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Qur'an: Sacred Scripture of Islam


Procedures for Teachers

Introductory Activity:

  1. Prior to starting the class, write the following prompts on the board and then cover them with butcher or newspaper before students enter:

    • What do you do if you don't know something? Where do you go to find answers?

    • To whom would you go to settle a disagreement in society or at school? To whom would you go to settle a disagreement about a religious matter?

    • What do you learn in school and how does what you learn prepare you for the world after school?

  2. Divide the class into small groups of two or three.

  3. Take the paper off of one of the statements and have students discuss briefly the question with their partners. Then randomly go about the room and have several groups report summaries of their discussions.

  4. Engage students further when answers are different or interesting to compare.

  5. Go through the other two statements the same way.

  6. Tell students they are going to learn about the importance of the Qur'an to Muslims and how it, along with the Hadith (traditions related to the statements and actions of the Prophet Muhammad) provide followers with guidance on living their lives. Explain to them that the Qur'an encourages Muslims to learn and educate themselves to find true meaning in their lives.

Learning Activity 1: Vocabulary

This activity contains vocabulary words used in the video clips. It can be done before or after the videos are shown. Make a copy of the words and definitions on the vocabulary handout for each group of 3-4 students in your class. Cut the vocabulary words and definitions into separate strips of paper and place each set in an envelope, one for each group.
  1. Begin the class by telling students they will be learning some of the vocabulary words they will hear in the two video clips they will watch later in the lesson.

  2. Distribute one envelope to each group. Tell them to take out the strips of paper and lay them face up on their desks or tables.

  3. Then have them match up the words to the definitions.

  4. You can either stop the activity after one group has completed the entire word list correctly or wait until all groups have finished. You can also have members from a group that completed the activity go to another group and provide hints (but no answers) to the other group.

  5. Review all the definitions and words with students at the end of the activity. Provide them with copies of the completed lists below.
The words and definitions are:
    1. Madrasahs -- Islamic schools or places of learning
    2. Qur'an -- Islamic holy book
    3. Muhammad -- the prophet who carried the word of Allah
    4. Ulema -- A teacher of a mosque school
    5. Jurisprudence -- The study of practice of law
    6. Mosque -- A place of Islamic worship
    7. Hellenistic -- Anything pertaining to the Greek Culture
    8. Aristotle -- Greek philosopher and author of great works of learning
    9. Crusades -- Military expeditions undertaken by European Christians in the 11th - 13th centuries
    10. Mongols -- Nomadic people from Asia who conquered and held territory in Asia and the Middle East in the 12 century
    11. Puritanism -- A belief in high moral standards and a hostility toward beliefs seen as inferior
    12. Pilgrimage -- A journey to a sacred place or shrine
    13. Secular -- Pertaining to things non-religious or subjects of study that are not religious
    14. Theology -- A course of religious study usually at a college or religious place of learning
    15. Manuscripts -- A book or document, often written by hand and very old

Learning Activity 2: Viewing the Video Segment "Madrasahs"

  1. Explain to students that they will watch a video segment that gives an overview of the history and purpose of madrasahs. Then tell them they will work in groups to develop a presentation on information presented in the video.

  2. Divide the class into five groups. The first group will be working on vocabulary words used in the video segment, many from the list encountered in the opening activity. Another group will gather information on the Qur'an school at a madrasah. A third group will explore Muslim accomplishments in learning. A fourth group will review the impact of historical events on the development and operation of madrasahs. A final group will examine how new technologies might affect current teachings in the Madrasahs and Muslims' understanding of the world around them.

  3. Distribute Student Organizer 1: Madrasahs and the transcript from the video to all students. Review the directions on the organizer with the groups.

  4. Show the video clip on "Madrasahs" (7 minutes and 15 seconds).

  5. Then have students use the transcripts to answer the questions on the organizer and prepare their presentations.

  6. After the groups finish their questions, they will present their findings to the class.

  7. After the student presentations, review the following debriefing questions with students:

    • Discuss how the Islamic religion's strong emphasis on education would help advance learning and discoveries throughout the Muslim world.

    • Explain how events like the Crusades and the Mongol invasions would cause many Muslims in the madrasahs to feel humiliated, fear learning, and only study their religion.

    • Discuss what effects satellite and Internet communications might have on Muslims who have been restricted in their education. Would it broaden their outlook of the world or cause them to further reject it? How can the madrasahs embrace a modern education and still preserve their great religious traditions?

Learning Activity 3: The Qur'an and Learning

Islam places a high priority on learning. From the earliest days of the religion, learning for both men and women was strongly encouraged. This can be found in numerous passages of the Qur'an and the Hadith. In this activity, students will examine translated passages of the Qur'an that highlight the importance of education and leaning. Then they will discuss the passages and summarize their meanings.
  1. Divide the class into groups of two or three students.

  2. Distribute Student Organizer 2: The Qur'an and Learning to all students and review the student directions.

  3. Have students read through the handout and complete the summaries on the Qur'an passages. (This could be done as a homework assignment.)

  4. Debrief students with the following questions:

    • How do these passages stress the importance of learning? Give examples.

    • How are education and learning connected with having a better understanding of one's faith?

    • Though the passages seem to reference only men, were women expected to be educated too? (Answer is "yes.")

    • How does memorizing information help you learn? How does memorizing passages of the Qur'an help Muslims better practice their religion?

Learning Activity 4: Viewing the Video Segment "Timbuktu"

  1. Ask students if they have heard of a place called Timbuktu and if so ask for their impressions of it in a word or two. Write these words on the board.

  2. Take out a map of Africa and the Middle East that shows Timbuktu, other major cities of the area and a mileage key. Ask them to describe where Timbuktu is in relation to these other cities. Have students estimate the distances between Timbuktu and Mecca, Saudi Arabia; Cairo, Egypt; Casablanca, Morocco; Baghdad, Iraq; and central and south Africa. Ask students "What major forms of transportation did people use in the 11th Century to travel to these places?" and "Why would Timbuktu's location make it important for travelers during that time?"

  3. Have the class watch the video clip "Timbuktu" (5 minutes and 53 seconds).

  4. Distribute Student Organizer 3: Timbuktu Viewing Guide and the transcript of the program to all students.

  5. Divide students into pairs to review the questions below.

    • Several examples of primary source evidence were mentioned in the program that helped historians and archeologists understand what Timbuktu was like in the 11th century. Identify and describe this evidence and explain why scholars believe it is reliable evidence describing Timbuktu as a center of learning.

    • Taking into account this evidence and the images from the video program, write a brief description of what Timbuktu might have looked like and provide a description of the type of people who went there during the 11th century.

    • Trace the possible routes people took from the cities on your map and describe the methods of transportation they would need to go from these cities to Timbuktu.

    • What is happening to the historical evidence that explains Timbuktu's past?

    • What are some of the actions by individuals that make this evidence rare to find and study?

  6. When student pairs have finished the questions on the student organizer, have them work in groups of four to review the questions below and complete the final task.

    • Explain the importance of documents and artifacts in describing what life was like in past cultures. Why is it important to preserve these documents and artifacts?

    • Identify the documents and artifacts that help explain the culture they live in. Why should these artifacts be preserved? Are they preserved for review by future generations? If so, how?

    • Write a public service announcement for radio or television that asks for support in preserving documents and artifacts of the past (either your own culture or the artifacts of Timbuktu).

Culminating Activity

  1. Ask students to brainstorm different guidelines they have to follow in life. These might be school rules, rules in an athletic game, manners at the table, or even religious guidelines. Ask them why they think these guidelines are created and what purposes they serve.

  2. Then tell students they are going to examine several passages from the Qur'an and the Hadith (a compilation of the teachings of Muhammad) that provide guidelines for Muslims. They will summarize the meaning of the passage and explain its practical application to the Muslim way of life.

  3. Divide the class into groups of three and distribute Student Organizer 4: Teachings of the Qur'an and the Hadith. Review the directions with them.

  4. After students have completed the student organizer have each group present one of the quotes to the class and explain its meaning.

Source for Qur'an passages: University of Michigan Humanities Text Initiative

Extension Activities:

  • Have students examine passages from the Bible and Torah on topics similar to those in the culminating activity. What similarities do they see in language and meaning of the passages? Have them develop a chart that shows these similarities.

  • Provide students with an opportunity to meet with representatives of different religions who can come and speak to the class. Check with your school or district on any established policies for bringing guest speakers into the classroom. Contact local colleges or universities for recommendations on guest speakers. Prepare students with questions they develop from their experiences in this lesson. For further information on guest speakers consult "A Teacher's Guide to Religion in the Public Schools" (available for download at

  • Direct students to research many of the Muslim advancements in the areas of science, medicine, ethics, and mathematics. Students can identify the accomplishment, the individual(s) responsible, and the contribution to the advancement of knowledge in that area.