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Technology-rich, standards-based lessons for upper elementary and middle school
Scholarship and Learning in Islam



Islam has a long tradition of scholarship. In this lesson, students look at several aspects of lslamic learning. They are introduced to the Islamic religious school known as the madrasah, where students begin their religious education by studying the Qur'an. A video segment from the PBS series RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY features Dr. Roy Parvis Mottahedeh, a scholar who presents a madrasah in operation today and speaks about the historical evolution of madrasahs. Another RELIGION & ETHICS video segment describes the history of the mosque at Timbuktu which, in the fourteenth century, was a vibrant center of Islamic scholarship. A third video segment links astronomy to the annual celebration of the religious holiday of Ramadan.

Students will watch and discuss the videos and do further research. As a culminating project, they will develop graphic presentations to teach others about scholarship and learning in Islam.

Time Allotment: Three to four 45-minute class periods, with additional time for discussion and culminating activities as needed

Subject Matter: Social Studies; English/Language arts; Religion

Learning Objectives
Students will be able to:
  • Explain what a madrasah is;
  • Recognize the centrality of the Qur'an in Muslim education;
  • Understand that within any given religion, religious education practices can vary according to religious ideology/philosophy;
  • Identify and describe two or more centers of learning in the Muslim world;
  • Describe the links between astronomy and Ramadan;
  • Recognize the significant contributions that Muslims have made to science and mathematics;
  • Prepare a presentation highlighting Islam's emphasis on scholarship and learning.

Behavioral Studies
    Standard 1, Level II, Benchmark 1
      1. Understands that people can learn about others in many different ways (e.g., direct experience, mass communications media, conversations with others about their work and lives).

    Standard 1, Level III, Benchmark 1
      1. Understands that each culture has distinctive patterns of behavior that are usually practiced by most of the people who grow up in it.

    Standard 4, Level II, Benchmark 6
      6. Knows various forms that institutions take (e.g., religious, social, political).

    Standard 4, Level III, Benchmark 3
      3. Understands how various institutions (e.g., banks, schools, hospitals, the military) influence people, events, and elements of culture and how people interact with different institutions.
Language Arts
    Reading Standard 7, Level II, Benchmarks 1, 5-6
      1. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of informational texts (e.g., textbooks, biographical sketches, letters, diaries, directions, procedures, magazines).

      5. Summarizes and paraphrases information in texts (e.g., includes the main idea and significant supporting details of a reading selection).

      6. Uses prior knowledge and experience to understand and respond to new information.

    Writing Standard 4, Level III, Benchmarks 1, 6
      1. Gathers data for research topics from interviews (e.g., prepares and asks relevant questions, makes notes of responses, compiles responses).

      6. Organizes information and ideas from multiple sources in systematic ways (e.g., time lines, outlines, notes, graphic representations).

    Listening and Speaking, Standard 8, Level II, Benchmarks 1-4, 7, 10-12
      1. Contributes to group discussions.

      2. Asks questions in class (e.g., when he or she is confused, to seek others' opinions and comments).

      3. Responds to questions and comments (e.g., gives reasons in support of opinions, responds to others' ideas).

      4. Listens to classmates and adults (e.g., does not interrupt, faces the speaker, asks questions, summarizes or paraphrases to confirm understanding, gives feedback, eliminates barriers to effective listening).

      7. Makes basic oral presentations to class (e.g., uses subject-related information and vocabulary; includes content appropriate to the audience; relates ideas and observations; incorporates visual aids or props; incorporates several sources of information).

      10. Organizes ideas for oral presentations (e.g., uses an introduction and conclusion; uses notes or other memory aids; organizes ideas around major points, in sequence, or chronologically; uses traditional structures, such as cause-and-effect, similarity and difference, posing and answering a question; uses details, examples, and anecdotes to clarify information).

      12. Understands the main ideas and supporting details in spoken texts (e.g., presentations by peers or quest speakers, a current affairs report on the radio).
Media Components

Ramadan Moon
Web Sites: Materials

For the teacher:
  • Board and/or chart paper
  • Ideally, a screen on which to project the video
  • Handouts of Web resources if computers are not available in the classroom
For students: Prep for Teachers

Prior to teaching the lesson, review all of the Web sites and video segments used in the lesson to make certain that they are appropriate for your students. Bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom, or upload them to an online bookmarking utility such as Download the Acrobat Reader plug-in from to each computer in your classroom. Download the free RealPlayer plug-in from to play the video clips.

Download, print, and copy all of the student organizers listed above for each student in your classroom.

Prerequisite: Before beginning this lesson, be sure to do the Introductory Activity from the "Religion and the First Amendment" lesson with your class.