Islamic Teachings on Contemporary Issues for Young Muslims is produced by the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies, University of Melbourne, and is designed to equip students with the knowledge and critical thinking skills to question many of the divisive and isolationist narratives that have emerged in recent times concerning Islam and the relationship of Muslims with those of other faiths, with a special emphasis on topics relevant to young Muslims living in Australia today.
The first decade and a half of the twenty-first century has seen a number of world events that have brought increased attention to Islam as a religion and as a broad tradition encompassing different streams of law, theology and political thought. At the same time, such events have focused world attention on the actions and opinions of a relatively small set of actors who use violence, divisive rhetoric and a selective presentation of Islamic tradition to support and call attention to their views.
These phenomena have acted together to obscure the true teachings of Islam for many, including Muslims themselves, particularly in areas concerning Islam’s acceptance of diversity, its tolerance of different understandings of religion and of different choices in governance, its teachings concerning the legitimate use of force in international relations and the strict rules limiting any such use of force, and the like.
The need for an accessible educational resource which guides young people of Muslim faith through some of the most complex and challenging issues that they will be exposed to has never been clearer. To this end, the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne has drawn on its expertise and that of other scholars in the areas of Islamic tradition, history, theology and law to develop this resource for teachers to use in clarifying and discussing some of these issues with their students.
The resource is divided into eight themes covering core issues related to religion, identity and diversity, as well as more advanced topics such as the meaning of jihad, Islamic teachings concerning governance, the historical phenomenon of slavery, and the challenge of Islamophobia. Students will learn about mainstream Islamic teachings on these topics and be challenged to research and present information, debate contentious issues and write persuasive essays covering this material.
The resource will equip students with the knowledge and critical thinking skills to question many of the divisive and isolationist narratives that have emerged in recent times concerning Islam and the relationship of Muslims with those of other faiths, with a special emphasis on topics relevant to young Muslims living in Australia today. In addition, it is hoped that it will form a starting point for students interested in deepening their knowledge of Islamic tradition to pursue such education at a higher level.
THEME 1 IDENTITY AND BELONGING
Overview: This topic will focus on students’ identity and belonging, with particular reference to their identity as young Muslims in Australia. Students will reflect on the multiple facets of their identity and explore similarities and differences with other young people, before reflecting on how they fit into the bigger picture of Australia’s diversity.
Lesson 1: Multiple identities
Lesson 2: Muslims’ identities
Lesson 3: Islam in Australia and the world
THEME 2 RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Overview: Students will explore the concept of human rights, as articulated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and in classical and modern Islamic tradition. Students will consider the meaning of Australian citizenship and the rights and responsibilities that go with it. They will learn about the history of Muslims as minorities and think about the questions and issues that arise in these contexts. They will also be able to contextualise the development of such legal terminology as dar al-islam, dar al-harb and the concept of migration (hijra), and be aware of the current views of leading Muslim scholars on these topics.
Lesson 4: Human rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Islamic tradition
Lesson 5: Australian citizenship and being a Muslim
Lesson 6: Muslim minorities in Islamic tradition
THEME 3 THE DIVERSITY OF ISLAM
Overview: This topic will focus on the issue of diversity in the Muslim community. Students will become aware of the extent of diversity among Muslims, consider the approach of Muslim scholars to diversity and learn about the Islamic ethic of respectful disagreement. They will explore the theological question of membership in the Muslim community, why scholars have been extremely reluctant to anathematise Muslims and why ordinary Muslims should avoid this question entirely.
Lesson 7: The diversity of Islam
Lesson 8: Diversity of opinion in Islam
THEME 4 MUSLIMS AND NON-MUSLIMS
Overview: Students will reflect on the meaning of religious freedom and the treatment of religious minorities. Students will also learn about commonalities between Islam, Judaism and Christianity, and reflect on ways to engage positively and in a spirit of friendship and goodwill with people of other faiths. Students will also learn about mainstream Islamic approaches to the issue of interaction and friendship with people of other faiths and historical examples of tolerance and respect.
Lesson 9: Religious freedom
Lesson 10: Islamic attitudes towards non-Muslims (1)
Lesson 11: Islamic attitudes towards non-Muslims (2)
THEME 5 ISLAM AND GOVERNMENT
Overview: This theme will look at the broad topic of government in Islamic history and the modern context. Students will learn about the meaning of democracy and study its application in Australia; consider whether Islam prescribes a particular form of governance; and study historical models, such as the different types of governments in Islamic history and in the Muslim world today. In particular students will learn that a single united caliphate only existed for a very short period in Islamic history. Finally, they will engage in a debate on whether a hypothetical Islamic state would be democratic in nature or otherwise.
Lesson 12: Democracy in Australia
Lesson 13: Islamic ideas about government
Lesson 14: Islam and democracy
THEME 6 WHAT IS JIHAD?
Overview: This topic focuses on the concept of jihad. Students will learn about examples of the peaceful manifestations of jihad in everyday life, as well as understanding how it can also mean the legitimate use of force within certain limits. It will consider historical examples of jihad, the development of scholarly understandings of the concept, and examine the difference between jihad and terrorism.
Lesson 15: My everyday jihad
Lesson 16: The conduct of legitimate warfare in Islam
Lesson 17: Is terrorism jihad?
THEME 7 HUMAN DIGNITY AND SLAVERY
Overview: In this lesson students will think about slavery in its broader historical context; how the Qur’an and the Prophet responded to the problem of slavery; and what the duty of Muslims today is in view of the fact that slavery has been abolished by consensus across the Muslim world.
Lesson 18: Islam and slavery
THEME 8 ISLAMOPHOBIA
Overview: In this final topic, students will consider Islamophobia as a form of prejudice that affects some Muslims in Australia. Students will share their personal experiences and role play responses to potential incidents, as well as learn how to report an incident and who they can turn to for help if necessary.
Lesson 19: Responding to Islamophobia