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  • Subject: World History
  • |
  • Grade(s): 9-12
  • |
  • Duration: One or two class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will
  • brainstorm what they know about Islam;
  • research how Islam affects the cultures in which it is practiced; and
  • discuss how to promote understanding among people who have different traditions.


  • Paper and pencils
  • Newsprint and markers
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Print resources about different religions


  1. Begin by asking students what they know about Islam. Write their responses on the board.
  2. Tell students they will add to their knowledge of Islam by doing research in class. Specifically, students will look at the Islamic perspective on money and commerce, justice and politics, and marriage.
  3. Divide students into four or five groups of about six students each. Students can refer to the Web sites below for more information about Islam. It's ideal to show a few minutes of the video before students begin their research. The video will help give students a visual image of a few of the cultures in which Islam is practiced.



  4. Give students about 20 minutes to complete their research. Then discuss students' findings as a class. Listed below are important points about Islam that students will discover.


    • Muslims believe that Islam is a complete way of life. Therefore, there is no separation of the religion from politics and economics.
    • The economy of an Islamic state is a free market, as it is in the Judeo-Christian world. A key difference, however, is that Islam does not allow for interest payments to individual investors. Interest is considered a form of gambling under Islamic law. The government assumes the role of ensuring that wealth is distributed fairly.
    • Islam believes that war as self-defense is justified in removing oppression. Oppression is defined as the denial of the right to life and/or property and the right to follow Islam freely. The term "jihad" means striving for justice and can be accomplished in many ways: through writing, making a pilgrimage, or by fighting.
    • Islam allows men to be married to as many as four women at once, as long as a man treats all his wives well.


  5. After discussing students' findings, ask what they know about perspectives on these issues in other traditions, including, but not limited to, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism. If students would like more information about these traditions, suggest that they refer to the following Web sites:

    Judeo-Christian Traditions

    Buddhism and Hinduism

  6. Once students have gained some background material on Islam and other traditions, hold a class discussion about people with different points of view.


    • Do the students think it is it difficult for people who have different traditions to understand each other's worldview?
    • What do students think about the way different traditions approach the issue of separation of church and state? Does the fact that Muslims do not believe in such a separation have any effect on the way people get along?
    • What about the way different traditions view women? How do students think that polygamy affects the way women are perceived and treated?


  7. Conclude the lesson by asking students for suggestions to promote understanding among people with different traditions.


    • How would your students teach tolerance of others to younger students?
    • Why is it important for people to understand the philosophies and practices of different religions?

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points: Students were highly engaged in class discussions, completed their research carefully and thoroughly, and were able to draw perceptive conclusions based on their research.
  • Two points: Students participated in class discussions, completed their research, and were able to draw some conclusions based on their research.
  • One point: Students participated minimally in class discussions, did not complete their research, and were unable to draw conclusions based on their research.

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Five Pillars
Definition: The core principles of Islam: Faith, prayer, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage form the framework for a devout life.
Context: Muslims believe that the way to fulfill the third of the Five Pillars is to abstain from all foods and liquids from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan.

Definition: A religion practiced by one billion Muslims that teaches that people must live in submission to one God and in peace with the Creator, with one's self, with other people, and with the environment
Context: Islam may be practiced by people living in any country.

Definition: Striving to remove oppression, which is the denial of the right to life and/or property and of the freedom to practice Islam
Context: Jihad is a difficult concept for those following Judeo-Christian traditions to understand, so it is often misinterpreted.

Definition: The Holy Book of Islam
Context: Muslims throughout the world strive to learn Arabic so that they can read the Qur'an and understand its true meaning.

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This lesson plan addresses the following standards from the National Council for the Social Studies:
I. Culture
V. Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
X. Global Connections

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Marilyn Fenichel, education writer and editor

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