General Background Information on Islam
Muslim top ten populations
Access Islam: Funded by the United States Dept. of Education, this site gives students and teachers access to Internet-based videos, lesson plans, and associated materials aimed at educating grades 4-8 about Islam.
Edsitement: This collection of excellent lesson plans has a number of excellent resources on the Middle East. Try searching for Middle East and for Islam. You’ll find, for example, a guide to reading Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and a mapping activity for elementary students called “On the Road with Marco Polo: From Venice to Hormuz,” among many others.
Explore the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf : Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys is a carefully curated collection of resources recommended and reviewed by distinguished scholars in the fields of anthropology, world history, religious studies, interfaith dialogue, the history of art and architecture, and world literature, as well as interdisciplinary fields such as Middle East studies, Southeast Asian studies, African studies, and Islamic studies. Six public libraries hosted focus groups to review many of the titles, and all titles were reviewed by librarians and other humanities practitioners with extensive programming experience.
Exploring Muslim Understandings of Islam: This essay is the “Introduction” from Ali Asani’s book Infidel of Love: Exploring Muslim Understsandings of Islam, (2009). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Islamicity: The Islamicity site provides a wealth of information about Islam and also has a quiz about Islam. Be sure to check out their variety of Quran recitations in Arabic, along with some oral renditions of Quran interpretations in different languages.
This site celebrates Islamic contributions to science, technology, the arts, and civilization.
PBS, Global Connections: Middle East: Global Connections uses PBS material to supplement a rich
collection of background articles, lesson plans, an interactive timeline, and other resources on the
Middle East. All materials are cross-indexed to help educators quickly find topics and materials that are most
relevant for their classroom needs. PBS also has excellent lesson plans on the documentary Promises at
the Point of View site.
PBS, Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet: The PBS website for the film Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet includes a “virtual hajj” with maps and explanations of the hajj. It includes a video clip on the introductory page that can give students a good idea of the sheer numbers of pilgrims engaged in hajj.
Prepare New York is a coalition of New York-based interfaith organizations who have joined together to help create a city-wide climate that promotes healing and reconciliation in anticipation of the tenth anniversary of 9/11. They have brought together a number of different background and teaching resources here.
The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj has compiled a slide show describing the rituals of each day of the hajj. The site also has a great deal of other information on the hajj and regulations for pilgrims and hajj organizers from each country.
Saudi Aramco World: This magazine features articles on not only the Middle East, but topics related to Muslim societies more broadly. There are excellent photos and classroom connections in every issue. The magazine is searchable online—all past articles are indexed and available free of charge (as are print subscriptions for teachers). An additional valuable feature is the digital image archive.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance initiative has extensive content on developing religious curriculum, building inclusive classrooms, and bridging cultural divides. Here are some of the highlights: How do you bring Islam to the classroom, Debunking misconceptions about Muslims and Islam, Tips for Starting a World Religions Curriculum (one suggestion – consult with your local community and subject specialists), from an educator in Modesto, CA, and more.
Movies / TV
Inside Islam, Allah Made Me Funny, Cities of Light, Prince Among Slaves, Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet, Talking through Walls, and On a Wing and a Prayer. These films from Unity Productions Foundations explore a variety of issues related to Islam and Muslims. UPF’s website also offers classroom activities and the opportunity to be part of the innovative 20,000 Dialogues project.
Islam, Empire of Faith, a Gardner Films production in Association with PBS and Devillier Donegan Enterprises; produced and directed by Robert Gardner; Jonathan Grupper, series writer. Narrated by Ben Kingsley, this film describes the first 1000 years of Islam, beginning from the birth of the Prophet, through historical re-enactments and interviews with scholars.
Muslims. Wellspring Media, 2003. Filmed in Egypt, Malaysia, Iran, Turkey, Nigeria and the United States, “Muslims” explores the influence of culture and politics on religion, and provides a deeper understanding of the political forces at work among Muslims around the world. Concentrates on political debates over the role of Islam in these countries. Teachers’ guide available online.
Promises. Promises Film Project. Distributed by Cowboy Pictures. 2001. Promises follows the journey of one of the filmmakers Israeli-American B.Z Goldberg. He travels to Palestinian communities and settlements in the West Bank-places he had never ventured before-and to the familiar neighborhoods of Jerusalem. He meets seven Palestinian and Israeli children between the ages of nine and thirteen. Promises explores the Middle East conflict through their eyes. The Promises film project has now produced an educators’ guide to help teachers use the film appropriately in the classroom.
Armstrong, Karen. A Short History of Islam. Modern Library, 2002. Karen Armstrong’s introduction to Islam, though not very short, is vivid and accessible.
Aslan, Reza. No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam. Random House Trade Paperbacks, updated 2011. This updated edition addresses the events of the past decade, analyzing how they have influenced Islam’s position in modern culture. Aslan explores what the popular demonstrations pushing for democracy in the Middle East mean for the future of Islam in the region, how the Internet and social media have affected Islam’s evolution, and how the war on terror has altered the geopolitical balance of power in the Middle East.
Esposito, John. Islam: The Straight Path. 3rd edition. Oxford University Press, 2004. This introductory book covers the history, teachings, and culture of Islam in the Near East.
Gettleman, Marvin and Stuart Schaar. The Middle East and Islamic World Reader. Grove Press, 2003. This anthology of primary sources covers everything from the Quran to medieval thinkers to contemporary leaders wrestling with how to reconcile culture, faith and modernization.
Sells, Michael. Approaching the Quran: The Early Revelations. White Cloud Press, 1999. Widely available in libraries, this book explores the Quran not only as a text but as sound, with an included CD that allows readers to also hear various different recitations of select verses.
Children’s titles on religious traditions
For a more thorough list, please visit the various booklists in the For Educators Booklist sections.
Ramadan by Suhaib Hamid Ghazi and Omar Rayyan, 1996. This work also describes the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. Appropriate for Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Sound the Shofar!: A Story for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by Leslie Himmelman and John Himmelman, 1998. This book focuses on the high holy days of Judaism and how one family celebrates together by helping out the less fortunate. Ages 3-6.
Time to Pray by Maha Addasi, 2010. This story provides a clear explanation of Muslim prayers and aspects of Islamic practice in a story that revolves around a loving relationship between a girl and her grandmother. Appropriate for grades 1-4.