because of the widespread islamophobia in the country, this value is probably an underestimate. The latter estimate comes from Muslim groups in the U.S. who assume that all immigrants to the U.S. from Muslim countries were Muslims and have remained so to the present time. It is probably an overestimate. 2

    A Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life report in 2015 concluded that the U.S. population of Muslim adults is 2.6 million -- 0.6% of the total population. This places Islam as the third most popular organized religion in the U.S. after Christianity (71%) and Judaism (0.9%). 3

  • In any discussion of Islam, the topic of terrorism, murder, mass murder and genocide by a radical, violent wing of Islam is not far from the surface. One important item to remember is that terrorists, and their supporters, represent a small percentage of followers within the religion who follow a type of Islam that has little regard for human life. It is also important to recall that most victims of these terrorists are fellow Muslims.

4 Topics included in this section:

  • Introduction to Islam

  • 1994 to now: The rise in Islamophobia: hate speech & violence against Muslims

  • Promoting inter-religious understanding and friendship: books and videos.

  • The Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, etc.) terrorist group
  • Muslim leaders' statements condemning terrorism, from 9/11 to ISIS/Islamic State atrocities

  • Beliefs about Islam, as expressed by Muslims:
    • Part 1: Gallup survey. "The Truth about Islam"

    • Part 2: Personal stories of 40 women, 45 men, and "The Muslim Next Door"

  • Introduction to Islam, its beliefs and practices:
    • Part 1: About its origin, Muhammad, and growth

    • Part 2: Its texts, beliefs, and practices.

    • Part 3:Other teachings, Holy days, Beliefs about Jesus.

    • Part 4:Schools within Islam, The Egypt Air tragedy, Deviations from Islam, Criticisms of Islam.

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